The sportfishing fleet consists of more than 75 large commercial vessels and several dozen private charter yachts; a variety of half-, full-, and multiday trips are available. The saltwater fishing season kicks off each spring with the traditional Port of San Diego Day at the Docks, held the last weekend in April or at the beginning of May at Sportfishing Landing, near Shelter Island; for more information, call tel. 619/234-8793, or visit www.sportfishing.org. Anglers of any age can fish free of charge without a license off any municipal pier in California. Public fishing piers are on Shelter Island (where there's a statue dedicated to anglers), Ocean Beach, and Imperial Beach.
An ideal time for fishing is summer or fall, when the waters around Point Loma are brimming with bass, bonito, and barracuda. The Islas los Coronados, which belong to Mexico but are only about 18 miles from San Diego, are popular for yellowtail, yellowfin, and big-eyed tuna. Some outfitters will take you farther into Baja California waters on multiday trips (a world-record tuna -- 405.2 pounds -- was caught on a long-range trip out of San Diego in 2010). Fishing charters depart from Harbor and Shelter Islands, Point Loma, the Imperial Beach pier, and Quivira Basin in Mission Bay (near the Hyatt Islandia Hotel). Participants 17 and over need a California fishing license.
Rates for trips on a large boat average $42 for a half-day trip or $95 for a three-quarter-day trip, or you can spring $135 to $195 for a 20-hour overnight trip to the Coronados -- call around and compare prices. Discounts are offered for kids and for twilight sailings; charters or "limited load" rates are also available. The following outfitters offer short or extended outings with daily departures: H&M Landing, 2803 Emerson St. (tel. 619/222-1144; www.hmlanding.com); Point Loma Sportfishing, 1403 Scott St. (tel. 619/223-1627; www.pointlomasportfishing.com); and Seaforth Sportfishing, 1717 Quivira Rd. (tel. 619/224-3383; www.seaforthlanding.com). Check in with Lee Palm Sportfishers, 2801 Emerson St. (tel. 619/224-3857; www.redrooster3.com), if you want to hit the high seas for a 3- to 16-day outing. All of these shops rent tackle.
For freshwater fishing, San Diego's lakes and rivers are home to bass, channel and bullhead catfish, bluegill, trout, crappie, and sunfish. Most lakes have rental facilities for boats, tackle, and bait, and they also provide picnic and (usually) camping areas. A 1-day California State Fishing License costs $14, a 2-day is $22, and a 10-day, nonresident license is $43. For information on lake fishing, call the city's Lakes Line tel. 619/465-3474.
For more information on fishing in California, contact the California Department of Fish and Game (tel. 858/467-4201; www.dfg.ca.gov). For fishing in Mexican waters, including the area off the Coronado Islands, angling permits are required. Most charter companies will take care of the details, but if not, contact the Mexican Department of Fisheries, 2550 Fifth Ave., Ste. 15, San Diego, CA 92103-6622 (tel. 619/233-4324; www.conapescasandiego.org).
Note: California has rolled out its Automated License Data System, an ATM-like console that issues fishing licenses. Many small outfitters and shops will not be furnished with these machines, so call ahead. Licenses can also be purchased online; call tel. 858/467-4201 or go to www.dfg.ca.gov for information.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.