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Tuna & Offshore Fishing

Tuna and offshore fishing refers to the taking of seasonal migratory game fish that frequent Southern California. It also includes pelagic shark fishing. Some species are regular visitors to Southern California while others are relatively rare and only arrive in years when water conditions are suitable. Some of the most challenging and exciting fishing available in California, includes fishing for tuna and other offshore species.

While these species are often denizens of blue water, that is to say, very deep water areas, the most productive offshore spots are often over banks, or subsea mountain ranges. In these areas, upwellings bring rich, nutrient laden water to the surface feeding algae blooms attracting microscopic animals, which, in turn attract huge schools of small bait fish. Naturally, wherever there is an abundance of prey, predators aren't far behind.

Map of Tuna and Offshore Fishing Spots with GPS Coordinates

Like on the shore, offshore are many submerged mountains that form the structure for upwellings that attract sea life, including the bulk of the offshore species. Here are the major fishing banks in Southern California:

Map of Tuna and Offshore Fishing Spots

The following table shows the approximate center of the main offshore fishing banks, both in US and in Mexican waters. They're fairly large, some covering dozens of square miles, so locations are not as specific as, for instance, a sunken ship:

No. Name Country Coordinates
1 Thirty Mile Bank Mexico 33D 23'N. x 117D 47'W
2 Forty Mile Bank Mexico 33D 39'N. x 117D 58'W
3 Butterfly Bank Mexico 32D 22'N. x 118D 17'W
4 Boomerang Bank Mexico 32D 23'N. x 118D 28'W
5 Sixty Mile Bank Mexico 32D 05'N. x 118D 15'W
6 Mushroom Bank Mexico 32D 05'N. x 118D 29'W
7 Cortez Bank USA 32D 27'N. x 119D 07'W
8 Tanner Bank USA 32D 42'N. x 119D 07'W
9 Northeast Bank Mexico 32D 20'N. x 119D 38'W
10 Garret Bank USA 32D 40'N. x 119D 35'W
11 Cherry Bank USA 32D 52'N. x 119D 24'W
12 107 Bank USA 33D 03'N. x 119D 36'W
13 Potato Bank USA 33D 15'N. x 119D 50'W
14 Osborn Bank USA 33D 21'N. x 119D 02'W
15 Pilgrim Bank USA 33D 44'N. x 119D 10'W
16 The 209 USA 33D 35'N. x 118D 36'W
17 14 Mile Bank (Lasuen Knoll) USA 33D 24'N. x 118D 00'W
IMPORTANT NOTE! The GPS coordinates indicated here are for informational purposes only. They represent the author's belief of the correct approximate locations of various fishing areas. These numbers should NOT be used for navigation. No guarantee of the accuracy of this information is expressed nor implied. ALWAYS use proper navigation methods and techniques when operating a boat anywhere in coastal or offshore conditions.


Best Times of Year for California Tuna and Offshore Fishing

Following is a chart of the commonly caught tuna and offshore fish, along with the time of year you're likely to catch them. In addition, the best water temperatures to fish in is included. Be SURE to check with the California Department of Fish and Game for the latest regulations on closed seasons, closed areas, minimum size and maximum bag limits on any fish you plan to take. The regulations change often. This information is available on-line on the Cal DF&G website at: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/

Fish Best Fishing Possible Water Temp Best Bait
Striped Marlin Sept-Oct Aug-Nov 72+ Lures
Albacore May-July Mar-Nov 63-67 Live Bait
Bluefin Tuna May-July Mar-Nov 63-67 Live Bait
Yellowtail May-Oct Year Round 60+ Live Bait
Yellowfin Tuna Sept-Oct Aug-Nov 72+ Live Bait
Bigeye Tuna Sept-Oct Aug-Nov 72+ Feathers
Dorado Sept-Oct Aug-Nov 72+ Live Bait
Mako Shark Dec-Mar Year Round N/A Mackerel


The Best Techniques to Catch Tuna and Offshore Fish

Nearly all offshore fishing is done by searching for schools of fish by trolling. Trolling lures are put out behind the boat and dragged at low to moderate speeds to locate schools of fish. Particular attention is made to areas with signs of free floating kelp paddies, diving birds, and feeding porposes. When a fish is hooked when trolling, live bait is generally generously sprinkled on the surface of the water to attract the feeding fish to the boat, then live bait flylined without sinkers to catch the fish. It is important to keep the baits fresh and lively, and to not fish with too heavy a line since these types of fish tend to be "line shy."

Artificial lures are also an excellent way to catch tuna and offshore species. Hard metal lures cast and retrieved when tuna schools are in the area is an effective and popular technique. Rubber swim baits fished "on the slide" (when coasting to a stop after a jig strike) or cast and retrieved when the action is good, also produce well.

Mako Shark fishing is a specialized type of offshore fishing. Some trolled lures work well, but the most common method is to release a chum "slick" of ground fish offal and small pieces of bait. Into this slick, whole dead mackerel are floated below bobbers made of either a rubber balloon or a plastic water bottle.

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Fishing boat plans

Ever think about building a boat?

It's easier than you probably imagine. You could be out fishing in your home crafted boat yet this summer. Stop by my other web site for lots of information and to download free study plans for many different boats you can build. There's also free e-books, videos, and photo essays of boat construction.

Spira International Boat Plans Web Site

Fishing and Navigation Books by Jeff Spira


Wrecks and Reefs Book

Wrecks and Reefs

Shipwrecks and Artificial Reefs of Southern Califormia for Fisherman and Divers

The most complete listing of wrecks and reefs of Southern California complete with GPS coordinates!

Wrecks and Reefs Book

Saltwater Angler's Guide to Southern California

Over 400 pages crammed with information, maps and everything you'd ever want to know about fishing the Southern California Ocean

Wrecks and Reefs Book

Seamanship and Navigation

A simplified approach - companion book to the class taught by Jeff of the same name.

Wrecks and Reefs Book

Celestial Navigation

A simplified approach - companion book to the class taught by Jeff of the same name.

Just click on the book or title to be taken to the Spira International Web site for more information or to order