San Diego – the largest live bait sport fishing fleet in the world

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Pacific Queen Sport Fishing

One of many quality bluefin tuna arrives on the rail for anglers aboard the 3-day Pacific Queen voyage.

Dock totals 5/15 – 5/21: 2,578 anglers on 117 half-day to 3-day trips from San Diego landed last week caught 1,076 bluefin tuna (up to 232 pounds), 4 skipjack, 273 calico bass, 4 halibut , 14 lingcod, 1,631 redfish, 38 sandbar, 12 sanddab, 86 sculpin, 7 sheep, 8 treefish, 175 whitefish and 493 yellowtail.

Salt water: As more vessels are lined up from off-season boats and sea temperatures climb into the 60s, the number of anglers and trips are steadily increasing towards average numbers of summer. It doesn’t hurt that the fishing is excellent relatively close to home, and this week the fleet reported over 100 trips carrying over 2,500 passengers. By July, these numbers will be doubled and will remain stable for the remainder of the summer/autumn season, with the exception of weeks when poor conditions will keep boats at the docks. Rising fuel prices mean longer rides to raise fares or add extras, but even so most rides are fully booked by the time they depart, so be sure to book ahead if you want to partake to the big bluefin tuna and yellowtail flounder action that developed just south of the border in an overnight and 1.5 day range.

Bluefin tuna being bluefin tuna, the bite has been inconsistent for the past week. Some boats mark limits or approach limits and others display a handful of fish caught. The larger fish over 200 pounds still bite mostly during the dark hours from sunset to sunrise, although some of the biggest brutes have been caught among the 20-50 pounders that bite more frequently during the day. Live bait, fly or sinker bait, and yoyo fishing using butterfly or flat jigs are still the most productive methods, but as the waters get warmer, I expect what tactics evolve in the water column towards poppers and flying fish kites or lures made to represent them. As in years past, by the time bluefin tuna begin to appear in western US waters near Cortez and Tanner Banks, they are expected to focus more on the surface when feeding. As the season progresses, anglers should be prepared to fish the entire column and bring an arsenal of gear to suit all possibilities. Be sure to check equipment recommendations with the crew before boarding, as they have rental gear if needed.

Yellowtail are starting to show the effect of near mid-60 degree water and their numbers are steadily increasing, with much of this action just off the Coronado Islands and on the offshore kelp paddies in and around the areas of tuna off Ensenada. It shouldn’t be long before we see the occasional yellowtail in local half-day counts as fish come up the line and into our coastal waters. Calico bass fishing off the kelp has been good when the currents allow the boats to drop anchor outside and swing the stern into the action. A moderate kelp-feeding current is best for calico fishing, as fish wait in the silts to ambush baitfish along with the thrust. Currents flowing away from the kelp can make it difficult to hold position long enough to present a bait or lure, and the slack conditions don’t inspire much bite from calicos.

Rockfish have been strong for boats targeting them, but as the surface action heats up towards the coast, those numbers will drop as calicos, barracudas, skipjack and other surface-feeding species will increase. This is a great time for anyone wanting to learn more about Southern California saltwater fishing as local boats still target rockfish. Being a mostly top-down company with average gear, it’s a less hectic environment than offshore tuna and yellowtail trips for kids and novices to get to grips with the basics. While expert in other fisheries, such as the East Coast or freshwater, the SoCal angling scene can be very specialized and confusing without a bit of guidance. San Diego has the largest live bait sport fishing fleet in the world, and the crews that work there are not only qualified to work the deck in a hot bite, they are also there to instruct and assist anglers in the methods that may be unique to our inshore and offshore fisheries. The fishing is off the hook and only getting better, so get out there and catch them!

Notable captures from the past week:

05/21 – The Polaris Supreme, out with 24 anglers aboard on a 3 day trip caught limits of 144 bluefin tuna. The San Diego returned to the dock after its one-day run with 94 yellowtail and 5 bluefin tuna for 34 anglers.

5/20 – 25 fishermen aboard the Pacific Queen 3-day run took on board 91 bluefin tuna.

5/19 – The New Lo-An called with 57 bluefin tuna and 11 amberjack for the 25 anglers aboard their 1.75 day trip.

5/18 – 15 fishermen aboard the Fortune extended the catch limits of 60 bluefin tuna by 1.5 days.

5/17 – A very good local coastal fishery for a light load of 14 fishermen aboard the Daily Double allowed to keep 11 redfish, 2 sculpins and 12 calico bass out of 77 caught.

fish factories: 5/28 – Lac Cuyamaca, trout (700), 5/28 – Étang Doane, trout (Amount N/A)

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