Fishing in San Diego Guide
San Diego, CA offers a massive buffet of fishing opportunities, ranging from offshore waters teeming with tuna to lakes and reservoirs bulging with bass. So grab your rods and reels, get your fishing license, book your fishing charter, and prepare for some awesome fishing fun.
Follow this beginner’s guide for tips and tricks for fishing in San Diego and other nearby locations.
Where to Fish: 4 Best San Diego Fishing Spots
You have almost endless options when choosing where to fish in San Diego, including:
- The open Pacific, for pelagic species. Inexperienced anglers will want to consider hiring a fishing charter, as heading out into the ocean requires experience and knowledge.
- San Diego Bay, to target inshore species. San Diego Bay is a unique fishery and has the west coast’s lone stock of bonefish. Plus, you can rent a fishing boat here and strike out on your own.
- In the surf, along the public beaches. This can be a very relaxing way to fish, but it can be frustrating at times too, because surf fishing forces you to stick to one spot and wait for the fish to come to you.
- San Diego’s lakes and reservoirs. These waters are known for producing some monster bass, and several breaking the 20-pound mark have come from the waters around San Diego.
As well as learning where to fish in San Diego, you also have to find out where not to fish. California has a number of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) where fishing isn’t allowed. There are three types of MPAs including State Marine Reserves (SMRs), No-Take State Marine Conservation Areas (SMCAs), and State Marine Conservation Areas (SMCAs) where some fishing is allowed. The specific rules, regulations, and MPA borders can be confusion, so be sure to check out the San Diego MPA Fishing Guide before you set out to explore unfamiliar fishing grounds.
What to Fish for in San Diego: Top Species List
The range of options is huge, but anglers fishing in the Pacific can encounter:
- Albacore, bluefin and yellowfin tuna
- Calico bass
- Mako shark
- White sea bass
San Diego Bay is known for the following fish species:
- Croaker (primarily yellowfin but multiple species)
- Sand and spotted bass
- Sharks (multiple species)
Freshwater lakes and reservoirs in the area commonly have:
- Catfish (multiple species)
- Largemouth bass
- Rainbow trout
- Striped bass (limited to certain lakes)
When to Go Fishing
While most venues will offer year-round action to some degree, in the ocean and bay the best fishing generally takes place from spring through mid-fall with a slow period during the winter months when many species migrate away. That said, some species (such as sand bass, sharks, and yellowtail) can sometimes be caught right through the winter. And during the tougher fishing seasons, anglers who don’t own their own boats may want to opt for a fishing boat rental to expand their options, so they aren’t limited to a single location.
Freshwater fish, of course, don’t migrate (or at least not very far). However, their metabolism does slow down during the winter months and as a result, they chase baitfish with a bit less zeal. Fish like largemouth bass also tend to move deeper as the temperatures fall, forcing anglers to switch tactics and lures.
How to Fish in San Diego
As you might expect, anglers apply a wide variety of tactics and gear depending on the specific fishery they’re targeting.
- In the case of fishing for pelagics in the ocean, the common techniques include trolling, fishing live baits, and kite fishing.
- Close to shore and in the bay, using live bait, cut bait, and light tackle jigs and spoons is common.
- Certain fisheries, such as the bonefish action in San Diego Bay, require specific techniques (casting small grubs and soft plastics or fishing ghost shrimp on egg sinker rigs) targeted towards the species.
Whichever fishery is being targeted, spinning and conventional gear can both be used in most cases just as long as the weight class is appropriate. In freshwater, fly fishing is often quite popular as well.
Okay: are you ready to hit the water and enjoy some southern California angling action? Gather up your gear, and get ready to have a blast while you cast.
With over three decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to dozens of boating and fishing publications and websites ranging from BoatU.S. Magazine to BDOutdoors.com. Rudow is currently the Angler in Chief at Rudow’s FishTalk, he is a past president of Boating Writers International (BWI), a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.