A few dozen miles southeast of downtown LA sits the seaside city of Huntington Beach. With a nickname like “Surf City” it’s easy to know what you can expect. Thanks to its sprawling sandy beach and quick access to some of Southern California’s most prolific inshore fish, fishing in Huntington Beach is more than worth your time.
One of the reasons why about 11 million people decide to visit every year is the excellent climate. With that many visitors comes a developed tourism infrastructure, meaning you won’t have a problem finding a good hotel or restaurant if you decide to bring your family along. What about the actual fishing, you might be wondering. Oh, it’s great, and we’re about to tell you exactly why.
What fish can I catch in Huntington Beach?
Huntington Beach fishing is your typical Californian experience in the best possible way. Inshore you have your Calico Bass and White Seabass, as well as the ever popular Halibut. Head out into the deep blue and things change rapidly. You’ll be up against the likes of Rockfish, Tuna, Mahi Mahi, Billfish, and more. So without further ado, let’s talk about these awesome fish in more detail.
There’s no better fish to start us off than one of SoCal’s most beloved creatures – Calico Bass. You may also hear them called Kelp Bass around here, but it’s the same fish in both cases. As the name suggests, you’ll find them around inshore waters with a lot of kelp beds. Fortunately, there are plenty of those in Huntington Beach so you won’t need to look far.
Another point in their favor is the fact they’re a perfect beginner’s fish. They’re aggressive biters, but at the same time are simple enough to reel in. And when you do, you’ll get to enjoy a tasty meal at the end of the day. To top it all off, it’s a species you can find year-round, so it should fit into any existing vacation plans you may already have. What’s not to like?
Speaking of fish that like kelp beds, we should also mention the bottom-dwelling California Halibut. A staple of the local surf fishing scene, they also like hanging out near structure or shoreline cobbles mixed with sand. Halibut also make for delicious table fare and can weigh over 60 pounds when hitting their springtime peak. Don’t worry if you plan on coming at a different time, they’re also a year-round catch in these parts.
And when it comes to catching Halibut, there are a few things you should know before heading out. For starters, be careful not to make a commotion when looking for them in shallow waters close to the surf because they can spook easily. As for bait, we’d suggest starting off with sardines or mackerel. Finally, it’s also important to vary your retrieving style for the best results. Start off slow and steady, but don’t be afraid to mix it up with some cranking and twitching after a while.
Another beefy inshore fish, White Seabass may just be the local favorite out of the species mentioned so far. Don’t let the name throw you off, these fish have more in common with your average Redfish or Black Drum than they do with any other Seabass species. They’re the biggest out of all Pacific Croakers, with an average catch usually in the 25–30 lb range.
If you’re especially lucky, you may even nab a 70 lb trophy catch and secure your bragging rights for a long while. Probably the best way to go about it is to use an iron jig with a pair of live squid pinned on. White Seabass are greedy eaters and will relish the chance at such an easy meal. Needless to say, this calls for heavy tackle that can support a 40–60 lb line.
The first thing to know about Rockfish in Huntington Beach is that it’s far from being one single species. When we say Rockfish, we’re talking about some 56 different species of Rockfish. These include Bocaccio, Black Rockfish, Sculpin, and many, many more. These are heavily regulated fish, so we highly recommend fishing with a licensed captain to avoid any potential setbacks.
Regulations will also influence when you can go fishing for these tasty fish. When fishing from shore you’re good to go all year round. On the other hand, those of you fishing from a boat will only be able to do it from March through December. In either case, it’s more than worth it for these world-class bottom dwellers!
Of course, this article would feel incomplete without the flashy Yellowtail Amberjack. Another SoCal icon, these fish will give you a run for your money no matter your skill level. They’re also quite the culinary treat, giving you another good reason to go up against them during your time on the water.
While you can find Yellowtail Amberjack in these waters pretty much any time of year, we’d avoid targeting them in the winter months. There are plenty of other fish in the sea when it gets cold, so it’s best to set your sights on these feisty creatures any other time from spring through fall.
The species we mentioned so far are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There’s also a good number of Tuna running around, mostly found in Bluefin, Yellowtail, and Skipjack variety, with the occasional Albacore for good measure. Add colorful Mahi Mahi and prestigious Billfish to the mix and you’ve got yourself an excellent offshore fishery. Keep in mind you’ll need to be dozens of miles offshore for the best results, so be prepared to spend an entire day on the water.
On the flip side, you can try out the local lakes for a taste of freshwater action. They offer a variety of fishing options throughout the year. Think Bluegill, Catfish, Crappie, Bass, Trout, and more. Not too shabby if you ask us!
How to Fish in Huntington Beach
Now that you know what to go after, we should also discuss the how of it. Needless to say, “Surf City” earned its nickname for a reason, but there are also other ways to catch fish. And while it’s all fishing at the end of the day, doing it from a charter boat isn’t the same as doing it standing on a beach. If you’re unsure which type of fishing is the one for you, make sure to read on – we’re here to help.
We may as well start with the option that has you fishing straight from the beach without much fuss. With an almost 10-mile-long stretch of pristine sandy beach, there’s plenty of room for anglers, swimmers, surfers, and other visitors to enjoy themselves without overcrowding. From Perch to California Sheephead and Halibut, there’s no shortage of popular fish species to go after.
Like other places in SoCal, Huntington Beach is blessed with a temperate climate that enables you to fish the surf year-round. Just be sure you know the relevant fishing regulations and bag limits for the species you’re targeting if you plan on fishing without a guide.
Charter Boat Fishing
Fishing from shore is all well and good, but it doesn’t come close to the feeling of casting a line on the open sea. Fishing with a licensed charter is the ultimate stress reliever option since you don’t need to worry about the logistics. All you have to do is let the captain know what you’re looking for and show up at least 15 minutes early on the day of your trip.
If you’re coming from out of state and don’t know the area at all, the help of a local professional is worth its weight in gold. Huntington Beach has enough charter fishing options to fit any type of angler. Short inshore trip in the morning or afternoon? Check. A full day of fishing in the deep blue ocean waters? You bet. Just pick a vessel that best suits your needs and get ready to have some fun.
Huntington Beach Fishing Spots
By now we’ve covered the what and why, all that’s left is the where. As you can see from the map above, things are very simple and straightforward in that regard. Let’s take a look at what makes each of them worth your time and attention.
- Huntington Flats. Just west of the main beach area you’ll find the popular Huntington Flats. This year-round fishing location is known for its White Seabass and Halibut action.
- Huntington Beach Pier. This 1,856′ pier is a local landmark and an iconic place for casting a few lines. Nearby stores offer everything from tackle and gear to food and souvenirs.
- Huntington Harbor. Looking for a place to launch your kayak from? The public parks near Huntington Harbor are probably the best place around for that. It’s still a good place for shore fishing if kayaking isn’t your thing.
- Santa Catalina Island. Some 30 miles away from Huntington Beach, Santa Catalina Island is where a lot of offshore fishing trips take place. If you’re in the market for the likes of Yellowfin Tuna, Mahi Mahi, or Blue Marlin, this is the place.
- Huntington Beach Central Park. Last, but not least, we have the local hub for freshwater fishing, Huntington Beach Central Park. Located about 5 miles north of the pier we previously mentioned, it’s the place for all your Bass, Catfish, Crappie, and Trout needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a fishing license in Huntington Beach?
- Any angler aged 16 or older will need a fishing license when fishing from a boat or from shore. On the other hand, anglers fishing from a public pier don’t need to have a license.
Is alcohol allowed on the beach?
- No. Neither alcohol nor glass containers of any kind are allowed on the beach.
What is the best month to go to Huntington Beach?
- September and November are generally considered the ideal time for fishing in Huntington Beach. That being said, there’s something to be found at any time of the year.
Huntington Beach: Year-Round Action in Surf City
Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, fishing in Huntington Beach is the ideal choice for a watery getaway. With so many options and diverse species on offer, it suits both greenhorns and veteran anglers alike. Sounds good? Come on down to Surf City and see for yourself what these waters have in store!
Have you ever been fishing in Huntington Beach? Any stories to share or catches to brag about? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.