Note: Some charters on this list may have limited operations due to COVID-19. Check with operators about availability before you book.
San Diego’s picturesque coastline, temperate climate and its reputation as a year-round fishery make this a top destination for anglers. Peak season lasts from late April through the fall, with July through September being the most popular sportfishing months. Spring and summer are when the warmer southern waters push north, and highly sought-after fish, such as yellowtail, yellowfin tuna and mahi-mahi, travel with them.
Despite the variety of fish you could catch, no fish is more desirable than the bluefin tuna. Trophy bluefin tuna weigh between 250 and 300 pounds and are consistently caught closer to shore during one- or three-day trips, meaning it’s not always necessary to book a prolonged adventure to capture your prize. Some anglers have even battled to reel in bluefin tuna weighing more than 400 pounds, when years ago, the average size class was between 50 and 60 pounds.
Inshore fishing trips last four to nine hours. These trips travel a maximum of 10 miles to the Point Loma and La Jolla kelp beds and artificial reefs. The species in these waters, depending on the season, include rockfish, white seabass, calico bass, California halibut and corbina, barracuda and yellowtail. There are also plentiful waters around Mission Bay, just several miles from shore.
Anglers in search of large trophy fish will want to head offshore on extended trips lasting eight to 12 hours or longer. In the summertime, the waters surrounding San Clemente and Catalina islands are teeming with mahi-mahi, yellowtail, and bluefin and yellowfin tuna. Some charter companies also offer overnight excursions, multiday trips and extended adventures that stay at sea for two to three weeks. And while long-range trips are available year-round, they are more common in the winter months when the waters around San Diego are cool. During this time, boats head south to Hurricane Bank and the islands off the coast of Baja in search of the big prize.
Many companies give travelers the option to book a private charter. If you don’t mind sharing deck space with other anglers, you can also book semiprivate charters, known as “open party” or “party boat” trips.
The U.S. Coast Guard requires that all anglers have a valid photo ID while on a boat in U.S. waters. The state of California also requires a state fishing license for anyone 16 or older. If the charter enters Mexican waters, a Mexican fishing license is required. Anglers may also need to obtain a Mexican visa (FMM), depending on the trip. Licenses and visas are additional charges. Some companies include these fees in their charter price, so check with your company before you book. Some companies also state that passengers must carry a U.S. passport while on board. Additionally, you’ll want to check your charter’s other restrictions (such as whether you can bring your own food) and additional fees (such as equipment and tackle rental).
Fortunately, most charter companies take care of obtaining all of the necessary licenses and visas, so all you need to do is show up at the landing ready to cast a line. U.S. News identified the following outings as the best available, consulting both expert opinion and traveler sentiment. No matter what type of fish you are trying to hook, there’s plenty to be caught.
H&M Landing’s fleet of more than 30 charter vessels makes it one of the most extensive charter companies in San Diego. These boats can accommodate between six and 149 passengers and are available for a wide variety of fishing trips. The company’s half-day open party sportfishing excursion carries a maximum of 40 passengers. The price starts at $60 per person. A private half-day charter for six anglers costs approximately $1,000. Participants praise the professional captain and crew, saying they work hard to locate the fish. Reviewers also enjoy the food and beverages available on the boat. H&M also offers multiday fishing trips and ecotourism excursions for whale watching.
Boundless Boat Charters’ family-friendly fishing excursions are limited to four passengers, meaning there’s plenty of space for everyone to comfortably reel in their catch. The company runs morning and afternoon trips that last 5 1/2 hours (perfect for first-timers or young anglers), nine-hour trips offshore or to Mexico’s Coronado Islands, and a full-day (12-hour) deep-sea fishing outing. Each charter includes an ice chest for drinks (plus you’re welcome to bring your own), gear, and bait and tackle. The prices range depending on the length of your charter. Half-day trips start at $800. Anglers rave about the clean boat and knowledgeable and accommodating captain, who is always on the lookout for the best fishing spots. Many people comment that they will be booking another trip with Boundless Boat Charters in the future. In addition to fishing charters, you can book a lobster charter or take a whale and dolphin watching cruise with the company.
Coletta Sportfishing offers daily private charters on both its boats. Coletta is family-friendly and caters to all experience levels; the captain and crew will teach young and first-time anglers the basics of sportfishing. Outings range from half-day trips (5 1/2 hours) to full-day (12-hour) charters. The full-day options take patrons on either an offshore excursion or down to Mexican waters. There’s a maximum of six passengers for all charters. Prices are seasonal and will vary depending on the length of your charter. Fees start at $925 for four people on a half-day trip to $2,475 for a daylong trip for four anglers. Note: If you wish to bring five or six anglers, there will be additional fees. Reviewers applaud the experienced and safety-minded captain and crew. They also praise the crew for its ability to find the fish. Reserve two boats to accommodate a large group.
Fisherman’s Landing offers a wide variety of charters, ranging from half- and full-day trips to multiday adventures (up to four days). These longer outings take anglers offshore between 30 and 200 miles along the Baja Coast in search of large fish like striped marlin and bluefin tuna. Most participants comment that the crew is helpful and work hard to make the trip a great experience, especially for first-timers. Some say that even though they didn’t catch many fish, they enjoyed the food and beer on board the boat. Prices start at $60 per person for the half-day morning or afternoon trip, about $230 for a full-day outing (12 to 15 hours) and approximately $350 per person, per day for a three-day adventure. Availability for each outing varies by day and time of year. Fisherman’s Landing also offers several types of private charters, including whale watching and dinner sunset cruises.
This company offers San Diego Bay and inshore fishing trips, as well as longer offshore outings to the Coronado Islands. The bay charters afford incredible views of the Southern California coastline and excellent fishing opportunities (the bay’s waters brim with halibut and seabass). These four-hour private charters, which start at $800, are available in the mornings and afternoons and accommodate six anglers. The price for a six-hour inshore excursion for four passengers is approximately $950. Expect to pay $1,100 for six people. Extended charters range from an eight-hour offshore U.S. and Mexico trip (around $1,300) to a full-day Coronado Islands excursion for four passengers at $1,900. Anglers praise the captain for his knowledge and experience. They also appreciate the spacious boat. San Diego Charters also offers a two-hour bay cruise and four-hour whale watching charter.
The Long Run Sportfishing
Long Run Sportfishing has two boats, each offering a variety of fishing charter trips. There are nine options on the 42-foot boat, the Long Run. These include four- or six-hour bay cruises, shark fishing, overnight offshore and two-day offshore adventures. The cost for these charters starts at $600 for six passengers on the four-hour bay cruise. There’s an additional $25 charge per passenger with a maximum of up eight people. The two-day offshore adventure costs about $5,500 and accommodates up to six passengers.
The 31-foot Witchy Woman is available for six excursions that include bay cruises, inshore and local offshore trips and a full-day (11-hour) outing to San Clemente Island in search of bluefin tuna. Prices on the Witchy Woman range from $900 for the four-hour bay cruise to $2,500 for a full-day trip. This boat can accommodate six anglers. If you don’t mind fishing with other travelers, you can also take advantage of company’s semiprivate charters. Reviewers rave about the accommodating and adept captain and crew. Some say it’s the best fishing experience they’ve ever had.
Anglers can choose between four different party boat trips ranging from half-day excursions to overnight offshore and tuna trips with Point Loma Sportfishing. A select number of boats within the company’s fleet run multiday trips that last from four to 23 days. Half-day charters, which are available daily, start at $70 per person. Full-day trips (12 hours) cost about $200. The cost for extended charters ranges from $630 per person for a two-day excursion to $5,420 for 16 days at sea. Additional pricing is available online or by request. Reviewers appreciate the skilled captain and crew, who travelers say work hard to locate the fish. Passengers who booked one of the company’s long trips described the food and beverages as top-notch, and said it is a bucket-list experience. Point Loma Sportfishing also offers ecotours and whale watching charters on its ketch sailboat.
Seaforth Sportfishing offers open party boat trips of different lengths, including half-day trips and full-day outings. Outings vary daily, so refer to the company’s online schedule. Prices start at $60 per person for a half-day of fishing; a full-day trip costs about $200. One overnight on the boat is around $270 per person while the 1 1/2 day trip starts at $370. Most reviewers offer positive comments about their experience with Seaforth, praising the clean boats and patient crew. Others complain of inconsistent customer service. The company also offers private charters. Depending on the size of the boat, six to 70 anglers can cast a line. Prices for the charters vary, but you can expect to pay at least $1,100 for a half-day trip for six people, while a full-day trip for six anglers starts at $2,300.
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