Southern California Fishing

Southern California’s beauty and year-round great weather combined with plenty of accessible locations for fishing make it a fan favorite.

Southern California Ocean Fishing

One of the most popular places to head if you plan on fishing in California is the Pacific Ocean. Coastal areas offer some of the best ocean fishing spots in Southern California. Here are some to try:

  • San Luis Obispo: If shark fishing at night is your dream, you’ll find plenty of charters available in the quaint little commercial fishing town of Morro Bay, less than 20 miles NW of town on SH 1. If pier and/or surf fishing is more your style, there’s the Cayucos Pier in Morro Bay or you can take SH 101 out of town about 20 miles S to find ample areas to land perch and more in Pismo Beach, motto “Clam Capital of the World.”
  • Ventura: Home to the iconic Ventura Pier, open to anglers since 1872. This 1600 foot-long structure provides a panoramic view of the nearby Channel Islands (accessible by ferry or plane). Mackerel, rays and sharks are but a few of the abundant varieties of deep water fish available. Fishing the sandy bottom closer to shore is where you’ll land crustaceans like lobsters and crab.
  • Dockweiler State Beach: Into surf fishing? Then head to the west end of the Los Angeles airport. This beach is a favorite spot to fish from its three miles of shoreline. It’s also popular for fly fishing.
  • Oceanside: Grab your gear and head to Oceanside Pier in northern San Diego County. This historical spot – one of the longest wooden piers on the West Coast – is a haven for everything from croakers to sand bass, depending on where you stand on the pier.
  • San Diego: Here is where you’ll find the longest pier in Southern California: the 1,972-ft Ocean Beach Pier. Or maybe you’re looking for a different type of experience, such as sleeping quarters on the pier itself. In that case, head on down to Crystal Pier at Pacific Beach.

Why so many piers? Because anglers do not need a fishing license to use public piers, making these destinations quite popular for visitors. There are dozens of piers in Southern California; Santa Monica, Huntington and Redondo are but a few of the more famous piers in Southern California.

However, if you prefer to head a little farther afield, escape to Catalina Island for schools of mackerel as well as sport fish like yellowtail and white sea bass. With so many coves, beaches and reefs, there are plenty of habitats to explore. No boat? No problem. Just catch one of numerous ferries from San Pedro or Long Beach to drop a line or hire one of the myriad of charters found in towns and cities throughout Southern California.

Top Freshwater SoCal Fishing Destinations

If you’re planning to head inland, your options are just as numerous. One of the top-rated freshwater spots for Southern California fishing are the Mammoth Lakes. Located in Mono County, this series of lakes stays stocked with trout which can be fished from either boat or the banks.

Another popular lake is Lake Gregory in the San Bernardino Mountains. An artificial lake nestled in the forest, it’s not only rustically beautiful but a great place for trout since rainbow trout are planted regularly to keep the stock up.

While Lake Arrowhead is the largest in San Bernardino County, another popular spot near by is Big Bear Lake. Fishing here is popular year-round from shore or by boat. Known for trout you’ll also find other lake fish like small and largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill and channel catfish.


Lake Cuyamaca, a smaller reservoir east of San Diego, is stocked with 45,000 rainbow trout annually – all year long. You’ll also find bass, crappie, bluegill and channel catfish, all just an hour’s drive from San Diego.

Want to avoid crowds? Diamond Valley Lake in Hemet is a huge manmade reservoir – with 4,500 surface acres – so you’ll have plenty of space to cast for black bass, trout, bluegill and channel catfish.

Just remember, unlike public piers, everyone – resident or nonresident – 16 or older must have a sport fishing license if they plan to go fishing in California’s inland or ocean waters. Licenses can be obtained online or at a license agent of CDFW license sales office.