near-shore yellowtail at Bahia Asunción
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Head: Dolphin Halibut tournament gets a good start – excellent yellowtail fishing along Baja - bluefin tuna caught off SoCal coast

Dock Totals Dec 30 – Jan 5: 1,610 anglers aboard 60 half day to three day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 47 yellowtail, 44 bonito, 70 calico bass, 475 sand bass, 17 halibut, 2,995 rockfish, 603 whitefish, 8 lingcod, 57 sheephead, 1,085 sculpin, 88 blacksmith perch, 20 rubberlip seaperch, 120 sanddab, 43 white croaker, 2 triggerfish, 1 black seabass (released), 45 rock crab, and 81 spiny lobster (497 released)

Saltwater: The first week of 2019 featured good inshore fishing for rockfish, sculpin, sand bass, and whitefish. Sculpin are back on the menu as of January 1 after being closed since September 1, and they will remain open all year as per this year’s adjusted regulations set by the California's fish and wildlife department. In spite of the good inshore fishing, most folks are talking about the spot of bluefin tuna off Dana Point that produced a few fish for those that found them. There was a report by a pilot that spotted a large school on the surface while flying between Oceanside and Dana Point that raised the excitement level among the fleet, but as of yet, I know of no boats out of San Diego planning any northbound trips to look for them. In spite of several other sightings, only three bluefin tuna were reported caught this first week of the year; one by LA Waterfront Cruises and Sportfishing, and two by Long Beach Sportfishing.

The Dolphin out of Fisherman’s Landing is holding their two-month-long halibut tournament again this year, and the bar has been set high early in the event; a 31.5 pound ‘flatty’ was boated on the first day of the competition. The tournament will run every Wednesday until February 27th, and will replace normal 1/2 day trips on that day. The ticket cost will be $60; $10 from every ticket goes towards the jackpot. Last year, the winner-take-all tournament was won by Mike Lagrisola who pocketed the $2,950 jackpot with a 43-pound halibut.

A few yellowtail are being caught locally, with the bite getting better the further south one goes. The Coronado Islands are producing a few, while the Ensenada boats are reporting a little better yellowtail fishing to the south of Punta Banda. From Colonet to San Quintin, anglers are getting mostly rockfish from the high spots along with a flurry of yellowtail, but once you get to Isla Cedros near Guererro Negro and points south, the yellowtail bite is wide open. I paddled the kayak out to a spot about a mile from the launch at Bahia Asunción to check on a reported bite about midway down the east side of Isla Asunción and found them willing in 100 feet of water.

I dropped a blue and white Tady A9 lure yoyo-style once I metered some fish and was rewarded with six hookups in six drops. The first fish was a middling bonito, and though bonito can make it tough to get a lure down to the yellows, I thought I’d give it another go before moving on. The second drop produced a yellowtail that came unbuttoned at the kayak. The third through sixth attempts all produced yellowtail from 15 to 20 pounds. I kept two and released two. Including driving to the ramp, paddling out, fishing, paddling in, cleaning up, and filleting the fish, it was a two hour and forty minute outing.

Fish Plants: 1/12, Santee Lakes, trout (2,000), 1/14, Lake Jennings, trout (2,000), 1/15, Lake Cuyamaca, trout (1,000)

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