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Bluefin follow the food

Just last week, the bite crossed into U.S. waters

Quality bluefin just outside Ensenada are biting well for Blackfin Sportfishing clients.
Quality bluefin just outside Ensenada are biting well for Blackfin Sportfishing clients.

Dock Totals 5/29 – 6/4: 3,685 anglers aboard 157 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 31 barracuda, 2 black seabass (released), 2,337 bluefin tuna (to 256 pounds), 1 cabezon, 1,202 calico bass, 4 halibut, 12 lingcod, 1,493 rockfish, 127 sand bass, 3 sanddab, 96 sculpin, 151 sheephead, 13 treefish, 57 triggerfish, 137 whitefish, and 294 yellowtail.

Saltwater: Banks (those underwater peaks we fish, not the financial institutions) can be named for just about anything from the depth of highest point, the direction in degrees or by the clock, general shape, or some adventuring explorer who happened to trip over it long ago. Some banks are more commonly named and can be found elsewhere in the world's oceans, like those named by numbers relative to direction or depth. Either way, the vast majority of fishing offshore is done above and around those underwater mountains. The structure offers shelter for bait, which in turn allows non-migratory species to flourish, and in the shallower water, sunlight can reach and nourish yearning sea flora.

Migratory species generally follow a directional path every year, and in our area those paths are usually from bank to bank in the direction of warming water. Like hopping from flourishing mountain top to mountain top over an otherwise flat and desolate plain. Bluefin are unique in their migration, with endothermic systems allowing travel through cooler water, including diving deeper to feed, and a migration that lasts for years, not just a season. As 20-pound yearlings, they typically take a northern arc through the Pacific from their spawning grounds in and near the Sea of Japan to feed and grow off the west coast of North America for about five years. Then, when sexually mature, they return to their spawning grounds to procreate. Once they return to their spawning grounds, they do not cross back to this side of the Pacific. That's why the California record Pacific bluefin tuna is just under four-hundred pounds, and the world record is over nine-hundred pounds.

Though their migration takes a northern arc, when they are close enough for the fleet to target them, the bite usually starts south along the banks off northern Baja. Bluefin might not be so subject to water temperature, but their prey is and as voracious feeders needing constant energy, they follow the food. Those larger fish we are catching now did not come over with this year's migration but have been off our coast feeding for years. It's just that when we aren't catching bluefin they are out of range of the fleet, or in an area or direction that offers little promise of any alternative catch worthy of the fare if the bluefin aren't found. But when bluefin are within range and feeding, the fleet will be hot on the bite.

This year, that bite was mostly centered on the banks off Ensenada as it developed, and as boats headed south to greet them, the tuna moved slowly north making it a shorter run for anglers. This is not one school of fish, but several schools from different migrations spread out from the water off San Quintin north to off of the Oregon coast, and from within sight of land out to several hundred miles offshore. We target what is nearest and most active, and often, which schools hold the better grade of fish. This past week, the fleet was in a tight crowd about 40 to 50 miles due west from Point Loma, mostly between the Corner and the 43 Fathom spot.

Basically, draw a line west from Point Loma, and another following the 'pointing finger' of San Clemente Island's Pyramid head, and where those lines intersect is where the fleet is concentrating their efforts. This pattern of movement has been repeated several times over the past decade, and if it repeats going forward, the schools holding the better grade of fish will soon be biting off the Cortez and Tanner banks. With the fish so near within range for full-day boats, catching big bluefin tuna is most economical for the average angler. Once that bite wanes and develops out past San Clemente Island, it will require a much longer boat ride and higher fares to get to them. Just last week, the bite crossed the border into U.S. waters, but that doesn't mean they left those banks down south.

They are still catching a good grade of fish off San Quintin and Ensenada. As a matter of fact, Victor of Blackfin Sportfishing out of Ensenada told me he was finding good fish to over 100 pounds within ten miles of Punta Banda on the Lower Finger Bank. The operators out of San Quintin are getting them still off the backside of the 240 Bank, which is about 20 miles outside the bay there. So, if wanting to catch large bluefin on a budget, now is the time. Full Day trips to the tuna run about $400 right now, and fuel is a factor in that price. Even so, that is a bargain compared to what some spend to target 100-pound plus tuna. Similar-sized yellowfin tuna are several day long-range outings usually costing in the thousands of dollars. But now, for these awesome bluefin, we have options to fit our budgets.

Even though they are within full-day range of our landings, the cost to get to them from Ensenada or San Quintin can be much less. A super panga for four anglers can run as low as 500 dollars and top operators average about $650, including Mexican license and rental tackle heavy enough to handle the larger grade of fish. As availabilities on San Diego-based trips can be tough, crossing the border and chartering a trip out of San Quintin or Ensenada is a viable option for those with passports and a smaller fishing budget. Gas is much cheaper in Mexico right now, so an added bonus can be crossing north with a cooler full of bluefin and a tank full of $4 per gallon gas. And about all that fuss over the quality of Mexican gasoline? Seventy percent of Mexico's fuel is refined in U.S. refineries, including all the gas sold in Baja. Though maybe lacking environmental additives, there is no difference in octane per grade or quality of gasoline or diesel between California and Baja.

Adding in FMMs (tourist visas) and a couple stops for carnitas, birria, or tacos (gotta do that!), a trip to fish with any of the fine Mexican sportfishing operations out of San Quintin or Ensenada can be less than $400 per person, including fare, tip, fuel to get there, some cold Tecates, ice for the fish, and a night in a modest hotel.

They're out there, so go get ‘em!

Notable catches this past week:

6/4 – 23 anglers aboard the New Lo-An caught limits of 92 bluefin tuna aboard their 1.75-day trip, while the Pacific Voyager also reported limits on their 2-day run, with 19 anglers putting 76 bluefin tuna on the deck.

6/3 – The Pacific Queen 1.5-day run with 34 anglers aboard called in with limits of 68 bluefin tuna in the hold.

6/1 – The Dolphin PM half-day outing had excellent local fishing off the Point Loma kelp beds, reporting 102 calico bass (75 released), 8 rockfish, 1 sheephead, and 1 lingcod caught.

5/30 – 24 anglers aboard the Condor 3-day trip had decent mixed fishing, with 57 yellowtail and 40 bluefin tuna coming over the rail.

5/29 – The Pegasus called in with limits close to home with 38 bluefin tuna for their 19 anglers aboard their 1.5-day outing.

Fish Plants: None Scheduled

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Quality bluefin just outside Ensenada are biting well for Blackfin Sportfishing clients.
Quality bluefin just outside Ensenada are biting well for Blackfin Sportfishing clients.

Dock Totals 5/29 – 6/4: 3,685 anglers aboard 157 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 31 barracuda, 2 black seabass (released), 2,337 bluefin tuna (to 256 pounds), 1 cabezon, 1,202 calico bass, 4 halibut, 12 lingcod, 1,493 rockfish, 127 sand bass, 3 sanddab, 96 sculpin, 151 sheephead, 13 treefish, 57 triggerfish, 137 whitefish, and 294 yellowtail.

Saltwater: Banks (those underwater peaks we fish, not the financial institutions) can be named for just about anything from the depth of highest point, the direction in degrees or by the clock, general shape, or some adventuring explorer who happened to trip over it long ago. Some banks are more commonly named and can be found elsewhere in the world's oceans, like those named by numbers relative to direction or depth. Either way, the vast majority of fishing offshore is done above and around those underwater mountains. The structure offers shelter for bait, which in turn allows non-migratory species to flourish, and in the shallower water, sunlight can reach and nourish yearning sea flora.

Migratory species generally follow a directional path every year, and in our area those paths are usually from bank to bank in the direction of warming water. Like hopping from flourishing mountain top to mountain top over an otherwise flat and desolate plain. Bluefin are unique in their migration, with endothermic systems allowing travel through cooler water, including diving deeper to feed, and a migration that lasts for years, not just a season. As 20-pound yearlings, they typically take a northern arc through the Pacific from their spawning grounds in and near the Sea of Japan to feed and grow off the west coast of North America for about five years. Then, when sexually mature, they return to their spawning grounds to procreate. Once they return to their spawning grounds, they do not cross back to this side of the Pacific. That's why the California record Pacific bluefin tuna is just under four-hundred pounds, and the world record is over nine-hundred pounds.

Though their migration takes a northern arc, when they are close enough for the fleet to target them, the bite usually starts south along the banks off northern Baja. Bluefin might not be so subject to water temperature, but their prey is and as voracious feeders needing constant energy, they follow the food. Those larger fish we are catching now did not come over with this year's migration but have been off our coast feeding for years. It's just that when we aren't catching bluefin they are out of range of the fleet, or in an area or direction that offers little promise of any alternative catch worthy of the fare if the bluefin aren't found. But when bluefin are within range and feeding, the fleet will be hot on the bite.

This year, that bite was mostly centered on the banks off Ensenada as it developed, and as boats headed south to greet them, the tuna moved slowly north making it a shorter run for anglers. This is not one school of fish, but several schools from different migrations spread out from the water off San Quintin north to off of the Oregon coast, and from within sight of land out to several hundred miles offshore. We target what is nearest and most active, and often, which schools hold the better grade of fish. This past week, the fleet was in a tight crowd about 40 to 50 miles due west from Point Loma, mostly between the Corner and the 43 Fathom spot.

Basically, draw a line west from Point Loma, and another following the 'pointing finger' of San Clemente Island's Pyramid head, and where those lines intersect is where the fleet is concentrating their efforts. This pattern of movement has been repeated several times over the past decade, and if it repeats going forward, the schools holding the better grade of fish will soon be biting off the Cortez and Tanner banks. With the fish so near within range for full-day boats, catching big bluefin tuna is most economical for the average angler. Once that bite wanes and develops out past San Clemente Island, it will require a much longer boat ride and higher fares to get to them. Just last week, the bite crossed the border into U.S. waters, but that doesn't mean they left those banks down south.

They are still catching a good grade of fish off San Quintin and Ensenada. As a matter of fact, Victor of Blackfin Sportfishing out of Ensenada told me he was finding good fish to over 100 pounds within ten miles of Punta Banda on the Lower Finger Bank. The operators out of San Quintin are getting them still off the backside of the 240 Bank, which is about 20 miles outside the bay there. So, if wanting to catch large bluefin on a budget, now is the time. Full Day trips to the tuna run about $400 right now, and fuel is a factor in that price. Even so, that is a bargain compared to what some spend to target 100-pound plus tuna. Similar-sized yellowfin tuna are several day long-range outings usually costing in the thousands of dollars. But now, for these awesome bluefin, we have options to fit our budgets.

Even though they are within full-day range of our landings, the cost to get to them from Ensenada or San Quintin can be much less. A super panga for four anglers can run as low as 500 dollars and top operators average about $650, including Mexican license and rental tackle heavy enough to handle the larger grade of fish. As availabilities on San Diego-based trips can be tough, crossing the border and chartering a trip out of San Quintin or Ensenada is a viable option for those with passports and a smaller fishing budget. Gas is much cheaper in Mexico right now, so an added bonus can be crossing north with a cooler full of bluefin and a tank full of $4 per gallon gas. And about all that fuss over the quality of Mexican gasoline? Seventy percent of Mexico's fuel is refined in U.S. refineries, including all the gas sold in Baja. Though maybe lacking environmental additives, there is no difference in octane per grade or quality of gasoline or diesel between California and Baja.

Adding in FMMs (tourist visas) and a couple stops for carnitas, birria, or tacos (gotta do that!), a trip to fish with any of the fine Mexican sportfishing operations out of San Quintin or Ensenada can be less than $400 per person, including fare, tip, fuel to get there, some cold Tecates, ice for the fish, and a night in a modest hotel.

They're out there, so go get ‘em!

Notable catches this past week:

6/4 – 23 anglers aboard the New Lo-An caught limits of 92 bluefin tuna aboard their 1.75-day trip, while the Pacific Voyager also reported limits on their 2-day run, with 19 anglers putting 76 bluefin tuna on the deck.

6/3 – The Pacific Queen 1.5-day run with 34 anglers aboard called in with limits of 68 bluefin tuna in the hold.

6/1 – The Dolphin PM half-day outing had excellent local fishing off the Point Loma kelp beds, reporting 102 calico bass (75 released), 8 rockfish, 1 sheephead, and 1 lingcod caught.

5/30 – 24 anglers aboard the Condor 3-day trip had decent mixed fishing, with 57 yellowtail and 40 bluefin tuna coming over the rail.

5/29 – The Pegasus called in with limits close to home with 38 bluefin tuna for their 19 anglers aboard their 1.5-day outing.

Fish Plants: None Scheduled

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