Cold Water Temps: How It’s Affecting Surf Fishing

From San Diego to Santa Barbara, anglers and residents across Southern California have been chillin’… literally. If you think this winter has been colder than usual, you aren’t wrong. Let’s talk about how cold weather and how cold water temperature affects surf fishing?

Historical Southern California Water Temperatures

The following data was taken from at Scripps Pier in San Diego and represents a 10-year historical average of water temperatures in the area.

Calendar Month10-Year Average Water Temperature (F)
2013-2023 Historical Average Water temperature in San Diego

As of February 18th, 2023, the month of February has averaged 57.1 degrees Fahrenheit. Understand that the sample size is only 17 days as of now but it’s also worth mentioning the 10 day weather forecast from today shows only more cooling weather. Water temperature is affected by more factors than just air temperature but it is a main contributing factor so it’s worth noting.

historical average water temperature in san diego
10-Year historical Average Water temperature – San Diego

That puts this month’s average water temperature 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit lower than average which is a significant skew. It’s also worth noting that mid-February historically marks a bottoming out of water temperature, where, current trends show a continuing decrease in water temps. Thursday, February 16th, we registered a 55.9 degree average water temperature for the day.

how cold water temperature affects surf fishing

What Do Cold Water Temps Mean for Surf Fishing?

Alright, so now that we’ve painted the picture of how cold it’s actually been this winter in Southern California, let’s talk about how these cold water temperatures affect surf fishing. We’ll touch on which species you can expect to bite well and which species might go under the radar for another couple weeks.

Surfperch Crazy

cold water temperature is good for surfperch fishing
15+ inch Barred Surfperch

The cold water temperature has been extremely good for surfperch fishing. This winter has provided not only the best numbers I’ve seen in surfperch fishing, but it’s produced some of the biggest surfperch I’ve seen caught on a regular basis. Typically, the average catch size for a barred surfperch comes in at 8 to 11 inches and a 13 incher is considered “big”.

Of course, there are always some more experienced surfperch fishermen who have a handful of spots that produce 13-16 inch surfperch every year. But, this winter has so far been the winter of surfperch as most spots and most anglers have surpassed the 13 inch mark while some have approached the 16 inch mark.

Where Are The Halibut?

California halibut and cold water temperature
California halibut fishing in the winter time

Were you hoping for a good winter for halibut fishing? You might have to wait until spring. Unfortunately, the colder than average water temperatures have either pushed most halibut offshore or simply made them a more lethargic than usual. My bet is that as soon as we get water temps averaging above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the halis will come out to play.

Bass Are Biting

So for those of us who have been focusing on surf fishing with lures, we’ve all likely noticed the lack of halibut, but there’s no shortage of calico bass and sand bass. These fish seem to be unaffected by the colder water temperatures. There hasn’t been any significant increase in bass fishing productivity, but it’s remained steady.

That’s all I’ve got for everyone on how cold water temperature affects surf fishing and how the bite has reacted as of late. Before we know it, corbina and croaker will be roaming the shallows again so make sure you’ve got all the gear and tackle you need below. Tight line, guys and make sure to subscribe below!

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