Spearfishing in San Diego: All You Need to Know

Spearfishing in San Diego

Spearfishing is extremely popular in the USA, and there are many reasons for that. From wide coastal areas to laws that allow it, there is everything you need.

I will not explain what is spearfishing because I assume that you already know, and i'll go straight to the best location to do it in California.

Spearfishing in San Diego is popular because it is suitable for everyone. There are fish species and locations for beginners, as well as for those who are experienced and want to catch some of the larger and very challenging species in tough conditions.

Of course, some legal requirements apply, and you have to obey the law no matter where you are and what fish you are catching.

Also, make sure to know the dangers of spearfishing and make safety of you and those around you your highest priority.

Here I will tell you more about all of this so that you can go well prepared!



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Is Spearfishing Legal in San Diego?

Before going into details, lets discuss is spearfishing legal in San Diego. The answer is YES, it is! US has some of the least restrictive laws in the world, and this place is not and exception. You can spearfish basically anywhere as long as you are not entering protected marine areas.

However, some species are off limits and illegal to catch. Examples are giant sea bass, billfish, and some species of rock fish. You can find all the details on official websites where you can check all the requirements stated by authorities.

Unlike many other places, California allows spearfishing with scuba gear, so your options are almost unlimited. Because of popularity this sport has, you can find licensed guides who will take you to some of the best places and help you get to know all local spearfishing rules.

Do you Need a License for Spearfishing in San Diego?

Spearfishing in San Diego is allowed only to holders of a valid license. Luckily the license can be easily obtained.

I would advise all of you who are traveling to California to do it online, as that is the easiest way. But, if that is not an option for you, you can get the license in almost anywhere. From local tackle and bait stores to supermarkets like Walmart.

There is no special spearfishing license, and you can do it with regular saltwater fishing license. If you plan to spearfish longer than three days, you have to pay for Ocean Enhancement Validation. Of course, you have to obey closed season, size and bag limit, and all other restrictions stated by the authorities.

If you like lobster, and plan to get a few while under water, you need report cards.

How Much is a License for Spearfishing in San Diego?

Best spearfishing in San Diego is the one where you don’t have to worry that you will be caught by the authorities for not having a license.

Spearfishing license is the most expensive for non-residents. Residents can get it a bit cheaper, where even lower rates apply to some special categories of spearos. Only younger than 16 are exempt from having it.

One- and two-day licences cost the same for both residents and non-residents and can be bought for $17 and $27. License for 10 days is sold to non-residents for $54. Residents can get a yearly license for the same price.

Another resident benefit is the option to buy lifetime license. Price varies depending on your current age. Veterans, low-income seniors, and mobility impaired people can get license at a reduced fee for only $8.

As you can see, prices are fair, and there is no point fishing without one. Lobster cards can be bought for $10, and Ocean Enhancement for $6. Those are necessary for ocean access in some areas.

What Fish Can You Spear Fish in San Diego?

San Diego spearfishing offers a variety of species, depending on your skill level and equipment used.

Here are the most popular:


This fish is suitable for both beginners and experienced spearos. But that doesn’t mean that they are easy to catch. It is quite contrary. These fish hide well, and you will have to put a lot of effort in locating and targeting one. Sheephead and Sargo are another excellent option for beginners. Ant the best of all, these species can be caught year-round.

You can find them close to the shores. Halibut is often present in sandy areas around cliffs and rock formations, while sheephead are found around reefs and kelp beds. Unlike halibut, these are active hunters, and they actively move around.


This may not be for a beginner, but experienced spearos will love some offshore game fish like yellowtail. They are found when the water gets warmer, but you can’t catch them near the cost. You need a boat and the ability to dive deeper.

Smaller ones can sometimes come closer to the shores but try not to catch “babies”. Although not suitable for complete beginners, yellowfin is a starting point for those who are progressing from shore to open water. They are not afraid of people, and you can see them swimming towards you so catching them is easy when compared to other offshore species.


If you are up for a big challenge, think about bluefin. They come around between May and October, but those fierce predators are not easy to catch.

All these big fish are present in various areas and various depths. You will not see bluefin tuna next to mahi. Spearos need to prepare well and may spend a lot of time to even find one. You will also need very strong equipment and be prepared for a hard fight.


Mahi can often be found near kelp, relatively shallow in the water column. Catching them is in a way similar to catching yellowtail. Mahi will also curiously come close to you. Search for them up the current and away from structures. Difference between these two is water temperature. Mahi likes warmer water and the best season for them is mid-summer.

Spearfishing in San Diego - Mahi


And lastly, there is white seabass. They like colder water and can be caught as early as February. These fish get scared easily and catching them is quite a challenge. You must be very cautious and quiet. Finding the thermocline and considering the currents is necessary to catch one. Try catching them before sunset, in depths around the thermocline layer. If currents are strong, go deeper.

Do you want to learn more about spearfishing? Check my best tips here ...

Where to Go Spearfishing in San Diego? [Best Locations]

Spearfishing in California can be excellent anywhere, but San Diego is definitely one of the best locations. And even within this area, there are some premium locations.

The best places for spearfishing in San Diego are:


Reefs in La Jolla are one of the most popular locations, for both beginners and pros. You can find a number of fish species, just have to be careful to avoid nearby marine reserve. Visibility is excellent, beaches offer easy access, and you can even find kelp areas.


This place is excellent for beginners because of easy access and low depth. There are a lot of sandy areas between cliffs and rocky structures where you can search for halibut. You can run into sheephead too. If you are just discovering the world of spearfishing, this place is for you.


You already know that kelp is a home to many fish and a perfect hunting ground for spearos. Some of the best kelp areas are near Point Loma. Accessibility can be a problem, but if you have a boat, or at least a kayak, it is a great place to visit.


And lasty, there is Del Mar. Don’t get me wrong, there are many other locations too, but these seem the best to me. If you try out some other places and find them better, that’s great!

Del Mar is full of reefs very close to beaches and these reefs hold a lot of fish. The best time to go are calm days. Various reef fish, but mostly halibut can be caught, and it is suitable for beginners.

Related articles about best locations for spearfishing in the world:

• Spearfishing in Long Island

• Spearfishing in Puerto Rico

• Spearfishing in Costa Rica

Spearfishing in San Diego - Locations

What is the Best Time for Spearfishing in San Diego?

San Diego fishing season can last year-round for some fish like halibut or sheephed. However, warmer parts of the year, mostly from May to October, are the best. At that time, you can find numerous yellowtails and mahi.

Many spearos visit San Diego during summer months because of this. And if you are wondering about the best time of the day, I would say around sunset and sunrise. These are prime times for the majority of fish species. Tidal changes also play a huge role, and coming tides are excellent. Combine these two factors and you will see what I’m talking about.

Of course, you need to have the right gear. Use proper spearfishing fins and don’t underestimate the currents. Use long sleeve wetsuits and invest in premium mask for spearfishing. Struggling with improper equipment is the last thing you need. The same goes for the speargun.

Freshwater Spearfishing in San Diego - Is it Allowed?

There are various types of spearfishing, and spearfishing can be done in freshwater too.

However, freshwater spearfishing is almost always regulated with strict rules, or even forbidden completely.

California, as well as San Diego area, are among locations where it is strictly regulated. Freshwater spearfishing is forbidden, except in certain locations and only for a few species. Small areas of Colorado District, as well as Walley District and Black Butte Lake allow freshwater spearfishing for carps and some other species between May and September.

If you are interested in freshwater spearfishing visit official websites and check the details. Of course, license is required too.

Spearfishing in San Diego - Freshwater


Spearfishing in San Diego is truly an amazing experience. Abundance of fish species and underwater features like kelp beds make it one of the best hunting grounds in the USA.

Many people ask is spearfishing dangerous and to be honest, it can be, especially in locations like this where many dangers occur, including boat traffic and other spearos around you.

But, if you act responsible, you will definitely enjoy this location and catch some of the best fish you can imagine!

About Me

Slo-fishing - About Us


I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind Slo-fishing.si. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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