The 2019 West Coast fishing season can be best summed up with two words, "Blue Fin!" Not for many years have these majestic fish felt us worthy to grace us with their presence. But this year, they did. 2019 was the year of the Bluefin's return all along the entire SoCal coast, the inner, middle, and outer banks, and especially along the San Clemente Islands, Tanner and Cortez banks.
Not only did the Bluefin tuna show up in force for the first time in 80 years, but the size and quantity of catch was considerably larger than in years past. Here is a great video about the comeback.
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The top producing locations for Bluefin fishing for the San Diego fleets was definitely San Clemente Island, the Tanner Bank, and the Cortez bank. Without a doubt the densest population of Bluefin passed through here this year than many people have seen in their life, even the old timers. Many believe this can be attributed to Global Weather Changes that cause the waters and currents in the Pacific Ocean to change both temperature, and direction. Combined with hotter than usual surface temperatures and it ended up pointing the Bluefin right at Southern California.
It's no easy task getting this far off the coast of California, the San Clemente Islands are 90 miles off shore and the Cortez bank is over 100 miles out. This will require an overnight fishing trip on all but the fastest of boats. Day and a half, and two day trip are very common for this type of fishing, and to be honest, the majority of the cost to go there is for the fuel. The additional cost to stay out longer is usually nominal compared to the transit. Bluefin are sometimes finicky and you would be well served in trying to reserve as much time as possible to try and hook one of these "once-in-a-life-time" fish.
San Clemente Island did not yield the biggest fish for us this year, but it was the most consistent bite of any place on the map. with 80 to 150 lb. Blue fin caught on the regular, southern California anglers flocked to the island all year, in pretty much anything that they could get their hands on. We saw 23' center consoles on the back side in a 10 foot swell. You could tell those fisherman were willing to take a beating to get their chance at this rare opportunity. The most productive spots were to be found all along the northern end of the backslide of the island. In depths of 300 to 600 feet, mostly biting on glow in the dark flat-falls in the pre-light hours. During the day your best chance was to troll frozen flying fish, and if so equipped, balloons and kite fishing worked well. There were also a few die hard spear fisherman willing to jump in the water and take a shot.
The Cortez Bank is a lightly fished pinnacle that comes within 5 feet of the surface, located west of San Clemente Island. The Tanner Bank is north and west and shares the same attributes, shallower waters near a giant drop off. Due to its distance from shore, and the considerable swell size that can occur most of the time (and without notice the rest of the time) these spots have remained dormant for Bluefin (in all but the smallest numbers) for many decades. With the surprise Bluefin of the 2019 season, this spot came out of hibernation, and literally was on fire from late August, until the year's end. Consistently producing 200+ lbs. Blue fin Tuna as well as super sized yellow fin, and the occasional Dorado or bill fish (per usual over the last few seasons). The fishing was fast and furious until late September when the fish literally stopped biting. We know for sure they were still there, but they just stopped eating our live bait, and even the gummy flyer, frozen flying fish rigs slowed way down. A few larger fish were picked off in the November and December., but the majority of the Blue fin run ended in mid-November. It was fun while it lasted.
The Lower Cross, The Knuckle, The Finger, and the Butterfly Banks are all off shore banks located off the coast of Baja Mexico, and I refer to them as the "off-shore Mexico Banks". Many different fisherman call these banks by many different names, but respectively, all of the banks just west of the Mexican coast, from Tijuana, all the way to Colonet, are holding Tuna, Dorado, and many other Pelagic species for the lucky anglers who get to venture there.
Aside from just Bluefin, the warm waters of 2019 brought a stronger than usual bite of just about all of the species local to our waters. Over the last decade I have noticed a steady decline in Dorado, but this year it was like old times, but mostly only in Mexican waters. It seems the Dorado are still shy of the Mexican Border and most of the fish caught this year where in Mexican waters.
The Nine Mile Bank, the 181, the Corner, the list is long, but the Inner and Outer banks of San Diego are where most of the fish are caught yearly. Within 45 miles of the bait barge, the easy access and short run time make these banks the most populated fishing spots in the Southern California area.
The Inner Banks consist of a number of spots that are all within 25 miles of San Diego, to the North, South, and West (strait out). The inner banks can sometimes be the best fishing of all, but generally favors the peak of the season months (like July and August). When its hitting, its hitting hard, and places like the 9 mile bank provide strong incentive for avid fisherman to find the big ones, without having to travel far.
The Middle banks provides premier pelagic fishing within a time budget. The second line of banks just off the San Diego coastline, you will find Bluefin Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna, Dorado, and Yellowtail lurking in these waters. The most common methods of fishing here is patty hopping. The Captain will look for the patties floating on the water surface, hoping that underneath you will find what you are looking for. Other methods including trolling, kite fishing, balloon fishing, and freelining your bait on the boil.
Yellowfin Tuna make up the bulk of San Diego Sportfish. The counts on this Tuna are much higher than Bluefin, Yellowtail, or Dorado. This migrational fish is present in our waters from about July through October, but they have been known to make surprise appearances. The majority of these fish are harvested on the middle and inner banks.
If you are not looking to go on a 24 hour + trip, but still want to get on the tuna, this is your call.
The Coronado Islands are just across the border about 15 miles from the bait barge as the crow flys. On one of our faster boats, you can be there in under and hour. What the Coronado Islands lack in big blue fin tuna, it makes up for in the quantity and variety of all other species.
We hoped you have enjoyed our 2019 Tuna Fishing Wrap up and best photos blog post! This is our first post on this blog, but many more awesome and interesting topics are planned for the near future. Please subscribe to our blog, and feel free to leave us a comment about anything!
Updated on May 16, 2023
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