Best Deep Sea Fishing in California: The Ultimate Adventure Guide

Venturing into California’s deep-sea fishing experience is an exciting quest for seasoned fishers and a delightful initiation for newcomers. California’s coastal waters offer a rich tapestry of marine life, featuring a wide array of fish species.

The variety is astounding from the sturdy white sea bass, adaptable sand and calico bass, mighty bluefin and yellowfin tuna, and vibrant mahi mahi to the mysteriously elusive Pacific halibut.

When it comes to the prime time for deep-sea fishing in California, the timing is mostly influenced by the particular species you’re after and the specific location.

However, the summer months generally offer an enriched fishing experience, as warmer waters attract a greater diversity of fish species. So, if you’re contemplating an unparalleled deep-sea fishing adventure, summer in California may be your ideal time and place.

Best Deep Sea Fishing Locations in California

Fishing Boats in Newport Bay
Newport Bay

Southern California

Southern California is a great place for deep sea fishing. Some popular cities for fishing trips are San Diego, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Newport Beach, and Dana Point. 

The coastal waters of Southern California offer a variety of fish species, such as white sea bass, calico bass, sand bass, bluefin tuna, and yellowfin tuna. Summer is the best time for deep sea fishing, especially around Catalina Island.

Los Angeles and Newport Beach are great for targeting white seabass, while Long Beach offers productive fishing grounds like Huntington Flats and Santa Monica Bay. 

When planning a trip to Southern California, consider booking a private charter or joining a half or full day trip for the best experience.

Central California

Central California is another great fishing destination along the California Coast. The picturesque coastal towns like Morro Bay, Santa Barbara, and Bodega Bay are perfect for experienced anglers and beginners.

Offshore banks and the Channel Islands offer opportunities for catching big game fish like bluefin tuna and mahi-mahi. Inshore fishing trips target species like California Halibut and rock cod. 

Charter companies operating from Morro Bay and Santa Barbara can help arrange public and private fishing charters, providing all necessary fishing gear and experienced crew members.

Northern California

Northern California boasts several amazing deep sea fishing locations, including San Francisco Bay, Eureka, and the Farallon Islands. 

The area around the San Francisco Bay offers a multitude of fish species, such as red snapper and Pacific halibut. For anglers looking to target big fish, heading out to deeper water around the Farallon Islands is a great way to increase your chances.

The Klamath River near Eureka is ideal for those who prefer saltwater fishing and the winter months are best for fishing in this region. California halibut, white seabass, and even Pacific halibut can be found in these waters.

As with other areas in California, booking a private charter or joining a local fishing trip is highly recommended.

When embarking on a deep water fishing adventure in California, it’s a good idea to bring a valid fishing license, appropriate gear, and a positive attitude, regardless of your experience level or chosen location. 

Whether in Southern, Central, or Northern California, you will surely find an exciting and memorable deep sea fishing experience.

Popular Deep Sea Fishing Species

Happy Angler Holding a big Tuna


Deep sea fishing in California offers a variety of tuna species, including yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, and albacore. The best time to catch these big fish is during the summer months when they are most active. 

Experienced anglers often plan their fishing trips around this time, taking advantage of the great fishing opportunities near Catalina Island and Los Angeles. 

Private charters, such as full day trips or even multi-day excursions, are a popular option for targeting tuna, with many departing from Newport Beach and Dana Point.

Rockfish & Halibut

In addition to tuna, California’s coastal waters are home to rockfish and two halibut types: California and Pacific. These species are often targeted during deep-sea fishing trips, particularly around the Channel Islands, Morro Bay, and San Francisco Bay. 

Rockfish, also known as red snapper or rock cod, can be found around underwater structures, while halibut prefer sandy bottoms. 

Bottom fishing and drift fishing techniques are commonly employed by anglers to improve their chances of catching these fish. Half-day and full-day trips are suitable options for targeting these species.


California is also known for its many shark species, including mako sharks. The waters off the Southern California coast, particularly around San Clemente Island, provide great opportunities for shark fishing

Huntington Flats and Santa Monica Bay are also known for having a good population of mako sharks. 

Techniques for catching sharks include chumming and live bait fishing, and due to the size of these apex predators, experienced crew members on fishing charters are crucial for the safety of the anglers.


Salmon fishing is popular along the northern California coast, especially around the Golden Gate Bridge and the Klamath River. Chinook salmon, also known as king salmon and kokanee salmon, are the primary targets for anglers in this region. 

The best season for salmon fishing in California is generally in the late summer and fall months. Charter companies in the San Francisco Bay Area offer various trip options for salmon enthusiasts, ranging from half-day to full-day excursions.

Peak Fishing Season

Spring time fishing in California


Spring, particularly May, is an excellent time for deep sea fishing trips in California. During these months, experienced anglers often target species like calico bass, white sea bass, and sand bass in the coastal waters around Catalina Island and Los Angeles. 

The weather is mild, making it a pleasant time for fishing excursions.

Visiting Newport Beach or Dana Point is a great way to enjoy spring fishing in Southern California. These locations offer a range of options, from half-day to full day trips, and private charters for those seeking a more personalized experience.


Summer is arguably the best season for deep sea fishing in California. The coastal waters off Southern California, especially around San Diego Bay, provide a great place for catching bluefin tuna, mako sharks, and yellowfin tuna. 

During summer, anglers can enjoy great fishing as fish species move closer to the shoreline.

San Clemente Island and the Channel Islands offer many opportunities for deep-sea fishing during the summer. These areas are known for their productive offshore banks, rich biodiversity, and excellent sport fishing opportunities.


Fall offers anglers unique opportunities to target different fish species off the California coast. It’s also the best time to catch large northern California halibut, pacific halibut, and other deep-water dwellers.

The central coast of California, including Morro Bay and areas around the Klamath River, are prime spots for bottom fishing and big game fish hunting. Offshore waters near San Francisco Bay Area and Orange County continue to yield good catches throughout this season.

The fall season is also perfect for targeting smaller fish like red snapper, rock cod, and various coastal species. Fishing in coastal areas such as Santa Monica Bay, Huntington Flats, and the Long Beach area provide anglers with great experiences during this time.


While the winter months are considered off-peak for deep sea fishing in California, it is still a good time for anglers seeking a different kind of adventure. 

Species like red snapper and rock cod tend to thrive in colder waters, and locations like the Baja California region can offer great winter fishing experiences.

Winter fishing trips often require additional gear due to the colder weather, and it’s a good idea to invest in a fishing license before heading out. 

Despite these challenges, visiting the golden gate bridge around San Francisco or exploring Southern California waters in the winter can still be rewarding for those who wish to brave the chilly temperatures.

Fishing Guide: Best Deep Sea Fishing in the Caribbean

Fishing Techniques and Equipment

When it comes to deep sea fishing in California, there are a few standard techniques and essential equipment to help ensure a successful fishing trip. In this section, we’ll cover trolling and bottom fishing, as well as the best equipment to have on hand.


Boat Trolling in the Ocean

Trolling is a popular technique used by experienced anglers and private charters along the California coast. During your fishing trip, the boat will tow lures and baits behind it at varying speeds, usually between 4-10 knots, depending on the species targeted. 

Bluefin, yellowfin, and mahi-mahi are commonly caught using this technique, particularly during summer.

Some of the best spots for trolling include Catalina Island, Los Angeles, and Dana Point. San Clemente Island and the waters around the Channel Islands are also fruitful, offering offshore banks teeming with life. 

Great time for trolling is often during peak summer months when warmer waters attract bigger fish such as tuna and marlin.

When trolling, there are a few pieces of equipment to keep in mind:

  • Rods and Reels: Ideally, a 6 to 7-foot rod with a moderately fast action and a quality reel with a smooth, durable drag system.
  • Trolling Lures: Plugs, skirts, and feathered lures are popular choices and should be matched to the size of the targeted fish species.
  • Hooks: Quality hooks of appropriate size for the targeted species are crucial to ensure a successful catch.

Bottom Fishing

For those looking for a more stationary approach to deep sea fishing, bottom fishing often yields fantastic results. 

This technique involves dropping weighted baits and lures to the ocean floor, targeting white sea bass, calico bass, sand bass, rock cod, red snapper, and California halibut. 

Winter is a great time to target these bottom dwellers in coastal areas and around structures like reefs and wrecks.

Huntington Flats, Santa Monica Bay, and Morro Bay are great places for bottom fishing along the California coast. Central Coast of California, Los Angeles, and Orange County are also known for their rich bottom fishing grounds.

To be successful in bottom fishing, some essential equipment includes:

  • Rods and Reels: A 7 to 8-foot medium-heavy or heavy-action rod paired with a quality reel capable of holding adequate amounts of the line for the fished depths.
  • Weights: Sinkers or jig heads of appropriate weight to maintain contact with the ocean floor.
  • Hooks: Circle hooks are recommended for bottom fishing, as they improve catch rates and reduce the likelihood of gut-hooking fish.

Regardless of the fishing technique you choose, it’s always a good idea to invest in quality equipment, have a valid California fishing license, and use well-maintained gear during your deep sea fishing trip. 

Be bold and ask crew members for help, or to reach out to a local charter company for advice on the best spots and times to head out onto the water for an unforgettable California deep sea fishing experience.

Fishing Guide: Best Bass Fishing in California: 23 Top Lakes and Rivers

Guides, Charters, and Licenses

California is known for its excellent deep sea fishing opportunities, with numerous species to catch. To ensure you have a great time, knowing about the fishing guides, charter options, and licenses available for anglers in the state is essential.

Fishing Guides

Hiring a fishing guide can greatly enhance your deep sea fishing experience. Guides are experienced anglers familiar with the best fishing spots, such as Huntington Flats, Santa Monica Bay, and Morro Bay. 

They can teach you the techniques needed to catch various fish species, such as the elusive white seabass, bluefin tuna, or mahi mahi.

Like those in Redding, fishing guides offer guided trips for all experience levels, ensuring that novice and experienced anglers enjoy their time on the water. 

Fishing with a guide also provides access to top-notch fishing gear and knowledge of the best time for catching different fish species.

Charter Options

There are multiple California deep sea fishing charters that operate along the California coast, from Northern California to Baja California. Some popular areas for fishing charters are Newport Beach, Dana Point, Long Beach Area, and San Diego Bay. 

Anglers can choose from several charter options, including half-day trips, full-day trips, and multiday trips, depending on their preferences and the species they want to target.

Charter companies offer various packages, such as public and private charters, which cater to different fishing enthusiasts’ needs. 

Private charters are an excellent option for those who prefer a more personalized experience, while public charters are a great way to meet fellow anglers on the water.

Some charter companies provide additional services like fish cleaning, onboard heads, and even sunset cruises. 

When choosing a charter, consider essential factors like the crew members’ expertise, the best boat for the targeted species, and the charter’s proximity to the most productive fishing grounds, such as the Channel Islands, coastal areas, and offshore banks.

Fishing Licenses

In California, a fishing license is required for all anglers aged 16 and above when angling in the state’s waters. Licenses can be obtained from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) or through authorized license agents. 

There are several types of licenses, including one-day, two-day, ten-day, and annual options, allowing flexibility depending on the duration of your fishing trips.

While fishing in coastal waters and for saltwater species like white sea bass, sand bass, or yellowfin tuna, adhere to the bag limits, size limits, and other regulations the CDFW sets to protect marine resources. 

Regulations and Conservation

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area
Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area

Bag Limits

When planning deep sea fishing trips in California, it is essential to be aware of bag limits set by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. These limits are put in place to protect fish populations and ensure sustainable fishing. 

For example, in the San Francisco Bay Area, the bag limit for salmon fishing is typically two fish per person per day. The bag limit for sport fish like sand bass, calico bass, and white seabass in the Pacific Ocean may vary depending on the season and location. 

To have the best chance of catching big fish like bluefin tuna or mahi mahi, experienced anglers often opt for private charters with crew members who can guide them on bag limits and fishing regulations.

Sport Fish Status

California has designated numerous fish species as sport fish, meaning they can be targeted for recreational fishing trips. These fish include popular targets like bluefin tuna, and yellowfin tuna, and great fishing species such as mako sharks and anchovies. 

The best time to target sport fish like calico bass or white seabass is during summer when fishing conditions in coastal waters like Catalina Island, Los Angeles, and Newport Beach are most favorable. 

Many anglers schedule full day trips during this season to improve their chances of a great catch.

Conservation Efforts

Conservation efforts have been implemented along the California coast to protect fish habitats and ensure sustainable deep-sea fishing. These efforts include species management, fishing gear regulations, and seasonal closures.

  • Species Management: Many deep water fish species, like red snapper and rock cod, are managed by establishing size and bag limits and enforcing minimum size requirements for capture.
  • Fishing Gear: Regulations on fishing gear types help reduce the impact of deep-sea fishing on the Pacific Ocean’s ecosystem. Some restrictions apply to nets, hooks, and other equipment.
  • Seasonal Closures: Certain areas, such as the Klamath River and offshore waters around the San Francisco Bay Area, Orange County, and San Diego Bay, are closed during specific periods to protect fish populations during their spawning seasons.

By following the regulations and respecting conservation efforts, anglers can enjoy great fishing experiences in California waters while protecting the local ecosystem for future generations. 

Whether inshore fishing for smaller fish or deep water fishing for big game fish like Pacific halibut, the California coast offers ample opportunities for fishing enthusiasts of all experience levels.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the top locations for deep sea fishing in Southern California?

Southern California offers a variety of deep sea fishing options. Los Angeles, Newport Beach, Dana Point, and San Diego Bay are the best locations. Catalina Island is also popular due to its diverse fish species and coastal waters. Great fishing spots like Santa Monica Bay, Huntington Flats, and the offshore banks surrounding the Channel Islands make these areas a favorite for experienced anglers.

Which Northern California destinations offer prime deep sea fishing?

Northern California also has many great deep-sea fishing destinations. Morro Bay, San Francisco Bay Area, and the Central Coast of California are known for their great fishing opportunities. Popular spots include the Klamath River, offshore waters near the Golden Gate Bridge, and deeper water areas off the coast of Baja California.

When is the peak season for deep sea fishing in California?

The peak season for deep sea fishing in California varies depending on your target fish species. Generally, summer offers the best fishing for species like bluefin tuna, mahi-mahi, and white sea bass. However, you can still find good fishing during the winter months for species like California and Pacific halibut.

How much does it typically cost for a deep sea fishing trip in California?

Deep sea fishing trips in California can vary in price, depending on trip duration, boat size, and the type of charter service you choose. Typically, half-day trips range from $50 to $100 per person, while full-day trips can cost anywhere between $100 and $300 per person. Private charters will usually cost more but provide a more personalized experience.

What can I expect to catch during a deep sea fishing trip in California?

California coastal waters are home to a wide variety of fish species. The most common fish caught during a deep sea fishing trip includes white seabass, calico bass, sand bass, red snapper, rock cod, and mahi-mahi. Depending on the time of year and the area you’re fishing, you may also encounter bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, mako sharks, and various species of sharks.

Are there any highly recommended deep sea fishing charter services in California?

There are many deep-sea fishing charter services available in California. Some highly recommended ones include charter companies operating out of Los Angeles, Newport Beach, Dana Point, San Francisco Bay Area, and Morro Bay. These companies often offer a range of fishing trips and services catering to different experience levels, providing an enjoyable and memorable experience for first-timers and seasoned anglers.

Cory is a content writer-editor and founder of Tackle Box Talk. Favorite Quote: "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime."

Leave a Comment