BY MERIT McCREA
SAN DIEGO/OCEANSIDE — All eyes were offshore, eager to see how the bite would weather the first front of the season. In recent years, these late-fall approaches of the first frontal systems of the season quickly fade and the situation switches to dry offshore conditions for the bulk of the winter, lasting well past New Year’s. We’ve enjoyed extended offshore bluefin fishing lasting past the holiday season in recent years.
Indeed, first reports were modest but auspicious. The Legend was back Sunday morning with 26 bluefin to 140 pounds, and the word was sinker rigs on 60-pound tackle.
The Pacific Queen was back from a 3-dayer with 75 bluefin, 3 over 100 pounds, and the Liberty had 33 for 17 folks on a 1.75-day.
The water patterns had definitely shifted around so the fleet was in search mode to find the best zones. There was a report of limit-style results aboard the New Lo-An post-rain. Capt. Adam Williams confirmed but said they were still looking on the following trip as of Monday morning.
In a change from last season, the outer waters beyond and north of the outer banks had never completely stratified, upwelling extinguished, warm waters deepened. The west winds following the front easily rolled over outer banks waters, but left warm waters surrounding San Clemente Island and inshore almost to the coastline.
It remains to be seen how quickly warm waters flow up and back out over the outer banks, which have been key areas in recent winter bites — or, whether the fish tuck in close to San Clemente instead.
One way or another, there is a large volume of tuna that had moved far up the West Coast and will be returning southward in coming weeks.
In the local waters, bonito had settled in along the San Diego coast and in addition to the usual bottom grabber bite filling in as the bass bite fades, there were great scores on bonito.
The Sea Watch had 81 bones for 31 anglers Saturday afternoon, as part of a catch that included 70 calicos with 24 keepers, a sand bass, 16 sheephead and 18 rockfish.
Turning to Oceanside results, Helgren’s Electra showed modest results on half-day runs: 11 sculpin, 13 reds, 11 whitefish, 8 bocaccio, 11 other rockfish and 7 sanddabs for 17 fishers on Friday.
Highlights over at the SEA Center included a ¾-day aboard the Chubasco II with 14 anglers getting 100 rockfish, 65 whitefish and a pair of sculpin and sheephead.