Fishing Season in San Diego: The Complete Guide for 2024

Jan 11, 2024 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

There are many reasons why the nickname “America’s Finest City” fits San Diego perfectly. Perfect weather year-round, views you can never get enough of, and fishing, fishing, fishing as much as your heart desires. The action on these waters is fantastic any day of the year, but anglers looking to catch particular species should get acquainted with San Diego’s fishing seasons before they head out.

A panoramic view of San Diego at sunset with a large boat docked by the pier and skyscrapers in the background

Off-season isn’t really a thing here – these always-warm waters create the perfect habitat for a huge number of species. Whether you cast your line in the bays or in the prolific deep sea waters, you’re in for a blast. And that’s just the saltwater side of things. Fishing the nearby freshwater lakes is a treat in its own right. In San Diego, diversity is the name of the game. Let’s see what you can expect.

When is the high fishing season in San Diego?

Species Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Calico Bass Good Good Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Good Good
Halibut Good Good Good Good Great Great Great Great Great Great Good Good
Yellowtail Amberjack Good Good Good Good Good Great Great Great Great Great Good Good
Rockfish Closed Closed Great Great Great Great Good Good Good Great Great Great
Bluefin Tuna Weak Weak Good Good Good Great Great Great Good Good Weak Weak
Yellowfin Tuna Weak Weak Good Good Good Great Great Great Good Good Weak Weak
Striped Marlin Weak Weak Weak Weak Weak Good Good Good Good Good Weak Weak
Lobster Great Great Good Closed Closed Closed Closed Closed Closed Good Good Great

This is the first thing that comes to your mind when you’re preparing for your fishing trip. You won’t go wrong whenever you come out, but it’s generally considered that the high season in San Diego lasts from April–October. This also happens to be the peak of the San Diego deep sea fishing season. During this time, big game fish like Tuna and Marlin migrate through the area.

Still, every month brings excellent fishing opportunities for both novices and experienced fishermen. Here’s a breakdown of the San Diego fishing season month-by-month. Or, check out what’s biting in San Diego right now.


A charter guide holding a small Sand Bass and a fishing rod, San Diego, California

It gets “cold” in San Diego at the beginning of the year… Well, it gets cold for locals, with the temperatures usually around 60ºF. For visitors escaping frigid weather, this is heaven. And the fish love it too.

One of the favorite catches in January is Halibut, along with an array of Bass species, including Calico, Sand, and even Striped Bass. White Seabass, Yellowtail, and Sculpin also get around quite a lot. For something different, you can go on a Lobster hunt and make use of those hoop nets.

There’s usually a Rockfish closure in January that lasts for a couple of months (closed seasons change yearly). However, there are charters that run trips into Mexican waters where you can target these bottom-dwellers. On the freshwater side of things, you can target Trout on the nearby lakes and be successful, too.


A smiling fisherman in a cap and sunglasses holding a Halibut on his fishing line with San Diego Bay in the background

Winter is still in town, but so are the fish. The weather can be tricky to predict in February, so make sure you check the forecast before heading out. If you’re fishing with a charter, stay in touch with your captain and they’ll keep you in the loop regarding the conditions.

The usual suspects you can catch in January are still around in February. Think Yellowtail, Halibut, Calico Bass, Corbina, Mud Marlin, and occasional White Seabass. You’ll mostly fish the bays, since they’re more protected from the weather, and fish flock to calmer waters.

If you’re coming to San Diego for a multi-day fishing adventure, you won’t be disappointed. The Coronado Islands offer excellent Yellowtail, Rockfish, and Lingcod, and the bite is just as good around Punta Colonet. These are usually multiday trips, and you’ll need your passport because you’ll be fishing in Mexican waters, but the trip will be worth it. 


Four fishermen holding six Vermilion Rockfish, two each, San Diego, California

The days are getting longer and warmer – the best possible news for passionate anglers. By March, recreational Rockfishing is usually open, so these tasty fellas are in the spotlight.

Vermilion Rockfish is popular this time of year because March marks the beginning of their high season. The same goes for White Seabass, whose spawning season starts this month. There’s plenty of Calico Bass around kelp beds, and Halibut action remains very good.

In the deep blue waters beyond the San Diego Bay, the first Bluefin Tuna start to show up. It will still be some time before they arrive in bigger numbers. The Lobster season ends mid-month (the first Wednesday after March 15), so make sure to get them while there’s still time.


A smiling female angler holding a Sheephead, with blue skies and water in the background, San Diego, California

Things are starting to heat up on and in the water. With the warm, sunny April days comes the peak of the San Diego fishing season, and you can see it by the wide array of fish on your line.

One of the most important events is the return of trophy-sized Yellowtail. These beautiful fish are the bread and butter of San Diego’s saltwater fishery. And speaking of delicious yellow-hued fish, Yellowtail Tuna high season starts in April too! 

White Seabass, Halibut, Sheephead, Squid, and Lingcod are all out there, ready to bite. Closer to shore, anything from Corbina and Spotted Bay Bass to Barracuda and Calico Bass is in the cards. On the freshwater front, anything from Carp and Bluegill to Catfish and Largemouth Bass is fair game. If you’re fishing the flats, this is the prime time to go after Bonefish.


Two fishermen holding their daily catch of Tuna while standing on a boat, San Diego, California

The closer we are to summer, the more charter boats head out to explore the deep sea fishing grounds. They’re all looking for the same thing – Tuna! Be it Albacore, Bigeye, Yellowfin, or Bluefin, they’re a-coming. 

If you’d like to catch a Tuna off the coast of San Diego, it’s a good idea to book your fishing trip well in advance. These full-day runs are very popular among avid Tuna chasers, so they fill up quickly.

Maybe you prefer to fish from shore? If that’s the case, try your luck on the Ocean Beach Pier. Here, you can hook into Mackerel, Barracuda, Calico Bass, and Sheephead, to name a few. The peak of the San Diego fishing season offers a variety of opportunities for everyone.


A close up of a hooked Marlin caught jumping out of the water

Come June, and San Diego’s deep sea fishing season is at full throttle. The beginning of summer brings along another big game superstar – Marlin.

Tuna definitely win when it comes to sheer numbers, but landing a Marlin, be it Striped or Blue, is unlike any other fishing experience. In June, Striped Marlin start to show up in the deep waters, and Blue Marlin aren’t far behind. 

With Marlin and Tuna in the neighborhood, and all other fish under the sun biting, fishing is off the hook! Mahi Mahi is another common catch, and Yellowtail action is non-stop. The best chance to get on Marlin and Tuna is to book a full day charter to San Clemente or the Coronado Islands. The fishing only gets better from here! 


A spear fisherman in the water, holding a Yellowtail with a spear through it, San Diego, California

Whichever type of fishing you choose to try in July, you can’t go wrong. Coastal fishing boasts great numbers of Calico Bass, Corbina, Sand Bass, Rock Cod, and Stripers. Fish from a pier or in the surf, and you’ll be wowed.

Further out, in the offshore realm, reel-screaming action continues. Yellowtail and Tuna are big this time of year, and for a change of pace, you can go spearfishing for them. July is the best time of the month for Tuna fishing in San Diego, especially Yellowfin and Bluefin. Bonito and Mahi Mahi abound as well. 

Overnight trips to the islands can be very successful if you’ve got Marlin, Tuna, Yellowtail, and Wahoo on your mind. All you have to do is pick what you’d like to do!


Three anglers standing on a boat, holding a large Bluefin Tuna on a cooler, San Diego, California

Both for local and visiting fishermen, August is the hottest month – with warm temperatures and even hotter fishing. Striped Marlin, Tuna, Yellowtail, Wahoo, Halibut, Mahi Mahi – take your pick, they’re all there. Bluefins are all the rage when it comes to Tuna, and anglers make the most of the fishery while they’re still in the area.

Deep sea fishing is the main focus of the San Diego high season, especially in August. The winds offshore calm down, so the waters are calm and perfect for enticing your prey. Sharks are always present here, and some trophy-sized beasts roam the deep in the summer. 

Coastal fishing will put you on the trail of Corbina, Rockfish, smaller Sharks, and Calico Bass. Going out on San Diego Bay adds Halibut, Rock Cod, and Sand Bass to the list.


A group of anglers holding four Mahi Mahi fish while sitting on a charter fishing boat, San Diego, California

The high season is slowing down in early fall. Bluefin Tuna and Marlin are leaving, but not before one last hurrah. As they migrate, they move closer to land, so it’s easier to catch them than ever. However, this is the case only if the weather remains warm throughout the month.

If you didn’t have the time to explore the San Diego deep sea fishing grounds during the summer, this is a great time to do so. Striped Marlin are voracious and feed constantly on their way to warmer parts of the world. Mahi Mahi and Yellowfin and Bluefin Tuna are on the hunt too, while big Yellowtail hunt in both shallow and deep waters. 

Shark aficionados will have plenty to do – Mako, Thresher, and Blue Sharks are all in the cards. 


A group of anglers holding four Yellowtail Amberjack with water in the background, San Diego, California

There’s a switch in October, as deep sea game fish move out, and bottom fishing slowly but surely takes center stage. Marlin are gone, as well as Bluefin Tuna, but there are still some Mahi Mahi and Yellowfin Tuna around.

The main stars in October (and fall generally) are Yellowtail and Halibut. You can catch some doormats outside the bays, and Yellowtail of all shapes and sizes are abundant. This is the prime time to go after Rockfish, especially Starry Rockfish, Rock Cod, Corbina, and Calico Bass.

Then there’s the Spiny Lobster opener that happens on the first Wednesday of October. All this goes to show that San Diego fishing season is a year-round affair – and a fun one at that.


A charter captain holding a big Lingcod while standing on a boat, San Diego, California

If you love bottom fishing, then San Diego is the place to be in November. There’s a slew of Groundfish you can target and the weather is mild – perfect for a successful fishing adventure.

Halibut and Lingcod, two favorite bottom dwellers, are on the menu in late fall. Add to that all kinds of Rockfish, plenty of Yellowtail, Albacore, and Sharks, and you’re in for a great time. Simple half day trips will do the trick to get you on the fish, and sometimes you don’t even have to leave the bay to reel in something bragworthy.

Alternatively, you can grab your passport and head on to Mexican waters in your pursuit of big game monsters. 


A close-up of a small Calico Bass with the Coronado Bridge in the background, San Diego, California

It’s getting quiet on the waters of San Diego as winter sneaks its way into town. Most anglers will spend time fishing from piers and some will even head to freshwater lakes. Excitement chasers can book a trip south, all the way to Coronado Islands. This is where you can find massive Mahi Mahi, Bluefin, and Yellowfin Tuna.

If you prefer to stay closer to home, you’ll still have a good number of species to go after, too. Rockfish are the go-to species these days, so make the most of it before the seasonal closure in January. Using hoop nets to catch Lobster is fun for the whole family, too. There are good Halibut swimming around, and the same goes for Calico Bass, Sheephead, Whitefish, and Yellowtail.

The San Diego Fishing Season – It Keeps on Giving!

As you can see from our calendar, there’s simply never a bad time to come fishing in San Diego. Whenever you choose to visit, there’s something for you to battle and catch. That’s why America’s Finest City is one of the all-time-favorite fishing spots for so many anglers – the San Diego fishing season is the gift that just keeps on giving!

Have you ever been fishing in San Diego? Do you have your favorite fishing time of the year? Any stories you’d like to share? Let’s talk in the comments below.

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Andriana has been in love with nature since before she could walk, and she lives to explore the great outdoors whenever she has the chance. Be it traveling to far-off lands, hiking, or mountain climbing, Andriana loves discovering new places and writing about them. The first time she went fishing with her dad she insisted on returning all the catch into the water. Dad was not pleased. Her curiosity about fishing only grew from there, and she’s been writing and learning about it for years. Andriana’s favorite fish to catch is Mahi Mahi.

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