Newport Beach Fishing: A Complete Guide
Oct 2, 2020 | 8 minute read
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Draw up a mental image of a Southern California town and it probably looks a lot like Newport Beach. Sunshine, laid-back luxury, surfing, and sandy beaches are all trademarks of this coastal city. If you’re an angler, then you certainly know that a Newport Beach fishing trip is something you shouldn’t miss, either.

A view of the seaside homes along the Newport Beach's shore as seen from the Pacific Ocean.

The city is known for incredible coastal fishing for inshore game fish and boasts close enough access to Catalina Island to get you on big pelagics quickly. It’s also home to one of the largest recreational harbors on the West Coast. You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to finding a vessel. 

But that’s not the only way to fish around here. Remember those beaches we mentioned? There are piers and jetties too! And your targets in Newport Beach are as varied as your ways to fish for them. There’s quite literally something for everyone. In this guide, we’ll answer your whats, whens, wheres, and hows, to make planning your Newport Beach fishing trip easy.

What fish can you catch in Newport Beach?

Newport Beach can easily be described as a game fishing heaven. There’s everything from feisty inshore fish to covetable offshore pelagics. That doesn’t mean, however, that only experts are invited to play. There are also plenty of fish to practice on and take home for an easy dinner.

Calico Bass

Two happy anglers showing off Calico Bass caught near Catalina Island.

Calico Bass are a Southern California inshore staple. Best of all, you can catch them in Newport Beach year-round. They’re one of few species with game fish status in California, meaning they’re really fun to catch but also heavily regulated. Novices and pros alike will experience an action-packed day, while catching their daily limit of five fish.

Going after Calico Bass is one of the best ways to get a taste of coastal fishing in Newport Beach. To get going, gear up with a 7–9’ rod, some cut squid or an iron surface lure, and head into the flats. Calico Bass feed on kelp grass, so shallow waters and rocky shorelines are your best bet.

California Halibut

A male angler holding a smaller California Halibut aboard a charter fishing vessel.

While you’re exploring the kelp, you’ll come across another SoCal favorite. Big and flat, California Halibut make for a delicious and easy dinner. Why easy? Well, these fish aren’t the hardest-working bunch. A slow-moving, enticing piece of bait is usually all it takes to get a hook up. They do have some pretty sharp teeth, though, so the right bite in the right place could fray your line.

Despite their lazy nature, their size can make reeling them in exciting. The largest California Halibut caught to date came in at a whopping 67 pounds and was hooked right here on the Southern California coast. The average trophy, however, usually comes in in the 25-pound range. Catch them by drifting, slow trolling, or even casting from shore in the spring and early fall.

White Seabass

A male angler holding a large White Seabass aboard a charter boat in Southern California.

Likely the most elusive characters on our list, White Seabass are hard to pin down. They’re known to be picky about everything from depth and water temperature to feeding times. We do know a few things for certain, though, and we’re happy to share those with you.

These fish typically like to call the rocky shorelines of Catalina and San Clemente Island home. Fishing for White Seabass usually starts in March and picks up significantly come summer. They’re open to most bait and jigs, but sardines and live squid remain favorites. Most importantly, remember to be patient. When you least expect it, they’ll start biting with abandon.

Yellowtail Amberjack

A male angler holding a trophy Yellowtail Amberjack, with the Catalina shoreline in the background.

If it’s starting to seem like you can catch all of Southern California’s most famous fish in Newport Beach, it’s because you can! It should come as no surprise, then, that Yellowtail Amberjack are next on our list. Hard-fighting, fast, and delicious, Yellowtails are all-round great targets. 

Your search will take you into deeper waters than we’ve explored up until now. From March through November, Catalina Island is the place to be for Yellowtail fishing. Anchovies, sardines, and squid are all great bait choices when it comes to these opportunistic eaters. Specimens typically come in between 10–20 pounds and they like to deep dive. Gearing up with 30–80-pound braided line gives you a fighting chance.

Tuna

A pair of enthusiast anglers holding a large Bluefin Tuna aboard a charter fishing vessel.

The variety of Tuna on offer here is one of the many reasons why deep sea fishing in Newport Beach is world-class. By the time summer hits, local anglers and visitors head towards Catalina Island and beyond in search of Yellowfin, Bluefin, and Albacore Tuna. The deeper you go, the better your chances of hooking into one of these prized creatures. 

And you’ll certainly be rewarded for your efforts. Not only are these fish renowned for their delicious flesh, but they’re deep divers who provide some of what’s arguably the best action around. To make the most out of it, gear up with your heaviest tackle and plenty of enticing live bait. Trolling, chumming, sight casting, and even kite fishing can get you there.

How do you catch fish in Newport Beach?

There are a few different ways to go about your Newport Beach fishing adventure. Whether you’re hitting the open seas or hoping to cast a line from shore, we highlight some of the best ways to get your fish on below.

Charter Boat Fishing

An aerial view of some of the boats docked in Newport Harbor.

There’s no doubt that hopping on a Newport Beach fishing charter gives you the most freedom. And you’ll have plenty of choices, too. Newport Harbor is one of the largest recreational boat harbors on the West Coast, boasting over 9,000 vessels. Whether you’re looking for a decked-out sportfishing boat to head offshore, or a center console to explore the bay – it’s here!

Best of all, you’ll have an experienced captain on hand who’ll take care of your gear and provide expert guidance. They’ll ensure you’re fishing within the law and share some local tips and tricks to take your Newport Beach fishing experience to the next level. All you’ll need to bring along is a valid California fishing license and your enthusiasm.

Kayak Fishing

Fishing kayaks for rent at a marina in Southern California.

Southern California’s world-famous sunshine, Pacific coastline, and beaches make it an outdoor-lover’s paradise. It should come as no surprise, then, that kayak fishing is a popular activity across the region – Newport Beach included. Your best bet for hooking Calico Bass, Rockfish, Surfperch, and Croaker is heading just outside Newport Harbor.

Kayak fishing brings its own set of responsibilities, though. You’re your own captain and engine so physical stamina and some knowledge of the area are essential. It’s also a good idea to check the surf report before heading to avoid any swell. Make sure that you also bring along a radio and an extra paddle just in case.

Pier Fishing

The landmark Newport Beach Pier at sunset.

Like in most beach towns, the piers are the place to be in Newport Beach. They’re bustling with sunset chasers, cyclers, and restaurant patrons. But it’s the anglers who get the most out of what Newport Beach’s piers have to offer! Although there’s more than one you can visit, the city’s namesake pier is something of a Southern California landmark. 

Cast a line from the Newport Beach Pier and you’ll have access to some deep waters. It stretches over 1,000 feet, bringing you closer to the area’s large underwater canyon. Potential hook ups include California Halibut, Sculpin, Barracuda, Surfperch, and even the odd Yellowtail.

Shore Fishing

The waves lapping the shores of one of many of the beaches in Newport Beach.

Newport’s long, sandy beaches are one of the city’s trademarks. What does that mean for anglers? Incredible surf fishing, of course! Head down just before dusk or during the incoming tide when there are plenty of tasty critters to lure your targets closer to shore.

Most anglers casting from the beach come here for the Surfperch. These year-round targets are seasonally joined by California Halibut, Croaker, and California Corbina. Shore anglers are treated the same as charter boat anglers when it comes to fishing licenses. Be sure to pick one up before heading to the beach.

Where can I fish in Newport Beach?

An aerial view of Newport Beach, a coastal city on the Pacific Ocean.

Newport Beach is a coastal city, through and through. As such, there are plenty of access points to the productive Pacific Ocean. No matter your targets or fishing preferences, there’s a place that’s perfect for you. Below, we’ve singled out some of the top spots on the Newport Beach fishing scene.

  • Newport Bay: There’s something for every angler here, whether you’re inshore fishing from a boat, casting from the shore, or kayak fishing. The upper sections of the bay are marshy, sandy, and rocky – aka the perfect habitat for fish! Hook Calico and Sand Bass, Halibut, and Barracuda.
  • Horseshoe Kelp: Southern California fishing would be nothing without the kelp beds. Horseshoe Kelp consists of clusters of kelp paddies that host plenty of inshore fish and the occasional offshore visitor. 
  • The Wedge: Located on the easternmost end of the Balboa Peninsula, the Wedge is primarily known for surfing. But fishing from the rocky jetty that forms the Wedge is great too! You can hook into Whitefish, Halibut, Mackerel, and Calico.
  • Corona Del Mar Beach: This is where Newport’s coastal fishing scene shines. You can cast from the beach or explore this stretch of coast aboard a charter boat. Calico Bass, large White Seabass, and Sheephead are all caught here. 
  • Newport Beach Pier: Measuring in at 1,000 feet, this old wooden pier has been reinforced with concrete over the years. Due to its length, anglers casting off of here have access to fairly deep waters where Mackerel, Bonito, Barracuda, and even the odd Yellowtail hide.
  • Catalina Island: Oh Catalina, no SoCal fishing list is complete without you. Found about 28 miles from Newport Beach, Catalina is the sportfisher’s paradise. For Tuna, Mahi Mahi, Striped Marlin, White Seabass, and huge Calico Bass it’s the place to be.

Anything else I need to know?

A sign displaying the words "bait and tackle, fishing licenses."

The last step in planning your Newport Beach fishing trip is making sure you’re fishing lawfully. There are a few things to take into consideration: fishing licenses, seasonality, and harvesting and bagging limits.

Fishing Licenses

All anglers over the age of 16 fishing from a boat or from shore need to purchase a California fishing license before heading out. The only anglers who are exempt from purchasing fishing licenses are those fishing from a public pier. Even though a license isn’t required on the pier, you’re still subject to seasonality, harvesting, and bagging limits. More on that below!

Seasonality and Harvesting

An infographic displaying seasonality and bagging limits for some of Southern California's top catches including Bluefin and Yellowfin Tuna, Calico Bass, and Yellowtail.

California heavily regulates its fisheries, and that includes Newport Beach. Possession and bag limits change from year-to-year so consulting the CDWF before heading out is always a good idea. The infographic above illustrates open seasons for some of the area’s top catches. If you didn’t find the fish you were looking for, check out our more extensive fish calendar.

Newport Beach: A Vibrant Coastal City

The Pacific Ocean waves lapping the shore of Newport Beach at sunset.

Heading out on a Newport Beach fishing trip is one of the best ways to discover everything this city has to offer. Board a vessel and cruise the open waters of the Pacific, set up on the beach and enjoy the sunshine, or head to the piers and experience life as a local. You’ll go home rested, rewarded, and itching to come back – we guarantee it!

How did your Newport Beach fishing adventure play out? Have any experiences to share? Drop us a line, we love to hear from you!

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