Close-up of pelagic fish skin
  • Close-up of pelagic fish skin
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Considering proximity and numbers of yellowfin, bluefin, and dorado to Point Loma (generally used for distance from or to San Diego by mariners), this has been the best pelagic fishing season on record. Kayakers getting tuna and dorado out of La Jolla? Taking the skiff out a couple miles and getting into frothing tuna boils? Record highs for water temps? Hammerheads, tripletail and almaco jacks locally?

This is not all good news, as the actual stocks of most ocean-dwelling fish are down. Bluefin are at about 25-30% of healthy population, according to recent studies. These studies can be suspect as the baseline is hard to establish. Before improved fishing methods after WWII, fish stocks were thought to be at healthy levels, yet no viable population studies existed. In 2003, there was an article in National Geographic that contended, "From giant blue marlin to mighty bluefin tuna, and from tropical groupers to Antarctic cod, industrial fishing has scoured the global ocean. There is no blue frontier left," said lead author Ransom Myers, a fisheries biologist based at Dalhousie University in Canada. "Since 1950, with the onset of industrialized fisheries, we have rapidly reduced the resource base to less than 10 percent — not just in some areas, not just for some stocks, but for entire communities of these large fish species from the tropics to the poles."

Though it seems the ocean is full of fish, pelagic species follow the threads of warm water that move north in the summer. Endemic species live near structure and the vast majority are along the local canyons, kelp edges and banks off shore. The majority of the oceans are mostly barren and host only a few residents and passers-through. Along the edges, or temp breaks, baitfish stack up, especially around floating debris, for shade and shelter, or in the case of upwelling at offshore banks, again by temperature differences creating a "wall" to cold-blooded species. That is what the tuna, dorado, wahoo, marlin and the rest of the trophy gamefish follow.

Then there are the mesopelagic and bathypelagic species. They live in the second and third tiers of the water column divided vertically. These divisions of the water column lap over each other as many species migrate upward during the night. Much of what lives in the mesopelagic zone feeds on what drifts down from the surface, or epipelagic zone, which extends down 200 meters. 200 to 1000 meters is the mesopelagic zone and 1000 to 4000 is the bathypelagic zone. It is estimated that 95% of all life in the oceans live in the mesopelagic zone. There is less current and light there, so most of the larger mesopelagic species, such as the blob fish, do not have muscular flesh. They feed on a continuous shower of flakes of dead or dying plankton, algae, fecal matter and each other.

From NOAA. This is an example of a ctenophore, bathocyroe fosteri, which is a mesopelagic species. (Photo courtesy of Marsh Youngbluth).

Though pelagic species sometimes swim and feed in the mesopelagic zone, most of the animals that reside there are not edible, at least as we commonly process fish they're not. Mostly tiny animals, their flesh is generally gelatinous and nonconsumable. Most have some bioluminescent quality as they live in very little to no light. Mesopelagic species include algae, coelacanths, copepods, crabs and other crustaceans, ctenophores, dinoflagellates, dragonfish, fangtooth, gulper eel, hatchet fish, hydrozoans, medusas, lantern fish, snipe eels, some octopus, midwater jellyfish (Cnidarians), plankton, polychaetes, radiolarians, siphonophore, rattalk fish, sea dragons, some shrimp, some squid, viperfish, and many worms.

When the study came out in 2014 stating the vast increase of known animals in the mesopelagic zone due to detection methods there was a lot of hyperbole floating around about the ocean's health and available food fish. Folks said "Aha! See? There is so much more food in the ocean than previously thought. Let's do away with limits!"

Yeah, well, Soylent Green would probably be tastier. Just some food (or not) for thought.

The bluefin count has paced and even outnumbered the yellowfin count over the past few days and the dorado have dropped off a bit near shore. Might be that the drop from nearly 75 to 71 degrees on the local ocean surface temp affected the bite.

Yesterday's dock totals:

Dana Landing hosted five anglers aboard one boat and reported 1 dorado, 17 yellowfin tuna and limits of 10 bluefin tuna caught.

Fisherman's Landing sent 120 anglers out aboard 5 boats and reported 16 yellowtail, 8 sand bass, 26 calico bass, 5 rockfish, 74 barracuda, 1 sheephead, 109 yellowfin Tuna, 47 bluefin Tuna and 4 dorado for the day's total.

257 anglers aboard 8 boats out of H&M Landing caught 229 bluefin tuna, 66 yellowfin tuna, 13 dorado, 7 barracuda, 98 sand bass and 7 yellowtail.

Helgren's Oceanside Sportfishing reported that 23 anglers aboard 1 boat caught 10 calico bass, 8 sand bass and 4 yellowtail.

70 yellowfin tuna, 6 dorado, 82 bluefin tuna, 4 calico bass, 14 yellowtail, 29 sand bass, 8 bonito, 37 barracuda, 1 sculpin, 1 lingcod and 6 rockfish were caught by 194 anglers aboard 8 boats out of Point Loma Sportfishing.

Seaforth Sportfishing sent 306 anglers out on the briny aboard 12 boats for a total catch of 14 bonito, 16 barracuda, 18 calico bass, 22 yellowtail, 3 rockfish, 248 bluefin Tuna, 82 yellowfin Tuna and 9 dorado.

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