By TERRENCE BERG
PICKS OF THE WEEK
1. It’s staying the No. 1 pick even if almost no one is going right now. The top bite is the bluefin tuna (and yellowtail) bite on the offshore tuna grounds. Most of the bluefin are 25 to 35 pounds while the yellowtail are a smaller grade fish from five to 10 pounds. Overnight and 1 1/2-day trips, mostly out of San Diego and Oceanside Landings, are still making a few runs. What a way to start the new year. Tuna! For an update on the action, check the reports and audio on 976-tuna.com.
2. The winter trout bite on the upper Owens River just keeps getting better. A fixture in last winter’s reports, it remains in the top picks this week. The big rainbows out of Crowley Lake are stacking up in the deep runs and riffles in the Hot Fingers stretch of the Owens. This is all catch-and-release fishing, but anglers are already report 20 to 30 fish days of trout to four pounds. For an update on this bite check with any of the fly-fishing shops or guide services in the Mammoth Lakes or Bishop region. Those include The Troutfitter at 760-934-2517, Sierra Drifters Guide Service at 760-935-4250, or Sierra Trout Magnet Fly Shop at 760-873-0010.
3. The Lake Skinner striper bite has been pretty solid for the past two weeks for anglers fishing cut baits at or near the inlet. These are mostly two to five-pound class fish, but some bigger versions are showing now that the lake is getting trout plants. For an update on this bite, check with the marina staff at 951-926-8515.
FRESHWATER HOT SPOTS
TROUT: Trout season is in full swing across Southern California urban lakes getting private plants. DFW fish started being stocked two weeks ago, and those plants continued last week (see trout plants list below), but dwindled again this week. In the planted trout lakes, top picks for this week continue to be Lake Wohlford, Dixon, and Jennings in San Diego County, Apollo Park Lake in Lancaster, Santa Ana River Lakes in Orange County, and all the San Bernardino County park lakes (Glen Helen, Cucamonga-Guasti, Yucaipa, Prado, and Mojave Narrows) which get plants weekly now. Other waters good in San Diego County included Cuyamaca and Santee Lakes. A sleeper pick, better than many local urban waters, is the trout action in the Colorado River near Bullhead City. Limits of one-pound class fish have been pretty common. In the Sierra, the upper Owens winter catch-and-release bite has broken wide open on big fish running up out of Crowley. For anglers who like wild fish, this is the top pick. Big Bear Lake also has a pretty darn good winter bite for bank anglers with several fish to four pounds reported again this week and lots of limits.
BLACK BASS: The action is finally slowing at many waters, but it is still fair to good other places. The best bites are now on drop-shot plastics during the middle part of most days. Top bets continue to be Castaic, Pyramid, El Capitan, San Vicente, Lower Otay, Diamond Valley, and Skinner. On the Colorado River, the bites have slowed but a few fish are showing in Havasu and Mohave along with the lower river backwaters. Smallmouth have also been fair in the lower Colorado River, but there is just no fishing pressure.
STRIPED BASS: The striper action was generally just fair this past week, with a couple of exceptions. Skinner is the top pick with a lot of small fish and a few bigger. Pyramid, Castaic, Silverwood, and Diamond Valley are slower than Skinner, but Pyramid and Castaic are still fair. Not as much surface action, but still a lot of fish on deeper swimbaits, trolled flies, umbrella rigs, jigging spoons, and — of course – the usual array of baits, especially lug and blood worms. The California aqueduct near Taft is still fair on frozen sardines and blood worms, and more keeper fish are starting to show. The Colorado River’s Lake Havasu and Lake Mohave are both fair. Lots of small stripers in the river between Davis Dam and Topoc Gorge. This stretch of the river is getting weekly trout plants and the big stripers are taking advantage of the feed.
PANFISH: The bluegill and redear bites are slow across the board now. Murray and Lower Otay continue to produce a few fish, but things have really slowed down. A few big redear continue to show from Havasu in deep water on nightcrawlers, but few other reports.
CATFISH: Overall, the catfish bites have slowed way down across the region, but getting very little fishing pressure so the action is hard to gauge. Catfish anglers should focus on Skinner, the California aqueduct below Quail Lake, Quail Lake itself, Lower Otay, Pyramid, and Isabella. The lower Colorado River has also slowed way down as water levels drop, but there is very light fishing pressure.
The following waters are scheduled to be planted with rainbow trout from Department of Fish and Wildlife hatcheries this week (Dec. 31-Jan. 6):
KERN: Hart Park Lake, Ming Lake, River Walk Park Lake.
The following waters are tentatively scheduled to be planted next week (Jan. 7-13):
KERN: Brite Valley Reservoir, Kern River (section 2).
The following waters were planted last week (Dec. 24-30):
VENTURA: Casitas Lake, Rancho Simi Park Lake.
LOS ANGELES: Reseda Park Lake.
ORANGE: Carr Park Lake, Centennial Lake, Eisenhower Park Lake, Greer Park Lake, Huntington Park Lake, Mile Square Park Lake, Ralph Clark Regional Park Lake, Tri-City Park Lake.
RIVERSIDE: Little Lake (Hemet), Perris Lake.
SAN BERNARDINO: Mojave Narrows Park Lake, Seccombe Park Lake.
INYO: Owens River (below Tinnemaha and Section 2), Pleasant Valley Reservoir.
KERN: Kern River (section 2).
FRESNO: Woodward Park Lake (Fresno).
For trout plants statewide, you can visit the DFW’s stocking page at https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FishPlants/. This page is frequently updated after this news report is published so current week, next week’s, and even previous week’s plant information may change.
OCEAN FISHING REPORT
BLUEFIN ACTION CONTINUES: While few boats have made the run out to the offshore tuna banks over the past week, those making the run are still finding excellent, often limit-style action on the bluefin. These are not the huge bluefin of earlier in the season, but they are solid 25 to 35 pound fish for the most part.
There is also usually a pretty good bite on yellowtail when the bluefin aren’t cooperating (or everyone had their two-fish limit).
The most recent trip was the Tuesday run by the Chief out of H&M Landing.
The 24 anglers on that overnight trip caught 48 bluefin tuna and 16 yellowtail.
On Sunday, the Oceanside 95 out of Helgren’s Sportfishing had 21 anglers on its 1 1/2-day trip, and they landed 34 bluefin and eight yellowtail.
These fish usually bite best on the backside of the new moon, so this week could see hot action.
SAN DIEGO YELLOWTAIL: With the closure of rockfish season in California waters, the San Diego half-day fleet has mostly been focusing on yellowtail and sculpin, and the morning yellowtail bite has been very good this week.
The Sea Watch out of Seaforth Sportfishing has been pounding the yellowtail on its morning half-day trips this whole week. On Wednesday, 38 anglers had 43 yellowtail and 12 keeper calicos. On the Tuesday morning trip, there were 49 anglers who landed 91 yellowtail and one halibut, while the Monday trip with 19 anglers returned with 51 yellowtail.
The Dolphin out of Fisherman’s Landing had 18 anglers on its Tuesday afternoon half-day and they caught 37 sand bass, 25 sculpin, and 10 calicos. The morning trip with 58 anglers produced 115 yellowtail.
The Daily Double out of Point Loma Sportfishing had just three anglers on its Wednesday half-day trip this week, but they landed three yellowtail, seven sand bass, six calico bass, three bonito, and one sculpin.
Last Friday, the Josie Lynn out of Point Loma Sportfishing had six anglers on its overnight trip, and they landed full-limits of 60 yellowtail.
MEXICAN ROCKFISH: The rockfish season, which closed all along the Southern California coast on Monday, is still open in Mexican waters. The Premier out of H&M Landing has been running half-day trips into Mexican water (you will need a passport for these trips) for rockfish since the California season closed on Monday, and the action has been very good. On Wednesday, 23 anglers landed 115 red snapper, 110 assorted rockfish, and five ling cod. The Monday trip with 23 anglers produced 227 rockfish, two lings, and one sheephead.
SCULPIN TIME: With the closure of rockfish season, most of the sportboats running out of Los Angeles and Orange county landings have been focusing on sculpin and sand bass, and with good success. The scores really tell the story.
The New Del Mar out of Marina del Rey Sportfishing had 34 anglers on its Wednesday half-day, and they caught 170 sculpin, 15 sand bass, one calico bass, and one bonus halibut. The Spitfire, also Marina del Rey, had 19 anglers on its three-quarter day trip, and they landed 95 sculpin, 32 keeper sand bass, eight calicos, and seven trigger-fish.
The Freelance out of Davey’s Locker had 69 anglers on its Wednesday thre-quarter day trip, and they landed 102 sculpin, 40 perch, and three sand bass. The Tuesday trip with 61 anglers returned with 155 sculpin and 51 perch.
The Monte Carlo out of 22nd Street Landing had 24 anglers on its Wednesday morning half-day, and they caught 41 sculpin and 19 sand bass. The Tuesday trip with 11 anglers produced 25 sculpin, 15 perch, and nine sand bass.
VENTURA-SANTA BARBARA UPDATE: The last day of rockfish season was Sunday, and the action was excellent right up until the closure for boats running out of Ventura and Santa Barbara area landings. Most boats will be laying off and doing maintenance until March 1st opener.
At Channel Islands Sportfishing in Oxnard, no boats have been out since Sunday, but the final week was excellent. The Mirage finished the season with an overnight trip that returned Sunday, and the 24 anglers on board had 240 rockfish, 48 lingcod, and 48 whitefish.
At Hook’s Landing in Oxnard, the final rockfish trip was a three-quarter day jaunt aboard the New Hustler, and the 35 anglers on board had 310 rockfish, 120 whitefish, and 32 sheephead.
At Ventura Sportfishing, the Island Spirit had 23 anglers on its Sunday full-day, and they landed limits of 230 rockfish, 120 whitefish, 38 sheephead, 11 lingcod, and one Cabazon.
At Sea Landing in Santa Barbara, both the Coral Sea and Stardust ran three-quarter day trips on the final day of rockfish season. The Coral Sea had 26 anglers who landed 180 rockfish, 52 lingcod, and 17 whitefish. Meanwhile, the 39 anglers on the Stardust landed 213 red snapper, 117 rockfish, and 53 lingcod.
AVILA BEACH-MORRO BAY NEWS: The rockfish season closed on this section of the coast on Sunday, but the bite was excellent right up to the end. In the local surf, the barred surfperch bite remains consistent on better quality fish up to three pounds, mostly on live lugworms or blood worms. The Rapala Shadow Rap jigs also are a good bet.
At Virg’s Landing in Morro Bay, the Fiesta ran the final rockfish trip of the season on Sunday and the 23 anglers on board had 170 red snapper, 60 assorted other rockfish, and 46 lings.
At Morro Bay Landing, the Avenger had the final trip of the season on Saturday and 46 anglers landed 460 rockfish and one lingcod on a half-day trip.
At Patriot Sportfishing in Avila Beach, the Phenix, Flying Fish, and Patriot all ran final-day trips on Sunday. The Patriot’s full day trip had 34 anglers who landed 159 bolina, 153 assorted rockfish, 22 red snapper, 19 lingcod, five cocaccio, and one Cabazon. The full-day Phenix had 18 anglers and they landed 66 bolina, 63 red snapper, 32 assorted other rockfish, 16 bocaccio, 12 lingcod, and one Cabazon. The half-day Flying Fish had 24 anglers, and they landed 180 assorted rockfish, 24 red snapper, and 15 lingcod.