The West Coast is experiencing arguably the best offshore fishing it’s had in many years. Both private boaters and sportfishers 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’ve conducted over 500 Owner Hooks Fishing Schools. Interestingly, my best all-time trips all 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 rockfish.

This may be one of those extended seasons. As I write this blog, party boat skippers are reporting bonanza catches between 70 and 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: yellowfin tuna, yellowtail, skipjack and bluefin 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- to 50-pound-test mono – or up to 100-pound test if you’re spooled with braided line. This is the time of the year when the bluefin seem to get bigger (into that 40- to 100-pound class). More importantly, this is when bigeye tuna may make a showing.

For example, on one Owner Hooks Fishing School charter, my 29 students nailed over 100 bigeye tuna ranging in weight from 75 to 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 a bigger 4/0 to 6/0 live-bait hook.

Be sure to respool with fresh line if you’re 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 to catch a trophy tuna of a lifetime, you’ll 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 like this. Have your drags checked, washers replaced and 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 swimbaits as a great option. A lot of times I find both the tuna, yellowtail and even the dorado will chomp on a plastic swimbait when it’s 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’ve thrown in the water.

These fish can be rather wary, but might just strike a soft-plastic swimbait thrown 60 to 70 yards behind the stern. Make sure you fish these lures with heavier, 2- to 4-ounce leadheads to keep them down if there is swell or wave action.

Get ready – the big bite is on!

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Image courtesy Fishhound

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