San Diego Long Range Fishing – All You Need to Know
Jun 17, 2019 | 7 minute read
Reading Time: 7 minutes

San Diego is among the largest and most unique sport fisheries in the world. People often say that anglers fishing in these waters see as much action in a year as other anglers see in five. How? It’s all thanks to a fishing style that is unique to San Diego – a multi-day, all-out fishing expedition. This is all you need to know about San Diego long range fishing.

yellowfin tuna

First of all, what is a long range trip? There are a number of fishing charters in San Diego that specialize in multi-day fishing excursions. Depending on the captain and the boat, you can book a trip that lasts anywhere from three to 10 days, and even longer – up to several weeks. However, most long range trips fall in the 5–10 day range. Needless to say, the experience can differ pretty widely depending on how much time you spend on the water.

The Boats

San Diego long range fishing boats are big, sturdy vessels, spanning from 90 to 130 feet.

a long range fishing boat
A typical long range fishing boat

Where Are They?

When they’re not out at sea, you’ll find them moored in one of the renowned boat landings in San Diego. Some of these places specifically serve to house multi-day fishing vessels. These include Fisherman’s Landing, Point Loma Sportfishing, and H&M Landing, among others.

Port of San Diego, Flickr CC BY 2.0

What to Expect Onboard

Most boats are designed to comfortably fit up to 30 anglers, and can travel for thousands of miles on end. Boasting long rails, wide decks, and seemingly endless storage capacities, “big” is the name of the game when it comes to long range fishing.

And while most anglers tend to bring their own fishing gear, you’ll always find quality equipment on board that you can rent or buy. The prices are surprisingly reasonable, so if you like to travel light, leasing might be a good option for you. You can also rent equipment from the boat landings in San Diego.

The boats are also equipped with the latest, state-of-the-art navigational and fish-finding technology, leaving as little room for error as possible.

The gear on board is top-notch

Equally as good, but arguably more important, are the crews. If you’re a first-timer, you’ll probably be taken aback by the expertise and knowledge the captains and mates display. But consider this – these guys have been fishing in some of the most productive big game fishing grounds on the planet for almost their entire lives.

Creature Comforts

We all know that fishing comes first. But when you’re out there on the water, enduring the sun and wind for days, a few creature comforts are more than welcome. This isn’t your luxury cruise, but you might have a few second thoughts about that by the time your trip ends.

The decks are equipped with comfortable lounging areas, where you can sip cocktails after a hard day of fishing. Inside, you’ll find air-conditioned twin-bunk rooms, many of which have their own bathroom. Lastly, you’ll enjoy the larger-than-average lobbies where you can unwind and discuss the day’s catch with your fellow anglers.

Fine Dining

These trips offer some of the best food you’ll ever eat. Your breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be prepared by expert onboard chefs, with snacks of all kinds between meals. Sashimi right off the rail, roast meat, various appetizers, and deserts will make most restaurants look shabby. If you’re following a specific diet, the staff will be happy to oblige, just be sure to let them know ahead of your voyage.

a sushi plate

When Should You Go

San Diego long rangers go on shorter trips during summer, usually lasting 7–8 days. The colder months are when the longer trips happen. This mainly has to do with fish migration patterns. For example, Bluefin Tuna prefer temperatures of 60–68°F, while Yellowfin favor 73–75°F.

What You’ll Catch and Where

All San Diego long range fishing trips have a similar trajectory, at least at the beginning. You’ll be going south along Baja California, stopping at islands and ridges renowned for amazing big game fishing.

a map of san diego long range fishing spots

Generally speaking, captains look for temperature breaks, ridge drop offs, kelp paddies, dead whales, and islands to find fish. Obviously, the fishing spots and species you’ll be able to target will differ depending on the length of your adventure.

3–6 Day Trips

Before the big game action, a usual quick stop are the beautiful Coronado Islands. This is where you’ll be able to fill your bait wells for the action ahead.

south coronado island

Next stop – Guadalupe Island. This place is one of the best Yellowfin Tuna hotspots in the world, and this is where you’ll get your first taste of true big game fishing. The island is just 260 miles away from San Diego, making it reachable on a shorter trip. Yellowfins in the 120 lb range are not uncommon in these waters.

One thing to note, however, is that Guadalupe is also a favorite feeding ground for Great White Sharks. Just as you think you’ve got a keeper, they will snatch your Yellowfin right out from under you. If they see a lot of Great Whites in the area, your captain might decide to switch fishing spots.

A little further to the southeast, Cedros and San Benito Islands offer amazing Yellowtail fishing. Sore hands and brimming fish tanks are guaranteed. A perfect way to end the day is watching the sunset near Turtle or San Hipolito Bay.

7–10 Day Trips

For most long range fishermen, 7–10 day trips will hit the sweet-spot. Often scheduled for summer and the beginning of autumn, these trips will take you to the most distant hotspots and offer the most variety. On these trips, you’ll be going further down the Baja coastline, past Magdalena Bay all the way to Cabo San Lucas.

Following the Pacific ridge, you’ll have your fill of trophy Wahoo, Yellowtail, Dorado (Mahi Mahi), and even Marlin. If bottom fishing is your thing, you’ll be thrilled to know that you can catch some Giant Seabass in this area, although you should be aware that they are critically endangered.

On your way back, you might venture deeper into the ocean to Escollos Alijos (Alijos Rocks), if the weather allows it. This is perhaps the best Yellowfin Tuna fishing spot you’ll ever see, as well as a Wahoo and Yellowtail hotspot.

11 Day+ Trips

These are the hardcore trips. Venturing well over a thousand miles from San Diego, these trips will let you cast in some of the worlds finest big game fishing spots. On your way south, you’ll be able to enjoy spectacular action in the tropical waters off Puerto Vallarta. Get ready for some huge Wahoo!

Some long range fishing boats even make the journey to the remote island of Clipperton, an astounding 1,600 miles from San Diego. This is where you’ll get your chance at a world-record Yellowfin.

Most San Diego long range fishing companies schedule these trips for winter and early spring. Often booked well in advance, these trips are the ultimate big game fishing adventure.

It’s not uncommon for the boat to come up on a school of giant Tuna in the middle of the night. At this time, you’ll be presented with a choice: get a few more hours of sleep in, or get out and try your best to catch that record-breaking fish. One thing’s for sure – when story time comes at tomorrow’s dinner, you’ll wish you’d been there.

What to Bring

There’s nothing worse than realizing your fishing experience could’ve been perfect, if only you remembered to bring those damn sunglasses. Before you leave, make a checklist of essentials, so that when the time comes, you can focus on what matters – fishing.

Clothing and Protection

  • A pair of short boots for the deck (the decks can get wet and slippery, so no tennis shoes)
  • A windproof jacket
  • At least two sets of trousers and shirts for the deck (preferably fast-drying material)
  • Two pairs of socks and underwear for each day
  • A toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, shower gel, etc.
  • A couple of towels
  • Polarized sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Seasickness medication (and any other medication you might need)
  • Sneakers or sandals for lounging
  • Lounging and sleeping clothes
  • Passport

The Gear

Depending on the fish you’re targeting, you’ll need a few different outfits. You won’t be targeting big Tuna all the time, there will be a lot of live baiting and smaller fish going around. The crew will let you know when and what they spot in the water, and advise you on which setup to use.

You’ll be able to rent or buy most of the equipment onboard, but if you prefer to bring your own gear, make sure you have enough for at least five decent setups.

An Adventure of a Lifetime

There’s a lot to consider when going on a long range fishing trip. Spending days out in the open ocean certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. But, nothing good comes easy, and this is the pinnacle of sportfishing, after all.

angler holding a mahi mahi

People come back to long range fishing year after year, and it’s not just because of the fishing. There’s a distinct sense of camaraderie on these voyages. Whether it’s helping each other out, or sharing laughs and stories over drinks, long range fishing makes people bond. Anglers from completely different walks of life make long-lasting friendships here, often planning next year’s adventure together.

No matter who you are, a San Diego long range fishing trip is not something you’ll be forgetting any time soon.

What do you think about San Diego long range fishing? Have you ever been on a long range fishing trip? What do you think is best about these types of voyages? Let us know in the comments below.

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