The West Coast is experiencing arguably the best offshore fishing it has had in many years. Both private boaters and sport fishers have been reporting stellar catches all through late summer and early fall. Don’t be surprised if these offshore species hang around all the way through late November.
I have conducted over 500 Owner Hooks Fishing Schools. Interestingly, my best all-time trips have occurred in mid to late October with over a 500 fish “stop” for a single day on each of these charters. I also had another huge tuna trip on a party boat on Thanksgiving weekend one year when we were heading into Baja waters to fish for rock fish.
This may be one of those extended seasons. As I write this blog, party boat skippers are reporting bonanza catches between 70–110 miles south of San Diego in Mexican waters. What’s really intriguing is that on a single day out on the tuna banks you have a chance to catch myriad species: yellow fin tuna, yellowtail, skip jack and blue fin tuna, dorado, and even a wayward albacore. You might even catch all of them on one “stop” once the boats starts to put out a chum line.
Here are a couple of tips worth pondering if you make a mid to late fall trip to these outer banks. First, bring at least one heavier outfit. I’m talking 40–50 lb. test mono, or up to 100-lb. test if you are spooled with braided line. This is the time of the year when the blue fin seems to get bigger in that 40–100 lb. class. More importantly, this is when big eye tuna may make a showing. For example, on one Owner Hooks Fishing School charter, my 29 students nailed over 100 big eye tuna ranging in weight from 75–115 pounds. And, these big pelagics were found underneath a floating kelp paddy only 75 miles south of San Diego!
With bigger fish, heavier line, and two-speed reels, be sure to carry an ample supply of fluorocarbon leader material and stronger hooks. Big tuna will eat a big bait, pinned on to a bigger #4/0–#6/0 live bait hook.
Be sure to re-spool with fresh line if you are planning a late fall outing. If you were catching a lot of fish months prior in the summer, your line most likely needs to be changed. With the potential of catching a trophy tuna of a lifetime, you will want all your reels filled to maximum capacity with fresh line. It might also be a good idea to have your primary reels serviced late season: have your drags checked, washers replaced, and reels lubricated as needed.
What about using more lures in the late fall for these pelagics? Good idea! These bigger fish will often readily attack traditional metal jigs and spoons. But don’t forget the inexpensive soft plastic swim baits as a great option. A lot of times I find both the tuna, yellowtail, and even the dorado will chomp on a plastic swim bait when it is cast far away from the boat. This is especially true if you have to fish on a weekend when both party boat and private yacht traffic is intense. The fish will often back off, hanging back on the far outside bait chum you have thrown in the water. These fish can be rather wary, but might just strike a soft plastic swim bait casted 60–70 yards behind the stern. Make sure you fish these lures with heavier 2–4 ounce lead heads to keep them down if there is swell or wave action.
Get ready—the big bite is on!