Though fishing was spotty, the quality was excellent. “2 bluefin. Tough day for the entire fleet. An attitude adjustment is coming in the near future.”
Dock Totals 6/12 – 6/18: 4,680 anglers aboard 193 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 283 barracuda, 1,311 bluefin tuna (to 220 pounds), 37 bonito, 1 cabezon, 4,443 calico bass, 2 escolar, 4 halibut, 1 leopard shark (released), 12 lingcod, 989 rockfish, 164 sand bass, 1 sanddab, 81 sculpin, 258 sheephead, 16 treefish, 54 triggerfish, 284 whitefish, 5 white seabass (3 released), 3 yellowfin tuna, and 103 yellowtail .
Saltwater: If the bluefin bite was sketchy the previous week, last week was just plain tough for the fleet carrying hopeful anglers out to the grounds. When feeding, the tuna seems to be keying on a small bait, which makes it tough to entice them with anything larger than a paper clip. Though the slow bite was reflective of typical bluefin fussiness around the full moon phase, the fish are also fat on the plethora of bait in the tuna grounds. That hot bait on a sinker rig or flashy knife jig is treated as we would if offered thirds after two courses and pie on Thanksgiving.
All the boats sighted bluefin on the surface or on the meter; some frothing the water feeding on sardines or anchovies, some lazily cruising along. It can be very frustrating watching a 200-pound tuna swim nonchalantly past your hot offering of bait or jig, and there was a lot of that frustration last week. Still, the fish are there, and even if swimming through food, they feed at some point daily. Being in the right place at the right time is key.
The tuna are ranging in size from 30 pounds to over 200 pounds, so angles should come prepared with at least three setups: 1-30 pound for live bait on smaller tuna and yellowtail; 1-50 pound setup for medium bait or butterfly or knife jigs; and 1- 80 to 130 pound rig for the heavy work on the larger fish. Add to that your favorite inshore setup in case the tuna just won’t cooperate, and the boat moves to coastal or island fishing for calico bass, rockfish, and possibly yellowtail.
That said, a few yellowfin tuna were caught in the same area as the bluefin, and that there are storms forming down south and moving up the Mexican coast driving warmer water north, we should see the season turn with more yellowfin tuna and dorado beginning to show within 2-day range, and if true to form per the last several years, the bluefin will follow the cooler water to Tanner and Cortez banks. During this transitional period through the first weeks of official summer, we should start seeing a broader mix of pelagic species in the counts.
Speaking of calico bass, they jumped from a few hundred to over a thousand caught and kept in last week’s report and jumped again to over four thousand this past week. That’s kept, there were about three times released for every one bass counted, so that is some serious calico fishing. The legal size for all three bass commonly caught in our area – calico bass, sand bass, and spotted (bay) sand bass – is fourteen inches. Typically, not only the shorts are released; Many avid calico anglers release the larger female breeders, which is part of the reason for having such a great calico fishery in waters that have seen heavy pressure for over several decades. As calico bass are relatively slow growing, reaching the legal size of 14 inches in five years and maybe 18 inches by ten years, managing the fishery is important to ensure the success of reproduction. Though there is no true ‘slot-limit’, where a maximum size is also regulated, angles are usually encouraged to release fish over 18 inches and five pounds. Add to the conservational approach by many angles, the Marine Protected Areas are located strategically to allow successful reproduction of all our inshore species that flourish in and around kelp beds.
Calico bass are not officially endangered or at risk of being endangered, but recent analyzes have indicated that the bass populations in some areas along their range from Baja Sur to the Washington coast are depressed. For this reason, the size limit was extended two inches, and the daily bag limit of ten fish was reduced to five fish per angler per day a couple years ago. Calico bass can live up to 30 years and can grow to nearly 30 inches long. The IGFA all-tackle world record calico bass is a 14-pound, 7-ounce fish taken off Newport Beach, California.
The best calico fishery I have experienced is around kelp beds along the Vizcaino coast of Baja, about halfway down the peninsula’s Pacific side from Cedros Island to Just north of La Bocana and centering on the two small islands near Bahia Asunción; Isla San Roque and Isla Asunción. There, a five-pound average is not uncommon, and when the biting is good, fifty fish can be caught on any given day. Closer to home, Isla San Martin and north along the coast to the Coronado Islands are very productive areas.
Off the San Diego coast, La Jolla and Point Loma kelp beds can kick out decent fish, as we can see by the half-day counts this past week. Calico bass are usually targeted with lures or live bait presented along kelp in 20 to 80 feet of water, though they can be found in water to 200 feet deep. Though found mostly in and around kelp beds, calico bass, AKA kelp bass, do not seem utterly dependent on kelp. With warming water during El Niño years, especially, kelp dies off but, in most cases, calicos will remain on the same reefs throughout their lives. As kelp dies off some seasons and recovers during others, calico bass continue to reproduce and feed in the same areas where they spawn.
They’re out there, so go get ’em!
Notable catches this past week:
6/12 – The Premier 1/2-day AM run with 44 anglers aboard returned to the docks with 148 calico bass, 12 rockfish, 1 barracuda, 1 sheephead, and 1 sculpin in the gunnysacks, while the Pacific Voyager 2-day run moved their focus from the tuna grounds to inshore fishing which produced limits of 130 calico bass, 98 barracuda, and 32 yellowtail for 13 anglers.
6/14 – The Pegasus 1.5-day outing did exceptionally well during a tough bite, with their 19 anglers almost getting limits with 35 bluefin tuna landed.
6/15 – 13 anglers aboard the Dolphin 1/2-day AM run caught 135 calico bass (100 released), 11 sheephead, 7 sand bass, and 5 rockfish. The Outrider 1.5-day run to the tuna grounds reported limits of 16 bluefin tuna for 8 angles.
6/17 – The Malihini full-day run to the Coronado Islands had excellent results, with limits of 115 calico bass plus 46 rockfish, 37 whitefish, 25 barracuda, and 7 yellowtail caught by the 23 anglers aboard.
6/18 – 17 anglers aboard the Vendetta 2 full-day trip caught 54 triggerfish, 30 barracuda, 1 yellowtail, and limits of 85 calico bass.
Fish Plants: None scheduled