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As seasons change large fish are biting

Pelagic species retreat south with ebbing warm water currents

Angler Jim Fitch with his cow tuna caught while fishing aboard the Intrepid 14-day trip.
Angler Jim Fitch with his cow tuna caught while fishing aboard the Intrepid 14-day trip.

Dock Totals 11/14 – 11/20: 1,362 anglers aboard 76 half-day to three-day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 361 bluefin tuna (up to 271 pounds), 29 bonito, 651 calico bass (345 released), 30 lingcod, 97 lobster (67 released), 17 rock crab, 2,659 rockfish, 44 sand bass, 331 sculpin, 51 sheephead, 625 whitefish, and 800 yellowtail.

Saltwater: Many gamefish such as jacks, tunas, basses, feed at night during full moon phases and that can slow the daytime bite. Some prey, like squid and grunion, spawn at night on or around full moons, and fish fattened up on silversides and squid at night can be a bit sluggish the next day. Think November 26th for humans. Anyhow, rockfish, whitefish, and sculpin have been biting well off the 9-Mile Bank and the local reefs, while the calico bass action has been very good off the kelp beds along the coast. Large bluefin tuna to over 200 pounds are still biting in the Cortez/Tanner banks southwest of San Clemente Island. There is some yellowtail action south along the coast, but the fish that show up with the warmer water; yellowfin tuna, skipjack, and dorado, were a no-show for any of the boats within 3-day range.

This is the time of year that the long-range fleet begins to run their extended trips of up to 18 days. As water cools in the Pacific Transition Zone from San Quintin to south of the Vizcaino Peninsula, pelagic species retreat south with ebbing warm water currents. Anglers who wish to catch yellowfin tuna, dorado, and wahoo must travel 500 miles or more south to find them. As most boats can count on doing around 10 to 12 knots in average seas, 50 hours of travel each way and allotting for time to fish requires at least a 6-to-8-day outing. Through the summer months when semi-tropical exotics are relatively near San Diego, the long-range fleet runs shorter trips from 3 to 6 days, but as winter approaches, they will extend their trips to the southern half of the Baja Peninsula and beyond toward the Revillagigedo Islands 240 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas.

The long-range boats fishing mid-peninsula and south off Baja did very well on wahoo, dorado, yellowtail, and some sizable yellowfin tuna. While near the ridge south of Alijos Rocks on a 14-day trip aboard the Intrepid, angler Jim Fitch landed a cow yellowfin tuna that taped out at 400 pounds. That is a remarkable catch and just under the 427-pound all line class world record yellowfin tuna. Earlier during the same trip, yellowtail fishing had been very good south of Cedros Island just off the mid-peninsula coast, and wahoo provided some speedy battles out around Alijos Rocks, located 480 miles south of Point Loma and 160 miles west of Bahia Magdalena.

With the ability to fish several hundred miles offshore and past the end of the Baja Peninsula, these long-range trips can provide a fishing experience of a lifetime. At around five-thousand dollars they are not cheap but travelling to Cabo and hiring a local boat still won’t get you out to where the big cow tuna roam. While a trip to a Mexican fishing town and a panga ride can get you some fine action on medium tuna and wahoo during the winter, a comfy stateroom and a full galley serving up top-notch meals for two weeks of day and night fishing cannot be found anywhere in a Mexican fishing destination like Cabo San Lucas or Puerto Vallarta.

When it comes to live-bait sportfishing, San Diego is the world-class destination for tropical exotics in the wintertime. With a fleet of sturdy and comfortable 100-foot fishing platforms at the ready, and despite the pricey ticket, these long-range trips generally sell out months in advance. When the water warms again around the nearer high spots in June-July, the long-range fleet will again focus on the shorter 3 to 6 day runs, but for now through May they will be chasing giant yellowfin tuna and speedy wahoo in the tropical climes and turquoise water far south of the transition zone.

Another notable catch south of the border was just certified by the IGFA this past week as the world-record gulf grouper. The fish, weighing 113.35 pounds, was caught by angler Gary Puls while aboard Captain Juan Cook’s 23-foot Parker ‘Slapjack’ on October 23rd while fishing outside of Bahia San Luis Gonzaga (Gonzaga Bay) in the northern Sea of Cortez. Captain Cook is known for his expertise in finding big grouper in Baja. He operates out of Bahia San Quintin and spends parts of the year running out of Gonzaga Bay and Bahia de los Angeles on the gulf side, and Bahia Magdalena on the Pacific side. Regardless of departure point, Juan’s trips run around $500 per day. Added to travel costs and expenses for license and FMM (tourist visa) required for fishing in Mexican waters, Fishing with Juan Cook can be a relatively inexpensive way to experience world class nearshore fishing within a day of San Diego.

Meanwhile, for a shot at large tuna closer to home, keep an eye on the 1 to 3 day runs to the Cortez-Tanner Banks. There are still good numbers of bluefin there up to 300 pounds. As bluefin can handle cooler water, they might just stick around that area into January as they have in past years. While conditions are good, there will be boats heading that way for $250 to $600, so though the seasons are changing, there is a chance of landing a trophy fish on a trip that won’t break the bank.

Fish Plants: 11/29 Jennings, trout (1,500), 12/2 – Lake Poway, trout (1,500)

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Angler Jim Fitch with his cow tuna caught while fishing aboard the Intrepid 14-day trip.
Angler Jim Fitch with his cow tuna caught while fishing aboard the Intrepid 14-day trip.

Dock Totals 11/14 – 11/20: 1,362 anglers aboard 76 half-day to three-day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 361 bluefin tuna (up to 271 pounds), 29 bonito, 651 calico bass (345 released), 30 lingcod, 97 lobster (67 released), 17 rock crab, 2,659 rockfish, 44 sand bass, 331 sculpin, 51 sheephead, 625 whitefish, and 800 yellowtail.

Saltwater: Many gamefish such as jacks, tunas, basses, feed at night during full moon phases and that can slow the daytime bite. Some prey, like squid and grunion, spawn at night on or around full moons, and fish fattened up on silversides and squid at night can be a bit sluggish the next day. Think November 26th for humans. Anyhow, rockfish, whitefish, and sculpin have been biting well off the 9-Mile Bank and the local reefs, while the calico bass action has been very good off the kelp beds along the coast. Large bluefin tuna to over 200 pounds are still biting in the Cortez/Tanner banks southwest of San Clemente Island. There is some yellowtail action south along the coast, but the fish that show up with the warmer water; yellowfin tuna, skipjack, and dorado, were a no-show for any of the boats within 3-day range.

This is the time of year that the long-range fleet begins to run their extended trips of up to 18 days. As water cools in the Pacific Transition Zone from San Quintin to south of the Vizcaino Peninsula, pelagic species retreat south with ebbing warm water currents. Anglers who wish to catch yellowfin tuna, dorado, and wahoo must travel 500 miles or more south to find them. As most boats can count on doing around 10 to 12 knots in average seas, 50 hours of travel each way and allotting for time to fish requires at least a 6-to-8-day outing. Through the summer months when semi-tropical exotics are relatively near San Diego, the long-range fleet runs shorter trips from 3 to 6 days, but as winter approaches, they will extend their trips to the southern half of the Baja Peninsula and beyond toward the Revillagigedo Islands 240 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas.

The long-range boats fishing mid-peninsula and south off Baja did very well on wahoo, dorado, yellowtail, and some sizable yellowfin tuna. While near the ridge south of Alijos Rocks on a 14-day trip aboard the Intrepid, angler Jim Fitch landed a cow yellowfin tuna that taped out at 400 pounds. That is a remarkable catch and just under the 427-pound all line class world record yellowfin tuna. Earlier during the same trip, yellowtail fishing had been very good south of Cedros Island just off the mid-peninsula coast, and wahoo provided some speedy battles out around Alijos Rocks, located 480 miles south of Point Loma and 160 miles west of Bahia Magdalena.

With the ability to fish several hundred miles offshore and past the end of the Baja Peninsula, these long-range trips can provide a fishing experience of a lifetime. At around five-thousand dollars they are not cheap but travelling to Cabo and hiring a local boat still won’t get you out to where the big cow tuna roam. While a trip to a Mexican fishing town and a panga ride can get you some fine action on medium tuna and wahoo during the winter, a comfy stateroom and a full galley serving up top-notch meals for two weeks of day and night fishing cannot be found anywhere in a Mexican fishing destination like Cabo San Lucas or Puerto Vallarta.

When it comes to live-bait sportfishing, San Diego is the world-class destination for tropical exotics in the wintertime. With a fleet of sturdy and comfortable 100-foot fishing platforms at the ready, and despite the pricey ticket, these long-range trips generally sell out months in advance. When the water warms again around the nearer high spots in June-July, the long-range fleet will again focus on the shorter 3 to 6 day runs, but for now through May they will be chasing giant yellowfin tuna and speedy wahoo in the tropical climes and turquoise water far south of the transition zone.

Another notable catch south of the border was just certified by the IGFA this past week as the world-record gulf grouper. The fish, weighing 113.35 pounds, was caught by angler Gary Puls while aboard Captain Juan Cook’s 23-foot Parker ‘Slapjack’ on October 23rd while fishing outside of Bahia San Luis Gonzaga (Gonzaga Bay) in the northern Sea of Cortez. Captain Cook is known for his expertise in finding big grouper in Baja. He operates out of Bahia San Quintin and spends parts of the year running out of Gonzaga Bay and Bahia de los Angeles on the gulf side, and Bahia Magdalena on the Pacific side. Regardless of departure point, Juan’s trips run around $500 per day. Added to travel costs and expenses for license and FMM (tourist visa) required for fishing in Mexican waters, Fishing with Juan Cook can be a relatively inexpensive way to experience world class nearshore fishing within a day of San Diego.

Meanwhile, for a shot at large tuna closer to home, keep an eye on the 1 to 3 day runs to the Cortez-Tanner Banks. There are still good numbers of bluefin there up to 300 pounds. As bluefin can handle cooler water, they might just stick around that area into January as they have in past years. While conditions are good, there will be boats heading that way for $250 to $600, so though the seasons are changing, there is a chance of landing a trophy fish on a trip that won’t break the bank.

Fish Plants: 11/29 Jennings, trout (1,500), 12/2 – Lake Poway, trout (1,500)

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