Scorpaena guttata, commonly called sculpin or California scorpionfish
Dock Totals Feb 17 – Feb 23: 569 anglers aboard 25 half day to one and a half day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 3 bonito, 1 halibut, 57 calico bass, 459 sand bass, 472 rockfish, 1 lingcod, 2 sheephead, 415 sculpin, 30 halfmoon, 371 perch, 4 sanddab, and 2 spiny lobster (42 released)
Saltwater: After a string of years with moderate winter weather, this year’s cold fronts are barreling through on a weekly basis and, other than the long-range fleet working far to the south, are keeping the counts down and the boats to mostly half-day runs. While a predicted El Niño is usually associated with fishing weather to the warmer side of normal, this year’s weak El Niño has started out with the opposite effect.
The wind associated with the fronts has kept most boats close to home and churned up cooler water than we’ve seen in a number of years, and the pattern looks as though it will continue for the coming weeks. There are some decent days between the blows when the water lies down and allows an occasional day-and-a-half boat a shot at yellowtail down the coast of northern Baja, but the problem there is that those wintertime trips are usually scheduled for the weekends only. From Ensenada down to Guerrero Negro, the panga captains are dealing with the same weather as our fleet here in San Diego and few boats are getting out on the fish.
This winter, rockfish, sculpin, and sand bass continue to dominate the counts while the fleet is hobbled to the near-home spots. This year, the yellowtail count has been low, and no bluefin have been reported for quite a few weeks.
As far as the local inshore fishing that can be reached by half-day boats, sand bass have garnered most of the anglers' attention. Most of the good sandies are coming off the flats in 60 to 100 feet of water from outside the San Diego Bay mouth south to the Mexican border. A few halibut are coming from the same area, though only one legal was reported this past week. Sculpin are coming more from the rocky reefs and outer edges of the kelp while the boats fishing those spots are targeting calico bass and rockfish. As far as terminal tackle, the conditions make that a simple choice; plastics have been working well on the calico bass. Squid or sardine on a dropper loop, or pinned to a 1.5 ounce leadhead, has been working best for the sand bass, rockfish, and sculpin.
I guess the good news with the current weather pattern is that anglers only need one setup and a pocketful of hooks, weights, leadheads, and a few plastics for the day’s fishing.
Fish Plants: Feb 5, Lake Cuyamaca, trout (1,200)