Beach fishing is a fun experience and Southern California has many locations to choose from (see our list at the bottom of this page). There are several ways to fish from shore including casting from rocky areas, fly-fishing, and using live bait right in the crashing surf.
To make it happen you need to do a few things first. Find a location near you, determine when you can go, get the permits needed, and start packing. The information below will help you prepare your beach fishing trip.
Fishing license / permit
Fishing in the ocean from the beach anywhere in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Orange County requires a fishing license if you are aged 16 or older. Start by getting a “GO ID” online and it is pretty easy from there.
Note that fishing from a public pier in California does not require a permit.
When to fish
- After low tide (best during an incoming tide)
- Refer to California tide charts
- Early morning or before dusk
- Avoid heavy surf
- All of the species below can be caught year-round, but they have peak seasons (which are debated of course).
Species commonly fished for in Southern California
- Grunion (hand caught)
- Walleye surfperch
- Barred surfperch
- Rainbow surfperch
- California halibut
- Yellowfin croaker
- Spotfin croaker
- Black croaker
- California corbina
- Spotted turbot
- Diamond turbot
- Shiner perch
- Black perch
- Pile perch
- California scorpionfish
- Kelp bass
- Pacific chub mackerel
- Pacific sardine
- Striped mullet
- Leopard Sharks
- Bat Rays
- Bag or cooler for fish
- Fish bonker
- Tape measure
- Needle-nose pliers
- Fish net (optional)
- Stripping basket if fly-fishing
- Rods and reels: In the Socal surf you can usually get by with a light to medium weight setup like a 9 foot rod and 6 to 12 lb test line. Go to a heavyweight setup if using larger baitfish lures and plugs.
- Bait or lures: Use a sinker, small hooks, and try live bait (or frozen), small lures, flies on a Carolina rig, sand crabs, sand & blood worms, green peas, and small chunks of shrimp or clams/shellfish. Do some research for fishing tactics based on what you intend to catch.
- Fishing permit
- Sunblock & sun hat
- Polarized sunglasses (to see into the water better)
- Water shoes or waders
- PFD (personal floatation device) if wading
- Water & food
- Wallet & cell phone in a sealed bag/container (don’t leave valuables in the car)
Where to cast
- Look for channels in the sand where fish move through.
- Try flat sand bars and the edges of them
- Try white wash areas for corbina
- Cast into areas of feeding birds (areas with bait fish)
- Cast off rocks and look for sand crab beds
- Drop a line off of a fishing pier (try mid-pier first) to get into deeper water, shallow reefs, and even kelp beds
The best beach fishing spots in Southern California
You can catch fish year-round just about anywhere in the surf along the Southern California shoreline. The key is to avoid crowds and stay out of the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). CaliforniaMPAs.org is a good source for locating these restricted areas. The map on this page is particularly useful. Note that some MPAs have restrictions, but still allow taking fish for recreation. The main places to avoid are Point Loma, parts of La Jolla, all of Laguna Beach, Point Vicente is Palos Verdes, and Point Dume in Malibu.
Always check the California OEHHA fish advisory map for the area you will be fishing so you know what species can be eaten and which can not.
The beaches below are great for surf fishing and are legal. Now all you need to do is get out there and start casting.