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Yellowfin bite is slow but Yellowtail and Dorado numbers are up

Dorado can gain 50 pounds in less than a year

“280 Yellowtail and 31 Dorado for our 28 passengers on a 2.5-day charter. Great quality on the fish, too, with most over 15lbs and quite a few yellows in the 30’s.”
“280 Yellowtail and 31 Dorado for our 28 passengers on a 2.5-day charter. Great quality on the fish, too, with most over 15lbs and quite a few yellows in the 30’s.”

Dock Totals 7/17 – 7/23: 5322 anglers aboard 230 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 142 barracuda, 594 bluefin tuna (to 197 pounds), 55 bocaccio, 636 bonito, 1,253 calico bass, 797 dorado, 8 halibut, 11 lingcod, 1 mako shark, 2,181 rockfish, 80 sand bass, 208 sanddab, 62 sculpin, 29 sheephead, 145 whitefish, 30 white seabass, 126 yellowfin tuna, and 10171 yellowtail.

Saltwater: With water hanging in the high 60's and bluefin tuna still making appearances from San Quintin, to Baja, to San Clemente Island, the yellowfin bite has yet to materialize. Yellowtail, on the other hand, are being caught in numbers nearly doubling twice over the past two weeks from a few thousand to over ten-thousand reported. Usually, when yellowfin show within one-day range, their numbers climb as rapidly as the yellowtail numbers.

Dorado numbers have been going up, which is on par with the season as water warms and yellowfin tuna show, but with bluefin still outnumbering yellowfin, the tuna bite has been slow overall. The fishery seems to be hanging in a transitional stage between the cooler- and warmer-water tunas while yellowtail and dorado are filling into areas from just off the coast to the outer banks. Bluefin are coming more from fast trolling during the day or dropping knife jigs during the night and early morning dark hours. The size range is from 40 to over 200 pounds, with the majority of bluefin caught in the lower end of that range.

Yellowfin, for early-season schoolies coming within a one-day range of the fleet, are coming over the rail in the 30-pound range, which is about twice the size of our usual yellowfin tuna. All this adds up to mixed catches by full-day to 3-day boats of bluefin, yellowfin, dorado, bonito, and yellowtail. Of these, the most ‘glamorous’ species is the dorado, aka mahimahi in Polynesia and ‘dolphinfish’ in the Atlantic.

As far as conservation goes, dorado are a viable species that can be fished sustainably. This has much to do with their schooling habits and growth rates. They're usually found in small "packs" of a few to twenty or so fish, with one to a few males and several females per pack. They cannot be wholesale netted as can tuna or yellowtail. Even with the plethora of bluefin on our banks since winter, northern Pacific bluefin tuna stocks are at an estimated 3% of their natural stocks. The recreational limit for bluefin tuna is two fish per angler per day in US and Mexican waters, and recreational fishing isn’t what has depleted their numbers: it’s the commercial fleets and their massive nets.

Limits have been implemented, though the annual bluefin tuna catch by U.S. commercial fleets has varied from 11 to 487 metric tons over the past decade, with the fleet exceeding limits only one of those years: 2017. Dorado are taken by line more than net, and they have been protected from commercial fishing in Mexican waters. The recreational limit for dorado is also two fish in Mexican waters, and though they are only caught in small numbers in U.S. waters during a couple months during summer, they fall under the 10 fish per species limit here. Though there are dorado out there off of our banks, the majority are coming from areas south of the border and with warmer water. We see better catches during El Niño years, but this year has been more of a La Niña setup so far, and though it is early, the dorado do not seem to mind the slow-warming waters off northern Baja.

Dorado are a fast-growing species that live for a handful of years. One study showed that a young male dorado, collected by Captain Ray Rosher of Miami, weighed 5 to 6 pounds when it was placed in captivity in December 2014. Nine months later the fish weighed in at 56.4 pounds — that’s a 50-pound weight gain in less than a year.

That growth-rate arc would be lengthened in a natural setting, but still, for a fish that may grow to near 100 pounds in such a short lifespan, that is an amazing rate of growth. The largest caught (unofficially) was 102 pounds off Cabo San Lucas in 2015, the International Game Fish Association all-tackle world-record for dorado is an 87-pounder caught off Costa Rica in 1976. As dorado live an estimated 5 years, their growth rate must slow dramatically in the second half of their lives. As they reach sexual maturity within a year and will spawn year-round in warmer climes, their reproduction rates seem healthy given the rate of harvesting.

Dorado aren’t boat shy, nor are they picky eaters. A distance-swimming pelagic star among recreational anglers, dorado are found in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans, and will eat anything from plankton to baitfish, and are often found hanging around floating sargassum or kelp paddies.

Given their acrobatic aerial fight, willingness to feed, beautiful coloration, and excellence as table fare, the gilded dorado is a favorite among anglers, and is part of the reason the angler count topped 5000 for the first time in 2022 this past week. As they prefer water temps at 70 degrees and above, they should be within range of full-day and longer trips. Generally, when the yellowfin begin to show in large numbers, dorado are soon to follow. This year, dorado are leading that charge while yellowtail take up the slack in the yellowfin bite to date.

They're out there, so go get ‘em!

Notable catches this past week:

7/17 – The Oceanside 95, now operating out of San Diego, had good 2-day fishing for their 24 anglers, with 186 yellowtail, 6 dorado, and 35 bonito caught.

7/18 – 22 anglers aboard the Pacific Islander 1.5-day trip caught 115 yellowtail, 1 bluefin tuna, and 1 dorado.

7/20 – 61 yellowtail, 14 bluefin tuna, 6 dorado, and 1 yellowfin tuna were reported caught by 16 anglers aboard the Mustang during an overnight run.

7/21 – 26 anglers aboard the Premier ½-day afternoon run had good inshore fishing, with 222 calico bass caught (150 released), along with 12 rockfish, 3 sculpin and 2 sandbass. The Fortune called in with 30 white seabass, 27 bluefin tuna, 1 halibut, and 1 yellowtail for 19 anglers aboard their extended 1.5-day trip.

7/22 – The Poseidon returned from their 2-day run with 20 anglers catching 200 yellowtail and 19 dorado.

7/23 – 6 anglers aboard the Sauerfish for a 2-day run boated 55 yellowtail, 1 mako shark, 1 dorado, and 1 yellowfin tuna. The Grande called in from their overnight run with limits of 115 yellowtail along with 30 dorado for 23 anglers.

Fish Plants: 7/25 – Lake Jennings, catfish (1,000), 7/29 – Santee Lakes, catfish (1,500)

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“280 Yellowtail and 31 Dorado for our 28 passengers on a 2.5-day charter. Great quality on the fish, too, with most over 15lbs and quite a few yellows in the 30’s.”
“280 Yellowtail and 31 Dorado for our 28 passengers on a 2.5-day charter. Great quality on the fish, too, with most over 15lbs and quite a few yellows in the 30’s.”

Dock Totals 7/17 – 7/23: 5322 anglers aboard 230 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 142 barracuda, 594 bluefin tuna (to 197 pounds), 55 bocaccio, 636 bonito, 1,253 calico bass, 797 dorado, 8 halibut, 11 lingcod, 1 mako shark, 2,181 rockfish, 80 sand bass, 208 sanddab, 62 sculpin, 29 sheephead, 145 whitefish, 30 white seabass, 126 yellowfin tuna, and 10171 yellowtail.

Saltwater: With water hanging in the high 60's and bluefin tuna still making appearances from San Quintin, to Baja, to San Clemente Island, the yellowfin bite has yet to materialize. Yellowtail, on the other hand, are being caught in numbers nearly doubling twice over the past two weeks from a few thousand to over ten-thousand reported. Usually, when yellowfin show within one-day range, their numbers climb as rapidly as the yellowtail numbers.

Dorado numbers have been going up, which is on par with the season as water warms and yellowfin tuna show, but with bluefin still outnumbering yellowfin, the tuna bite has been slow overall. The fishery seems to be hanging in a transitional stage between the cooler- and warmer-water tunas while yellowtail and dorado are filling into areas from just off the coast to the outer banks. Bluefin are coming more from fast trolling during the day or dropping knife jigs during the night and early morning dark hours. The size range is from 40 to over 200 pounds, with the majority of bluefin caught in the lower end of that range.

Yellowfin, for early-season schoolies coming within a one-day range of the fleet, are coming over the rail in the 30-pound range, which is about twice the size of our usual yellowfin tuna. All this adds up to mixed catches by full-day to 3-day boats of bluefin, yellowfin, dorado, bonito, and yellowtail. Of these, the most ‘glamorous’ species is the dorado, aka mahimahi in Polynesia and ‘dolphinfish’ in the Atlantic.

As far as conservation goes, dorado are a viable species that can be fished sustainably. This has much to do with their schooling habits and growth rates. They're usually found in small "packs" of a few to twenty or so fish, with one to a few males and several females per pack. They cannot be wholesale netted as can tuna or yellowtail. Even with the plethora of bluefin on our banks since winter, northern Pacific bluefin tuna stocks are at an estimated 3% of their natural stocks. The recreational limit for bluefin tuna is two fish per angler per day in US and Mexican waters, and recreational fishing isn’t what has depleted their numbers: it’s the commercial fleets and their massive nets.

Limits have been implemented, though the annual bluefin tuna catch by U.S. commercial fleets has varied from 11 to 487 metric tons over the past decade, with the fleet exceeding limits only one of those years: 2017. Dorado are taken by line more than net, and they have been protected from commercial fishing in Mexican waters. The recreational limit for dorado is also two fish in Mexican waters, and though they are only caught in small numbers in U.S. waters during a couple months during summer, they fall under the 10 fish per species limit here. Though there are dorado out there off of our banks, the majority are coming from areas south of the border and with warmer water. We see better catches during El Niño years, but this year has been more of a La Niña setup so far, and though it is early, the dorado do not seem to mind the slow-warming waters off northern Baja.

Dorado are a fast-growing species that live for a handful of years. One study showed that a young male dorado, collected by Captain Ray Rosher of Miami, weighed 5 to 6 pounds when it was placed in captivity in December 2014. Nine months later the fish weighed in at 56.4 pounds — that’s a 50-pound weight gain in less than a year.

That growth-rate arc would be lengthened in a natural setting, but still, for a fish that may grow to near 100 pounds in such a short lifespan, that is an amazing rate of growth. The largest caught (unofficially) was 102 pounds off Cabo San Lucas in 2015, the International Game Fish Association all-tackle world-record for dorado is an 87-pounder caught off Costa Rica in 1976. As dorado live an estimated 5 years, their growth rate must slow dramatically in the second half of their lives. As they reach sexual maturity within a year and will spawn year-round in warmer climes, their reproduction rates seem healthy given the rate of harvesting.

Dorado aren’t boat shy, nor are they picky eaters. A distance-swimming pelagic star among recreational anglers, dorado are found in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans, and will eat anything from plankton to baitfish, and are often found hanging around floating sargassum or kelp paddies.

Given their acrobatic aerial fight, willingness to feed, beautiful coloration, and excellence as table fare, the gilded dorado is a favorite among anglers, and is part of the reason the angler count topped 5000 for the first time in 2022 this past week. As they prefer water temps at 70 degrees and above, they should be within range of full-day and longer trips. Generally, when the yellowfin begin to show in large numbers, dorado are soon to follow. This year, dorado are leading that charge while yellowtail take up the slack in the yellowfin bite to date.

They're out there, so go get ‘em!

Notable catches this past week:

7/17 – The Oceanside 95, now operating out of San Diego, had good 2-day fishing for their 24 anglers, with 186 yellowtail, 6 dorado, and 35 bonito caught.

7/18 – 22 anglers aboard the Pacific Islander 1.5-day trip caught 115 yellowtail, 1 bluefin tuna, and 1 dorado.

7/20 – 61 yellowtail, 14 bluefin tuna, 6 dorado, and 1 yellowfin tuna were reported caught by 16 anglers aboard the Mustang during an overnight run.

7/21 – 26 anglers aboard the Premier ½-day afternoon run had good inshore fishing, with 222 calico bass caught (150 released), along with 12 rockfish, 3 sculpin and 2 sandbass. The Fortune called in with 30 white seabass, 27 bluefin tuna, 1 halibut, and 1 yellowtail for 19 anglers aboard their extended 1.5-day trip.

7/22 – The Poseidon returned from their 2-day run with 20 anglers catching 200 yellowtail and 19 dorado.

7/23 – 6 anglers aboard the Sauerfish for a 2-day run boated 55 yellowtail, 1 mako shark, 1 dorado, and 1 yellowfin tuna. The Grande called in from their overnight run with limits of 115 yellowtail along with 30 dorado for 23 anglers.

Fish Plants: 7/25 – Lake Jennings, catfish (1,000), 7/29 – Santee Lakes, catfish (1,500)

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