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Long-Range Season is Upon Us – Whales and Whale Sharks in Baja

Rare Chinook Salmon Caught in the San Diego River

Wahoo bonanza. Anglers aboard the Intrepid, were ‘fortunate enough to have the best wahoo fishing we have had all year’ during their 12-Day Seeker trip ending on December 1.
Wahoo bonanza. Anglers aboard the Intrepid, were ‘fortunate enough to have the best wahoo fishing we have had all year’ during their 12-Day Seeker trip ending on December 1.

Dock Totals 11/26 – 12/2: 395 anglers aboard 21 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings over the past week caught 97 bluefin tuna (up to 60 pounds), 14 calico bass, 1 lingcod, 23 lobster (11 released), 10 perch, 1418 rockfish, 63 sand bass, 95 sculpin, 49 sheephead, 127 whitefish, and 17 yellowtail.

Saltwater: Windy conditions (and maybe a bit of post-Thanksgiving food-induced lethargy) kept a lot of folks at home this past week as angler counts and trips in local waters for up to three days are as low as I remember seeing them since 2014. Still, some yellowtail were reported caught off northern Baja within 1.5-day range, and deep-drop rockfish have been biting very well on the US side of the border. Calico bass have been slowing a bit as they phase into winter mode, and sand bass are biting deep in winter mode while sculpin and sheephead seem unfazed as the water temps drop in our nearshore waters.

There was one lobster trip that resulted in a decent haul for 8 hoop-netters aboard the Alicia running out of H&M Landing on Sunday evening with about a two-to-one keeper to short ratio, but no rock crab reported caught. Bluefin tuna have been biting near the Corner and out to the Tanner Bank, where 23 anglers aboard the New Lo-An out of Point Loma Sportfishing had success last Sunday. Although, getting out 50 to 110 miles west of Point Loma has been a bit challenging with the on and off bumpy conditions. I do expect to see those numbers rise when calmer seas prevail. As long as the tuna are there, boats will go get them when they have enough passengers to justify the fuel and effort to do so. 

Surf fishing has been decent along the county beaches for barred surf perch on mini-plastics and bait for those anglers finding the slots and cuts made as the high tide phases push water in and creating channels where the fish like to feed. These areas can be found by watching the wave action and looking for the last area of the wave that breaks and will also be indicated by a flow that looks a bit like a river heading away from shore through the surf zone. As the force of receding water cuts through sand, it will dislodge sand crabs and sand worms which is what the perch, corbina, and croaker feed upon.

San Diego and Mission bays have been productive for good-sized spotted bay bass and a few keeper halibut for anglers working structure from the docks, from boats, kayaks and even float tubes. A dropping presentation along pilings or eelgrass edges has been the better tactic for bass, while plastic grubs on a leadhead worked in a slow hop along the sandy deeper trenches and dips has been working for halibut.

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As it is now long-range season, much of the action on pelagic species like yellowtail, dorado, yellowfin, and wahoo has been from the Vizcaino Peninsula halfway down Baja and south of there. Most long-range boats running 8-days or longer, including the American Angler, the Intrepid, and the Royal Polaris have been nailing dorado, yellowfin tuna, and wahoo off the ridge outside of Bahia Magdalena. Wahoo fishing has been exceptional as was the case the week previous. Yellowtail and dorado are still showing up for pangeros working out of the ‘cooportiva’ coastal fishing towns from Bahia Tortugas to La Bocana, which is usual for this time of year. Fishing and weather-wise, that southern edge of the Vizcaino coast seems to be about three months behind our ‘normal’ seasons, with October through February being prime season for yellowtail, while on the Sea of Cortez side the wintertime north winds tend to muck things up a bit, but fishing is still, as always, good between blows. 

Anglers heading into Baja will still find fishable days in the gulf, though the weather will often be much more pleasant along the southern half of the peninsula on the Pacific. Either way, if blown out for a boat ride offshore, the inshore opportunities for shore-based anglers are good as long as you can keep the wind at your back or get your fishing in before the winds kick up. Sierra and cabrilla will be the main targets along the gulf, while smaller grouper, snook, and halibut can be caught in the esteros on the Pacific side where not shut down as the annual gray whale migration begins. Much of that action will be catch and release, as co-ops often insist on limited takes for sustainability of the resource.

As a bonus, if fishing is tough outside and fishing from the beach is not your thing, whale-watch trips will soon begin in the calmer calving lagoons on the Pacific, while whale-shark trips are already officially underway in the bay of La Paz. On whale watch trips, one can go pet the grays, as they tend to approach the boats, often pushing their heads to within reach of the whale-watchers, though passengers must stay in the boat. On the whale shark trips, many offer the opportunity of not only viewing, but even swimming along with the giant fish as they cruise the shallows in water still warm enough to not require much more than a spring suit, if that.

Bass angler ‘Spin’ Un with a very rare chinook salmon he caught from the San Diego River.


Freshwater: An amazing and rare occurrence happened recently for an angler who was killing a little time before work and targeting bass from shore in Mission Valley on the San Diego River. As reported by Mike Stevens of Western Outdoor News on November 22nd, ‘Spin’ Un stopped to make a few casts using a chatterbait, and on the first toss he hooked up with what he thought was a large catfish, as the fish was pulling too hard to be a bass. Once in sight, he saw a silvery flash and teeth. Turns out Mr. Un caught a mature chinook salmon, presumedly entering the river for a chance to spawn after recent rains. According to the Golden State Salmon Association, tagged salmon have been known to be caught up to 1,700 miles from their release location, and though we get an occasional salmon in nearshore waters in southern California, this is the first time I have heard of a chinook salmon caught in the San Diego River. They’re out there, so go get ‘em!

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Bluefin continue to show within 1.5-day range with good signs going forward

Pacific Coast Sportfishing Festival just up the coast at Costa Mesa this week
Wahoo bonanza. Anglers aboard the Intrepid, were ‘fortunate enough to have the best wahoo fishing we have had all year’ during their 12-Day Seeker trip ending on December 1.
Wahoo bonanza. Anglers aboard the Intrepid, were ‘fortunate enough to have the best wahoo fishing we have had all year’ during their 12-Day Seeker trip ending on December 1.

Dock Totals 11/26 – 12/2: 395 anglers aboard 21 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings over the past week caught 97 bluefin tuna (up to 60 pounds), 14 calico bass, 1 lingcod, 23 lobster (11 released), 10 perch, 1418 rockfish, 63 sand bass, 95 sculpin, 49 sheephead, 127 whitefish, and 17 yellowtail.

Saltwater: Windy conditions (and maybe a bit of post-Thanksgiving food-induced lethargy) kept a lot of folks at home this past week as angler counts and trips in local waters for up to three days are as low as I remember seeing them since 2014. Still, some yellowtail were reported caught off northern Baja within 1.5-day range, and deep-drop rockfish have been biting very well on the US side of the border. Calico bass have been slowing a bit as they phase into winter mode, and sand bass are biting deep in winter mode while sculpin and sheephead seem unfazed as the water temps drop in our nearshore waters.

There was one lobster trip that resulted in a decent haul for 8 hoop-netters aboard the Alicia running out of H&M Landing on Sunday evening with about a two-to-one keeper to short ratio, but no rock crab reported caught. Bluefin tuna have been biting near the Corner and out to the Tanner Bank, where 23 anglers aboard the New Lo-An out of Point Loma Sportfishing had success last Sunday. Although, getting out 50 to 110 miles west of Point Loma has been a bit challenging with the on and off bumpy conditions. I do expect to see those numbers rise when calmer seas prevail. As long as the tuna are there, boats will go get them when they have enough passengers to justify the fuel and effort to do so. 

Surf fishing has been decent along the county beaches for barred surf perch on mini-plastics and bait for those anglers finding the slots and cuts made as the high tide phases push water in and creating channels where the fish like to feed. These areas can be found by watching the wave action and looking for the last area of the wave that breaks and will also be indicated by a flow that looks a bit like a river heading away from shore through the surf zone. As the force of receding water cuts through sand, it will dislodge sand crabs and sand worms which is what the perch, corbina, and croaker feed upon.

San Diego and Mission bays have been productive for good-sized spotted bay bass and a few keeper halibut for anglers working structure from the docks, from boats, kayaks and even float tubes. A dropping presentation along pilings or eelgrass edges has been the better tactic for bass, while plastic grubs on a leadhead worked in a slow hop along the sandy deeper trenches and dips has been working for halibut.

Sponsored
Sponsored

As it is now long-range season, much of the action on pelagic species like yellowtail, dorado, yellowfin, and wahoo has been from the Vizcaino Peninsula halfway down Baja and south of there. Most long-range boats running 8-days or longer, including the American Angler, the Intrepid, and the Royal Polaris have been nailing dorado, yellowfin tuna, and wahoo off the ridge outside of Bahia Magdalena. Wahoo fishing has been exceptional as was the case the week previous. Yellowtail and dorado are still showing up for pangeros working out of the ‘cooportiva’ coastal fishing towns from Bahia Tortugas to La Bocana, which is usual for this time of year. Fishing and weather-wise, that southern edge of the Vizcaino coast seems to be about three months behind our ‘normal’ seasons, with October through February being prime season for yellowtail, while on the Sea of Cortez side the wintertime north winds tend to muck things up a bit, but fishing is still, as always, good between blows. 

Anglers heading into Baja will still find fishable days in the gulf, though the weather will often be much more pleasant along the southern half of the peninsula on the Pacific. Either way, if blown out for a boat ride offshore, the inshore opportunities for shore-based anglers are good as long as you can keep the wind at your back or get your fishing in before the winds kick up. Sierra and cabrilla will be the main targets along the gulf, while smaller grouper, snook, and halibut can be caught in the esteros on the Pacific side where not shut down as the annual gray whale migration begins. Much of that action will be catch and release, as co-ops often insist on limited takes for sustainability of the resource.

As a bonus, if fishing is tough outside and fishing from the beach is not your thing, whale-watch trips will soon begin in the calmer calving lagoons on the Pacific, while whale-shark trips are already officially underway in the bay of La Paz. On whale watch trips, one can go pet the grays, as they tend to approach the boats, often pushing their heads to within reach of the whale-watchers, though passengers must stay in the boat. On the whale shark trips, many offer the opportunity of not only viewing, but even swimming along with the giant fish as they cruise the shallows in water still warm enough to not require much more than a spring suit, if that.

Bass angler ‘Spin’ Un with a very rare chinook salmon he caught from the San Diego River.


Freshwater: An amazing and rare occurrence happened recently for an angler who was killing a little time before work and targeting bass from shore in Mission Valley on the San Diego River. As reported by Mike Stevens of Western Outdoor News on November 22nd, ‘Spin’ Un stopped to make a few casts using a chatterbait, and on the first toss he hooked up with what he thought was a large catfish, as the fish was pulling too hard to be a bass. Once in sight, he saw a silvery flash and teeth. Turns out Mr. Un caught a mature chinook salmon, presumedly entering the river for a chance to spawn after recent rains. According to the Golden State Salmon Association, tagged salmon have been known to be caught up to 1,700 miles from their release location, and though we get an occasional salmon in nearshore waters in southern California, this is the first time I have heard of a chinook salmon caught in the San Diego River. They’re out there, so go get ‘em!

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