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Top Fishing Charters in Southern California

Fishing in Southern California

You won’t find many places where it’s possible to land a record-breaking Bass one day and world class Bluefin Tuna the next, but Southern California is one of them. Here, a cast of infamous game fish give local celebrities a run for their money, at least as far as anglers are concerned.

You’ll find Southern California fishing charters all along the coast, from Santa Barbara down to the border. San Diego, Dana Point, and the greater LA Area host some of the largest and most well known charter fleets in the state, and many of them share fishing grounds.

With so many opportunities waiting just off shore, it’s hard to say where you’ll find the best angling around here. Between a variety of lakes, rivers, flats, reefs, islands, and endless deep sea, you might be wondering where to start! This list of local hot spots will give you an idea of what fishing in Southern California is all about.

Best Fishing Spots in Southern California

Santa Monica Bay

Santa Monica Bay is the go-to fishing hole for charters in Los Angeles and Long Beach. Anglers head here for a hefty catch of more than 30 different game fish, including Calico Bass, Halibut, Barracuda, various Rockfish, and Yellowtail Amberjack. Larger fish like Yellowtail and Barracuda frequent these waters in summer, whereas Halibut make the bay their winter home. Given its immediate accessibility, Santa Monica Bay is a great place to make the most of your time on a half day charter.

At the south end of Santa Monica Bay sits the Palos Verde Peninsula. Quick trips from Long Beach head here to fish the peninsula’s coastline for Yellowtail, White Seabass, and more.

Horseshoe Kelp

If you’re fishing close to shore in Southern California, chances are you’ll hit up Horseshoe Kelp. Boats running out of Long Beach and Newport Beach enjoy easy access to these fishing grounds, which offer everything from Sand Bass and Rockfish to Yellowtail. In summer and early fall, the occasional big game fish pays these kelp paddies a visit, including Mahi Mahi and Tuna.

Huntington Flats

Heading south brings you to the Huntington Flats, another hot spot for Southern California fishing charters. Anglers get a kick out of the Huntington Flats because of the wide variety in bottom structure here. Fish of all shapes and sizes are attracted to the hodgepodge of sandy seafloor, underwater shelves, flat shale, oil drilling platforms, kelp beds, artificial reefs, shipwrecks, and even a sunken airplane. You can catch the usual suspects here, including Seabass, Rockfish, Halibut, Barracuda, and Yellowtail.

The Pipe

This aptly named fishing spot right off the coast of Dana Point can produce some excellent table fare and is ideal for anglers on a tight schedule. Located just beyond the harbor, this underwater spill pipe has slowly developed in an artificial reef hosting Sand Bass, Calico Bass, Rockfish, and more. The Pipe is practically synonymous with inshore fishing in Dana Point, much like Horseshoe Kelp and the Huntington Flats and their reputation up north.

Point Loma and La Jolla

Charter boats heading out of San Diego have their own famous hot spots right out of the dock: Point Loma and La Jolla. Miles of kelp forests extend along the coast between them, drawing hordes of gamefish to SD’s doorstep. Sand and Calico Bass, Halibut, Barracuda, Rockfish, and Yellowtail are all on the menu around here.

Catalina and San Clemente Islands

Nothing sums up the deep sea fishing Southern California is famous for like a trip to Santa Catalina or San Clemente Island. A little over 20 miles offshore, Catalina Island is the subject of full day charters out of virtually every city on the coast, from LA down to San Diego. Most anglers head here between April and November, when the deep waters surrounding the island are full of Barracuda, Yellowtail, Mahi Mahi, Marlin, massive Sharks, and Bluefin and Yellowfin Tuna.

With an extended day trip, you can also make your way 20 miles farther to San Clemente Island for similar opportunities. Overnight trips to the deepest waters beyond (60+ miles) provide the opportunity to catch Albacore Tuna in late summer.

And beyond...

Some of the best deep sea fishing in Southern California isn’t in California at all, but in Mexico. Charter boats in San Diego often make a run down to the Coronado Islands and other fishing grounds down south, typically spending several nights (or even weeks) on the water. Hardcore anglers get a thrill fishing for Bluefin and Yellowfin Tuna, Marlin, Mahi Mahi, monster Sharks, and other beasts on these trips. If you’re in the market for the trophy fish of a lifetime, a trip south of the border is right up your alley.

Freshwater Fishing in Southern California

Just when you thought it couldn’t get more epic, we’re here to tell you that fishing in Southern California is about more than deep sea excursions! Some of the state’s most productive lakes and reservoirs are to be found here, featuring record-breaking Bass and other fish.

Urban Lakes in LA

When you’ve had your fill of Hollywood Boulevard and Beverly Hills, head to one of LA’s well stocked lakes to meet an entirely different cast of celebrities. Big shots in these waters include Bass, Carp, Catfish, Panfish, Crappie, and Rainbow Trout. With Hollenbeck Park Lake and Echo Lake conveniently located near the center of town, you don’t even have to set foot outside of the city to enjoy great fishing around here.

For the best Bass fishing Southern California has in store, set your sights on Lake Castaic. This legendary fishing hole in Los Angeles County has seen many record-breaking fish over the years.

Other popular locations for freshwater fishing near Los Angeles include Legg Lake, Irvine Lake, and Lincoln Lake. If you’re looking for a quick get-away, head to the Angeles Crest National Forest or Los Padres National Forest for Trout, or cast your line in the Los Angeles River.

The Miramar Reservoir and More

Miramar Reservoir in San Diego features Florida-strain Largemouth Bass, Bluegill, Trout, Sunfish, and Catfish. And if that’s not enough to whet your appetite, consider the fact that one-fifth of the biggest Bass ever recorded came out of this reservoir. Six other record-breaking catches came from other waters in the county, as well. Be sure to check out Lake Morena, Lower Otay Lake, and El Capitan Reservoir for more freshwater fishing in Southern California.

Need to Know

Southern California fishing charters typically include tackle and bait. In some cases, there is an additional charge for these items on open boat (shared) charters.

Anglers age 16 and above must purchase a CA fishing license, available online and at licensed retailers. If you plan on lake fishing, please note that you may need to buy an additional permit.

When traveling to Mexico on a charter boat, be sure to pack your passport and confirm that the captain supplies a Mexican fishing permit for you.

California fishing regulations can change every year, so make sure any fish you would like to keep are legal to harvest before your trip. The season for Rockfish such as Lingcod, Cabezon, and California Sheepshead usually opens in spring. Other species are generally legal to fish for year-round, but may have size and bag limits.

No matter when or where you choose to cast a line around here, the fishing in Southern California is sure to keep you coming back for more!

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Southern California Fishing Seasons

Fishing in nearshore hot spots like the Huntington Flats and Santa Monica Bay is great from the get go. Start the year off right with a cooler full of Calico Bass, White Seabass, Halibut, and Lobster! 

With average temperatures well above 55°F, you may just have a chance to head farther from shore! Main catches still include Halibut, Calico Bass, and White Seabass. Rockfish must be released.

SoCal’s deep sea season is a ways away, but some anglers are already heading to Catalina Island for White Seabass, Halibut, and more! Rockfish season is just around the corner. 

In some years, Rockfish season may be open—giving anglers all the more reason to get on the water and catch Sheepshead, Cabezon, and Lingcod. Barracuda and early Yellowtail are starting to appear.

Things are really starting to heat up around the Channel Islands, and we don’t just mean the weather! Bluefin Tuna and monster Sharks are now joining Barracuda and Yellowtail offshore.

Inshore fishing is promising as always, and the scene offshore has never been better. Add Yellowfin Tuna and Marlin to your list and see what Catalina Island has in store.

Mahi Mahi appear for the blink of an eye in July. In some years, you may be able to find Albacore Tuna when you travel out far enough. Of course, there’s still plenty to keep you busy close to shore. 

You could practically cast a line with your eyes closed and you’re bound to hook into something around here! It’s Tuna, Marlin, Yellowtail, Shark, Seabass, Halibut, and Rockfish galore.

September brings a few big game species closer to shore than average, which makes this a great time to fish Horseshoe Kelp and the Catalina Channel for Yellowtail and Tuna.

Deep sea fishing is starting to wind down offshore, but you can still enjoy excellent fishing in any of the hot spots close to the coast. Rockfish, Halibut, and Bass are biting vigorously.

Your chance at a trophy may have passed, but November is a great time to bring home fresh seafood! Lobster season is open again, and Rockfish are still legal to keep along with Halibut.

Bottom fishing will produce a variety of delicacies for your holiday spread, including Halibut and Lingcod. Set some Lobster traps for an extra treat!

Southern California Fishing Calendar

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What People Are Saying About Southern California

"Rockfish trip with Captain Shaun"

Loose C. fished with Pelican Sportfishing on March 10, 2019

The fishing is always good in San Diego! Come down and give it a try!

"Fishing with Captain Dale."

Allen B. fished with Rockstar Fishing Charters on March 9, 2019

Go outside the Breakwater. But, then I have very, very limited experience to answer this question: just one time out I only know that in 3 hours we got very few bites, and only 1 caught fish.

"Half Day"

Michael A. fished with San Diego Charters on March 8, 2019

Very experienced Captain . Half Day trip caught a lot of Fish

"Nice trip"

Ron H. fished with San Diego Fishing Company on March 4, 2019

Take a private boat so a new angler can be taught properly how to fish by a Captain and crew that care

Top Targeted Species in Southern California

Halibut

Dolphin (Mahi Mahi)

Tuna (Bluefin)

Yellowtail Amberjack

Top Southern California Destinations