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What are the different trip types offered in San Diego?

This is a question I am often asked by visitors planning a sportfishing trip on one of San Diego's many open party or private charter boats. As with any popular fishing destination, San Diego has its own local lingo and definitions for type of sportfishing trips available. Here's some information I wrote to hopefully help plan what type of trip and time of year that best fits your fishing goals:

San Diego offers one of the most diverse and unique fishing destinations anywhere in the world with access to some of the best fishing in the world just across the USA/Mexico border and south down the Baja coastline rich with exotic species like Tuna, Wahoo, Dorado, lunker-size Yellowtail and some of the largest Yellowfin Tuna in the world.

At any time of year there are fish targets available. What type of fish you would like to go after, time of year planned and group size are the main considerations for the type trip that best fits the individual or group's goals. Our peak (and most popular) season for catching tuna and other exotics like Dorado, Yellowtail, Wahoo and even shark trips is between June and October with Spring trips targeting White Sea bass and Freelance Tuna and Fall the long range Giant "COW" Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo and other exotics. In recent years Winter Giant Humbolt Squid trips have become extremely popular for the non-faint at heart fisherman.

Locally, just minutes away from San Diego Bay, Mission Bay and in North San Diego Oceanside at Helgren's popular daily half-day and three-quarter day trips target the plethora of species available in local kelp beds and other popular spots. These trip types more popular species include Yellowtail, Bonito and White Sea bass

There are four common trip types: Open Party, Limited Load Open Party, Private Charter and "Six Pack" (a sportfishing vessel made for up to 6 people). Here is how San Diego boat owners and landings define these trips when making your reservations or inquiries:

Open Party

- Local term for 1/2, 3/4 and multi-day trips open to the public. Weekday trips are generally less crowded and it's not uncommon for a 1/2 or 3/4 day trip to run with as few as 8 - 10 where on weekends during peak season (June - September) boats may run at or near capacity with 35 - 80+ passengers depending on boat size. With plenty of rail space, bait capacity, roomy galleys and many with sun deck seating these boats are set up for handling potentially large crowds or group charters. Spring - Fall half-day boats run twice daily at 6am and about 12:30pm. Three-Quarter day runs leave at about 5:00 - 6:30am with a 4 - 5 PM arrival. Open Party tuna trips take fewer passengers, up to about 30 or less depending on boat size. Generally boats like to see at least 10 fisherman to run which can be an added bonus during the fall when fishing is generally still good but many visitors have gone home, students are back in school and many freezers are full of tuna.

"Limited Load"

Open Party is the same as open party except the price per passenger is higher because of the benefit and comfort of limiting the passenger load to a fraction of its capacity. This is beneficial on longer trips and offers more rail space and personal service from the crew.

Full Day

trips can mean a 5 am - 5 PM for charters and open party boats targeting the local inshore (coastal) fishery or it can mean a offshore trip targeting tuna and exotics like Dorado and Yellowtail which is commonly called (overnight or "overnighter") and the boat leaves about 10 PM the night before for the sometimes long run to the fishing grounds. Overnighter's return about 2 PM - 4pm the day of fishing. If the fish are biting late as the past couple years then 1.5 - 2 day trips can be far more productive. Whichever trip you choose the landings and boat owners offer the best recommendations as they are out daily.


trips are private group trips not open to the public. The price varies dramatically depending on the season and peak times during weekends and holidays. Most boats in San Diego are available for private charter and range in size from the popular 6 Pac (boat licensed for up to 6 fisherman) all the way up to a 100ft.+ long-range tuna trip.

Request info on planning and booking a private charter or open party San Diego sport fishing trip - image

6 - Pack

sportfishing vessels are smaller boats usually from 35-55ft that are licensed to take up to six persons and is usually a private charter although some may occasionally run open party spots.

Most trips can be booked by calling or visiting the landing office or sometimes the direct phone to the owner or captain is available and is the best bet. San Diego has 6 major "Landings" which are home to a majority of the sportfishing boats and all of the 1/2 and 3/4 day open party boats. A landing is the term used for a fleet of boats managed through one office. There are several sportfishing fleet landings throughout San Diego.

Fisherman's Landing, Point Loma Sportfishing and H&M Landing are all located on San Diego Bay near Shelter Island. Each has it's own reservations office. These boats are closest to the Pt. Loma Kelp Beds and Coronado Islands and 9-mile bank, popular fishing grounds for San Diego fisherman.

Seaforth Sportfishing and Dana Landing are all located close proximity on Mission Bay at Quivera Basin. Dana Landing is San Diego's only dedicated 6-pack landing however all San Diego landings have 6-pack boats available. Mission Bay area boats are closest to the La Jolla Kelp Beds and popular target areas around La Jolla. Pt. Loma Kelp Beds and Coronado Islands are also popular destinations from Mission Bay.

Farthest North in San Diego County next to Camp Pendalton Marine Base at Oceanside Harbor is Helgren's Sportfishing. Helgren's is in range of the popular San Clemente Islands White Sea bass grounds as well as some great areas for Halibut in the near by mud flats and the plethora of species caught at nearby popular spots and Kelp Beds South to Encinitas in North San Diego County.

Feel free to Email Rob below or using our San Diego Sportfishing trip request form here. Thank you for taking time to read this article!

Rob Mailly