Best Shore Fishing in California

Group of fishermen surfcasting the shoreline.
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California’s vast coastline offers you an array of locations for shore fishing, where you can cast a line into some of the richest waters along the Pacific. From the surf-laced beaches of Southern California to the rockier, kelp-filled crags of the north, the state’s diverse marine habitats create ideal conditions for various fish species. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a casual fisherman looking for a peaceful day by the sea, the Golden State’s shores provide ample opportunity to reel in a rewarding catch. Along the Californian coast, specific spots have garnered acclaim for their shore fishing. Catalina Island, Bodega Bay, and Monterey Bay are just a few locations where the combination of accessible amenities and abundant fish populations make for an ideal fishing experience. Places like Ocean Beach and Oceanside offer you not just the chance to catch fish but also enjoy picturesque sceneries and welcoming local communities.

Santa Monica Pier

When you’re seeking a prime location for shore fishing in California, the Santa Monica Pier stands out as an iconic spot. No fishing license is needed and tackle is accessible for rental, making it convenient for anglers of all levels.

What You Can Catch:

  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Halibut
  • Various other species

The Santa Monica Pier stretches over a thousand feet into the Pacific, offering a diverse fishing experience throughout the year. Since you’re fishing over the ocean, you’ll find different types of fish depending on the season and time of day.

Fishing Amenities:

  • Bait and tackle shop
  • Rod rental services
  • Fish cleaning stations

The structure of the pier provides an upper deck that’s garnished with shops and eateries where you can enjoy the scenic views. Below, the lower deck is where the fishing takes place. If you’re a novice, local anglers are often willing to share tips on effective techniques and best spots on the pier.

Remember, while the Santa Monica Pier can be serene during off-peak hours, it’s also a popular tourist destination; it might be best to plan your fishing trip on weekdays or during early mornings to avoid the crowds. This will enhance your fishing experience, giving you more space and quiet to focus on your catch.

Given its accessibility, amenities, and location, the Santa Monica Pier is a splendid choice for those looking to enjoy some of the best shore fishing that California has to offer.

Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach in San Diego is renowned for its lively waterfront and its suitability for shore fishing experiences. As you explore this area, you’ll find several spots that cater to anglers of all levels.

Where to Fish:

  • Crystal Pier: Enjoy the convenience of fishing off this public pier without needing a fishing license. It extends well into the ocean, offering a chance at deeper water fish.
  • Tourmaline Surfing Park: This spot is quieter and less crowded, perfect for casting a line into the surf.

Common Catches:

  • Surfperch
  • Corbina
  • Shovelnose Guitarfish
  • Halibut

Fishing Tips:

  • Use sand crabs or shrimp as bait for the best chance to catch surfperch and corbina.
  • Morning or evening high tides can be the most productive times for fishing here.

For more information on specific regulations, visit the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website or contact local bait and tackle shops for the latest updates.

Monterey Municipal Wharf II

The sun sets over the tranquil waters of Monterey Municipal Wharf II, where anglers cast their lines from the wooden pier, hoping to catch the best shore fishing in California

Monterey Municipal Wharf II, commonly referred to as Wharf II, is a notable spot for shore fishing enthusiasts. You’ll find calm waters here, making it conducive for a day of leisure or serious fishing. Given its proximity to Fisherman’s Wharf, Wharf II is not only easily accessible but also surrounded by convenient amenities.

Available Fish Species:

  • Chinook Salmon
  • Rockfish
  • Halibut
  • Striped Bass


  • Accessibility: Adjacent to popular Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Fish Variety: Home to diverse species well-suited for sports fishing
  • Family Friendly: Calm waters suitable for anglers of all ages

When planning your visit to Wharf II, consider the tide cycles, as they significantly affect fish activity. For the shore fisherman, your choice of bait can vary from live offerings to artificial lures. Local tackle shops can provide you with expert advice on the best bait and lures for the season and targeted species.

Fishing Tips:

  • Morning Hours: Often the most productive time for catching
  • Lure Choice: Swimbaits tipped with squid work amazing for most species.
  • Regulations: Always check current fishing regulations before your outing

Wharf II stands out as a serene and picturesque location; flowering shrubs line the shores, and an array of boats add charm to your fishing backdrop. Enjoy the day at this local fishing destination, known both for its beauty and its bounty.

Malibu Pier

Malibu Pier is a prime destination for shore fishing enthusiasts. Located on the iconic Pacific Coast Highway, this public pier does not require you to have a fishing license, offering an accessible getaway for both locals and visitors.

Here are some essential details to enhance your fishing experience at Malibu Pier:

  • Bait and Tackle: You can find all necessary supplies at the RANCH located at the ocean end of the pier. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned angler, the RANCH has you covered.
  • Rod Rental: Try your luck with the local fish. Rod rental services are available for those seeking a convenient option. Ideal for a variety of visitors—families, couples, or individuals looking to enjoy a relaxing afternoon by the sea.
  • Hours: Always check the current regulations and operating hours before planning your trip, as these can vary seasonally and with changing guidelines.
  • Fish Species: While fishing on Malibu Pier, expect to encounter a diverse range of fish, including surfperch, mackerel, and halibut.

To optimize your fishing trip, familiarize yourself with the best practices for catch and release, adhere to local fishing regulations, and respect marine life. Moreover, keep in mind that the conditions can change, so it’s advisable to check the weather and water conditions on the day of your visit.

Crystal Pier

When you’re looking for a prime shore fishing spot in California, Crystal Pier in San Diego stands out as a distinctive choice. Situated at 4500 Ocean Blvd, this pier is not just a fishing location but also a historic landmark, having been renovated and reopened on April 19, 1936.

Fishing Hours:
You can cast your line from 8:00 a.m. until sunset, soaking in the vibrant coastal atmosphere. Remember, the fishing hours might be subject to change, so it’s wise to verify before you go.

Available only on the street, so it’s recommended to arrive early to secure a spot.

Catches You Might Expect:

  • Surf Perch
  • California Corbina
  • Queenfish
  • Mackerel
  • Halibut
  • Lobster

To maximize your chances, here’s what you could use:

  • Reel and Line: Load your reel with 20- to 25-pound test line for farther casts, or a 10- to 15-pound line for closer, in-shore fishing.
  • Bait: Consider using frozen squid, bloodworms, mussels, sardines, or anchovies.

Unique Features:
Crystal Pier is renowned for its oceanfront cottages available for rent, offering vacationers a truly immersive pier experience. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or just looking to enjoy a peaceful day of fishing, Crystal Pier provides a picturesque and enjoyable fishing opportunity.

Newport Beach Pier

At the heart of coastal charm in California, Newport Beach Pier offers a prime fishing spot for both novice and experienced anglers. Stretching over 1,000 feet into the Pacific, it gives you a unique opportunity to fish over a deep underwater canyon inviting a diverse range of fish species.

If you’re 16 or older, ensure you purchase a California fishing license before you cast your line. This license is a requirement whether you’re fishing from the shore or a boat, but you can enjoy the pier sans license as it is one of few exceptions to the rule.

Here’s what you can expect at Newport Beach Pier:

  • Location: 70 Newport Pier, Newport Beach
  • Accessible Hours: 5:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m., ideal for early risers or night fishing enthusiasts.
  • Fish Species: Common catches include halibut, surfperch, and mackerel. Your chance to reel in a surprise catch is always on the table given the adjacent deep waters.

Fishing tactics here can be as straightforward as using light tackle, making it a great place to bring your freshwater gear. Lines in the range of 6lb to 12lb are usually sufficient.

Don’t forget to explore the historic Dory Fleet Market nearby for a dose of local fishing culture and fresh catch if you prefer observing to participating. And while the pier itself provides a free fishing opportunity, it’s wise to consult with local resources or seasoned anglers at the pier for any recent changes or specific fishing advice.

Huntington Beach Pier

When you visit Huntington Beach Pier, you’ll find yourself at one of California’s prime shore-fishing destinations. As a seasoned angler, you should be aware that fishing is free on the pier, meaning no license is required.

Fishing Opportunities:

  • Variety of Fish: Expect to catch species like surfperch, corbina, or croaker.
  • Shark Fishing: The pier is renowned for its shark fishing, with frequent bites and thrilling action.
  • The Experience: Boasting sweeping ocean views, the pier provides an unparalleled fishing ambiance.


  • Bait and Tackle Shop: Fully equipped to supply your fishing needs.
  • Fish Cleaning Stations: Convenient spots to prepare your catch.
  • Accessibility: The pier is easy to navigate, ensuring a comfortable fishing trip.

Here’s a quick guide to what to expect:

Length1,850 feet extending into the Pacific Ocean
Fishing HoursOpen from 5 AM until midnight
Expected CatchMackerel, bonito, halibut, and more
Nearby FacilitiesRestrooms, restaurants, and seating areas

Remember to respect the local wildlife and adhere to catch limits. Your day at Huntington Beach Pier is likely to be both rewarding and brimming with the essence of coastal California fishing culture.

Pismo Beach Pier

When you consider shore fishing spots in California, Pismo Beach Pier stands out as a prime location. At over 1,200 feet long, this pier extends generously into the Pacific, offering you diverse marine life and a fulfilling fishing experience.

  • Damage Considerations:

    • Due to past storm damage, it’s wise to check the pier’s condition before your trip.
  • Fish Species:

    • Expect to hook species such as perch, mackerel, and the more elusive halibut depending on the season.
  • Bait and Tackle:

    • Local shops can equip you with the right bait and gear—sand worms are particularly effective for surf perch.
  • Fishing Seasons:

    • While rockfish season is typically from May to December, the summer months are especially productive.
  • Best Practices:

    • Make sure to adhere to local fishing regulations and have a valid California fishing license.
    • The pier is accessible and free, offering amenities like bait shops and fish cleaning stations.
  • Environmental Impact:

    • Remember that your fishing habits can impact local ecosystems. Practicing catch and release with certain species can help maintain balance.

By choosing Pismo Beach Pier, you’re selecting a spot recognized for its generous offerings for anglers. Whether you’re an experienced fisherman or new to the sport, this pier provides an accommodating and scenic locale for your fishing endeavors.

Fort Point

When targeting flounder and various species of perch, Fort Point Pier, also known as Torpedo Wharf, should be on your radar. Winter and spring are ideal for your fishing excursions here, as these seasons offer the most promising catches.

Location & Accessibility:
Fort Point Pier is easily accessible, located in the San Francisco Bay area, promising not only a productive fishing trip but also a picturesque view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Common Catches:

  • Flounder: Best caught during mid-to-late winter.
  • Blackperch
  • Striped seaperch
  • Rainbow seaperch
  • Pileperch
  • Rubberlip seaperch

For the best experience, equip yourself with the following gear:

Gear TypeRecommendation
RodMedium-action rod for versatility
ReelSpinning reel for ease of use
BaitLive or frozen shrimp for attracting perch
TackleAssorted hooks, sinkers and leaders

Prepare with the proper tackle and bait to increase your chances of a successful catch. Remember to always check local regulations before your fishing trip to ensure you’re compliant with current conservation efforts and catch limits.

Targeted Fish Species and Techniques

In your shore fishing ventures in California, knowing what species to target and the best techniques to use can greatly enhance your experience. Here, we outline saltwater and freshwater species that are popular among anglers, paired with effective methods to increase your chances of success.

Saltwater Champions

In the vast and diverse coastal waters of California, you’ll come across a variety of highly sought-after fish. Targeting saltwater champions often involves surf fishing, pier fishing, or kayak fishing just beyond the surf line.

  • Halibut: These flatfish love sandy bottoms and can be caught using bait like live anchovies or sardines. They will readily take most swimbaits in the surf.
  • Calico Bass & White Seabass: Found around kelp beds and rocky areas, lures or live bait like squid work well.
  • Yellowtail Amberjack & Tuna (Bluefin, Yellowfin): These pelagic fighters are best pursued by trolling or using live bait in deeper waters.
  • Surfperch & Corbina: Found in shallow surf, these species bite on sand crabs and shrimp.
  • Leopard Shark & Thresher Shark: Fish for these with heavier tackle, using bait like mackerel or squid, usually from a pier or beach.

Popular Pier Species: Mackerel, bonito, barracuda, and various sharks can often be caught from piers throughout California.

Freshwater Finds

While California’s coast is legendary, its freshwater bodies offer equally impressive fishing opportunities.

  • Largemouth Bass: Look for these in reservoirs and lakes around structure using plastic worms or lures.
  • Trout (Rainbow, Brown): Streams and cooler mountain lakes are prime spots, with bait like insects or small spinners being effective.
  • Catfish: Bottom-fishing with stinky baits like chicken liver or dough baits in lakes and rivers is key.
  • Sturgeon: These prehistoric giants inhabit the Delta and bays, biting on eel, anchovies, or shrimp.

Techniques and Gear

Understanding the appropriate techniques and gear will not only make your fishing more productive but also more enjoyable.

For Saltwater:

  • Surf Fishing: Use long rods (9-12 ft) with 4-6 oz weights. Bait options include sand crabs, clams, and shrimp.
  • Pier Fishing: Medium-action rods with smaller weights. Mackerel and squid are common baits.

For Freshwater:

  • Lure Fishing: Spinnerbaits, soft plastics, and jigs for bass; small spinners and spoons for trout.
  • Bottom Fishing: Weighted setups with live or dead bait to target catfish and sturgeon.

Early Morning is often the best time to fish, as many species are more active and feeding during the cooler parts of the day. Equip yourself with the right gear and knowledge of the species prevalent in your specific location to maximize your fishing trips in the beautiful waters of California.

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