Bluefin tuna bite hasn’t materialized, but other trophy fish are out there

Monterey Bay

Ed Burrell from Capitola Boat and Bait stands proudly with his tanker 55-pound white sea bass caught Monday from a big bait boil of mackerel near Capitola. No angler on the Bay is more deserving of a trohpy fish like this!
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Let's Go Fishing Radio Show

by Allen Bushnell

Many anglers have a love/hate relationship with tuna fishing near Monterey Bay. In years past, we enjoyed multiple successive years of albacore tuna runs that could last for weeks or months at a time, albeit some 30-60 miles off shore. Some of my best fishing memories are riding as deadhead on the Wild Wave while Captain Mike Baxter consistently brought the boat to triple digits of longfins. A number of years ago, we had three or four weeks of fairly consistent bluefin tuna in our area. Most of the big tuna were caught off Davenport near the “Fingers” area some 10 miles from Davenport. Slow-trolling mackerel seemed to be the ticket to success. While some highliners such as Tom Joseph aboard the Sara Bella from Fish On Sportfishing caught big tuna nearly every day, it took my partner Jack Teresi and I six trips on the Nancy Leigh  to finally land just one 55-pound fish. We were nevertheless ecstatic. For the past ten years or so, the albacore schools are arriving to feed off the coast of far northern California and southern Oregon. Bluefin were sighted here occasionally, but no sustained bite ever developed. Last week’s report of big schools of tuna and tons of mackerel (their preferred prey) got everyone’s hopes up.

Since then the hoped-for BFT bite has not materialized. A few tuna are being reported caught nearly every day, but only in the one’s and two’s, and mostly near Big Sur or further south. There is still hope for future development, but we should be prepared for disappointment as well.

Ignoring the lure of exotic tuna action, fishing is still going very well for Monterey Bay anglers. It’s turning out to be a great year for rockfish, and the lingcod are moving in with fish in the high teens and low twenties reported caught just this week. Big fish honors this week go to Capitola Boat and Bait mainstay, Ed Burrell.  Semi-retired now, Burrell snuck up on a feeding frenzy of seabirds versus mackerel.”there’s gotta be a bass around here somewhere,” Ed recounts. Other Capitola anglers had reported a few white sea bass here and there lately. Sure enough, after only 15 minutes of throwing a Lazer Minnow metal jig, Ed was rewarded with a tremendous bite, then a tremendous fight. “It took most of a half-hour to get this fish in!” he said. The white sea bass proved to weigh in at 55-pounds. A tanker by anyone’s estimation. Congrats to Ed.  Well Done!

More pedestrian, but also impressive is the sustained halibut bite in and near the bay. Starting in April this year, anglers have been finding and hooking tons of halibut. Right now, there’s a great bite off the bull kelp bed on the North Coast above Santa Cruz. Some squid spawns are occurring in that area so that’s the recommended bait for fishing north of town. Inside the bay itself, huge schools of anchovies and mackerel are crowding the beach. Plenty of halibut continue to be caught at all the “usual” areas, which include Westside Santa Cruz, the Mile Buoy area, Capitola and the Cement Ship, Manresa and of course the Pajaro Pipeline area. Near Monterey, DelMonte Beach up to Sand City continues to hold lots of flatties for free divers and line anglers. Many of these fish are still undersized (which bodes well for the future), but keepers in the 11-40 pound range have been consistent in the past few weeks.

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