Pier Fishing in California: The Complete Guide

Apr 19, 2021 | 7 minute read Comments
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Reading Time: 7 minutes

With its year-round warm temperatures and a stunning 800-mile-long coastline, California is perfectly set up for fishing. Add to that an almost unrivaled variety of fish, and you’ve got yourself what many call an angler’s paradise. The best part is, you don’t even need a boat to experience it all. Thanks to the many fishing piers California has to offer, the state’s best fisheries are right at your fingertips. Here’s everything you need to know about pier fishing in California.

an aerial view of Santa Monica pier

Before we get into the individual fishing piers in California, let’s cover some basic pier fishing questions. 

Do you need a license to fish off the pier in California?

The short answer is, it depends. If you’re fishing from a public pier in California, you don’t need a fishing license. However, if you’re 16 or older, you must have a fishing license to fish off a private pier, or any other part of the Californian coast.

You should also know that California offers a few days in the year when you can fish for free. Check out the CDFW website to see this year’s dates. Keep in mind that bag limits and size restrictions apply even when you don’t need a fishing license.

How many rods can you use?

You may use no more than two rods and lines when fishing from a pier in California. Similarly, you may use no more than two hand lines, or two nets, or traps. You can, of course, bring more than a couple of rods with you, but you can’t actively use more than two at a time.

What fish can you catch?

Depending on where you choose to wet your line, there’s a whole range of species you can catch. In northern California, the options range from Rockfish, Sharks, and California Halibut, to Jacksmelt, Surf Smelt, and Surfperch. To the south, you can expect to catch Halibut and California Corbina, as well as Calico Bass, Mackerel, and Barracuda.

Alright, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the best fishing piers in California. 

Newport Beach California

If you’re specifically interested in pier fishing in San Diego, you can check out our detailed guide right here.

The Top Fishing Piers in California

Redondo Beach Fishing Pier

Address: 121 W Torrance Blvd 103, Redondo Beach

License: Free

Open: 24 hours

Redondo Beach fishing pier is one of California’s oldest and most popular fishing piers. Around four million people visit the pier each year, making it the most visited in the state! That’s probably because this place offers a lot more than just great fishing. But more on that in a second.

an aerial view of Redondo Beach pier and the town in the background

With its horseshoe shape, The Redondo Beach fishing pier offers a lot of space for anglers to get around. Popular catches include Mackerel, Jacksmelt, Halibut, and the occasional Barracuda.

When it’s time to wrap up, the pier’s fish cleaning station is where you can clean and fillet your catch. Didn’t catch anything? No worries, the Ol’ Dondo pier has several restaurants that will happily serve you the day’s catch. If you’re in a hurry, you can just grab a fish from the local fish market. 

Last but not least, the pier offers its own parking lot, as well as souvenir shops and arcades for youngsters.

Santa Monica Pier

Address: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica

License: Free

Open: 6:00 a.m. 10:00 p.m.

One of the most iconic fishing piers in California, the Santa Monica fishing pier is a “pier rat’s” favorite. The 2,000-foot-long pier features two decks. The upper deck is a wider platform, lined with shops and food stands, as well as a whole amusement park. The lower deck, meanwhile, is where most fishermen decide to wet their lines from.

Santa Monica pier

If you’re the type of angler who likes their fishing lively and loud, Santa Monica Pier is the place for you. Some of the species you can catch here include Mackerel, White Seabass, Leopard Shark, and Stingrays. You can get your bait and tackle needs sorted out at the local shop at the end of the pier.

There are a number of parking lots near the pier, so you should have no problem finding a spot. To save time, you can check the real-time availability online.  

Newport Beach Pier

Address: 70 Newport Pier, Newport Beach

License: Free

Open: 5:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Stretching just over 1,000-feet into the Pacific, Newport Beach pier is one of California’s most iconic landmarks. Located in one of California’s most charming coastal towns, the pier is home to the historic Dory Fleet Market. This colorful place has been selling the ocean’s freshest and tastiest catches for over a hundred years. The market opens up at 5:00 a.m., so you better get an early start if you want to pick up a tasty piece of fish.

Newport Beach pier

Better yet, you can catch your own. Newport Beach pier isn’t as glamorous as some of the other piers in California, but for fishing purists, this is as good as it gets. The town is one of the premier fisheries in the state. And thanks to its proximity to a large underwater canyon, big fish are only a cast away.

The notable species you can catch include Halibut, Mackerel, White Seabass, and even Yellowtail! 

Santa Cruz Wharf

Address: 21 Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz

License: Free

Open: 5:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.

There’s a reason why Santa Cruz pier fishing is considered to be one of the best angling experiences in the state. At an impressive 2,745 feet, the Santa Cruz Wharf is one of the largest piers on the entire West Coast. This alone puts you in a unique position, because you’ll be able to wet your line in much deeper waters compared to other fishing piers in California.

an aerial view of Santa Cruz Wharf
The Santa Cruz Wharf is one of the largest piers on the entire West Coast.

Before you step on the pier, you’ll be greeted by one of the town’s signature landmarks. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is California’s oldest amusement park, and a definite must-see for any visitor. From arcades to mini-golf courses and a huge wooden roller coaster, the Boardwalk is all   about family fun.

When it’s time to wet a line, you’ll have no shortage of productive spots to choose from. The first part of the pier is known as a productive spot for Skate and Flounder. The eastern side of the midway section of the pier is another spot you’ll want to try. Here, near the tackle shop, you’ll see good numbers of White Croaker, Surfperch, and even an occasional Halibut.

The end of the pier is where the best angling takes place. Here, you can catch Rockfish and Lingcod in colder months, as well as Mackerel and Salmon during the warmer part of the year.

Huntington Beach Pier

Address: Main St. and Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach

License: Free

Open: 5:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Definitely one for the most picturesque piers in the state, Huntington Beach Pier is an awesome place to spend the day. Equipped with heaps of unmistakable Cali charm, the pier lends spectacular views no matter where you look. Gaze out to the Pacific, and you’ll see the beautiful Catalina Island. To the south, Newport Beach greets the waves with open arms, while the north offers views of Long Beach and L.A.

a view of Huntington Beach pier

The 1,850-foot-long pier might be over a 100 years old, but it offers everything a visiting angler could want. Among other things, it boasts a well-equipped tackle shop, a tiki bar, as well as a ’40s-style diner.

Year after year, anglers come to the pier to get a taste of the awesome fishing it offers. More often than not, they’ll end their day with a nice Sand Bass or White Croaker. Those with a little more skill will head for the mid-section of the pier. According to the locals, this is a great spot for Halibut. 

If you’re up for something bigger, head out to the end of the pier. Here, you can try your luck against the likes of Mackerel and Bonito. Some days, you’ll even get a chance to wrestle a Leopard Shark or Barracuda!

Seascape Pier

Address: Trinidad Wharf, Trinidad

License: Available for purchase

Open: 24/7

You didn’t think that all the best Californian fishing piers were in the south, did you? Contrasting the eternal summer fisheries of the south, the rugged northern coast offers a fishing scene every bit as rich and beautiful.

a view of the Trinidad pier in northern California

Just 80 miles south of the Oregon border, Trinidad’s Seascape Pier is one of the best fishing piers in northern California. The pier might be just over 540-feet long, but that doesn’t stop it from being an awesome angling spot. Its pilings attract seasonal Salmon, as well as Rockfish, Lingcod, and Halibut.

This is a private pier, meaning you’ll need to have a license to fish here. Luckily, the tackle shop at the base of the pier will cover that.

The area around the pier has plenty to offer, too. There are a couple of restaurants in the very close vicinity, serving guests with delicious fish chowders. A short walk away, the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse offers a commanding view of the bay. Last but not least, a 15-minute drive will take you to the heart of redwood country, and the stunning Patrick’s Point State Park.

A Pier Fisher’s Delight

It doesn’t matter if you’re just getting into fishing, or even if you’re an expert angler, wetting a line from one of California’s fishing piers is something you’ve got to try at least once in your life. Between the fishing piers we mentioned, and countless others you have yet to discover, the options are endless. Whichever one you choose, one thing’s for sure. Pier fishing in California will change the way you think about angling.

flowers and the Capitola fishing pier in the background

So there you have it. What do you think of our picks? What’s your favorite fishing pier in California? Is there something you would recommend to a first-time pier fisher? Let us know in the comments below.

Comments (10)
  • Timothy Weiss

    Mar 7, 2022

    What about san Francisco piers.

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      Andriana

      Mar 8, 2022

      Hello Timothy,

      Thanks for the question. San Francisco piers offer excellent fishing, so much so that we dedicated an entire article just to all the fishing opportunities that are available from the city. You can read all about it here.

      I hope this answers your question, Timothy.

      All the best!

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  • Cheryl damon

    Jul 8, 2021

    My husband was cited on 06/25/2021 by the East Bay Regional Park District for fishing without a license off the Antioch, CA pier. What sets this pier aside from fishing on californis’s public piers?

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      Rhys

      Jul 8, 2021

      Hi Cheryl,

      Thanks for reading and I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s troubles. As Antioch pier is not on the ocean, it is not considered a public fishing pier as per state regulations. Therefore, a license is required for all anglers over the age of 16 who fish there. I hope this clears things up.

      Tight lines,

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  • Charles R. Donaldson

    Jun 14, 2021

    I was looking for information about Gaviota Pier at the state park. I had heard it was closed due to storm damage. Is it open and is it safe? We plan a camping and hiking vacation next month so I would like to know the situation.

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      Katie

      Jun 15, 2021

      Hi Charles,

      Thanks for your comment. From what we can see, it looks like Gaviota Pier is still closed. The state park itself is open, but we don’t believe it’s possible to access the pier at this moment.

      Have you considered checking out Goleta Pier? It’s located around 30 minutes from Gaviota State Park, and there’s a variety of camping areas dotted around this locations. It looks like a good alternative to Gaviota!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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  • Susana Lopez

    Apr 19, 2021

    Are all the piers open now due to Covid 19? I miss fishing off the piers!

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      Sean

      Apr 19, 2021

      Hi Susana,

      Thanks for reading, that’s a great question.

      As far as regulations are concerned, pier fishing is allowed again, yes. Some piers, like the Ocean Beach Fishing Pier, sadly aren’t in operation, due to different reasons. With this in mind, I’d suggest contacting the pier you’re interested in fishing on directly to make sure they’re working.

      You can also check the official California Fish and Wildlife regions page to get the latest updates on regulation changes in your area.

      I hope you’ll find this helpful.

      Have a great day!

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  • Norberto Vasquez

    Mar 4, 2021

    Where can I get map of the fishing piers in California

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      Sean

      Mar 5, 2021

      Hi Norberto,

      Thanks for reading.

      The easiest way to see all the fishing piers in one place is to type “fishing piers” when looking at California in Google Maps.

      We’ll be creating an infographic showing the most important fishing piers in the state soon, but you might want to use this as a temporary solution.

      I hope this helps.

      Have a great day!

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