Words: Mike Murciano

Photos: Ira Waldman / Mike Murciano

The Coronado Islands sit just under fifteen nautical miles southwest of Point Loma, CA. These islands have a long history with the San Diego fishing community. Dating back to the late 1800’s, day boats used to take excursions into this area to fish rock cod and a variety of bottom critters. Soon thereafter as the age of probation and legalities increased, entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to run charters to the Coronado’s to hold gambling trips and holiday adventures for San Diegan’s and the likes, this came to an abrupt halt soon after it began, as the Mexican government outlawed gambling.

Today those days are long gone and what remains in the same location as the small casino operation is a dock with a staircase leading to a couple of military barracks. This comprises the only residents on the island today aside from several dozen sea lions and seals as well as an array of migratory and indigenous bird species.

On a clear day the islands are easily seen from the Southern California coast, as group of islands vertically jutting out of the deep. The stories surrounding the islands are numerous, from Black Seabass in the hundreds of pounds, days of surface yellowtail feeding frenzies for the record books, marlin venturing in between the islands and even wahoo making appearances.

The reality though is that the islands are actually quite fickle and are heavily influenced by conditions. Weather, wind, current, temperature and pressure all play a significant role in the catchability of the Coronado Islands. There are few expert captains being able to make sense and predict when its’ going to bite. Some of those island experts include Ryan Bostian & Matt Bralla (The San Diego), Alec Stockfelt (The Grande) and William Wilkerson (Malihini), Steve Peterson (Mission Belle) just to name a few.

The best recommendation we can give to get the Coronado islands on lock is to become a regular within the day fleet and study closely their every move as it’s become second nature to them. You’ll notice watercolor, current and temperature are at the top of the list for conditions to consider.

It’s a special thing when Yellowtail schools move into the islands. When they’re scattered throughout, a deep diving Rapala X-Rap Magnum trolled is a great way to cover some water and locate the larger biomass of Yellowtail. Taylor Treadwell
A true sign the islands are in full swing is when the Pacific Barracuda move in. These toothy critters often make hot and heavy action to keep things interesting while in pursuit of the prized Yellowtail. Mike Murciano
Schools of Yellowtail, Bonito and Barracuda are not always glued to the islands as you might guess, often they’ll chase bait east into the flats, keep a set of binos handy at all times for signs of birds working with feeding fish.

Historically the Coronados Islands have been the playground of surface iron purist. Some the of the best iron fisherman in California call this their backyard. That’s not to say that’s the only thing that’ll work on the variety of gamefish available at the islands.

I like to breakdown my approach based on depth, from surface, subsurface and deep. On any given day dependent on location of forage or other conditions.

One of the great things about these islands is the variety. From fishing Yellowtail on the surface or depths, to fishing right up against the boiler rocks for Calicos Bass

The Calico Bass fishing at the islands can be great, with no shortage of structure. This slug fell to a Rapala X-Rap Long Cast Shallow fished right in on the backwash foam of a boiler rock, a perfect hide out spot for larger model Calicos. Ira Waldman
If the backwash and foam is too thick don’t hesitate to use a shallow diver like a Rapala X-rap Long Cast to get your bait to an area that’s more visible to predators. Often they’ll be lurking in this turbulent, murky water. Ricky Fischel
Always be ready for Yellows to make an appearance if you’re fishing Calicos against boilers. This solid Yellowtail fell victim to a Rapala X-Rap Long Cast Shallow, just feet from the rocks. A tight drag and 60lb. braid did the job. Mike Murciano

We are so lucky to have the ability to fish the Coronado Islands, fter all they are located in an entirely different country. A few takeways to share:

• Always go through the process of getting your permits, again we are extremely lucky to have access to this resource and making sure we abide by Mexican Permitting Laws will ensure years of access and great fishing.

• THE PAUSE, when using any of these artificials I’ve notive, that a pause in retrieve will often intice a reaction bite from those fish that can’t commit.

• Read the conditions, check for current, ofte times you can tell within a few minutes if things are looking right for the Islands. Ideally, you want a North to South current and clean water.

• Overall life is a great indicator, if birds, seals, dolphins are active there is a very good chance gamefish will be present.

• Be ready for anything wahoo, black sea bass, yellowtail, tuna and more have all been caught here.

For any and all information needed to access the Coronado Islands visit the Sportfishing Association of California website here.

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