Hot (tuna) fun in the summertime

Time to load up the smoker

There is never a “Nawww, I don’t want it” reaction to smoked fish.
  • There is never a “Nawww, I don’t want it” reaction to smoked fish.
  • Image by Leszek Kobusinski

Inshore: Half-day boats are concentrating on the great calico bass bite of the kelp in Point Loma and La Jolla. The legal-sized (14” or greater) count on the "checkers" nearly doubled last week over the week previous. Noting the release numbers, it’s about a 50-50 chance of catching a legal calico on every hook-set, which is extraordinary for the local kelp beds. The ¾-day boats are getting bonito, barracuda and yellowtail at the Coronado Islands. The yellowtail are in the smallish range, from 8 to 25 pounds, but are hitting the deck in solid numbers. Still not much of a showing of yellowfin or dorado within ¾ day range, though that can change quick with the warm water still out there.

Outside: Yellowfin tuna and dorado showed well last week, about equal to the week previous versus angler count. The bluefin tuna numbers dropped off again dramatically; they seem to be subject to full moon phases and maybe fatten up more at night while our nighttime orb is at its brightest. There are some striped marlin out there on the banks along with a few reports of hammerhead sharks; both, along with the two opah caught so far this summer, are good indicators that a strong pelagic season is underway. This is about the point in the year when the yellowfin tuna and dorado started showing in the inshore counts, so I wouldn’t count that possibility out this year. Hopefully, they’ll follow those big bluefin to the 9 Mile bank for the local crowd. Still, it’s looking great out there.

7/17 – 7/23 Dock Totals: 5949 anglers aboard 224 boats out of San Diego landings this past week caught 108 dorado, 16 bluefin tuna, 1,584 yellowfin tuna, 2 striped marlin (1 released), 1 thresher shark, 1 mako shark, 5,008 yellowtail, 4,921 calico bass, 55 sand bass, 1,073 rockfish, 13 lingcod, 44 sculpin, 1,909 bonito, 481 barracuda, 81 sheephead, 4 halibut, 6 white seabass, 120 mackerel, 29 whitefish and 10 treefish.

Notable: When the fishing is good and those who love it tend to bring home more than they need, it’s time to clean out the freezer to make room. I tend to give a lot of fish away for that reason and there is never a “nawww, I don’t want it” reaction here in Mexico. Especially when I smoke it up. Truthfully, and though usually snubbed, barracuda and bonito, if kept fresh and bled when caught, make excellent smoker fare. When these fish are around I get excited and load up on mesquite chips. Sure yellowtail and tuna are better, but a good smoked bonito or barracuda can go a long ways in making some neighbors happy. You never know what’s coming back your way when you share such a treat. Fresh tamales and hot pozole are the usual reciprocations at my house.

Scheduled fish plants (lbs): 7/29 Santee Lakes, catfish (1000), 8/1 Jennings, catfish (1000)

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