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Go to Tanner and Cortex banks for elusive bluefin

Was trout, now catfish in San Diego lakes

A solid nighttime bite produces big bluefin tuna for anglers aboard the Polaris Supreme 3-day trip.
A solid nighttime bite produces big bluefin tuna for anglers aboard the Polaris Supreme 3-day trip.

Dock Totals 3/20 – 3/26: 1,238 anglers aboard 59 half-day to 1.5-day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 1 bocaccio, 3 calico bass, 2 halibut, 8 lingcod, 2,763 rockfish, 34 sand bass, 37 sanddab, 156 sculpin, 35 sheephead, 3 treefish, 992 whitefish, and 258 yellowtail.

Saltwater: As March fades to April, the season is warming up for the San Diego full-day and 1.5 day fleet fishing from the Coronado Islands south to off Ensenada. Reports of yellowtail in good numbers caught or metered on high spots and under drifting kelp paddies are increasing, and as more boats are coming out of their winter dock work or break, the numbers should continue improving. Most of the fish caught have been on yoyo irons dropped deep, although a handful were caught on surface irons and fly-lined bait. As the water warms, look for those fish to move further up in the water column.

For the time-being, and especially with bluefin in the area, anyone going on a 1.5 day trip or longer should have at least one 20-40 pound setup for bait, one 30-50 pound set up for surface irons, and a heavier setup in the 40 – 80 pound range for yoyo irons. As noted, bluefin tuna are showing, and as the moon phase wanes, longer-range boats with the time to fish during the dark hours are reporting success for anglers fishing yoyo irons, knife jigs, and flatfall lures for fish from 60 pounds to over 150 pounds.

The Polaris Supreme fishing off the Baja coast called in with 49 bluefin tuna caught, 14 of which were over 100 pounds, and the rest weighed in between 60 and 80 pounds. It shouldn’t be long before the 1.5 day and full day boats begin reporting more tuna in their counts. So far, the bluefin have been caught in an area roughly 60 to 70 miles west of Ensenada, and when weather allows, boats have been looking around the Tanner and Cortex banks 100 to 120 miles west of Point Loma and also seeing signs of the brutish tackle-testing tuna.

This is also the time of year when, historically, white seabass begin showing off Catalina and San Clemente Islands, and coastally along the kelp beds in 80 to 120 feet of water. Wherever springtime squid spawns occur, the ‘gray ghosts’ will eventually show up in numbers. April, May, and June are prime months for targeting the large croakers in our inshore waters that can grow to over 60 pounds. As white seabass often seem to be boat shy, we tend to see more reports of local catches by kayak anglers and private boaters than are reported by the local sportfishing fleet, though I do expect to see them represented in the counts soon, especially when seas settle enough for more offshore trips to San Clemente Island.

Half-day boats are still concentrating on rockfish off Point Loma with good results on reds, sheephead, whitefish, and an occasional calico bass in the mix. As the water warms, the half-day boats will shift their focus more to the kelp edges and calico bass with a chance at home-guard yellowtail, white seabass, and halibut, but for now they are happy to treat anglers to limits or near limits of bottom fish. Until conditions change in our inshore waters, the best bets for anglers looking to put yellowtail or tuna in the fridge are going to be full-day to multi-day trips into Mexican waters.

Freshwater: Seasons are changing in the county lakes as well, with trout plants coming to an end and folks gearing up for the summer catfish stocks. Though the deeper lakes like Dixon and Poway are still holding plenty of rainbows, the shallower lakes are entering spawning phase for largemouth bass. This is the time of year when the big bass, having fattened up on shiners and even the smaller stocked trout, are moving into shallower water to ready their spawning beds. Smaller male bass will be hanging to the outside, protecting the spawning grounds and attacking any offending trespassers, including lures offered by anglers. The larger females can seem tight-lipped in the spring, but if a lure makes it past the protective males, anglers will have a chance of hooking a quality trophy fish. As they are going into spawn mode, it is always best to handle the big females with care and return them to the water as soon as possible.

San Diego lakes are some of the best producing largemouth bass fisheries in the nation, with eleven of the world’s top twenty-five largemouth bass caught here in the county. The largest bass ever caught, our famous Dottie, was caught at Dixon Lake a few times over the years, and finally died of old age at nearly 25 pounds. This kind of longevity is only possible and due to anglers practicing proper catch and release methods. With the advent of social media and a plethora of fishing-related websites, taking a picture with a notable catch is common, but it shouldn’t be lethal for fish not taken to eat. Remember to practice CPR – Catch, Photograph, and Release.

Another thing to think about and an ongoing issue at all our lakes is discarded line and terminal tackle. As apparently there are those who have no problem leaving line, weights, and hooks along the shore and hanging from brush, trees, and even waterfowl, it is important for those who do care to always carry out at least what is carried in. As it seems to get worse every year to this angler, picking up a little extra won’t hurt, and the good folks that monitor and maintain San Diego’s valued freshwater fisheries will appreciate the help.

Go get ‘em!

Fish Plants: April 3, Lake Wolhford, trout (1,500), April 4, Lake Jennings, trout (1,500)

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A solid nighttime bite produces big bluefin tuna for anglers aboard the Polaris Supreme 3-day trip.
A solid nighttime bite produces big bluefin tuna for anglers aboard the Polaris Supreme 3-day trip.

Dock Totals 3/20 – 3/26: 1,238 anglers aboard 59 half-day to 1.5-day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 1 bocaccio, 3 calico bass, 2 halibut, 8 lingcod, 2,763 rockfish, 34 sand bass, 37 sanddab, 156 sculpin, 35 sheephead, 3 treefish, 992 whitefish, and 258 yellowtail.

Saltwater: As March fades to April, the season is warming up for the San Diego full-day and 1.5 day fleet fishing from the Coronado Islands south to off Ensenada. Reports of yellowtail in good numbers caught or metered on high spots and under drifting kelp paddies are increasing, and as more boats are coming out of their winter dock work or break, the numbers should continue improving. Most of the fish caught have been on yoyo irons dropped deep, although a handful were caught on surface irons and fly-lined bait. As the water warms, look for those fish to move further up in the water column.

For the time-being, and especially with bluefin in the area, anyone going on a 1.5 day trip or longer should have at least one 20-40 pound setup for bait, one 30-50 pound set up for surface irons, and a heavier setup in the 40 – 80 pound range for yoyo irons. As noted, bluefin tuna are showing, and as the moon phase wanes, longer-range boats with the time to fish during the dark hours are reporting success for anglers fishing yoyo irons, knife jigs, and flatfall lures for fish from 60 pounds to over 150 pounds.

The Polaris Supreme fishing off the Baja coast called in with 49 bluefin tuna caught, 14 of which were over 100 pounds, and the rest weighed in between 60 and 80 pounds. It shouldn’t be long before the 1.5 day and full day boats begin reporting more tuna in their counts. So far, the bluefin have been caught in an area roughly 60 to 70 miles west of Ensenada, and when weather allows, boats have been looking around the Tanner and Cortex banks 100 to 120 miles west of Point Loma and also seeing signs of the brutish tackle-testing tuna.

This is also the time of year when, historically, white seabass begin showing off Catalina and San Clemente Islands, and coastally along the kelp beds in 80 to 120 feet of water. Wherever springtime squid spawns occur, the ‘gray ghosts’ will eventually show up in numbers. April, May, and June are prime months for targeting the large croakers in our inshore waters that can grow to over 60 pounds. As white seabass often seem to be boat shy, we tend to see more reports of local catches by kayak anglers and private boaters than are reported by the local sportfishing fleet, though I do expect to see them represented in the counts soon, especially when seas settle enough for more offshore trips to San Clemente Island.

Half-day boats are still concentrating on rockfish off Point Loma with good results on reds, sheephead, whitefish, and an occasional calico bass in the mix. As the water warms, the half-day boats will shift their focus more to the kelp edges and calico bass with a chance at home-guard yellowtail, white seabass, and halibut, but for now they are happy to treat anglers to limits or near limits of bottom fish. Until conditions change in our inshore waters, the best bets for anglers looking to put yellowtail or tuna in the fridge are going to be full-day to multi-day trips into Mexican waters.

Freshwater: Seasons are changing in the county lakes as well, with trout plants coming to an end and folks gearing up for the summer catfish stocks. Though the deeper lakes like Dixon and Poway are still holding plenty of rainbows, the shallower lakes are entering spawning phase for largemouth bass. This is the time of year when the big bass, having fattened up on shiners and even the smaller stocked trout, are moving into shallower water to ready their spawning beds. Smaller male bass will be hanging to the outside, protecting the spawning grounds and attacking any offending trespassers, including lures offered by anglers. The larger females can seem tight-lipped in the spring, but if a lure makes it past the protective males, anglers will have a chance of hooking a quality trophy fish. As they are going into spawn mode, it is always best to handle the big females with care and return them to the water as soon as possible.

San Diego lakes are some of the best producing largemouth bass fisheries in the nation, with eleven of the world’s top twenty-five largemouth bass caught here in the county. The largest bass ever caught, our famous Dottie, was caught at Dixon Lake a few times over the years, and finally died of old age at nearly 25 pounds. This kind of longevity is only possible and due to anglers practicing proper catch and release methods. With the advent of social media and a plethora of fishing-related websites, taking a picture with a notable catch is common, but it shouldn’t be lethal for fish not taken to eat. Remember to practice CPR – Catch, Photograph, and Release.

Another thing to think about and an ongoing issue at all our lakes is discarded line and terminal tackle. As apparently there are those who have no problem leaving line, weights, and hooks along the shore and hanging from brush, trees, and even waterfowl, it is important for those who do care to always carry out at least what is carried in. As it seems to get worse every year to this angler, picking up a little extra won’t hurt, and the good folks that monitor and maintain San Diego’s valued freshwater fisheries will appreciate the help.

Go get ‘em!

Fish Plants: April 3, Lake Wolhford, trout (1,500), April 4, Lake Jennings, trout (1,500)

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