San Diego Pier Fishing: All You Need to Know
Apr 20, 2021 | 6 minute read Comments
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Reading Time: 6 minutes

When it comes to pier fishing, few destinations in the country can compare to San Diego. With enjoyable weather year-round and a coastline most other places can only dream of, the city has all the ingredients for a shore angler’s paradise. The best part is, “America’s Finest City” is dotted with amazing fishing piers that put you right in the thick of the action. Today, you’ll learn all you need to know about San Diego pier fishing.

crystal pier san diego

Before we get to the actual piers you’ll be fishing from, let’s get a few general facts out of the way. 

Do I need a fishing license?

No, you do not need a fishing license to fish from San Diego’s piers. Keep in mind, however, that this only goes for coastal piers, and not for beaches and inland docks. You will still need to abide by all other California fishing regulations, like size and bag limits. 

When do I fish?

To make the most out of your pier fishing experience, time your casts when the tides are changing. This is when the ocean stirs up loads of nutrients from the seabed, inviting all sorts of fish to feast. For you, this means it’s “go” time. With just a little tide chart know-how, you’ll know exactly when to wet your line.

You can also check San Diego’s tide forecast here.

What gear do I need?

Pier fishing is not as gear-intensive as charter fishing, so you’ll just need a few essentials to make things work. Still, the fishing piers in San Diego can be very long, with some stretching almost 2,000 feet! This means that the fishing (and the gear) can be very different at the base and at the end of the pier.

fishing rods on a fishing pier in san diego

Generally speaking, heavier gear will work better as you move further down the pier. In most situations, medium to heavy rods between 6 and 9 feet tend to work best. Make sure to have a good saltwater spinning reel to avoid corrosion.

For your line, a 20–30 lb test mono is usually the best option. It’s strong enough to pull some decently-sized fish, but at the same time flexible enough to withstand any break-off attempts. You’ll also need a sinker to keep your payload down and stable against the current.

For bait, you can use anything from squid and bloodworms to sardines and anchovies. Of course, lures can get the job done as well, so it never hurts to have a few on you. A good rule of thumb is to ask what’s been working recently at the local bait shop. A few other items you’ll want to have are sunscreen, polarized sunglasses, pliers, a filleting knife, and a cooler.

Nowadays, most piers are equipped with bait and tackle shops that will cover almost all of your gear needs. Many of these shops offer good quality rental rods as well, allowing all anglers to have their shot.

Where do I fish?

Crystal Pier

Address: 4500 Ocean Blvd, San Diego

Open: 8:00 A.M. to sunset

Parking: Only on the street

What can you catch: Surf Perch, California Corbina, Queenfish, Mackerel, Halibut and Lobster

Definitely one of the more unique fishing piers on the West Coast, Crystal Pier is perfect for people who like to take their time and indulge. The pier is lined with cozy cottages equipped with terraces looking out onto the ocean. For one-day visitors, there’s a bait and tackle store, a fish cleaning station, and benches.

Imperial Beach Pier

Address: 10 Evergreen Ave, Imperial Beach

Open: 5:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M.

Parking: $2 

What can you catch: Surf Perch, California Corbina, Croaker, Mackerel, Bonito, Halibut

Imperial Beach Pier, San Diego

Just a couple of miles from Mexico, Imperial Beach Pier is the southernmost fishing pier in California. Walking down its 1,491 feet of wooden planks will award you with a commanding view of the Coronado Islands ahead. Originally built in 1963, the pier offers restrooms, benches, fish cleaning stations, and a restaurant serving burgers and fresh seafood.

Ocean Beach Pier

Address: Niagara Ave, San Diego

Open: 24h

Parking: Free 

What can you catch: Surf Perch, Queenfish, Scorpionfish, Bonito, Mackerel, and Lobster

Ocean Beach Pier, San Diego

Jutting an impressive 1,971 feet into the Pacific, Ocean Beach Pier is the longest concrete pier in California. The pier was first opened in 1966, and it stands in depths of 20 feet at its deepest point. Ocean Beach Pier boasts a restaurant, a restroom, and a bait and tackle shop. 

Embarcadero Park Pier

Address: 200 Marina Park Way, San Diego

Open: 24h

Parking: Free, closes at 10:00 P.M.

What can you catch: Sand Bass, Bay Bass, Calico Bass, Mackerel, Barracuda

Embarcadero Park Pier, San Diego

Measuring just 95 feet in length, the unassuming T-shaped Embarcadero Park Pier is one of the best-kept secrets in town. Thanks to its eelgrass bottom and nearby artificial reef, the pier is among the most productive spots in town. The pier doesn’t offer much in terms of amenities, but if you come prepared, you’ll be in for a blast. 

Oceanside Pier

Address: 1540 N Harbor Dr, Oceanside

Open: 24h

Parking: Options for hourly and daily tickets, open from 4:30 P.M. to 10:30 P.M.

What can you catch: Sand Bass, Bay Bass, Calico Bass, Mackerel, Barracuda

oceanside pier, san diego

At 1954 feet, Oceanside Pier is one of the longest piers in California. It is one of the rare wooden piers of its size, and the perfect choice for beachgoers. Thanks to its size, the pier reaches waters as deep as 50 feet, putting you on some good-sized fish. Oceanside Pier boasts a quality bait shop, and a charming 50s style diner where you can grab a tasty burger or a cold drink. 

Shelter Island Pier

Address: 1776 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego

Open: 24h

Parking: Options for hourly and daily tickets, open from 6:00 A.M. to 10:30 P.M.

What can you catch: Sand Bass, Bay Bass, Calico Bass, Mackerel, Barracuda 

shelter island gazebos, san diego

Located in one of San Diego’s liveliest fishing communities, Shelter Island Pier has everything you need for a good quality fishing experience. The local bait and tackle shop has top-notch gear rentals and bait. If you’re in the mood for a fishing story or two, the Marlin Club is right next door. There are also several restaurants within walking distance, as well as ample parking space. The pier itself stretches 200 feet into the water, with a T-shaped 500-foot wide platform at the front. Once you’re done fishing, you can go for a relaxing stroll along the bay.

Plenty More to Discover

“America’s Finest City” is soaked in its love of angling. You can spend days exploring the coast and the bountiful pier fishing San Diego offers. Whether it’s catching fish with your family, your buddies, or even just making new friends on the dock, pier fishing in San Diego is an experience you’ll remember for a long time.

Crystal pier, San Diego

What are your favorite fishing piers in San Diego? What was your best catch? Any advice for San Diego pier fishing newbies? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Comments (15)
  • isidro gonzalez

    Jul 8, 2021

    Hello

    NEED HELP

    Can we use live bait in the embarcadero or imperial beach piers ???

    If so which pier and what type of fish

    Thank and have a great day

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  • Karen Hathaway

    Jun 29, 2021

    Is there decent hoop net crabbing at any of these piers?

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      Sean

      Jul 1, 2021

      Hi Karen,

      Thanks for reading.

      To be honest, crabbing isn’t very productive this far south. Most crabbing hotspots in California are located north of Point Conception, so I’m afraid that the odds of catching crab in San Diego are pretty low.

      Still, the incredible pier fishing action you can experience around here is a pretty nice consolation prize.

      Thanks again for reading and have a great day!

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  • Stephen Gluck

    Apr 15, 2021

    Coming to Mission Beach April 22-25th. my Grandson is 9 and hoping to catch something. are our best chances in the surf, bay, or on Crystal Pier ?

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      Sean

      Apr 16, 2021

      Hi Stephen,

      Thanks for reading.

      On most days, your best chances are on Crystal Pier, simply because you’ll be fishing deeper waters. The structure and the pillars attract fish in good numbers, and they tend to get bigger than the ones you can catch in the surf or in the bay. The only situation when you’d be better off avoiding the pier is if the weather is rough.

      I hope you’ll find this helpful.

      Have a great day!

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  • Mark

    Apr 1, 2021

    Hey Sean, thank you so much for your writing.

    I’m taking my son for a fishing trip. We will arrive early afternoon on Monday (April 5th) and we have to be at the airport at noon on the next day. (April 6th) So, there is still a chance we can fish Tuesday early morning until 10am.

    I’m staying downtown San Diego, I’m thinking Crystal Pier and somewhere else.

    What would you recommend for these two days?

    We are not bringing any gear, so, I’m thinking of renting there.

    Thanks,

    Mark

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    • Reply icon

      Sean

      Apr 5, 2021

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for reading.

      You can definitely throw a few lines from Crystal Pier. The thing is, the pier only opens at 9:00 AM, so you won’t have a lot of time to fish.

      You can try Shelter Island Pier. It’s also pretty close to downtown, and is open from 6:00 AM. There are several bait and tackle stores in the area, as well.

      I hope you’ll find this helpful.

      Tight lines!

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  • Keith

    Mar 2, 2021

    We are planning a visit to San Diego in late April. One of the things on my bucket list is to fish the bay. I’ve googled pier fishing in the bay and have found that there are tackle rentals in the area. I’m not finding any websites to the tackle shops, nor am I finding rental prices.

    Can you point me to one of the bay area Tackle rental shops in town?

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      Sean

      Mar 2, 2021

      Hi Keith,

      Thanks for reading.

      There’s a number of tackle shops around N Harbor Dr and Rosecrans St. but as you probably know, not all of them do rentals.

      One that offers online rental pricing is Point Loma Sportfishing.

      They’re located at 1403 Scott St on the northern side of the Bay.

      I hope you’ll find this helpful.

      Tight lines!

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  • Hawazin S Khattab

    Jan 31, 2021

    What’s the best and fun pier to catch Mackerel at night in San Diego?

    Thank you.

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      Sean

      Feb 1, 2021

      Hi Hawazin,

      Thanks for reading.

      While most piers in San Diego will give you a chance to catch Mackerel, the one that strikes a balance between good fishing and opportunities for fun is probably Ocean Beach Pier. This is the longest concrete pier in town, which means that you’ll be able to fish in some decently deep waters.

      The pier is open 24 hours a day, but be sure to check any restrictions related to the covid pandemic before heading out, though. The pier should still be open at this time, but it never hurts to check.

      Tight lines!

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  • Dan

    Nov 26, 2020

    Any good places to catch Californian halibut?

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    • Reply icon

      Sean

      Nov 27, 2020

      Hi Dan,

      Thanks for reading.

      One of the best places you can go for Halibut is Imperial Beach Pier.

      Anglers typically catch them in the mid-section of the pier, and it’s usually live bait that does it.

      I hope you’ll find this helpful.

      Tight lines!

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  • Lindsey

    Jul 21, 2020

    I was just wondering if tge piers are open for fishing?

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      Sean

      Jul 21, 2020

      Hi Lindsey,

      Thanks for reading.

      Yes, at the moment, fishing piers are open to the public. Still, as things are changing pretty much on a daily basis, I’d recommend you phoning the pier you’d like to fish from to make sure that they’re still open.

      You can also check for updates through the official San Diego county website.

      Have a great day!

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