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Qualifier 105 burns - Big Waves, Big Sharks, and Big Tuna at the Cortez

Annual Dolphin Halibut Tournament kicks off February 1st

Happy hoopsters with some tasty bugs aboard the Jig Strike
Happy hoopsters with some tasty bugs aboard the Jig Strike

Dock Totals 1/8 – 1/21: 691 anglers aboard 43 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings over the past two weeks caught 6 blacksmith, 68 calico bass, 124 halfmoon, 2 halibut, 15 lingcod, 30 perch, 195 spiny lobster (721 released), 36 rock crab, 800 rockfish, 422 sand bass, 7 sanddab, 393 sculpin, 2 sheephead, 2 triggerfish, 212 whitefish and 22 yellowtail.

Saltwater: A bit of sad news from this past week is the burning of one of the San Diego fleets former long-range standouts among sportfishing vessels, the Qualifier 105. Built by Rohr Corporation in 1970, the 105-foot by 30-foot vessel with just 6-feet of draft was a great fishing platform with its spacious interior and large 27-foot by 24-foot aft deck. In 2012, the ‘Q 105’ left the San Diego fishing fleet; it headed north by spring of 2013 to begin a new career as a research vessel working out of Alaska to support various types of maritime operations, such as oil exploration, mining exploration, environmental clean-up, oceanographic research, and site hazard surveys. While in dry dock in Homer for repairs, the vessel caught fire on January 19th, apparently due to combustibles ignited while welding work was being done on the stringers. The damage to the vessel was significant and at this time, it is believed to be a total loss. If so, it is a sad end for such a storied and loved sportfishing boat out of the San Diego fleet.

Now, back to the good news. Fishing over the past couple weeks was more about being able to get out to the grounds than catching. With several atmospheric rivers bringing rain and unsettled conditions, options were greatly limited for all but a few trips south of the border for rockfish, along with local half-day and lobster trips. While the long range fleet is enjoying great fishing off the southern half of the Baja Peninsula, the shorter-range trips up to 3-days didn’t get much of a window.

That said, a few yellowtail were scratched off of Colonet, and signs along the northern Baja coast indicate that they will still be around when the weather settles enough to target them. Along with some decent yellowtail, pangeros from Ensenada and south to San Quintin have been getting a solid bite on rockfish, sheephead, and lingcod. Boats heading south from full-day to 3-day runs should find plenty of action when weather and conditions allow.

One of the effects of the train of storms rolling down from the northwest was a huge swell out at Cortez Bank. Big wave surfers made the trip out to take advantage of waves reaching to well over fifty feet, and the first guy in saw tuna boiling in the impact zone. Sea lions were huddling in tight groups just out of the zone, which can be a sign of larger predators near. The first surfer off the boat, Jonathan Hoover, took a rescue jet ski to check conditions and noticed a large boil. He looked down and saw an “80 to 100-pound tuna; what was left of it anyway, just the head, as it slowly drifted down through a flurry of scales into the depths.” A little while later, another surfer saw an 18-to-20-foot great white shark just out of the zone. Throughout the trip, tuna were boiling around the break zone, while the surfers (and I am sure, the sea lions) kept a watchful eye for the “man in the gray suit.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

Fishing Cortez can be iffy, but sportfishing captains are well aware of the risks, and when conditions are doable, fishing vessels can access the area safely for a good part of the year. For big wave surfers, being able to surf the giants at Cortez is rare, with maybe a few days in any given year when there is a surfable break at all — and conditions allow for the trip out. Being able to surf the giant 50-plus-foot waves is more of a “few times in a decade” kind of rarity. It’s listed as #5 in the Center for Surf Research’s list of largest waves in the world, but at 110 miles offshore, it is also the least accessible for surfers. For anglers, the news of bluefin tuna still crashing around the Cortez is a good sign, and I am sure when conditions allow, boats will get out there on them and we will see them again in the counts.

Closer to home, the rainy conditions seem to have lobster feeding well, as is often the case when runoff stirs up the inshore water. Lobster follow and are triggered by scent, and the stirred conditions can get them moving more on their nightly hunts. Hoop-net trips on the Excalibur, Alicia, and Jig Strike have been doing very well on numbers, though the legal-to-short ratio has varied from 1-in-10 to 1-in-4 on any given night. Ratio aside, the bugging has been very good in general.

For the short-range half and full-day trips, along with scratching sand bass off the flats and calicos off the local kelp beds, and rockfish trips south of the border during the closure in local waters, the Dolphin will be holding their 6th annual halibut tournament held every Wednesday from February 1st through March 29th. Tickets are $85, with $10 going toward the jackpot. 1.5-to-3-day runs will be either looking along the Baja coast for yellowtail and rockfish, or make the trip west, weather permitting, for bluefin tuna. Bluefin might also show further out off the northern Baja Coast, as returning long-range boats often see them 30 to 60 miles out and within 100 miles of the border. If those reports come in during the long-range season through early spring, I expect to see a few 1.5 to 3-day boats run to the south-southwest to target bluefin, with the second option being the great rockfish and lingcod fishing found of those banks further offshore. They’re out there, so go get ‘em!

Notable catches:

1/8 – 9 hoop-netters aboard the Jig Strike ½-day twilight trip raised 122 spiney lobster, with 21 kept and 101 released.

1/12 – 20 anglers aboard the Premier ¾-day run south of the border limited out with 200 rockfish caught.

1/15 – The Pegasus managed a run south to off Colinett between the storms, returning to the dock with 22 yellowtail, 95 rockfish, 46 whitefish, 1 sheephead, and 15 lingcod for the 17 anglers aboard.

1/19 – 9 hoop-netters aboard the Excalibur twilight lobster trip caught 86 lobster and 15 rock crab, with 67 of the lobster too short to keep and released.

1/21 – 23 anglers aboard the Sea Watch extended ½-day run south caught 116 rockfish and 38 whitefish.

Fish Plants: 1/26 – Lake Poway, trout (1,500), 1/27 – Santee Lakes, trout (TBD), 1/29 – Lake Wohlford, trout (1,500), 2/6 - Lake Jennings, trout (1,500)

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Happy hoopsters with some tasty bugs aboard the Jig Strike
Happy hoopsters with some tasty bugs aboard the Jig Strike

Dock Totals 1/8 – 1/21: 691 anglers aboard 43 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings over the past two weeks caught 6 blacksmith, 68 calico bass, 124 halfmoon, 2 halibut, 15 lingcod, 30 perch, 195 spiny lobster (721 released), 36 rock crab, 800 rockfish, 422 sand bass, 7 sanddab, 393 sculpin, 2 sheephead, 2 triggerfish, 212 whitefish and 22 yellowtail.

Saltwater: A bit of sad news from this past week is the burning of one of the San Diego fleets former long-range standouts among sportfishing vessels, the Qualifier 105. Built by Rohr Corporation in 1970, the 105-foot by 30-foot vessel with just 6-feet of draft was a great fishing platform with its spacious interior and large 27-foot by 24-foot aft deck. In 2012, the ‘Q 105’ left the San Diego fishing fleet; it headed north by spring of 2013 to begin a new career as a research vessel working out of Alaska to support various types of maritime operations, such as oil exploration, mining exploration, environmental clean-up, oceanographic research, and site hazard surveys. While in dry dock in Homer for repairs, the vessel caught fire on January 19th, apparently due to combustibles ignited while welding work was being done on the stringers. The damage to the vessel was significant and at this time, it is believed to be a total loss. If so, it is a sad end for such a storied and loved sportfishing boat out of the San Diego fleet.

Now, back to the good news. Fishing over the past couple weeks was more about being able to get out to the grounds than catching. With several atmospheric rivers bringing rain and unsettled conditions, options were greatly limited for all but a few trips south of the border for rockfish, along with local half-day and lobster trips. While the long range fleet is enjoying great fishing off the southern half of the Baja Peninsula, the shorter-range trips up to 3-days didn’t get much of a window.

That said, a few yellowtail were scratched off of Colonet, and signs along the northern Baja coast indicate that they will still be around when the weather settles enough to target them. Along with some decent yellowtail, pangeros from Ensenada and south to San Quintin have been getting a solid bite on rockfish, sheephead, and lingcod. Boats heading south from full-day to 3-day runs should find plenty of action when weather and conditions allow.

One of the effects of the train of storms rolling down from the northwest was a huge swell out at Cortez Bank. Big wave surfers made the trip out to take advantage of waves reaching to well over fifty feet, and the first guy in saw tuna boiling in the impact zone. Sea lions were huddling in tight groups just out of the zone, which can be a sign of larger predators near. The first surfer off the boat, Jonathan Hoover, took a rescue jet ski to check conditions and noticed a large boil. He looked down and saw an “80 to 100-pound tuna; what was left of it anyway, just the head, as it slowly drifted down through a flurry of scales into the depths.” A little while later, another surfer saw an 18-to-20-foot great white shark just out of the zone. Throughout the trip, tuna were boiling around the break zone, while the surfers (and I am sure, the sea lions) kept a watchful eye for the “man in the gray suit.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

Fishing Cortez can be iffy, but sportfishing captains are well aware of the risks, and when conditions are doable, fishing vessels can access the area safely for a good part of the year. For big wave surfers, being able to surf the giants at Cortez is rare, with maybe a few days in any given year when there is a surfable break at all — and conditions allow for the trip out. Being able to surf the giant 50-plus-foot waves is more of a “few times in a decade” kind of rarity. It’s listed as #5 in the Center for Surf Research’s list of largest waves in the world, but at 110 miles offshore, it is also the least accessible for surfers. For anglers, the news of bluefin tuna still crashing around the Cortez is a good sign, and I am sure when conditions allow, boats will get out there on them and we will see them again in the counts.

Closer to home, the rainy conditions seem to have lobster feeding well, as is often the case when runoff stirs up the inshore water. Lobster follow and are triggered by scent, and the stirred conditions can get them moving more on their nightly hunts. Hoop-net trips on the Excalibur, Alicia, and Jig Strike have been doing very well on numbers, though the legal-to-short ratio has varied from 1-in-10 to 1-in-4 on any given night. Ratio aside, the bugging has been very good in general.

For the short-range half and full-day trips, along with scratching sand bass off the flats and calicos off the local kelp beds, and rockfish trips south of the border during the closure in local waters, the Dolphin will be holding their 6th annual halibut tournament held every Wednesday from February 1st through March 29th. Tickets are $85, with $10 going toward the jackpot. 1.5-to-3-day runs will be either looking along the Baja coast for yellowtail and rockfish, or make the trip west, weather permitting, for bluefin tuna. Bluefin might also show further out off the northern Baja Coast, as returning long-range boats often see them 30 to 60 miles out and within 100 miles of the border. If those reports come in during the long-range season through early spring, I expect to see a few 1.5 to 3-day boats run to the south-southwest to target bluefin, with the second option being the great rockfish and lingcod fishing found of those banks further offshore. They’re out there, so go get ‘em!

Notable catches:

1/8 – 9 hoop-netters aboard the Jig Strike ½-day twilight trip raised 122 spiney lobster, with 21 kept and 101 released.

1/12 – 20 anglers aboard the Premier ¾-day run south of the border limited out with 200 rockfish caught.

1/15 – The Pegasus managed a run south to off Colinett between the storms, returning to the dock with 22 yellowtail, 95 rockfish, 46 whitefish, 1 sheephead, and 15 lingcod for the 17 anglers aboard.

1/19 – 9 hoop-netters aboard the Excalibur twilight lobster trip caught 86 lobster and 15 rock crab, with 67 of the lobster too short to keep and released.

1/21 – 23 anglers aboard the Sea Watch extended ½-day run south caught 116 rockfish and 38 whitefish.

Fish Plants: 1/26 – Lake Poway, trout (1,500), 1/27 – Santee Lakes, trout (TBD), 1/29 – Lake Wohlford, trout (1,500), 2/6 - Lake Jennings, trout (1,500)

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