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Saury, anchovies, sardines compete with San Diego's fishermen

Louvar and moonfish surprise the locals

A colorful opah caught this past week from the sportfishing vessel Pacifica.
A colorful opah caught this past week from the sportfishing vessel Pacifica.

Dock Totals 6/12 – 6/18: 4,526 anglers aboard 187 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 164 barracuda, 1,217 bluefin tuna (to 210 pounds), 163 bonito, 3,246 calico bass, 1 halibut, 6 lingcod, 1 opah, 842 rockfish, 290 sand bass, 46 sculpin, 99 sheephead, 111 whitefish, 1 white seabass, 4 yellowfin tuna, and 236 yellowtail.

Saltwater: The counts for this past week do not reflect the mass amount of bluefin tuna activity in the area from the Corner down to the lower Finger Bank just outside of Ensenada. Large schools of fish from 25-pounds to over 200-pounds are working the surface in an exciting frothy display but getting them to bite offered jigs and bait has been tough for many. Even with fish boiling yards from boats, voraciously feeding tuna are ignoring the offerings presented by anglers. This is due to a plethora of ‘micro-bait’ out there. With tiny Pacific saury, anchovies, and sardines are filling into the grounds and at an average of around two inches long, it is extremely difficult for anglers to ‘match the hatch’.

Considering the size of the tuna and gear and line weight needed, there is no easy way to use a tiny bait or lure in a size equal to baits the tuna are keying on. The best results have been by anglers using surface lures, like poppers and stick baits, cast into the fray and worked across the top to trigger a bite. Anglers dropping down with knife jigs or yoyo irons have had limited success on that technique, when just a couple weeks ago that up-and-down method was the hot ticket. It takes a lot of micro-bait to sate a tuna’s constantly running appetite, so hopefully the bluefin will do the heavy work and reduce the amount of tiny bait and turn their attention to other sources of food.

With that development in the grounds to the south, a few boats made the trek west toward the area south of San Clemente Island out to the Cortez and Tanner Banks to see if they can find more-willing biters for their efforts. With tuna reported as close as the 9-Mile bank, and fuel prices where they are, making that long 60 to 100-mile-plus run demonstrates just how frustrating it is trying to get tight-lipped tuna to bite when they are boiling all around the boat. I haven’t heard any reports from out west just yet, but fingers are crossed for both their success and for the thick shoals of micro-bait in more local waters to thin.

Saury and fry anchovy, especially, usually stick to water around 64 degrees, so with tropical storms pushing warmer water north against prevailing currents, they should move on soon enough. With the mass of fish out there and number of boats targeting them, the bluefin count could easily been two to three times what it was the past couple weeks. As they say down south, “asi es”, or ‘it is what it is’. This time last year bluefin tuna were just as stubborn and by July the bite was back on. Even with knowing that bit of consistency in recent history, predicting what bluefin will do next might as well include results from asking a Magic 8 Ball. Still, I believe we will not only see good results from the outer banks to the west, but more fish should move into the 9-Mile area, and the mass to the south should turn on and start biting.

Last week, a rarely caught louvar hit the deck on the Grande. Louvar is a oceanic pelagic species prized for their firm fillets. Though not an endangered fish, they are rarely caught because they are solitary swimmers that feed primarily on jellyfish. This past week aboard the Pacifica, another highly prized but seldom caught species hit the deck; a moonfish, or more commonly opah. Opah are the only fish known to exhibit whole body endothermy, where all the internal organs are kept at a higher temperature than the surrounding water by about five degrees. The opah’s primary diet is squid and krill, though they have been caught on sardines and even jigs. Little is really known about these colorful solitary swimmers that occasionally are caught during tuna migrations. As bluefin often target squid, where there are bluefin, there might be an opah or two. Opah are usually targeted by commercial boats working banks far offshore and outside of our sportfishing fleet’s range, though every year a few are reported by recreational anglers. Opah is one of my favorite fish for table fare, with thick firm loins that hold up well on the grill. Though tough to find, opah loin fillets are often available at the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market on Saturdays at the Embarcadero. The price per pound for opah fillets is usually about the same as wahoo, or $11 to $14 per pound.

They’re out there, so go get ‘em!

Notable catches this past week:

6/19 – The Malihini full-day run with 29 anglers aboard returned to the dock after a good day of mixed fishing with 100 whitefish, 70 calico bass, 60 barracuda, 4 sculpin, 2 sheephead, 1 sand bass, and 1 bonito in the gunnysacks.

6/21 – 21 anglers aboard the Pacifica 3-day trip managed near limits of bluefin in a tough bite with 91 tuna and 1 opah caught. The New Seaforth half-day run with 47 anglers aboard had excellent inshore fishing with 215 calico bass caught (100 released) and seven rockfish.

6/22 – A rare report of bluefin limits by the New Lo-An, with 50 bluefin tuna and 4 yellowtail for 25 anglers aboard their 1.5-day run.

6/24 – The Little G 3-day run met with small boat success on large fish, with 27 bluefin tuna, 2 yellowtail, and 1 yellowfin tuna reported caught for 6 anglers.

6/25 – The Pacific Voyager tried something other than stubborn bluefin on their 2-day trip, which resulted in steady action for just 16 anglers aboard who caught limits of 160 calico bass along with 100 barracuda and 44 yellowtail.

Fish Plants: 7/1 - Santee Lakes, catfish (1,500), 7/4 – Lake Jennings, catfish, (1,000)

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A colorful opah caught this past week from the sportfishing vessel Pacifica.
A colorful opah caught this past week from the sportfishing vessel Pacifica.

Dock Totals 6/12 – 6/18: 4,526 anglers aboard 187 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 164 barracuda, 1,217 bluefin tuna (to 210 pounds), 163 bonito, 3,246 calico bass, 1 halibut, 6 lingcod, 1 opah, 842 rockfish, 290 sand bass, 46 sculpin, 99 sheephead, 111 whitefish, 1 white seabass, 4 yellowfin tuna, and 236 yellowtail.

Saltwater: The counts for this past week do not reflect the mass amount of bluefin tuna activity in the area from the Corner down to the lower Finger Bank just outside of Ensenada. Large schools of fish from 25-pounds to over 200-pounds are working the surface in an exciting frothy display but getting them to bite offered jigs and bait has been tough for many. Even with fish boiling yards from boats, voraciously feeding tuna are ignoring the offerings presented by anglers. This is due to a plethora of ‘micro-bait’ out there. With tiny Pacific saury, anchovies, and sardines are filling into the grounds and at an average of around two inches long, it is extremely difficult for anglers to ‘match the hatch’.

Considering the size of the tuna and gear and line weight needed, there is no easy way to use a tiny bait or lure in a size equal to baits the tuna are keying on. The best results have been by anglers using surface lures, like poppers and stick baits, cast into the fray and worked across the top to trigger a bite. Anglers dropping down with knife jigs or yoyo irons have had limited success on that technique, when just a couple weeks ago that up-and-down method was the hot ticket. It takes a lot of micro-bait to sate a tuna’s constantly running appetite, so hopefully the bluefin will do the heavy work and reduce the amount of tiny bait and turn their attention to other sources of food.

With that development in the grounds to the south, a few boats made the trek west toward the area south of San Clemente Island out to the Cortez and Tanner Banks to see if they can find more-willing biters for their efforts. With tuna reported as close as the 9-Mile bank, and fuel prices where they are, making that long 60 to 100-mile-plus run demonstrates just how frustrating it is trying to get tight-lipped tuna to bite when they are boiling all around the boat. I haven’t heard any reports from out west just yet, but fingers are crossed for both their success and for the thick shoals of micro-bait in more local waters to thin.

Saury and fry anchovy, especially, usually stick to water around 64 degrees, so with tropical storms pushing warmer water north against prevailing currents, they should move on soon enough. With the mass of fish out there and number of boats targeting them, the bluefin count could easily been two to three times what it was the past couple weeks. As they say down south, “asi es”, or ‘it is what it is’. This time last year bluefin tuna were just as stubborn and by July the bite was back on. Even with knowing that bit of consistency in recent history, predicting what bluefin will do next might as well include results from asking a Magic 8 Ball. Still, I believe we will not only see good results from the outer banks to the west, but more fish should move into the 9-Mile area, and the mass to the south should turn on and start biting.

Last week, a rarely caught louvar hit the deck on the Grande. Louvar is a oceanic pelagic species prized for their firm fillets. Though not an endangered fish, they are rarely caught because they are solitary swimmers that feed primarily on jellyfish. This past week aboard the Pacifica, another highly prized but seldom caught species hit the deck; a moonfish, or more commonly opah. Opah are the only fish known to exhibit whole body endothermy, where all the internal organs are kept at a higher temperature than the surrounding water by about five degrees. The opah’s primary diet is squid and krill, though they have been caught on sardines and even jigs. Little is really known about these colorful solitary swimmers that occasionally are caught during tuna migrations. As bluefin often target squid, where there are bluefin, there might be an opah or two. Opah are usually targeted by commercial boats working banks far offshore and outside of our sportfishing fleet’s range, though every year a few are reported by recreational anglers. Opah is one of my favorite fish for table fare, with thick firm loins that hold up well on the grill. Though tough to find, opah loin fillets are often available at the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market on Saturdays at the Embarcadero. The price per pound for opah fillets is usually about the same as wahoo, or $11 to $14 per pound.

They’re out there, so go get ‘em!

Notable catches this past week:

6/19 – The Malihini full-day run with 29 anglers aboard returned to the dock after a good day of mixed fishing with 100 whitefish, 70 calico bass, 60 barracuda, 4 sculpin, 2 sheephead, 1 sand bass, and 1 bonito in the gunnysacks.

6/21 – 21 anglers aboard the Pacifica 3-day trip managed near limits of bluefin in a tough bite with 91 tuna and 1 opah caught. The New Seaforth half-day run with 47 anglers aboard had excellent inshore fishing with 215 calico bass caught (100 released) and seven rockfish.

6/22 – A rare report of bluefin limits by the New Lo-An, with 50 bluefin tuna and 4 yellowtail for 25 anglers aboard their 1.5-day run.

6/24 – The Little G 3-day run met with small boat success on large fish, with 27 bluefin tuna, 2 yellowtail, and 1 yellowfin tuna reported caught for 6 anglers.

6/25 – The Pacific Voyager tried something other than stubborn bluefin on their 2-day trip, which resulted in steady action for just 16 anglers aboard who caught limits of 160 calico bass along with 100 barracuda and 44 yellowtail.

Fish Plants: 7/1 - Santee Lakes, catfish (1,500), 7/4 – Lake Jennings, catfish, (1,000)

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