Dock Totals 7/2 – 7/8: 4,009 anglers aboard 134 boats out of San Diego landings this past week caught 46 bluefin tuna, 12 yellowfin tuna, 16 dorado, 552 yellowtail, 2 white seabass, 2,406 calico bass, 66 sand bass, 4,063 rockfish, 471 sanddab, 19 lingcod, 212 bonito, 116 barracuda, 743 sculpin, 208 whitefish, 101 sheephead, 5 halibut, 1 cabezon, 13 bocaccio, 1 opah, 1 mako shark and 1 swordfish.
Saltwater: In spite of the schools of large bluefin tuna spotted off the SoCal coast, they continue to be finicky eaters of offered baits, trolling lures, yoyo irons, poppers, flat falls — whatever the anglers have in their arsenals is not working on them except for the occasional lucky angler on an occasional lucky boat. The Liberty seems to have had the most luck this week on ¾ day runs, so the fish, some well over 200 pounds, are enticingly close to not give it a shot. How often does a 200 pound sushimi-grade bluefin tuna get caught from a ¾ or 1 day boat? Not often, but in spite of their picky eating habits to this point in the summer, the fish spotted are larger and in greater numbers than I can remember. And it was just a few months back when some boats were getting limits. Even though they are slow to eat, a few big ‘cows’ continue to come over the rail.
The New Lo-An took 15 anglers out on a 1.5 day run over the holiday weekend and returned with one bluefin tuna; a 224-pound unit. Capt. Andy Williams said “The fight took all hands on deck and 4 gaffs to bring it over the rail.” He noted that there were plenty of fish of the same class in the area and they are finally reacting to chum.
Good news. It is a rare trip when over 90 percent of the anglers aboard do not get a fish. It is even more uncommon when such a trip is considered successful — but in this case, that one fish among fifteen anglers (if sold at current wholesale market price for frozen bluefin tuna in Japan) would have covered all fares for the trip, and probably food and drinks, too. Though it is illegal to sell a recreationally-caught fish, the trip was successful in both locating and getting some action out of these brutes that seem, sometimes, to have lock-jaw. If going out to catch them, gear up; that battle was joined on 80-pound test line, and as with most big bluefin battles, barely won by the angler.
For the boats opting to fish inside, calico bass are still "off the hook" — kind of a misleading lexicon often used by anglers — while sheephead, bonito, barracuda and yellowtail are coming over the rail just off the kelp edge. An occasional white seabass or halibut is caught on these trips. On the high spots, rockfish, whitefish and a few lingcod are the expected haul — and in decent numbers sufficient to qualify as ‘freezer-filler’ runs popular among the ‘vertical crew’ fishing the lower portion of the water column.
Another opah hit the deck for the 2017 season over the holiday weekend, this time aboard the Grande. Captain James McDaniels reported the beautifully-colored discus-shaped rarity ate a flat-fall jig on 60-pound test line. No official weight was reported, but the fish looks to be in the 80- to 100-pound range.
Top performing boats this week: It depends on your targeted species. For all the hard work put in to find the tuna offshore and then get them to bite, those that get a few are certainly worth mention – such as the Liberty’s ¾ day runs. They had more success on the bluefin in the fish-per-angler bracket and are running with less time than the overnight and multi-day trips. The folks fishing inside are all doing about the same — good on a mixed bag. So this week, my top performing pick is the entire fleet, with an honorable mention to the Liberty.
Fish Plants: No plants this week.