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Free fishing in California on public piers is a sport that is easy to get hooked on. Not only is ocean and bay pier fishing free in California (does not include piers on inland waterways), children under the age of 16 generally do not need a fishing license to fish from lakes and in the ocean directly. Over the age of 16, anglers do require a license to fish if they are standing on a shoreline, riding in a boat, or casting line from a jetty not considered a public pier.

See our Map of California’s Historic Fishing Piers.

Additionally, the State of California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) offers two free fishing days per year to lure non-anglers into a sport they can become hooked on and enjoy for a lifetime of great recreational activity. By the numbers, fishing is one of the top sports in the USA. Fishing is recreational, fun, relaxing and offers the benefit of providing a food source.

It’s always wise to check about the quality of local fish by reading signs posted about fish warnings and searching the DFG website for updates on recommendations about which fish to avoid in their fish consumption guideline pages that they routinely post and update.

If you don’t have your own gear, many piers and nearby concessions sell or rent equipment at affordable rates costing a lot less than rentals for sports such as surfing. Below are California fishing piers where you can cast a line and not be required to purchase a fishing license. For licenses, 1-day, several day and annual fishing licenses are sold online and at sporting goods stores and Walmart.

Free Fishing Piers in California (HP = Handicapped Parking; HR = Handicapped Restrooms)

  • Antioch Pier, San Joaquin River – Catfish, striped bass
  • Avila Pier, HP – Mackerel, white croaker, surfperch
  • Balboa Pier, HR – Surfperch, corbina, jacksmelt, bonito
  • Berkeley Fishing Pier fishing, HP – Staghorn sculpin, surfperch, jacksmelt
  • Brisbane Fishing Pier, HP, HR – Staghorn, sculpin, Surfperch
  • Cabrillo Fishing Pier, HP- White croaker, Pacific mackerel
  • Capitola Wharf, HP – Perch, mackerel, jacksmelt
  • Cayucos Pier, HP – Pacific mackerel, white croaker, jacksmelt
  • Chula Vista, “J” Street Marina, HP, HR -Smelt, perch, guitarfish, croaker
  • Dana Point Pier, HP, HR – Surfperch, corbina, jacksmelt, bonito
  • Embarcadero Fishing Pier (5th Ave, SD), HP; HR – Smelt, bass, croaker, halibut
  • F.D. Roosevelt Fishing Pier, HR
  • Fort Point Fishing Pier, San Francisco, HR – Staghorn sculpin, Surfperch
  • Half Moon Bay (Johnson’s Pier), HP; HR – Surfperch, flounder, kingfish
  • Gaviota Pier, HP; HR – Surfperch, corbina, jacksmelt, bonito, mackerel
  • Goleta Pier, HP; HR – Surfperch, corbina, jacksmelt, mackerel
  • Huntington Beach Pier, HR – Corbina, mackerel
  • Imperial Beach Pier, HP – Mackerel, halibut, bass, croakers
  • Jenner Visitor Center – Steelhead, coho, topsmelt, striped bass
  • Los Banos Wildlife Area – Catfish, carp, crappie, bass
  • Malibu Pier, HP – Surfperch, corbina, jacksmelt, bonito, mackerel
  • Manhattan Pier, HP – Corbina, jacksmelt, bonito, mackerel
  • Martinez Fishing Pier, HP
  • Monterey Wharf #2, HP – Mackerel, bonito, sanddabs, jacksmelt
  • Newport Pier, HP; HR – Corbina, jacksmelt, bonito mackerel
  • North T-Pier Morro Bay, HR – Jacksmelt, Pacific mackerel, surfperch
  • Ocean Beach Fishing Pier San Diego, HR – Topsmelt, mackerel, bass
  • Oceanside Harbor, HP – Smelt, perch, guitarfish
  • Oyster Pt. Fishing Pier, HR – Surfperch
  • Pacifica Fishing Pier, HP – White croaker, surfperch
  • Paradise Beach Fishing Pier, HP, HR – Surfperch, Staghorn sculpin
  • Pismo Beach Pier, HP, HR – Mackerel, jacksmelt, perch
  • Port Hueneme Pier, HP; HR – Corbina, jacksmelt, bonito, mackerel
  • Port San Luis Pier, HP, HR – Perch, mackerel, white croaker, jacksmelt
  • Pt. Benicia Fishing Pier – Flounder, bullhead
  • Pt. Pinole Fishing Pier, HP, HR – Staghorn sculpin, surfperch
  • Redondo Beach Fishing Pier – Silversides, jacksmelt, halibut
  • San Clemente Pier, HP; HR -Croaker, topsmelt, mackerel
  • San Leandro Fishing Platform – Staghorn sculpin
  • San Simeon Pier – Surfperch, jacksmelt, white croaker
  • Santa Cruz Wharf, HP; HR – Pacific mackerel, jacksmelt, sculpin, perch
  • Santa Monica Pier, HP – Corbina, jacksmelt, bonito, mackerel
  • Seacliff Wharf and Cement Boat, HP; HR – Perch, jacksmelt, mackerel, sculpin
  • Seal Beach Pier, HP – California halibut, yellowfin croaker
  • South T-Pier, Morro Bay – Pacific mackerel, surfperch, jacksmelt
  • Venice Fishing Pier, HP – Cackerel, halibut
  • Ventura Pier, HP; HR – Corbina, jacksmelt, bonito, mackerel

For more information on fishing license requirements and the exception for fishing from piers in ocean waters, please see the California Fish and Game Code (FGC) 7145 and FGC 7153

See related:

Piers of Orange County

California Fishing Spots