Winter Fishing in San Diego
In and around San Diego Bay, Mission Bay,
and the local banks and islands.
Hello everyone, Nick here with tips and tricks to have a great winter sport-fishing season. In this article we will discuss what species are available to catch, where we go to hunt them, and exactly how you go about putting them on the deck of the boat. Often times, winter fishing is more difficult than the warmer months, due to the colder weather conditions and colder water temperatures. Rest assured though that with a little perseverance, you can land yourself a nice 5-50 lb fish. We are talking halibut, lingcod, white sea-bass, rockfish, shark, yellowtail, sheepshead, and many other local species. Choose either a private party or open party deep sea fishing trip.
Can you fish in the winter?
Not only can you fish during the winter, but you will find the prices are much lower, and the crowds are gone! Often times, winter fishing is more difficult than the warmer months, due to the colder weather conditions and colder water temperatures. That is why the crowd is much thinner. No tourist either, mostly just San Diego locals. Rest assured though that with a little perseverance, you can land yourself a nice 5-50 lb fish. Our company is offering 1/2 Day, 3/4 Day, and Full Day trips departing daily every single day throughout the winter fishing season. As always we have a fleet of PRIVATE PARTY boats available to you. We will also be offering shared OPEN PARTY four, six, and 12 passenger charters, running from both Mission Bay and San Diego Bay. Winter fishing is a big part of our sport fishing season. We hope you will come and join us.
Most fish are caught during warmer months rather than winter, but fishing during the cold seasons has advantages too. Cold doesn't mean you need to put away your fishing gear at the end of the season! All serious fishermen should try the winter fish. This brief guide will give you information on fishing during winter as well as discuss some commonly asked topics.
Find the Right Time to Go.
Winter fishing is all about timing. It is more important than anything else to time your trip during a fair weather window! While some people don't have an open schedule, for those of us that do, this can make all the difference. A glance at a forecast can determine how productive a day will likely be. Keep in mind that while good fish conditions are not always the best, certain conditions will definitely increase the chances of success. Weather fronts impact activity levels across all species. Most fish are active before and later on but not during a weather window. The best thing to do is to check your 10 day forecast, and if it look good, book it! The closer your trip is to today, the more accurate the weather prediction, so go as soon as you can. Winter weather can be unpredictable, so pick your date carefully.
Winter Fishing Tips and Tactics
Fishing in the winter can be rewarding in various ways. Cold temperatures keep good weather anglers home and the tourist at bay. During the coolest days of the season, preparation, research and appropriate gear are necessary to make an unforgettable fishing trip.
Use lighter test line, and you will get more bites. If you are targeting a larger size species, use a lighter line followed by a more stout leader to get the job done.
Fish on the edge of kelp forest, that is where the sand bass, calico bass, sheepshead, and seabass hang out. You can either use an artificial lure, or live bait on a free line. Present your bait close to the edge of the underwater kelp forest, but no to close, so that more fish can see it. The fish will be hanging out just inside the kelp forest looking out, so about 20 feet away from the edge will get the most eyeballs on your bait. For this type of fishing 10-20 lb test line on a light rig is all you will need.
Fish on the local rock beds for a huge assortment of species. These include rockfish, lingcod, halibut, shark, whitefish. Your best bet here is to use a two speed reel so that you can use the high speed gear to easily and quickly pull your bait up from the depths when you need to change bait, or use low gear if you have a couple of fat ones on the hook. Oh yes, its good advise to run a double hook setup for this. Lead at the bottom, first hook about a foot up, and a second hook about 2 feet up. Use a large slip knot to put the hooks about six inches off the main line. Bottom fishing for the win.
Fish on sand bottom for Halibut. If you specifically want to target halibut, keep in mind that they like both shallow water and deep water. But one thing is certain, they like a nice smooth sand bottom, that is also somewhat near structure of some kind. Believe it or not Halibut fishing with San Diego Bay is very good! Also, all along the outside of the jetty you will find many good spots. Also, while other people are fishing for rockfish, if you cast away from the rock pile, and land your bait on sand, that is a perfect setup.
Use squid and live bait for bottom fishing and use artificial lures and live bait for surface fishing. Use smaller baits. During winter fishing, most species chase easier prey that take less energy to catch. Using a huge piece of squid will only slow you down. Using the biggest piece of live bait in the tank will also deter good results. The biggest thing you will need is patience.
Wear layered clothing. Jeans over shorts. Jacket over hoodie over t shirt. You can dress down or dress up as needed. The most important thing is to keep your line in the water, and you can do that when you are cold.
Wear polarized sunglasses. It may not be hot, but is can be cold and clear. The sun bouncing off the water creates a glare that prevents you from seeing your quarry. Polarized glasses help a lot with this, and cut the glare as an added bonus.
Get your fishing license online and early to make your morning relaxed the day of fishing.
Cold water make fish slower, and you have to have more patience then a warm water bite.
Don't try and target one species, fish the bottom or fish the surface, take your pick.
What kind of fish species can you catch during the winter fishing season?
Winter fishing offers a huge smorgasbord of species to catch. On one trip, you may have access to over a dozen kinds of fish. We will list some of the most popular San Diego choices. There are many more species on than this list that you may catch, but these are the most common. See the list below;
Calico Bass, Stripped Bass, Spotted Bass , Sand Bass, are all main stays of the San Diego winter fishing scene. The main reason why, is some people don't like to go rock fishing. They say its boring, they say its too easy, well I have no comment on that. I like rock fishing, but its true if you want a more challenging fish that will absolutely put up a strong fight, then look no further than the Calico Bass. I personally have seen one that was 9lbs, but most of them are in the 3-6lb class. Perfect for a light rod and reel, running 10lb test. The two most popular methods of catching this fish are live bait on a hook with a very small lead, that is free-lined slowly to the bottom and then retrieved quickly. Alternatively there are a myriad of artificial lures for saltwater bass fishing.
Yes, you can catch yellowtail all winter if you following these fishing tips. My top recommendation to specifically target this species is the Coronado Islands in Mexico. You will need a passport to go, but it is worth it. The scenery of the island is amazing, the fishing spot you will be at is protected from both wind and swell, and the fishing is awesome. This is one of the only locations to consistently score yellowtail almost year round. Other winter spots include San Clemente and Santa Catalina islands, and the Rock Pile in Mexican waters. Follow these fishing tips when going for Yellowtail, run slightly heavier test line, and run medium size tackle with a solid drag!
SURFACE FISHING YELLOWTAIL WITH LIVE BAIT
The most common way of fishing for "Yellows" is live bait. Although you can rarely get it, live squid is like candy to them. Alternatively, Anchovy, Sardine or even small Mackerel with little or no sinker, using small hooks and light line, is your best bet. To get your live bait further from the boat, or if you are casting on patties, try adding a small cramp-on split shot, rubber core or sliding egg lead. After Yellowtail have been confirmed in the area, a crew member will cut small chunks or throw live bait into the water so that chum bait is constantly streaming behind the boat. Chumming is a great way to catch California yellowtail. If you see one of our deckhands chumming bait in this manner, be on the ready with iron and a good casting rod. Keep your eyes open, as they will often surface and be within sight. Drop an iron right on top of his head, and you will probably get a bite.
By scanning the water behind the boat, you can sometimes eyeball yellowtail coming in close to inhale chunks. Get a hooked bait in front of one of these brazen yellowtails as quickly as possible.
I can recommend several spots right off the top of my head. The Rockpile and the Coronado Islands in Mexico is year round two of the best places I know of to catch them. Passport required for these aforementioned trips. If you don't want to go into Mexico, the Nine Mile Bank also holds them and it is in U.S. Waters, no passport required. There are also a huge number of secretly guarded spots that are much closer.
Ask your crew for pointers on the hot setup, which may be live bait, or live squid if you can get it. Be patient, the fish is worth it. While you are down there, you will also be simultaneously fishing for many other species that have a hunger for the same bait.
Once you do catch one, be sure to check out its camouflage pattern that makes it such an effective deep water hunter, and a beautiful and unique game fish native to Socal.
These oddly colored fish fight heavier than their weight. If you hook into a 10-30lb Lingcod, you will be what feels like a much bigger fish. Woe to the angler who hooks one of these monsters on super light line. Remember I was telling you to end your line with a heavier leader, this fish is the reason why. With a solid hook up, you will eventually get him over the side. At that time you will see one of the most beautiful colored fish species there is. Did I mention that this fish is great to eat, and considered a delicacy. The meat is sometimes tinted blue. Fish tacos come to mind.
These flat fish love winter fishing. In fact, most of all Halibut is a winter fish. They can be caught in 3 feet or 300 feet of water and prefer sandy bottom that are near kelp beds or other structure that hold the bait fish they feed on. Although, in the shallows you can find them lurking just about anywhere, even if no structure is around. In the waters around San Diego there are some big halibut! Both inside San Diego Bay, along the harbor mouth rocks, and on the sand bottom anchorage to the south of the mouth of San Diego Bay. If you want to go further out, and away from the crowds, their are several sand bottom areas next to rock beds that allow you to fish for rockfish, lingcod, and halibut, all at the same time. Winter fishing does not get better than that. Lastly, as I am sure you know, it tastes good! A halibut steak will be your reward if you land one. The pictures here answer the question of can you fish in the winter. The answer is undoubtedly yes.
Rockfish love the cold water, and are one of the main stays of winter fishing off the coast of San Diego. The reasons are numerous. They are the most plentiful, easiest to catch, best tasting fish on the menu. Perfect for beginners and kids who just want to catch some fish, and a lot of them. On good days you will pull 2-5 lb rockfish up 2 at a time. Fishing on the same rock pile will also yield Lingcod, and Halibut, and Whitefish. Sometimes when running multiple hooks you can pull up multiple species also! Anyway, did you know that fish tacos are traditionally made from this fish species, and for good reason, there is no better fish taco.This fishery is open to boat-based anglers from March 1, 2022 through December 31, 2022
It is not uncommon to catch limits!
Each fish can weight between 3 and 6 lbs.
All you can eat!
We clean and bag it. Endless tacos!
This species is almost exclusively caught during the winter months when the water is very clear and calm, in shallow water under 100 feet. Islands with kelp forest provide the best home for these fish. The best place to go for this species during the winter is the backside of Catalina Island just south of Two harbors. This is my favorite place to catch them and has always been the most productive. Other spots include the back side of San Clemente, and with a passport, the local coastlines past Rosarito..
Bluefin and Yellowfin are generally considered a summer fish, and they are. But if you have deep pockets and the will to go, we can send you on a 9 day trip down south to find them, even during the middle of winter, when the water is like ice in San Diego, the far south is holding our favorite pelagic species still! The trip can go down as far as Cabo if you like. You will also enjoy catching all the other usual summer suspects like tuna, marlin, dorado and yellowtail! All food and alcohol is included on these VIP trips. The vessel is comfortable, and the food is good.
The main season for swordfish off southern California is roughly from late summer into fall and winter. This is a trophy fish, a once in a life time catch. There are few fish on the planet earth that can put on such an aerial show and have the strength and speed of a swordfish. Weather you decide to release it, or keep the meat, you will always savor the fond memory of catching this rare angler's dream fish. The best location to catch them is the nine mile bank and the inner banks only 15-50 miles offshore. Search for good readings on the sonar, and then drop your bait down to 500 feet using downriggers, and wait! It will only be matter of time before your successful. Keep in mind, this is one of the more difficult ones to hookup.
Believe it or not, that is me. I caught this fish on the Little G in route to Cabo on a nine day trip. I was the helmsman every night for a nine hour shift. I still had the strength to wrestle this monster on the boat to land my first Marlin. It was a very memorable trip and I can PERSONALLY recommend the Little G, Multi Day Trips, into Mexican Waters. These trips run way later than the Socal Fishing season, and the further south you go, the more Marlin you will find. Dorado too. They seem to like to run together. In this video you see the nicest fish I ever caught.
OPEN PARTY SPORT FISHING
Dont have enough people to fill a six pack? No problem! We offer open party four and six pack charters where you can team up with other people to catch fish and SAVE MONEY.
Answer a few questions, no credit card required to sign up. Go Fish.
Your child will thank you for taking them fishing because our crew will MAKE SURE they have a good time and help them try to land fish!
We will provide instruction on how to hold the rod, put on bait, lower the bait, and how to reel it up once there is a fish on.
Join an open party or get a four or six pack private party and head out to sea for your begginers, that still yields the big ones, as you can see in the pictures here.
Age 15 and below
get a free fishing license!
ADULT SUPERVISION is required for all children 18 years or less. Passengers under 50 lbs, must provide their own USCG approved child life preserver for each child. No exceptions please.
Winter Fishing Advantages
Fishing during the cold winter weather has many advantages. I have a list of important ones.
No crowds or tourist.
Good fishing weather.
Variety of Species
Cold and clear
Come and take advantage from Fall to Spring!
Fall and winter Fishing Summarized
I hope this informative article answers the age old question of "Can you fish in the winter?" Don't let cold weather stop you! Winter fishing is a rewarding way to spend time on the water with your family and friends. San Diego is the perfect location for winter fishing because the temperature is mild! Don't spend the winter months inside by a fire, come with us and lets go catch some fish. Stay warm out there, have a great time, and see you on the water.