Nestled against 70 miles of pristine coastline, San Diego has a deep connection to the ocean that visitors can plainly see on menus throughout the region. Seafood and San Diego are so entwined that, during the first half of the 20th century, the city was home to the world’s largest tuna fishing fleet and, even today, the signature San Diego dish is the fish taco.
With the Pacific Ocean as its front yard, San Diego is a sportfishing paradise and if you have a taste for the freshest seafood, there is no more exciting or engaging way to guarantee quality and sustainability than to head out to sea and drop a line. Luckily, San Diego is home to the world's largest and most modern sportfishing fleet and boasts year-round access to some of the best saltwater fishing on the planet. Anglers can join an open party trip or charter a boat from companies like H&M Landing, Point Loma Sportfishing and Fisherman’s Landing, all conveniently located on Shelter Island, just minutes from downtown on the San Diego Bay.
An ever-growing fleet, equipped with state-of-the-art gear and staffed by expert crew, helps fishermen find and land the "big ones" on trips lasting from half-day to multi-day excursions. Regularly scheduled open party trips depart daily and individual tickets can be purchased to hop aboard. Morning or afternoon half-day excursions last about six hours and take you off the coast between Imperial Beach and the Point Loma Kelp Beds.
Following is a sampling of fishing trips and special events for fishing enthusiasts trying to reel in the "big one" off San Diego's coast.
These popular five- to six-hour trips fish the coastline from Imperial Beach to the Point Loma kelp beds and leave from the docks of Fishing Charters San Diego, Point Loma Sportfishing and H&M Landing at 6:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. daily. During the summer, an additional departure is offered at 6:30 p.m. for a "twilight run." Summer and fall fishing targets yellowtail, bass, barracuda, bonito and tuna; winter and spring fishing targets yellowtail, sand bass, rockfish, sheephead, sculpin, white sea bass and barracuda. Boats provide food service but not sleeping accommodations. A California fishing license is required for everyone 16 years and older.
These nine- to ten-hour "intermediate" trips leave from the docks of Fishing Charters San Diego, Point Loma Sportfishing and H&M Landing at 6:00 a.m. daily, taking anglers into fishing grounds along the Baja Coast, in the offshore banks and around the Coronado Islands, just 14 miles south of San Diego in the Mexican waters near the Baja coast and its offshore banks. A Mexican fishing license is included in the charter fee. Spring, summer and fall trips target yellowtail, white sea bass, calico bass, barracuda and bonito, while winter trips target sand bass, rock cod and more than 50 species of bottom fish. Boats provide full galleys but no sleeping accommodations.
During the winter, these one-day overnight trips fish the "60-Mile Bank" or "43 Fathom Spot" for more than 50 species of rock cod and bottom fish. Boats leave from H&M Landing at 11:00 p.m. daily, and return late the next afternoon or early evening. Guests can fish popular local species, such as red rock cod, lingcod, cow cod and sculpin.
Available in the spring and fall, these one-day overnight trips run from 18 to 21 hours and depart at 11:00 p.m. daily from the docks of Fishing Charters San Diego, Point Loma Sportfishing, H&M Landing and Fisherman’s Landing; the boats return the next evening between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Fishing begins at daybreak around the rugged Coronado Islands' shores and continues until early afternoon. Since more time is spent in less heavily fished waters on the trips, these excursions are favored by the more experienced anglers. During the spring and summer, guests can expect to catch game fish such as yellowtail, white sea bass, calico bass, barracuda and bonito. A Mexican fishing license is included in the fare. Boats are equipped with full galleys and bunks for sleeping.
From June through November, these overnight trips target migrating schools of dorado, albacore, yellowfin, bluefin and big eye tuna, and allow for exciting fishing action. One-day trips depart at 10:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. daily from the docks of Point Loma Sportfishing, H&M Landing and Fisherman’s Landing, and travel to fishing grounds located 30 to 100 miles offshore; they return the following night between 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Day-and-a-half trips also leave in the late evening, but since the fishing grounds are 100 miles or more offshore, they return early on the second morning or even later in the day if fish are concentrated at a greater distance. Boats are equipped with bunks for sleeping and full-service galleys. A Mexican fishing license is included in the fare, and a California fishing license is required for everyone 16 years or older. At the height of the season when demand is high, several boats in the fleet offer a "limited load" where the boat reduces the number of anglers in order to provide a more comfortable fishing environment for its guests.
During summer and fall, two- to five-day sportfishing cruises are available to the outer banks and offshore islands of the Northern Baja peninsula. Guests target tuna, yellowtail and dorado, while enjoying comfortable accommodations and fine food aboard boats specially designed for long-range fishing trips. Boats leave from Point Loma Sportfishing, H&M Landing, Fisherman’s Landing and Lee Palm Sportfishers.
Depending on the season, trips of two to 21 days are scheduled at various times throughout the year. During the spring and summer, shorter trips of two to six days take sportfishing aficionados to fishing grounds located 100 to 300 miles south of San Diego, to the coastal waters of Baja California and the offshore islands of San Martin, Guadalupe, San Benitos and Cedros. Here, guests target albacore, yellowfin, bluefin and big eye tuna, as well as skipjack, yellowtail and calico bass. Mid-range trips of eight to 12 days are available through the fall and winter, when the boats travel 300 to 1,000 miles south of San Diego, to fishing grounds known as Uncle Sam Bank, Alijos Rocks, 23 Fathom Bank and Thetis Bank, where catches include yellowfin, bluefin and big eye tuna, as well as yellowtail, wahoo and dorado. The longest cruises of 13 to 21 days fish along the Baja coast and around the distant islands of the Revillagigedos: Clarian, Socorro and San Benedicto, where yellowfin tuna weighing from 200 to more than 300 pounds and wahoo of over 100 pounds are caught on a regular basis.
Of course, once they return to the docks, visiting fishermen need to process and preserve their prize catch. Since 1963, Point Loma Seafoods has been the angler’s answer. For a fee, they will fillet and slow smoke freshly caught fish over real hickory wood. Their cutters are the best in San Diego with expertise that consistently produces the best yields from each catch.
Processing takes approximately three to five days so anglers are sure to have plenty of time to relax and explore San Diego’s many land-based diversions before heading home with their haul.
Ready to begin planning your San Diego sportfishing adventure? Visit our Plan Your Trip section for information on getting here as well as getting around and visitor information services.