Fishing in Los Angeles: A Complete Guide
Sep 21, 2020 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

The “City of Angels” readily conjures up images of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, but there’s more to marvel at in this metropolis. For one, if we made a movie about fishing in Los Angeles, it would have a star-studded cast. Not to mention a set to make any angler swoon! The Los Angeles metropolitan area is vast and varied, comprising incredible fishing grounds from Marina Del Rey all the way to Newport Beach.

A view of the Los Angeles's skyline from a vantage point over Echo Park Lake.

You’ll find hundreds of access points to the Pacific Ocean within Metro LA’s limits – not to mention a namesake river and plenty of freshwater lakes. So aside from being a world-class location to visit if you’re hungry for eternal sunshine, diversity, and entertainment, heading to Los Angeles for the fishing scene is worthy of your consideration too.

Why? Well, there’s no shortage of adventures to choose from. Exploring the coast will give you the chance to hook into iconic fish in the kelp beds and productive flats. On the other hand, the open waters surrounding Catalina Island show you why modern-day big game fishing was born here.

Whatever your preference may be, we’ll tell you where and how to catch the fish of your dreams. Dust off your rods and keep reading!

Top Catches in Los Angeles

The first step in planning your fishing adventure is deciding what to catch. Luckily for you, the sheer variety of fish in Metro LA has something to offer to every angler. You’ll find tasty table fare and hard-fighting fish along the coast, offshore, and in a variety of freshwater lakes.

Calico Bass

A male angler holding a full-grown Calico Bass in the waters off the coast of Catalina Island.

Likely Southern California’s most prolific inshore fish, Calico Bass goes by a few different names. You’ll also hear it referred to as Kelp Bass, which is directly related to the preferred environment of these delicious fish. As such, both Horseshoe Kelp and the sandy Huntington Flats are go-to destinations for anglers hoping to take home some Calico.

They’re great targets for both experienced and novice anglers, but you’ll want to have the right gear. A 7’ or 8’ rod should do the trick for these hard-fighting fish, especially when paired with some braided line to keep them from disappearing into the kelp. Calico Bass are a year-round target but these fish are slow-growing. Stay within the limit of five fish per day and release undersized specimens to keep on swimming.

White Seabass

A male angler holding a White Seabass in Los Angeles's inshore waters.

Few California fish are as enigmatic as White Seabass. Some anglers literally spend a lifetime trying to figure them out! It’s no wonder why, since these fish are picky about just about everything. From water temperature to feeding times – your patience will be tested, but the reward of landing one? That’s priceless.

For your best shot at success, head into shallow waters near the kelp beds and gear up with a rod that can support a 40–60 pound line. White Seabass in California are beefy and range in size from 40–70 pounds. Keep your lures or live bait (cut squid works well) slow-moving and you might just have a shot at these fabled beasts.

Rockfish

A group of male anglers happily showing off there freshly-caught Rockfish in Los Angeles.

No species in California is as heavily regulated as Rockfish, and that should come as no surprise. The downside to these fish being so delicious is that most spots closer to shore have been completely fished out. Not to worry though, there are still productive areas in deeper waters and the season, although short, can be very rewarding.

There are as many as 56 different types of Rockfish in SoCal’s Pacific waters. You’ll also need to be able to differentiate between them to ensure you’re fishing lawfully. As their name implies, deep dropping over the rocky areas and underwater structure these fish typically call home is the way to go. Local anglers are usually wary to share their secret honey holes but the deeper and smaller the spot, the more chances you’ll get lucky.

Yellowtail Amberjack

A group of anglers showing off two large Yellowtail Amberjacks off the coast of Catalina Island.

It’s hard to think of a fish more closely associated with Southern California’s waters. Not only is it super tasty (think Hamachi at your favorite sushi restaurant), but it’s also incredibly fun to catch. Aside from a few months in the winter, Yellowtail Amberjack will keep your biceps engaged in a testy battle.

These fish are deep divers so it’s important to gear up with a 30–40 lb fluorocarbon leader to keep them from cutting your line. The bait you use depends on the season. In the spring and summer, Yellowtails come up to the surface to feed and live bait works really well. In the months leading up to their feeding season, try to hook your catch by jigging with a heavy yo-yo iron jig and reel your heart out!

Largemouth Bass

Smiling male angler showing off Largemouth Bass caught in California lake.

Believe it or not, the Los Angeles metropolitan area is kind of a freshwater fishing paradise. Not only is it home to the Los Angeles River, but there are also plenty of bountiful lakes within the limits of downtown LA and beyond. One of the most notable fish you can catch is Largemouth Bass and we’ll tell you how.

Luckily for you, Lake Castaic is considered the state’s best Largemouth Bass fishing hole. You’ll see the largest number of Bass here in late summer and fall, and the best way to go after them is with soft baits and crankbaits. These will help you lure in fish in the 1–4 pound range, but you could also come across a trophy. Some of the largest Bass in history, weighing over 20 pounds, have been caught right here!

And There’s More Offshore!

Happy anglers showing off a large Bluefin Tuna caught in Los Angeles's waters.

We’ve kept it fairly local up until this point, but don’t sleep on deep sea fishing in Los Angeles. To find the really deep waters that are home to covetable pelagic fish, you’ll need to travel between 20–60 miles offshore. More often than not, you’ll head towards Santa Catalina and San Clemente Islands, two areas that give Los Angeles its killer sportfishing reputation.

The stars of the show here are definitely the Tuna. During the summer, you’ll hook into delicious Yellowtail, Skipjack, and Bluefin. That’s not all though – add in opportunities to battle fiercely intelligent Mako Sharks, bottom fish for Lingcod and Rockfish, or troll for Mahi Mahi and Marlin, and you’ve got a truly well-rounded fishery.

How to Fish in Los Angeles

As you’ve probably gathered by now, there’s a pretty diverse range of fish to be found in Los Angeles’s waters. How you’ll go after them depends somewhat on the areas your targets call home and somewhat on your preferences. Below are a few of the most popular ways to go fishing in Los Angeles.

Charter Boat Fishing

A charter boat cruising through the through waters in Los Angeles.

Arguably the most effective way to get out on the water, Los Angeles fishing charters give you the freedom of choice. Best of all, whatever you choose, you’ll have a knowledgeable local captain on board with you. They’ll help you tailor-make your trip to a specific target, area, or time frame, all while ensuring you’re fishing within the law.

Charter boats in Los Angeles come in all shapes and sizes and the city is home to some of the greatest marinas in the nation. Choose a vessel from one of the many harbors and marinas lining the coast from Marina Del Rey all the way to Newport Beach. Whether you’re a novice or a pro, you’ll make the most out of LA’s world-class fisheries aboard a charter boat.

Party Boat Fishing

A large group of anglers heading towards nearshore fishing grounds in Southern California.

If you still want to get out on the water, but charter boat fishing is outside of your budget, consider party boat fishing in Los Angeles. Although your captain won’t be able to dedicate himself or herself entirely to your experience, you’ll still be able to access deeper waters and try out a few different fishing techniques.

You also won’t have to worry about bringing your own fishing gear but knowing the basics, like how to hook your bait and unhook your catch, will help you maximize your time on board. Everyone will most likely go home with a few fish and maybe some new friends, too!

Kayak Fishing

A female angler paddling her kayak towards the rocky coastline in Southern California.

Californians are well-known for their love of the outdoors and the state boasts beautiful nature everywhere you look. If you’re an avid angler and the outdoorsy type, kayak fishing in Los Angeles is the perfect activity for you. It’s not for the faint of heart, you are your own engine after all, but the satisfaction of hooking a fish this way is all yours.

You can head into coastal waters or check out the inner-city lakes for some urban angling. If you’re coastal fishing, Newport Beach is one of the most popular spots in the state to launch from. There are plenty of opportunities to explore the kelp beds and try out a few different techniques including spearfishing or even fly fishing!

Shore Fishing

Anglers, swimmers, and sunbathers enjoying the action in Los Angeles's Santa Monica Beach

When you think of Southern California, you think of Los Angeles. Coming in at a close second are the incredible beaches! They’re a big draw for swimmers and sunbathers, as well as local anglers. Thanks to the incredible weather, shore fishing in Los Angeles is a sport you can indulge in year-round.

Bring your conventional spinning tackle or fly gear with you and hook into the likes of Corbina, Surf Perch, and Yellow Croaker. If you’re after California Halibut, you’ll be happy to know that Long Beach is considered one of the best places in the state to hook into these delicious flatfish.

Pier Fishing

An aerial view of Los Angeles's Santa Monica Pier.

The LA Metro area is home to more than a few landmark piers suitable for fishing. Best of all, most of them are public and don’t require you to have a fishing license! What you’ll catch depends on which pier you choose to visit. The options range from Halibut to Surfperch, Mackerel, and even Sharks.

In general, the longer the pier the deeper the water you’ll have access to. Keep that in mind if you’re after a specific species. Both pros and beginners will thrive here and most piers are a one-stop-shop. You can rent gear, stop for a meal, and even have your catch cooked at some restaurants.

Where to Fish in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles metropolitan area is really big. In fact, it’s the second-largest metropolis in the United States. As such, deciding where to go can be overwhelming. Not to worry, though, we’ve highlighted some of our favorite spots below to get you started.

The gates to the Santa Monica Pier displaying signage for sportfishing, boating, and cafes.
  • Huntington Flats: The muddy, sandy bottom in the Huntington Flats makes it an inshore fishing haven. Launch from Newport or Huntington Beach and hook into Calico and Sand Bass, Barracuda, and Halibut.
  • Horseshoe Kelp: One of the most popular sportfishing spots in Metro LA, Horseshoe Kelp spans 10 miles. Starting at San Pedro, it drops off at Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors. Fish including Calico Bass, Halibut, White Seabass, and Yellowtail all come to feed on this delicious algae.
  • Santa Monica Bay: While fishing here, you can target over 30 types of game fish. Many fishing structures and reefs in these waters make the bay an ideal location for deep sea fishing. Depending on the season, you can catch Calico Bass, Rockfish, Barracuda, Halibut, and Yellowtail.
  • Catalina Island: It’s Southern California’s crown jewel when it comes to fishing. Head to Catalina Island and beyond for incredible Tuna and Mahi Mahi fishing in open waters, or stick to the coastline for Calico Bass, Sheephead, and Yellowtail.
  • Santa Monica Pier: There are so many iconic piers in Metro LA but our pick is quintessentially Los Angeles. The Santa Monica Pier is 2,000 feet long and you can hook into Mackerel, Sharks, White Seabass, and Perch. It’s a well-known tourist attraction so expect a loud and lively environment.
  • Echo Park Lake: One of the best fishing lakes in Los Angeles. It’s located smack dab in central LA and boasts beautiful views of the skyline. Anglers come here for Trout, Largemouth Bass, Catfish, and Bluegill fishing. Like in all city lakes, catch and release is the preferred method.

What else do I need to know?

The most important thing to do before heading out on your LA fishing trip is to purchase a fishing license. This applies to all anglers over the age of 16 who plan to engage in fishing from shore, with the exception of public piers, or from a boat. For more information on where and how to purchase a fishing license, check out our quick guide.

An infographic displaying open seasons and bag limits for some of Southern California's most popular catches.

The Southern California region is pretty heavily regulated, and this applies to Metro LA too. The above infographic gives you an overview of seasonality and harvesting regulations for some of the area’s top species. Nevertheless, these rules are subject to change and it’s always best to consult with the CDFW before heading out.

Los Angeles: The Place to Be

A view of downtown Los Angeles, partially obstructed by the city's iconic palm trees.

Everybody knows that the City of Angels is sunny and glamorous, but a lucky few know just how great the fishing in Los Angeles is. Virtually every Pacific fish on your bucket list calls these very waters home, from big game Tuna offshore to fabled White Seabass inshore. Take the road less traveled and see a different side to the West Coast’s most iconic city.

Which of LA’s diverse waterways have you explored? Have any tips to share? Let us know in the comments below!

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