California’s Urban Fishing in the City Program

By Alycia Downs

Mar 17, 2020

California’s Fishing in the City program creates angling opportunities for the state’s growing urban population. Learn more about the program and what metropolitan areas offer it.

In 1993, California launched the Fishing in the City program, intended to create angling opportunities for the state’s growing urban population. While metropolitan areas often feature park lakes, ponds, and streams, urban residents didn’t view them as viable fishing opportunities as many were suffering from pollution and habitat degradation. The program goals of Fishing in the City include:

  • Providing opportunities for people to reconnect with their local waterways
  • Providing beginner anglers with tools and knowledge to make fishing a lifelong activity
  • Providing advanced anglers with skills they can grow and eventually teach to others
  • Raising awareness about the connection between healthy aquatic habitats, healthy fish, and healthy people
  • Encouraging schools and community members to participate in local habitat improvement projects
  • Encouraging collaboration within each community to customize their Fishing in the City program for their community
  • Providing fish, scientific and educational consultation and guidance

In order to be selected for the program, the state conducts an analysis to determine whether an urban water body is a good candidate using a few basic criteria:

  • Is the lake within an urban area – accessible by public transportation, bicycle, etc?
  • Can the lake biologically sustain a year round fishery?
  • Are there water quality problems that would make the fish unsafe to eat?
  • Does the lake manager support fishing and are they wiling to maintain the site for fishing?
  • Is there community support for a fishing program – volunteers, businesses, schools?
  • Are the Lake Manager and community members willing to provide long-term in-kind support for maintaining a community fishing education program?

The program is currently offered in several metropolitan areas including Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay, and Sacramento and provides incredible volunteer opportunities for anglers and residents alike. Those who take advantage of urban fishing are still required to purchase a California fishing license before enjoying the activity.

Learn more about fishing in California or research urban fishing programs near you.

Alycia Downs
Alycia Downs
Alycia Downs is a freelance content creator and avid sportsman who contributes to numerous publications promoting tourism, fishing, and outdoors. Alycia is a member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association and is actively involved with conservation and fishing non-profit organizations. Visit her personal blog at or on Instagram @tideandtale.