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Bluefin still active near San Clemente Island

Southern Baja Coast productive for Yellowfin, Dorado, and large Grouper

This large gulf grouper was caught by Charles Schmid aboard the Intrepid off the coast of Baja during an 8-day charter.
This large gulf grouper was caught by Charles Schmid aboard the Intrepid off the coast of Baja during an 8-day charter.

Dock Totals 9/26 – 10/2: 3,749 anglers aboard 183 trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 2,533 bluefin tuna (up to 230 pounds), 84 bonito, 132 calico bass (31 released), 489 dorado, 1 halibut, 9 lingcod, 3,093 rockfish, 36 sand bass, 340 sculpin, 123 sheephead, 896 skipjack tuna, 703 whitefish, 2,526 yellowfin tuna, and 928 yellowtail.

Saltwater: While bluefin tuna counts are holding steady as the bite continues near the Tanner and Cortez banks west-southwest of San Clemente Island, yellowfin and skipjack tuna numbers are rising for anglers aboard 1.5 to 3-day boats fishing 20 to 30 miles outside Ensenada and north toward the ‘Corner’ west of Tijuana where U.S., Mexican, and international waters converge. A warmer mass of water centering around the 371 bank about 45 miles southwest of Point Loma is holding roaming schools of Yellowfin and skipjack, along with dorado and yellowtail that can be found in solid numbers around kelp paddies.

Live sardines ‘fly-lined’, or fished with no weight, is the go-to method for these warmer water tunas and jacks, though some are caught using surface irons on top, and yoyo irons fished vertically. Yoyo irons are fished as the name implies; the angler doesn’t cast far, but more so lets the heavy lure sink to the bottom or to a desired depth, retrieves winding as fast as possible to the surface, then lets it sink back again. This up and down process is repeated until a fish is tempted to bite and then the fight is on. Surface irons are lighter and are casted far and retrieved within a few feet of the surface.

Both methods can work on a school of fish that is deep into the water column, but generally, when a school is on top, fly-lined live bait or surface irons work better, and if a school is deeper, yoyo irons or a weighted bait usually do the trick. When the fish are deeper, captains will alert anglers as to the depth and desired method once they meter a school and stop. When the fish are on the surface it is usually evident as the water will be exploding as they feed, and anglers will fire away with surface irons or fly-lined bait as soon as the captain slows the boat and announces that fishing can begin.

Half day boats have been concentrating on rockfish for the most part, with a few yellowtail and calico bass in the mix. Three quarter and full day runs cannot make the run to Tanner Bank and surrounding high spots and have mostly been targeting yellowtail around the Coronado Islands with decent results. Though the Baja coast is producing well, as long as the larger tuna are still biting, most vessels fishing within 1.5 to 3-day range have been heading west 100 to 120 miles for bluefin.

Longer runs of five to ten days have been heading south to Guadalupe Island or the high spots off Bahia Magdalena. ‘Mag Bay’, as it is usually known by the long-range angling community, is one of the most diverse fisheries in the world. The long narrow bay on the southwestern edge of the Baja peninsula has several inlets between sand-bar islands that sit between the tidal flats of the bay and the open Pacific. Thick schools of baitfish draw sierra mackerel, corvina, snook and other saltwater middleweights into the protected shallows of the bay where anglers either wading or fishing from light craft can use techniques similar to freshwater trout or bass fishing. Miles and miles of mangrove-lined channels offer excellent grouper fishing, if one can wrestle the stubborn brutes from their lairs in the exposed roots of the mangrove trees.

Outside the bay and along the coast, the semi-tropical water surges around several reefs and high spots that can produce large gulf grouper on the bottom, and yellowfin tuna, wahoo, dorado, and marlin on the surface. Given the distance and isolation from populated areas like the Baja fishing meccas of the East Cape, Cabo San Lucas, and La Paz, the Bahia Magdalena fisheries both inside and outside the bay are yet unspoiled by heavy commercial or sportfishing pressure. The Intrepid just finished up a trip to the area with great results for the anglers aboard for the Miles and Ken 8-day charter. Fishing along the southern Baja coast as well as far offshore to the Rocas Alijos, they returned to the dock with the hold full of yellowfin, yellowtail, dorado, wahoo, and gulf grouper.

Gulf grouper grow to 200 pounds and were once prevalent in our area. From La Jolla south, they haunted the nearshore rocky reefs and kelp beds. Along with broomtail grouper and black seabass, they became a favorite target of divers and anglers in the early-mid 20th century. They were especially valued during the Great Depression, when fishing was more for providing meals than for sport and one large grouper could feed a family for weeks. The famous ‘Bottom Scratchers’ freediving club began in the mid-1930s, diving to 80 feet with a simple sling spear to wrestle food from the ocean during lean times. During the early years as the club grew, they had many harrowing captures of notable trophy-sized grouper and black seabass.

The club put a halt on targeting grouper or giant seabass in the mid-1950s as they saw the severe decline in population of the behemoth fishes. Today, gulf grouper, broomtail grouper, and black seabass are protected in U.S. waters, though in Mexican waters there is a one fish per angler limit allowed. All three species of grouper are considered endangered within their west coast range from southern California to Bahia Magdalena and throughout the Sea of Cortez, though their populations have been rebounding over the past several decades since protection and limited takes were legislated in both the U.S. and Mexico.

Fish Plants: None scheduled

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This large gulf grouper was caught by Charles Schmid aboard the Intrepid off the coast of Baja during an 8-day charter.
This large gulf grouper was caught by Charles Schmid aboard the Intrepid off the coast of Baja during an 8-day charter.

Dock Totals 9/26 – 10/2: 3,749 anglers aboard 183 trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 2,533 bluefin tuna (up to 230 pounds), 84 bonito, 132 calico bass (31 released), 489 dorado, 1 halibut, 9 lingcod, 3,093 rockfish, 36 sand bass, 340 sculpin, 123 sheephead, 896 skipjack tuna, 703 whitefish, 2,526 yellowfin tuna, and 928 yellowtail.

Saltwater: While bluefin tuna counts are holding steady as the bite continues near the Tanner and Cortez banks west-southwest of San Clemente Island, yellowfin and skipjack tuna numbers are rising for anglers aboard 1.5 to 3-day boats fishing 20 to 30 miles outside Ensenada and north toward the ‘Corner’ west of Tijuana where U.S., Mexican, and international waters converge. A warmer mass of water centering around the 371 bank about 45 miles southwest of Point Loma is holding roaming schools of Yellowfin and skipjack, along with dorado and yellowtail that can be found in solid numbers around kelp paddies.

Live sardines ‘fly-lined’, or fished with no weight, is the go-to method for these warmer water tunas and jacks, though some are caught using surface irons on top, and yoyo irons fished vertically. Yoyo irons are fished as the name implies; the angler doesn’t cast far, but more so lets the heavy lure sink to the bottom or to a desired depth, retrieves winding as fast as possible to the surface, then lets it sink back again. This up and down process is repeated until a fish is tempted to bite and then the fight is on. Surface irons are lighter and are casted far and retrieved within a few feet of the surface.

Both methods can work on a school of fish that is deep into the water column, but generally, when a school is on top, fly-lined live bait or surface irons work better, and if a school is deeper, yoyo irons or a weighted bait usually do the trick. When the fish are deeper, captains will alert anglers as to the depth and desired method once they meter a school and stop. When the fish are on the surface it is usually evident as the water will be exploding as they feed, and anglers will fire away with surface irons or fly-lined bait as soon as the captain slows the boat and announces that fishing can begin.

Half day boats have been concentrating on rockfish for the most part, with a few yellowtail and calico bass in the mix. Three quarter and full day runs cannot make the run to Tanner Bank and surrounding high spots and have mostly been targeting yellowtail around the Coronado Islands with decent results. Though the Baja coast is producing well, as long as the larger tuna are still biting, most vessels fishing within 1.5 to 3-day range have been heading west 100 to 120 miles for bluefin.

Longer runs of five to ten days have been heading south to Guadalupe Island or the high spots off Bahia Magdalena. ‘Mag Bay’, as it is usually known by the long-range angling community, is one of the most diverse fisheries in the world. The long narrow bay on the southwestern edge of the Baja peninsula has several inlets between sand-bar islands that sit between the tidal flats of the bay and the open Pacific. Thick schools of baitfish draw sierra mackerel, corvina, snook and other saltwater middleweights into the protected shallows of the bay where anglers either wading or fishing from light craft can use techniques similar to freshwater trout or bass fishing. Miles and miles of mangrove-lined channels offer excellent grouper fishing, if one can wrestle the stubborn brutes from their lairs in the exposed roots of the mangrove trees.

Outside the bay and along the coast, the semi-tropical water surges around several reefs and high spots that can produce large gulf grouper on the bottom, and yellowfin tuna, wahoo, dorado, and marlin on the surface. Given the distance and isolation from populated areas like the Baja fishing meccas of the East Cape, Cabo San Lucas, and La Paz, the Bahia Magdalena fisheries both inside and outside the bay are yet unspoiled by heavy commercial or sportfishing pressure. The Intrepid just finished up a trip to the area with great results for the anglers aboard for the Miles and Ken 8-day charter. Fishing along the southern Baja coast as well as far offshore to the Rocas Alijos, they returned to the dock with the hold full of yellowfin, yellowtail, dorado, wahoo, and gulf grouper.

Gulf grouper grow to 200 pounds and were once prevalent in our area. From La Jolla south, they haunted the nearshore rocky reefs and kelp beds. Along with broomtail grouper and black seabass, they became a favorite target of divers and anglers in the early-mid 20th century. They were especially valued during the Great Depression, when fishing was more for providing meals than for sport and one large grouper could feed a family for weeks. The famous ‘Bottom Scratchers’ freediving club began in the mid-1930s, diving to 80 feet with a simple sling spear to wrestle food from the ocean during lean times. During the early years as the club grew, they had many harrowing captures of notable trophy-sized grouper and black seabass.

The club put a halt on targeting grouper or giant seabass in the mid-1950s as they saw the severe decline in population of the behemoth fishes. Today, gulf grouper, broomtail grouper, and black seabass are protected in U.S. waters, though in Mexican waters there is a one fish per angler limit allowed. All three species of grouper are considered endangered within their west coast range from southern California to Bahia Magdalena and throughout the Sea of Cortez, though their populations have been rebounding over the past several decades since protection and limited takes were legislated in both the U.S. and Mexico.

Fish Plants: None scheduled

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