If you haven’t heard, there is a modest to hot run of quality Yellowtail just below the Mexican border, south of San Diego. By “quality,” I’m talking about ‘tails in the 25-30 pound class. These fish have been feeding on deep pods of squid and sardines all through the winter and now are healthy “slugs.”
The Los Coronado’s Islands, located 14 miles below San Diego, have one major population of fish. Another group of Yellowtail are in an area called “The Rock Pile,” about 18 more miles to the south. Todos Santos Island off the Ensenada, Mexico coastline is a third hot spot for these early season Yellowtail.
I had the opportunity to sample this bite while fishing out of Ensenada. Most of these fish are stacked in deep water. Our group started out fishing Yellowtail that showed up on our depth finder at 160-180 feet. Like many of the boats who had no live bait, we resorted to fishing the “iron” – California style jig fishing.
In this situation, most saltwater fisherman go to a “heavy” jig, commonly made from a zinc oxide compound. Models like the Salas 6XJR or the Tady A1 are popular for this type of deepwater Yellowtail. With these lures, you have to wind them fast. Really fast. These “heavy” model jigs have practically no built in action. The faster you wind, the more side-to-side action you will impart to the lure.
I take a different approach. I prefer to use the larger, “lighter” jigs cast out of aluminum. Models like the Tady 45 and Salas 7X are legendary light iron, typically used when Yellowtail are in the sub-surface feeding mode. I have developed immense patience, having learned to allow these light aluminum jigs to sink all the way to the bottom, sometimes down to 180 feet.
The light models are designed to “swim” from side to side. This is known as the jig’s “kick.” You will wind these jigs a tad slower than the heavy models. Often I have used these lures, being patient to let them sink deep, while others continued with the regulation, heavier version. On this Ensenada expedition, my light iron clearly out-fished the heavys. My top ‘tail was over thirty pounds!
Here’s another tip worth noting. When I am fishing for Yellowtail over deepwater, I often use simple twenty pound P-Line CXX monofilament. No braid, no 30-50 pound mono – just light 20-pound test. Frequently these deepwater gamesters are marauding over hard, mud bottoms. With scarcity of structure like rock and kelp, you can fish the light iron on the 20-pound string.
The 20-pound test mono allows the light jig to sink faster. As a bonus, the “kick” seems even more pronounced when the light iron is pulled on the light mono.