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Pelagic species common during light La Niña years

Best time of the year for Baja’s central Pacific Coast

Happy anglers aboard the Constitution with a nice catch of yellowtail and dorado.
Happy anglers aboard the Constitution with a nice catch of yellowtail and dorado.

Dock Totals 7/24 – 7/30: 5,483 anglers aboard 235 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 109 barracuda, 3 black seabass (released), 404 bluefin tuna (to 203 pounds), 26 bonito, 1,432 calico bass, 2,203 dorado, 4 halibut, 1 leopard shark (released), 7 lingcod, 4 mako shark, 1,097 rockfish, 1,013 sand bass, 59 sanddab, 56 sculpin, 41 sheephead, 1 striped marlin, 1 thresher shark, 1 treefish, 178 whitefish, 2 white seabass, 710 yellowfin tuna, and 14,694 yellowtail.

Saltwater: Phenomenal yellowtail and dorado fishing highlighted another outstanding week for the San Diego sportfishing fleet. With decent offshore conditions and dorado and yellowfin numbers climbing, anglers showed in good numbers and were not disappointed. Although the more tropical yellowfin tuna and dorado can create a fuss when they start showing with warmer water, yellowtail continue to be the main catch, with a total of 24,865 caught over the past two weeks.

In one day, Sunday, July 24th, and just counting pelagic species that migrate into our area, there were 3,369 yellowtail, 546 dorado, 75 bluefin, 321 yellowfin, and one striped marlin caught by 1,301 anglers. On one day in late July 2017, 1,147 anglers caught 3,268 yellowtail, 709 dorado, 114 yellowfin, 71 bluefin tuna, and 1 striped marlin. Historically, the large number of yellowtail caught with a slight mix of both tropical and cooler-water pelagic species is more common during light to moderate La Niña years, which is the case now and was the case in 2017.

During the last El Niño years of 2018-2019, classed as ‘weak’ El Niños, the yellowtail counts were much lower in late July, while yellowfin, dorado, and bluefin counts were similar. In strong El Niño years with warmer sea surface temperatures in our area, such as July of 2016, yellowfin tuna far outnumbered yellowtail by the end of the month, and bluefin were few and caught mostly around the cooler Cortez and Tanner banks 100-plus miles west of Point Loma. Still, with hurricane season just beginning, warmer water pushing north can change things in a hurry.

Inshore, sand bass and calico bass are the bulk of the catch, with occasional halibut, white seabass, and yellowtail showing up off of local kelp beds. Halibut and spotted bay bass fishing in San Diego and Mission Bay has been very good for anglers targeting holes in the eel grass and channel edges. On the beach, surf perch, yellowfin croaker, and corbina have been biting well on Gulp Sandworms and sand crabs, while a few anglers have caught halibut using spoons or stick baits in the deeper cuts in and just behind the breakers.

Working down the peninsula, Baja anglers are enjoying a great Summer season along the cool coastal eddies off Ensenada, San Quintin, and along the Vizcaino Biosphere, where the last areas of San Diego-type kelp bed and inshore fishing. Ensenada operators are reporting good catches of bluefin tuna 10 to 15 miles out, while yellowtail and calico bass are biting well inshore. Yellowtail and dorado are also biting off kelp paddies offshore and as near as within a few miles of Punta Banda.

San Quintin operators are getting excellent calico bass, very good white seabass, and a few halibut near San Martin Island, while the 240 and 15 banks just 12-20 miles offshore are producing limits of yellowtail along with occasional shots at dorado and both bluefin and yellowfin tuna. Dropping deeper on those banks, anglers are also reporting great whitefish, sheephead, and lingcod action on the bottom.

Further south, action is heating up from Tortugas to Abreojos, with yellowfin tuna and dorado biting well in warmer water outside, while inshore yellowtail and calico fishing that had been spotty in June, is improving. The high season for yellowtail 400 to 600 miles south along central-coastal Baja begins a couple months after ours does here in San Diego. August through February is the best time to target the central Baja Pacific coast, with the better fishing coming after the end of hurricane season in October and continuing through the end of Winter. While stifling hot in the Sea of Cortez and inland along the peninsula, air temps along the central Pacific coastal area of Baja are quite pleasant year-round, with prevailing onshore cool Pacific breezes keeping the average daytime highs in the high 70s and low 80s through most of the Summer/Fall.

With great fishing and so many viable options from our sportfishing fleet to within a days drive of San Diego, deciding what to target and where to fish can be the hardest thing about catching this time of year.

They're out there, so go get ‘em!

Notable catches this past week:

7/24 – 30 anglers aboard the Legend 2-day run scored Mexican limits of 300 yellowtail along with 36 dorado.

7/26 – The Tomahawk called in with 75 yellowtail (limits) 9 dorado, 3 bluefin tuna, and 3 yellowfin tuna for their 15 anglers aboard for a 1.5-day run. The Pegasus extended 1.5-day trip resulted in 190 yellowtail (2-day Mexican limits) and 8 dorado caught.

7/27 – 35 anglers aboard the San Diego for a full-day run caught 175 yellowtail and 17 dorado.

7/28 – The Daiwa Pacific called in from their full-day trip with 13 anglers aboard catching 65 yellowtail, 10 dorado, 1 yellowfin tuna, and 1 bluefin tuna.

7/29 – 11 anglers aboard the Voyager 1.5-day trip boated limits of 55 yellowtail, along with 18 dorado and 1 mako shark.

7/30 – 223 yellowtail, 100 dorado (limits), and 27 yellowfin tuna were caught by 25 anglers aboard the Poseidon 1.75-day trip.

Fish Plants: None scheduled

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Happy anglers aboard the Constitution with a nice catch of yellowtail and dorado.
Happy anglers aboard the Constitution with a nice catch of yellowtail and dorado.

Dock Totals 7/24 – 7/30: 5,483 anglers aboard 235 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 109 barracuda, 3 black seabass (released), 404 bluefin tuna (to 203 pounds), 26 bonito, 1,432 calico bass, 2,203 dorado, 4 halibut, 1 leopard shark (released), 7 lingcod, 4 mako shark, 1,097 rockfish, 1,013 sand bass, 59 sanddab, 56 sculpin, 41 sheephead, 1 striped marlin, 1 thresher shark, 1 treefish, 178 whitefish, 2 white seabass, 710 yellowfin tuna, and 14,694 yellowtail.

Saltwater: Phenomenal yellowtail and dorado fishing highlighted another outstanding week for the San Diego sportfishing fleet. With decent offshore conditions and dorado and yellowfin numbers climbing, anglers showed in good numbers and were not disappointed. Although the more tropical yellowfin tuna and dorado can create a fuss when they start showing with warmer water, yellowtail continue to be the main catch, with a total of 24,865 caught over the past two weeks.

In one day, Sunday, July 24th, and just counting pelagic species that migrate into our area, there were 3,369 yellowtail, 546 dorado, 75 bluefin, 321 yellowfin, and one striped marlin caught by 1,301 anglers. On one day in late July 2017, 1,147 anglers caught 3,268 yellowtail, 709 dorado, 114 yellowfin, 71 bluefin tuna, and 1 striped marlin. Historically, the large number of yellowtail caught with a slight mix of both tropical and cooler-water pelagic species is more common during light to moderate La Niña years, which is the case now and was the case in 2017.

During the last El Niño years of 2018-2019, classed as ‘weak’ El Niños, the yellowtail counts were much lower in late July, while yellowfin, dorado, and bluefin counts were similar. In strong El Niño years with warmer sea surface temperatures in our area, such as July of 2016, yellowfin tuna far outnumbered yellowtail by the end of the month, and bluefin were few and caught mostly around the cooler Cortez and Tanner banks 100-plus miles west of Point Loma. Still, with hurricane season just beginning, warmer water pushing north can change things in a hurry.

Inshore, sand bass and calico bass are the bulk of the catch, with occasional halibut, white seabass, and yellowtail showing up off of local kelp beds. Halibut and spotted bay bass fishing in San Diego and Mission Bay has been very good for anglers targeting holes in the eel grass and channel edges. On the beach, surf perch, yellowfin croaker, and corbina have been biting well on Gulp Sandworms and sand crabs, while a few anglers have caught halibut using spoons or stick baits in the deeper cuts in and just behind the breakers.

Working down the peninsula, Baja anglers are enjoying a great Summer season along the cool coastal eddies off Ensenada, San Quintin, and along the Vizcaino Biosphere, where the last areas of San Diego-type kelp bed and inshore fishing. Ensenada operators are reporting good catches of bluefin tuna 10 to 15 miles out, while yellowtail and calico bass are biting well inshore. Yellowtail and dorado are also biting off kelp paddies offshore and as near as within a few miles of Punta Banda.

San Quintin operators are getting excellent calico bass, very good white seabass, and a few halibut near San Martin Island, while the 240 and 15 banks just 12-20 miles offshore are producing limits of yellowtail along with occasional shots at dorado and both bluefin and yellowfin tuna. Dropping deeper on those banks, anglers are also reporting great whitefish, sheephead, and lingcod action on the bottom.

Further south, action is heating up from Tortugas to Abreojos, with yellowfin tuna and dorado biting well in warmer water outside, while inshore yellowtail and calico fishing that had been spotty in June, is improving. The high season for yellowtail 400 to 600 miles south along central-coastal Baja begins a couple months after ours does here in San Diego. August through February is the best time to target the central Baja Pacific coast, with the better fishing coming after the end of hurricane season in October and continuing through the end of Winter. While stifling hot in the Sea of Cortez and inland along the peninsula, air temps along the central Pacific coastal area of Baja are quite pleasant year-round, with prevailing onshore cool Pacific breezes keeping the average daytime highs in the high 70s and low 80s through most of the Summer/Fall.

With great fishing and so many viable options from our sportfishing fleet to within a days drive of San Diego, deciding what to target and where to fish can be the hardest thing about catching this time of year.

They're out there, so go get ‘em!

Notable catches this past week:

7/24 – 30 anglers aboard the Legend 2-day run scored Mexican limits of 300 yellowtail along with 36 dorado.

7/26 – The Tomahawk called in with 75 yellowtail (limits) 9 dorado, 3 bluefin tuna, and 3 yellowfin tuna for their 15 anglers aboard for a 1.5-day run. The Pegasus extended 1.5-day trip resulted in 190 yellowtail (2-day Mexican limits) and 8 dorado caught.

7/27 – 35 anglers aboard the San Diego for a full-day run caught 175 yellowtail and 17 dorado.

7/28 – The Daiwa Pacific called in from their full-day trip with 13 anglers aboard catching 65 yellowtail, 10 dorado, 1 yellowfin tuna, and 1 bluefin tuna.

7/29 – 11 anglers aboard the Voyager 1.5-day trip boated limits of 55 yellowtail, along with 18 dorado and 1 mako shark.

7/30 – 223 yellowtail, 100 dorado (limits), and 27 yellowfin tuna were caught by 25 anglers aboard the Poseidon 1.75-day trip.

Fish Plants: None scheduled

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Ken Harrison R.I.P.

Reader freelancer became radio newsman in Bishop CA
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