Fishing in San Diego, California

By Adam Young. Our US Harbors Fishing Expert

San Diego may be known for its idyllic climate and popular beaches, but you would be amiss to overlook the fantastic fishing opportunities in this southern California city. 

WIth its fantastic weather, and access to the rich waters of the Pacific ocean, San Diego is an anglers paradise…especially if you love offshore fishing. 

Where To Fish

San Diego offers a variety of fishing opportunities, from deep-sea fishing to freshwater fishing, as well as fly fishing, pier fishing, and kayak fishing. Here are some of the best spots to fish in the San Diego area:

  • La Jolla Cove: Located just north of downtown San Diego, La Jolla Cove is a popular spot for shore fishing, especially for halibut and bass.
  • Coronado Island: This island located across the bay from downtown San Diego offers a range of fishing opportunities, from shore fishing to deep-sea fishing for tuna and yellowtail.
  • Lake Murray: This freshwater reservoir located in La Mesa is a great spot for fishing rainbow trout, bass, and catfish.
  • San Diego Bay: This bay offers a variety of fishing opportunities, from shore fishing for halibut and croaker to deep-sea fishing for sharks and tuna.
  • Ocean Beach Pier: This historic pier is a popular spot for pier fishing and offers great opportunities to catch surfperch, croaker, and halibut. No boat required!
  • Mission Bay: This lagoon offers great fishing opportunities for numerous species of perch, turbot and rockfish.
  • Del Mar: This coastal city located north of San Diego is home to several beaches and offers great opportunities for surf fishing, particularly for barred surfperch and corbina.

The Local Catch

The local catch in San Diego includes a wide variety of fish species, both inshore and offshore. Here are some of the most popular fish to catch in and around San Diego:

  • California Yellowtail: This is one of the most sought-after fish species in San Diego, particularly among offshore anglers. Yellowtail can be caught using live bait, jigs, and surface lures.
  • Lingcod: These toothy critters may look like something out of a science fiction movie, but they’re actually great fighters and very good to eat!
  • Calico bass: This is a popular inshore fish species that can be found around rocky areas and kelp beds. Calico bass can be caught using artificial lures, live bait, and fly fishing.
  • Halibut: Halibut is a popular inshore fish species that can be caught year-round in San Diego. Halibut can be caught using live bait, jigs, and soft plastic lures.
  • Tuna: San Diego is known for its tuna fishing, particularly for yellowfin, bluefin, and albacore tuna. Tuna can be caught using live bait, jigs, and surface lures.
  • Lobster: San Diego is home to a thriving lobster fishery, particularly during the winter months. Lobster can be caught using hoop nets and can be found in rocky areas and kelp beds.

Tackle & Gear

The type of tackle and gear needed for fishing in San Diego will depend on the type of fishing you plan to do. Here are some general recommendations:

  • For inshore fishing and freshwater fishing: A medium to medium-heavy spinning or baitcasting rod with a 1000-3000 size reel spooled with 10-20 lb braided line should handle most species of inshore fish.
  • For surf fishing and nearshore species like Calico bass, Yellowtail you’ll want a reel in the 4000-6000 size range, with at least 20-40 lb test line. For longer casts from shore, choose an 8-10 foot surf-casting rod with medium action.
  • For offshore fishing, in search of tuna, billfish, sharks and deep water grouper, well the bigger the better! Most charter captains and licensed fishing guides will supply you with the correct tackle for the species you are targeting.

Fishing Regulations

Fishing regulations in San Diego are enforced by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. It is important to have a valid fishing license before starting any fishing activities, and to be familiar with the fishing regulations in the area.

San Diego is home to several marine protected areas (MPAs) that are designed to conserve marine life and habitats. Some of these areas have restrictions on fishing or may be closed to fishing entirely, so make sure to check the local regulations and maps before heading out.

It is also important to note that some fish species have size limits, daily limits, and/or seasonal restrictions. The Department of Fish and Wildlife provides detailed information on regulations and restrictions, and I recommend you review them prior to fishing.

Final Thoughts

San Diego is one of the unique coastal cities that offer world class tourist attractions, right alongside world class fishing opportunities. For that reason, it’s a great spot for the entire family. 

Visit the theme parks one day, then hop onto one of the many licensed charter boats to test your skills against tuna, halibut, or the local favorite: California Yellowtail. 

Good luck and thanks for reading!