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A SoCal angler’s Groundhog Day

Mustang still rounding up bluefin in U.S. waters

Avid angler Katharina Eckert with a nice mixed bag aboard the Liberty’s first ¾-day Coronado Island run of 2018
Avid angler Katharina Eckert with a nice mixed bag aboard the Liberty’s first ¾-day Coronado Island run of 2018

Dock Totals Feb. 4–Feb. 10

980 anglers aboard 43 boats out of San Diego landings this past week caught 44 bluefin tuna, 14 yellowtail, 312 calico bass, 878 sand bass, 1,155 rockfish, 44 whitefish, 14 lingcod, 31 bonito, 5 barracuda, 9 halibut, 839 sculpin, 56 sanddab, 5 finescale triggerfish, 1 sheephead, 2 rubberlip seaperch, and 2 spiny lobster.

There are still plenty of bluefin tuna around in U.S. waters in this "off season," and in spite of more "normal" fishing for this time of year, signs of the past few outstanding years are still present; lots of bait, including pelagic (tuna) crab, some warmer streaks of water, and tuna being caught within 1.5-day range in the middle of winter. That said, only a couple boats are committing to the hunt offshore, the most regular being the Mustang out of H&M Landing. They are running 1.5 trips departing every other day to fish in U.S. waters (no passport required) from off San Clemente to the lower banks offshore. They have had scratchy days and days where the bite is full on, but still, with a tuna that is very powerful and can chew the angler off, fish are lost and the counts are sometimes not too reflective of the opportunities had. As these fish are averaging 30 to 40 pounds, the odds of landing a hooked fish are much better than when the fish were running 100 -to 200-plus pounds.

Inshore, the sand bass have been off the hook, or rather, on the hooks of those targeting them. Both in size and numbers, this is some of the best fishing for "grumpy" barred sand bass we’ve seen in a number of years in our local waters. This may be partially due to the focus of the local fleet being more centered on the flats during the rockfish closure and while the offshore bite has slowed. The term "grumpy" has been around since before I born, as big sand bass can look a bit like a grumpy old guy with a tight-lipped frown. A lot like my grandfather, actually.

The boats ranging into Mexican waters for rockfish have been doing very well on reds, lingcod and whitefish. Bonito and even a few barracuda are showing on the surface at times, which I like to think of as a sign of an early spring when those fish are around before March — species feeding well above their shadows in the upper water column = a SoCal angler’s Groundhog Day. In normal conditions, the fishery can be more indicative of the time of year than the weather in our area.

The Liberty is back on the water and running ¾-day Coronado Island trips through the end of February. In March, they will begin running 1.5-day trips south to Colinet in search of spring yellowtail, big lingcod, and rockfish. Passports are required for both the ¾- and 1.5-day trips south of the border. Their first Coronado Island run for the 2018 season on February 17 with 17 anglers aboard resulted in bag limits of mostly rockfish (160) with some lingcod (7) as well as a yellowtail and a bonito.

Top boats of the week:

Feb. 11: The Mustang returned to the dock with 37 bluefin tuna and 10 yellowtail in the hold for the 21 anglers aboard their 1.5 day offshore run.

Feb. 12: 17 anglers aboard the Pacific Voyager 2.5 day run caught 170 rockfish, 15 bonito and 5 barracuda.

Feb. 14: Tournament day for the Dolphin as 26 anglers aboard the special Wednesday halibut run put 11 sand bass, 19 sculpin, and 4 halibut in the gunny sacks. 23 halibut were released. As of February 14, the jackpot total for the largest halibut caught by the end of fishing February 28 is over $2,100.

Feb. 15: Great grumpy fishing aboard the Dolphin with limits of 80 sand bass for the 16 anglers aboard their ½-day run.

Feb. 16: 23 anglers aboard the Daily Double ½-day run boated 53 calico bass, 26 sand bass, and 2 bonito. The Mustang found a few biters in 1.5-day range, with 7 bluefin tuna and 3 yellowtail landed the 10 anglers aboard.

Fish Plants

Feb. 23: Santee Lakes, trout (TBD)

Feb. 26: Jennings, trout (1,500)

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Avid angler Katharina Eckert with a nice mixed bag aboard the Liberty’s first ¾-day Coronado Island run of 2018
Avid angler Katharina Eckert with a nice mixed bag aboard the Liberty’s first ¾-day Coronado Island run of 2018

Dock Totals Feb. 4–Feb. 10

980 anglers aboard 43 boats out of San Diego landings this past week caught 44 bluefin tuna, 14 yellowtail, 312 calico bass, 878 sand bass, 1,155 rockfish, 44 whitefish, 14 lingcod, 31 bonito, 5 barracuda, 9 halibut, 839 sculpin, 56 sanddab, 5 finescale triggerfish, 1 sheephead, 2 rubberlip seaperch, and 2 spiny lobster.

There are still plenty of bluefin tuna around in U.S. waters in this "off season," and in spite of more "normal" fishing for this time of year, signs of the past few outstanding years are still present; lots of bait, including pelagic (tuna) crab, some warmer streaks of water, and tuna being caught within 1.5-day range in the middle of winter. That said, only a couple boats are committing to the hunt offshore, the most regular being the Mustang out of H&M Landing. They are running 1.5 trips departing every other day to fish in U.S. waters (no passport required) from off San Clemente to the lower banks offshore. They have had scratchy days and days where the bite is full on, but still, with a tuna that is very powerful and can chew the angler off, fish are lost and the counts are sometimes not too reflective of the opportunities had. As these fish are averaging 30 to 40 pounds, the odds of landing a hooked fish are much better than when the fish were running 100 -to 200-plus pounds.

Inshore, the sand bass have been off the hook, or rather, on the hooks of those targeting them. Both in size and numbers, this is some of the best fishing for "grumpy" barred sand bass we’ve seen in a number of years in our local waters. This may be partially due to the focus of the local fleet being more centered on the flats during the rockfish closure and while the offshore bite has slowed. The term "grumpy" has been around since before I born, as big sand bass can look a bit like a grumpy old guy with a tight-lipped frown. A lot like my grandfather, actually.

The boats ranging into Mexican waters for rockfish have been doing very well on reds, lingcod and whitefish. Bonito and even a few barracuda are showing on the surface at times, which I like to think of as a sign of an early spring when those fish are around before March — species feeding well above their shadows in the upper water column = a SoCal angler’s Groundhog Day. In normal conditions, the fishery can be more indicative of the time of year than the weather in our area.

The Liberty is back on the water and running ¾-day Coronado Island trips through the end of February. In March, they will begin running 1.5-day trips south to Colinet in search of spring yellowtail, big lingcod, and rockfish. Passports are required for both the ¾- and 1.5-day trips south of the border. Their first Coronado Island run for the 2018 season on February 17 with 17 anglers aboard resulted in bag limits of mostly rockfish (160) with some lingcod (7) as well as a yellowtail and a bonito.

Top boats of the week:

Feb. 11: The Mustang returned to the dock with 37 bluefin tuna and 10 yellowtail in the hold for the 21 anglers aboard their 1.5 day offshore run.

Feb. 12: 17 anglers aboard the Pacific Voyager 2.5 day run caught 170 rockfish, 15 bonito and 5 barracuda.

Feb. 14: Tournament day for the Dolphin as 26 anglers aboard the special Wednesday halibut run put 11 sand bass, 19 sculpin, and 4 halibut in the gunny sacks. 23 halibut were released. As of February 14, the jackpot total for the largest halibut caught by the end of fishing February 28 is over $2,100.

Feb. 15: Great grumpy fishing aboard the Dolphin with limits of 80 sand bass for the 16 anglers aboard their ½-day run.

Feb. 16: 23 anglers aboard the Daily Double ½-day run boated 53 calico bass, 26 sand bass, and 2 bonito. The Mustang found a few biters in 1.5-day range, with 7 bluefin tuna and 3 yellowtail landed the 10 anglers aboard.

Fish Plants

Feb. 23: Santee Lakes, trout (TBD)

Feb. 26: Jennings, trout (1,500)

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