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Tuna Bite Wide Open Over Holiday Weekend

Early season tuna catches in previous weeks, coupled with reports of more fish moving into range, had captains excited about the prospects for the 2 1/2 day trips scheduled to run out of San Diego over the long weekend. But no one was prepared for just how good the fishing was going to be. Boats that departed on Saturday night began reporting good fishing as early as Saturday morning.

It started with the Shogun reporting wide open fishing on bluefin to 100 pounds. Then the Condor reported metering 30 fathoms of tuna under the boat as they made their way to a 250 fish score. The Top Gun 80 called in limits of bluefin (250) for the passengers.

By the time the dust had settled the six boats fishing the area had amassed a total count of almost 1200 mixed tuna.

There are some fish being seen as close as 90 miles from the point, but the fish caught on those trips came from well below there. With the yellowfin tuna bite starting at 120 miles and the bigger bluefin down as far as170 miles, these fish are out of range of overnight trips and at the very edge of 1 1/2 day range. The good news is that these fish should continue to push closer in the coming days and weeks.

There are already trips online this week and I’m sure the landings will be adding more trips as those fill up. So, let’s take a look at the grade of fish you can expect to encounter and the tackle you’ll want to bring if you’re heading out on one of these trips.

Almost all of these trips have been catching yellowtail. These are your standard 5 to 10 pound kelp paddy yellowtail that will eat just about anything you throw at them. So, just fish the heavy line in case a tuna decides to eat your bait.

The yellowfin tuna, which are biting wide open in the 120 to 140 mile range, are 12-18 lb fish that are coming off jig strikes, dolphin schools and sonar marks. These smaller tuna will bite the heavier line. So, I wouldn’t fish anything lighter than 30 pound test and if there is any sign of bigger fish in the area, I’d immediately switch to 40 or 50 pound test.

The big bluefin scores have been coming out of the 150 to 170 mile zone. While most of these fish are in the 20 to 35 pound class, there are 60 to 75 pound fish in the mix. Several of the boats ran into schools of fish in excess of 100 pounds this weekend, but no one was geared up to tackle the bigger fish and they were all lost.

Captains are recommending passengers to bring the heavy gear on the 2 and 2 1/2 day trips because the fish are readily eating sardines on 50 and 60 pound test. For specifics on tackle recommendations, please check out my previous column.

Erik Landesfeind
Erik Landesfeind is BD's Southern California Editor and has over 30 years of experience saltwater fishing for a range of species in both California an...