This winter and spring has been one of the coldest and wettest in a long while in San Diego. The weather has ushered in a rush of cold currents off our shores. The good news? It has been a boon for rockfish!
Find out what is going on with rockfish fishing and how the yellowtail and bluefin season is starting to heat up.
Rockfish for the Win
Rockfish fishing has been so good that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has recently opened up the depth for fishing to more than 600 feet! Areas that have been un-fished in decades are producing plenty of big rockfish for lots of happy anglers.
Fishing enthusiasts can now deep-drop to depths beyond 600 feet, which has been off limits since 2012. (The California Department of Fish and Wildlife placed a 50-fathom limit in November 2012 to protect cowcod from incidental catches.)
The recreational groundfish season opened April 1, 2023 in the Southern Management Area. For the first time in over 20 years anglers can enjoy fishing for groundfish in all water depths in this area until September 15. This portion of the season is now referred to as the 'all depth fishery' and allows access to nearshore rockfish, cabezon, and greenling along with deeper shelf and slope rockfish species and lingcod.
Note that the authorization to fish for groundfish in "all depths" does not supersede state and federal marine protected areas or other special area closures, such as Cowcod Conservation Areas or Cordell Bank, where special closures still apply.
Recent rockfish catches
Yellowfin and Bluefin Are Starting to Bite
Last year in April we were already seeing plenty of yellowtail and bluefin biting near our waters. It was a 0 to 100 situation with no tuna to be had and then tons.
This year is different, thanks to the colder than usual weather and currents. For the last few weeks some fish located about 60 to 120 miles south showed themselves every other day. These fish were quite the ride from our shores, and what's more, have been tough to consistently locate.
The waters have been cool and greenish for months. But with our recent spat of nice weather, that situation is starting to change.
More yellowtail are being spotted around the islands. We have enjoyed brief opportunities when they bite, but until recently it was not easy to nab them. Fortunately, we are starting to see plenty of 15-20 pounders and they are biting during the day on a light tackle.
As for bluefin, the slowly-warming waters have allowed us to spot fish only 40 to 60 miles from San Diego. Again, it's not the dynamo start to the season that we saw last year, but these early bites from yellowtail and bluefin are signs of many good things on the horizon.
Another happy fisherman and his yellowtail
Where the Yellowfin and Bluefin Are Currently Biting
Right now there are two key areas where you can bring home a yellowtail or bluefin:
226 / 302 / 371 / 390 This continues to be the main local bluefin zone and some paddies in this area are holding 8-12 lbs. yellowtail. Most of the bluefin have been 20-40 lbs., but bigger tuna (60-150 lbs.) have been spotted moving into the area within the last week. There is also some 8-12 lbs. bonito in the mix.
While there has not been a whole lot of surface action yet, you might find some breezers and quick spots of puddlers and boils under birds. It's mostly been through sonar /meter marks. Many guys are getting blind strikes while trolling plugs like MadMacs.
Other anglers are reporting getting bites by setting up ahead of fast-moving schools and casting stick baits. Flylined sardines on 30 lbs. gear with a fluoro leader have also been lucrative. Finally, there have been a few of the bigger bluefin caught by skipping flyers.
East of the Hidden Bank Good news! Bigger 80-150 pound bluefin are showing here.
It's mostly nighttime bites from the sport boats but this is a good zone to skip a flyer on slack tide during the day. The nighttime bites are coming on sardines fished on sinker rigs, knife jigs, and sinker jigs (16 oz torpedo with assist hooks attached at the top of the sinker).
Yes, the season is heating up! Book your trip for anytime this year by June 1 and get 10% off any trip. Call today!