San Diego Fishing Guide

Top 5 Fish to Catch in San Diego

On the Western Tip of the United States stands San Diego California. The beautiful landscape merges into the ocean with a plethora of marine life that call these waters home.

Temperature is pleasant all year round which ranges from 57.3 °F in January & 76 °F in July. San Diego presents a host of activities for visitors who love the outdoors both on and off the water.

Fishing in San Diego

Given the oceanic topography and climate of the waters of San Diego and the proximity to Mexican waters, which you can fish from out here, makes some of the best fishing in the West Coast United States.

With Kelp beds surrounding San Diego as close as a mile offshore one need not travel far to enjoy tight lines and screaming reels. The proximity of these marine havens gives you more time to fish the grounds. In the local kelp beds, you can catch Calico Bass, Sand Bass, and the strong and much desired Yellowtail (AKA yellowtail amberjack) in other seas.

Vintage Postcard - Fishing Pier, San Diego, CA
Fishing Pier, San Diego, CA by riptheskull

If the inshore bite is not so hot within the short ride to the 9 Mile Bank, you still have the chance to run into prized trophies like Yellowfin and Bluefin Tuna. These species have been caught in recent years from as close as 5 miles offshore. Kelp paddies, which you also ran into during the ride, also yielded 40+ pound yellowtails as well as schooling Dorado.

The peak fishing season in San Diego tends to be in the summer months where the bite really lights up from May to September with a lot of the pelagic species coming closer inland. In winter months you can find resident Yellowtails as well as a whole host of Rockfish, Halibut, and the ever-so-misunderstood Barracuda.

Best Fishing Spots in San Diego

Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a beginner looking to cast your first line, this coastal city has something for everyone.

Point Loma

One of the top fishing spots in San Diego is the legendary Point Loma. Situated at the tip of the peninsula, this area is known for its rich marine life and abundance of fish. From the rocky shores to the kelp forests, anglers can target a variety of species such as yellowtail, calico bass, and halibut. With stunning views of the ocean and the iconic Point Loma Lighthouse, this spot offers both a memorable fishing experience and a picturesque backdrop.

Fishing Boat at Point Loma
Fishing Boat at Point Loma by Matthew Bietz

Mission Bay

Another popular spot is Mission Bay, a large man-made aquatic park that offers not only excellent fishing opportunities but also a range of recreational activities. With its calm waters and numerous jetties, anglers can target species like spotted bay bass, corbina, and croaker. Whether you’re fishing from the shoreline or launching a boat, Mission Bay provides a convenient and accessible location for a successful fishing trip.

Deep-sea Fishing

For those seeking a more adventurous fishing experience, the offshore waters of San Diego are a haven for deep-sea fishing enthusiasts. The city’s proximity to the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean allows anglers to target prized game fish such as tuna, marlin, and dorado. Chartering a fishing boat from one of the many marinas in San Diego gives you the opportunity to venture out into the open waters and reel in the catch of a lifetime.

Lake Fishing San Diego

If you prefer a more tranquil and serene fishing experience, the freshwater lakes in and around San Diego offer a peaceful escape. Lake Murray, Lake Miramar, and Lake Hodges are just a few examples of the serene fishing spots available. These lakes are stocked with different species of fish, including bass, trout, and catfish, providing anglers with a diverse fishing experience in a serene natural setting.

Bluefin Tuna fishing in San Diego

The Bluefin Tuna is one of the most prized fish off the coasts of San Diego. The average fish size being caught off the coast has been about 30 pounds although fish as big as 300 pounds have been landed in offshore waters.

Bluefin Tuna fishing in San Diego

Bluefin is some of the strongest fighting fish in the ocean, plummeting to the depths once hooked they exhibit the might of a bull and have to be worked hard to be landed. At times one is not sure who will win the fight the angler or the fish. This is what makes these fish a much-celebrated catch for any angler.

Bluefin Season

The Bluefin bite is hot in the summer months between May & September.

Bluefin Tuna Fishing Method

Around these waters, the preferred method for anglers is live bait casting using sardines or mackerel as bait. Since the majority of the fleet has live bait tanks with fresh bait being sold at most landings this is the preferred method.

Recent years have seen the rise of casting irons or stick baits which have yielded results when the fish are boiling on the surface.

Yellowfin Fishing in San Diego

San Diego is renowned for its tuna fishing opportunities, with both yellowfin and bluefin tuna being prevalent in these waters. Anglers can experience heart-pounding action as they battle these powerful and fast-swimming fish. Trolling, live bait, and chunking are popular techniques used to lure tuna.

Yellowfin Fishing in San Diego
Yellowfin Fishing in San Diego by Jed_Record

The Yellowfin Tuna is on the top list of species for most salties around the world and luckily can be found in our waters. Like its cousin the Bluefin, this fish is no pushover. Many anglers lost to Yellowfins after an arduous battle.

Once hooked, it usually only heads down to the depths. It is up to the angler to try and get them back up to the surface with most fish coming back to life once they see the boat. Most anglers seek battle with this species.

Yellowfin Tuna Season

The yellowfin bite is hot in the summer months between May & September.

Yellowfin Tuna Fishing Method

As with the Bluefin Tuna, the preferred method for anglers is live bait casting using sardines or mackerel as bait. Sinking stick baits as well as surface poppers have been yielding fantastic results for this species and are quickly becoming an essential tool in all angler’s tackle boxes.

Dorado (Mahi-Mahi) Fishing

Dorado, with their vibrant colors and acrobatic displays, are a favorite among anglers in San Diego. These fish are often found near floating debris or kelp paddies, and they can be enticed with live bait, lures, or fly fishing techniques.

These acrobatic fish also make an appearance over the kelp paddies that are common on the coastal waters of San Diego. These fish when they are around will take a jab at any bait that’s placed in front of them. Known as the acrobats of the sea, when hooked these fish normally take to the skies breaking the surface in an effort to throw the hook off.

Dorado fishing in San DiegoDorado has not always been a common catch within reach of the half-day and one-day trips out of San Diego, but as with other pelagic species, their journey inshore is on account of the warmer waters in recent years.

Dorado or Mahi Mahi Season

The Dorado bite is hot in the summer months between May & September.

Dorado Fishing Method

With the Dorado, the preferred method for anglers is trolling or live bait casting. Once a school of Dorado has been spotted off one of the kelp paddies surface fishing with lures & plastics has delivered results. Being an aggressive fish when the bite is hot they will bite on many a presentation and take to the skies.

Yellowtail fishing in San Diego

Considered the prized catch of San Diego, the yellowtail is known for its fierce fight and delicious taste. These gamefish can be found in offshore waters and are often targeted using live bait, jigs, or surface iron lures.

Yellowtail fishing in San Diego
Yellowtail fishing in San Diego by missvancamp

A close relative of the greater amberjack The Yellowtail as they are known in California is found in droves, especially around the kelp. These fish are some of the greatest fighting fish around and can be targeted close by around the inshore kelp beds or offshore at the floating kelp paddies.

For those who have not hooked one before having a yellowtail on the line is kind of like fighting a train once they reach a certain size. On these waters, these fish are plentiful once found and will give even the most avid anglers a run for their money.

Yellowtail Season

The yellowfin bite is hot in the summer months however they are present all throughout the year at various depths.

Yellowtail Fishing Method

As with the other ocean pelagic species, these fish can be targeted with an array of fishing methods. On this coastline casting Irons is a popular method when surface fishing. These are used by casting at the kelp paddies and retrieving them. This unlike trolling leaves the angler alert and holding the rod when the strike happens. Sizes of these fish vary but the larger specimens have been caught in excess of 50 pounds.

YoYo jigs are also quite effective fishing for these fish as they cover the entire depth of the water column and unlike high-speed jigging can be used even by the novice angler. Local tackle shops readily stock surface irons and YoYo jigs and will recommend the most effective color at that time of year.

In our humble opinion, if you ever get a chance to visit these waters yellowtail fishing is a must if you ever get a chance to fish through San Diego. It is also great Sushi grade fish and will leave you with pleasant memories and sore forearms.

Mako Shark Fishing in San Diego

One of the strongest fighting fish in the ocean and definitely one of the most acrobatic fish around. This is a big target for many a saltwater angler and luckily can be found offshore around the waters in San Diego. When fishing for these fish make sure you have the right licensing on the charter as that situation can quickly get messy with the Department of Fisheries.

Mako Shark Fishing
Mako Shark Fishing San Diego by tikigod

Makos are sharks with attitude, once hooked there is no telling what they will do, and depending on the size it is often a game of angler vs. fish and fair game as to who will win that fight. It is also risky fishing as it is not uncommon for these sharks to have a run at the boat and sometimes land right in them.

When fished you better make sure if you are keeping the fish not to land one that you aren’t sure is 100 percent exhausted. As an avid angler, I recommend that you catch and release these oceanic predators to live and fight another day.

Mako Shark Season

These fish are around all year and make for a great day on the water if you manage to hook one.

Mako Shark Fishing Method

The most popular method to catch these fish is to run a chum slick in the water to attract them to within biting range, they will take dead bait or live bait. If live Bonito or Skipjack can be found they make for great bait for these oceanic predators. Make sure that you have the right tackle and leaders as these toothy fish can chomp down hard on Mono leaders. Steel is the way to go if you want to stand a chance at fighting these fish for a while.

Trolling for them with deep-diving Jigs also yields results often. Hooking them is only part of the challenge landing these fish or at least touching the leader is a whole other ballgame.

Fishing Regulations and Licenses in San Diego

Before heading out for a fishing trip in San Diego, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the fishing regulations and licenses required in the area. This will ensure not only a successful and enjoyable fishing experience but also help in preserving the local marine ecosystem.

San Diego has specific rules and regulations in place to protect its diverse fish species and maintain sustainable fishing practices. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is responsible for enforcing these regulations, which are designed to protect the environment and ensure the long-term viability of the fish populations.

To legally fish in San Diego, you need to have a valid fishing license issued by the CDFW. This applies to both freshwater and saltwater fishing. Licenses can be obtained online through the CDFW website or from authorized vendors throughout the region. It’s important to note that different licenses may be required for specific types of fishing, such as freshwater, ocean, or lobster fishing.

Stay up to date with the current fishing regulations in San Diego. These regulations dictate the size and quantity limits for various fish species, as well as any seasonal or area-specific restrictions. The CDFW regularly updates and publishes these regulations on its website, and it’s crucial to review them before your fishing trip to ensure compliance.

Other Attractions

Aside from fishing, San Diego offers opportunities for diving, snorkeling, kayaking, hand gliding, and many other activities for outdoor enthusiasts. If that’s not your thing you can spend time cruising and people-watching in Little Italy whilst savoring mouthwatering food from the many restaurants. La Jolla or Mission Bay Boardwalk are great places for people-watching and just hanging out. If a family affair is in order, Disneyland is a short drive away. The San Diego Zoo is SeaWorld are great places to spend a day or a few. This is, after all, sunny California.

Final Word

We hope you found our guide to San Diego fishing helpful and informative. Whether you are a seasoned angler or a beginner looking to try your hand at fishing, San Diego offers a wealth of fantastic spots for an unforgettable fishing experience. By following our tips and recommendations, you can increase your chances of a successful trip and reel in some impressive catches. So pack your gear, head out to the best fishing spots, and enjoy the beauty of San Diego’s waters while making memories that will last a lifetime. Tight lines and happy fishing!

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