BY MERIT McCREA
SAN DIEGO — The offshore bite had the fleet re-grouping across a couple of areas this past week as options opened up, offering both monster bluefin on the kite and flyer, and “catchable” grade fish and full boat limits landed.
What the industry calls catchables are fish of about 50 pounds and under, basically what the average party boat group could land big numbers of on standard gear – say, 40-pound and a single-speed reel.
That’s what those groups fishing that grade on standard fly-line to sinker rigs and live sardine did. Over the weekend, across the board there were boats turning in full limits of bluefin tuna from 25 to 40 pounds capped by a fish or two at 60 or so.
At the same time, those trying for the fish of a lifetime saw some epic bites, working through the kite rotation on fish of 135 to 235 pounds, this week topped by a 370-pound super, aboard the Constitution.
In addition, both the bass and barracuda bite was strong at the Coronado Islands for the all-day boats fishing there. Anglers fishing 1/2-day saw some of the best local calico fishing in many years, posting limits of keepers on several trips, releasing many, many more. It was on fire!
Capt. Keith Denette said his two sons, Capt. Chase and Capt. Hunter, respectively on the boats Constitution and Poseidon docked Sunday morning with great catches of the over hundred-pound class fish.
The Constitution pulled into the dock with 18 bluefin tuna from 130 to 235 pounds, four of which were cows of 200-plus pounds. “The majority were like that, 165 to 185 pounds…that’s on a day and three-quarter trip,” said Denette. Aboard the Poseidon there were 19 more of the grade large bluefin.
However the largest fish of the season so far taped to 370 pounds a massive super-cow. It towered over Sophia Gail, who caught it on an Okuma PCH 4X rail rod equipped with a Makaira 50W.
Denette said they were able to put out 4 G-fly flying fish at a time, fishing a balloon and kite rig from the bow and one from the stern, plus a mid-ships rig with a double release and two down lines.
It turns out, a lot of the time the captain and crew handling the mid-ships and bow baits hanging from the kite lines will do so from up on the wrap-around portagee flying bridge.
“Hunter had a home video of three guys pulling on cows, they all got bit simultaneously on three separate cows, they’re all bent, up on the portagee, waiting for somebody on deck to come by and grab the rods from them, and they’re pulling on them,” said Denette. This happened on their most recent 1.75-day trip.
In addition to the boats out of the three San Diego landings – Seaforth Sportfishing, H&M Landing, Point Loma Sportfishing and Fisherman’s Landing, the Oceaside 95 out of Helgren’s Sportfishing in Oceanside made the run offshore, turning up 21 bluefin.
Capt. Rick Slavkin said the fish flashed through hard on their first couple of stops and they also had a quick shot at some of those bigger models. But despite being on more catchable grade fish on other early stops, more escaped in the fast action than were landed.
“We got 4 for 10 (hookups), 2 for 8, 2 for 2, then we got in a plunker and got maybe 11 for 15,” said Slavkin. Most were 20s to 30-some, but they did get one 60 pounder.
Just looking at the offshore numbers, here are a few of the highlights on the board Sunday. New Lo-An had 50 bluefin for 25 anglers (limits), the T-Bird turned in 30 for 15, a yellowfin and 6 yellowtail.
The Condor had limits of bluefin for 15 on an overnight, the Islander put up 42 bluefin, 14 yellowfin and 15 yellowtail for 21 anglers. The Pacific Queen had 68 bluefin for 34 anglers, plus 6 yellowfin mixed in.
The Aztec really found the hold fillers on a weekend 2-day. Twenty-six anglers were back to the dock Sunday with 104 bluefin, a yellowfin and 26 yellowtail.
The Liberty fished offshore on a full-day, with 36 anglers nabbing 56 bluefin and a yellowfin.
Slavkin noted there were huge numbers of yellowtail also showing but not biting yet, legitimate grade fish, not the usual hamachi-grade fish we so often see offshore.
The spotter plane flew Thursday and saw an immense school of the catchable grade bluefin outside Colonet but the word was no one could get a bite from those yet.
So as the week ended the offshore fleet continued to target the monsters in U.S. waters, more or less, south of San Clemente Island, moving around a bit. Also, those catchable grade fish seemed to be on the southern edge of things, with fish popping up on the Butterfly, to just east of there.
The fish were close – easily inside overnight range. However, the best shots came with trips allowing anglers to fish both the morning and late afternoon/evening – therefore a 1.5-day. A 1.75-day got anglers into an evening, overnight session, a morning and the following evening, hitting the dock in the wee hours of the morning.
Bring your best game, all gears from 20- to 100-pound tackle. Denette said the ladies and kids often do the best – because they listen, tend not to have giant fishing egos on the line, don’t get overly excited causing their quarry to do the same.
The trick is to just hang on and concentrate on keeping the bugger on the line while it’s out there away from the boat, wind in all the slack quickly as it settles in under the hull, then go to the rail and catch every turn you can get after that.
But hey, if your thing is to macho out in the first 15 minutes then melt into a sweaty heap, go for it.
The Island fishing held up with some yellowtail, and excellent barracuda and bass fishing. The Vendetta pulled off limits of calico for 9 (45) and added 16 yellows and 7 barracuda.
A bit earlier in the week, before the Grande switched to fishing offshore on their full-day trips, they put 26 anglers on 50 barracuda, 80 calico and 130 rockfish. By week’s end most, if not all of the full-day boats had switched from island to offshore fishing as that bite took off well within range.
Finally, the local bass bite was as good as we’ve heard of anywhere on the coast in years – many 3/4- and 1/2-day outings posted limits of calicos, plus perhaps a seabass or a yellowtail or two.
The Point Loma had full limits of calico every trip for the past week, adding in a few rockfish, and Friday, a white seabass too. The Mission Belle posted limits of the sport-coats on a 1/2-day run and the Daily Double had big numbers too.
Friday morning the Premier posted 80 keeper calico, 4 barracuda and some rockfish. Along with those bass kept, the number of released was off the chart – good fishing for a fly-liner or swimbait slinger. Their biggest 1/2-day was 123 keeper calico and their best 1/2-day was 115 bass for 23 anglers – limits!
Out of Oceanside the barracuda joined the catch and release bass crew, one day 9 anglers released over 100 on a 1/2-day. Local rockfish were the quarry for the 3/4-day anglers aboard the Sea Trek.
At Oceanside Sea Center the Chubasco II on the 1/2-day showed calico catches over 200 per trip, releasing the vast majority of them. The rest of their fleet followed suit, fishing the shallows and seeing fast action for bass, with a few keepers in the mix, along with the usual shallow water assortment, including sheephead, some rockfish and sand bass.