deep sea fishing san diego

Deep Sea Fishing San Diego: Tips & Charter Information

Written by Lenny Rudow
February 15, 2022

Last Updated on February 15, 2022 by Boatsetter Team

There’s a very simple explanation for why there are so many fishing charters in San Diego, California: the bite here is often as good as just about anywhere on the face of the planet. In fact, when the season is right you’ll encounter albacore tuna, bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, mahi-mahi, marlin, mako shark, yellowtail, and more.

While it’s true that much of the best fishing is often far from shore, some of these species move in close to land at times and can be targeted by just about any angler who owns or decides to rent a boat in San Diego.

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Target Species for Deep Sea Fishing in San Diego

While deep sea fishing from San Diego can include going after schooling fish like barracuda or bottom fish like calico bass or halibut, it’s the pelagic species that many anglers dream about targeting.


The list of possibilities includes albacore, bluefin, yellowfin, and occasionally bigeye as well.

  • Yellowfin are a popular target the fleet, and these hard-fighting bruisers are usually present from midsummer through October or November and some years even into December.
  • The average catch is in the 20- to 50-pound range, but some larger yellowfin are caught on occasion.
  • The bluefin can be even bigger, and 300-plus-pound fish are caught at times.
  • Kite fishing, trolling, and live-baiting are all methods that can result in getting a monster tuna on the end of your line.

fishing for mahi mahi in san diego


Also called dorado or “dodos,” these colorful speedsters are commonly found around floating kelp paddies and other flotsam.

  • Mahi-Mahi are smaller in stature (10- to 20-pounders are the norm) than some pelagic species dodos.
  • This species is prized for their aerial acrobatics when hooked because they often jump and cartwheel through the air as they fight to get away.


Billfish are a prized species for any deep sea angler, and while they aren’t as common as these other offshore species, fighting one is considered by many to be the ultimate sport fishing experience.

  • Striped and blue marlin may both be encountered when fishing out of San Diego.
  • Trolling or pitching live baits is usually how anglers get one hooked up.

fishing mako sharks in san diego

Mako Shark

There’s no apex predator more fearsome than the mako shark, and San Diego is one of the best ports around to target them from.

  • They’re also one of the first pelagic species to show up in the spring, and many seasons they’ll remain in coastal waters until late in the fall.
  • Chumming is normally the best way to get them within baiting distance and it’s not unusual to see the toothy mako swim right up to your boat—they won’t be one bit afraid of it.


Although yellowtail are most prominent from late spring through fall, enough usually remain in these waters to catch them year-round.

  • Yellowtail commonly orient to kelp paddies, kelp beds, and rocky bottoms with lots of structure.
  • When yellowtail are near the surface most anglers toss lures or live baits to tempt them into biting.
  • When they’re down deep, fishing heavy jigs with a “yo-yo” (up and down) technique is the norm.

Ready to target one of these pelagic species? Book a fishing charter with a guide.

5 Tips for Success When Deep Sea Fishing in San Diego

  1. If you’re going to try live-baiting, haul just as much bait as you possibly can. When you can locate the fish but have trouble getting them to bite, tossing extra live baits into the water can trigger a feeding frenzy.
  2. When trolling, zig and zag as opposed to always going in a straight line. Sometimes the sight of a bait or lure crossing the boat’s wake is more than the predators can resist.
  3. Kite fishing has been growing in popularity in recent years and is a good way to boost the catch. But it’s a difficult technique to master, so be sure to spend a day fishing with someone familiar with kite fishing before trying it on your own.
  4. When you see a fish swim up to a bait and then reject it, try dropping your leader and hook size. Even when using fluorocarbon leaders, the fish can sometimes spot thick line and avoid it.
  5. When using light leaders, stick with circle hooks. Pelagic predators have teeth that can chaff or cut leaders and since circle hooks usually lodge in the corner of the fish’s jaw, they’re less likely to get bitten off.

deep sea fishing charters in san diego

Deep Sea Fishing Charters & Fishing Boat Rentals

If an angler wants to go deep sea fishing but doesn’t have their own boat, they can opt to charter one or get a fishing boat rental. Since deep sea fishing requires a high level of skill and knowledge, plus very specialized gear, the average angler will cut their teeth by first fishing with a pro. Fortunately, there are plenty of fishing charters to choose from.

Of course, some anglers find the reward of catching fish with their own know-how greater than depending on a hired gun. If you want to call the shots yourself, boat rentals in San Diego may hold more interest to you, personally. Just remember that catching these denizens of the deep is no easy task, and it can take years of experience to master the techniques and tactics needed to be successful.

Whichever route you may choose, one thing is for sure: hook up with any of the pelagic beasts swimming off the coast of San Diego, and you’re in for a thrilling deep sea fishing adventure.

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