San Diego

Warmer Ocean Water Could Mean Big Things for San Diego Sportfishing

Higher surface temps may lead to longer season, big bucks for local fleet

At 11:30 a.m. Friday the New Seaforth pulled up to the dock at Seaforth Sportfishing in San Diego. The 85-foot ship returned 26 anglers from a half-day trip, which means they didn’t get too far out.

But they sure had success.

“Forty-six yellowtail and 35 bonito,” said deckhand Evan Sellers, who’s been on fishing boats for nearly a decade. “It made for a nice morning.”

It might, however, get even nicer. Record surface water temperatures are certainly going to have an impact on the world’s most prolific sports fishing fleet.

“It’s reaching almost 80 degrees out there,” Sellers said. “I’ve never seen that before.”

The question is that a good thing or a bad thing?

“Water temperature definitely dictates what’s available to recreational fishermen,” said Owyn Snodgrass, a research fisheries biologist at the National Marine Fisheries Service in La Jolla. “When you have these warmer water years they sometimes cycle through and bring more tropical species within range of sports fishermen which means it can be really beneficial for the local economy and fishing.”

While there have been peaks of record temps this summer the ocean waters off San Diego have been warming for four to five years now and that means a slight change in the amount and type of marine life, he said/

“Anything is possible to show up,” Snodgrass said. “You could see blue marlin, even. A couple of years ago we had a blue marlin, which was amazing.”

That blue marlin was about 600 pounds and larger sports fish is something these warmer water currents are keeping closer to the San Diego coast, especially the tuna.

“We’re seeing bigger yellowfin than we normally see,” Snodgrass said. “Some of the fish we saw last year are similar to the fish that are caught off (world-renowned Mexican tuna fishery) Guadalupe Island which is unheard of to see 200-300 pound Bluefin locally.”

As is the presence of a burrfish, which was found recently on a kelp paddy 10 miles off Mission Bay.

“Most pelagic fish, the distribution of them is highly influenced by the warmer water currents," he said. "So it’s pretty cool. They have been recorded as far north as San Pedro but not very common. Super rare, beautiful fish.”

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