San Diego County Saltwater Action

by Capt. David Bacon

San Diego is a warm wonderful place to begin. Its claim to fishing fame is the “long-range” fleet. These are huge modern fishing platforms with accommodations comparable to cruise ships. They take passengers down the Pacific coast of Baja, Mexico, on luxury trips of three to twenty eight days, to battle huge Yellowfin tuna, Wahoo, dorado, yellowtail, marlin, and a vast variety of other gamefish. Many styles of fishing are employed on these memorable trips, including trolling, live-bait and chunk-bait fishing at anchor, run-and-shoot jig fishing on free-floating kelp patties, and inshore fishing near kelp forests and boiler rocks. Figure on bringing about half a tackle store with you.

The peak of many an angler's fishing career has been a stand-up battle with a 200 plus pound Yellowfin tuna on a long-range trip. This sounds like it should rank somewhere between difficult and impossible. That is entirely true, however, a whole spectrum of specialty gear has been designed to keep the task closer to the difficult end of the range, rather than impossible. This wild fishery has spawned short fast-taper tuna sticks, matched with high quality two-speed reels, wielded by anglers wearing harnesses which allow their weight to be leveraged against the fish. All of this allows a man or woman of average physical condition to win a stoic battle with a gorilla tuna. Now that is an adrenaline rush!

When a long-range trip doesn't fit within your time schedule or budget, the sportfishing landings in the San Diego County harbors (San Diego Bay, Mission Bay, and Oceanside) offer half-day, ¾ day, all-day, or overnight coastal and island fishing excursions. Local topwater action includes bonito and barracuda. The kelp beds and rocky structure spots produce calico bass and white Seabass. Sandy bottom areas turn out sand bass and halibut.

Light tackle in the 10 to 15 pound range is favored along the south coast and makes the fight with these mid-size fish memorable. Our stand-up, light tackle fishing style is well served by an innovative tackle industry producing specialty jigs, spoons, plastics tails on leadhead hooks, and a host of other irresistible objects. I promise future articles devoted specifically to tackle and techniques for our unique fishing culture.

During the late summer and early fall, these trips sometimes also offer a chance at yellowtail and pelagic tuna species such as Bluefin, Bigeye, and albacore as they pass near our shores. Now that the international mid-Pacific drift gillnet industry is somewhat scaled back and regulated, albacore stocks are rebounding, and the Southern California sportfishing industry anxiously awaits a return to the glory years of sizzling summer albacore runs.

Picture above: Capt. David Bacon takes a "grump" sand bass near shore on a live anchovy.

Harbors and bays are fun places to fish from shore, pier, or skiff. The best way to approach these fisheries is to visit one of the local tackle/bait shops, buy some bait and tackle, and ask a lot of questions. Knowledgeable local anglers also frequent these shops and exchange information that will help you find the best spots and know how to work them. You may find, for example, that a local tackle manufacturer has developed a specialty plastic body for use on a light leadhead, and nothing else compares when it comes to catching spotted bay bass. Always go with local info.

Sportfishing services in San Diego County

San Diego Bay

Fisherman's Landing
2838 Garrison St.
San Diego, CA 92106
(619) 224-1421

H&M Landing
2803 Emerson
San Diego, CA 92106
(619) 222-1144

Point Loma Sportfishing
1403 Scott St.
San Diego, CA 92106
(619) 223-1627

Mission Bay

Islandia Sportfishing
1551 W. Mission Bay Drive
San Diego, CA 92109
(619) 222-1164

Seaforth Landing
1717 Quivira Rd.
San Diego, CA 92109
(619) 224-3383

Oceanside Harbor

Helgren's Oceanside Sportfishing
315 Harbor Drive
Oceanside, CA
(619) 722-2133