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Surf Fishing in California


It’s not as glamorous as fishing for rainbow trout in the Sierras.

It doesn’t have the same appeal as tackling trophy fish in the flats.

But surf fishing along the California coast can be less expensive, easier to master and can be equally rewarding this time of year if you can't get out to some of the state's top-notch inland fisheries.

Here’s a look at some of our favorite beaches and piers to fish about in California.


Fishermen equipped with streamers and clouser minnows can catch perch, jacksmelt and small rockfish that patrol the pilings.

Fishermen hunting for larger species upgrade to larger saltwater rods and reels with 150-200 yards of 12- to 25-pound test line. Baits range from squid and crab look-a-likes.

As always, check current rules and regulations before fishing along the coast.

Port Hueneme Pier

Directions: Take Highway 1 and exit Hueneme Road west until you hit the port. Turn left on Ventura Road, left again at Surfside Drive and stay straight until you hit the park.

Notes: Port Hueneme offers a chance at thresher or small sand sharks. Crabbing is also decent along with the perch, mackerel, halibut and bonito bite.

Santa Barbara/Sterns Wharf Pier

Directions: Take Highway 101 to Santa Barbara and exit at State Street and head west, following signs to the pier/beach.

Notes: Similar fishing to nearby Port Hueneme and Goleta piers, with decent calico and sand bass bites. Sterns, however, provides a better break from afternoon winds.

Goleta Point Pier

Directions: Take Highway 101 north of Santa Barbara and take the UCSB exit to Sandspot Road.

Notes: A hot spot for calico and sand bass, along with your typical surfperch and halibut/sand dabs.

Pismo Beach Pier

Directions: Take Highway 101 to Pismo and take the Five Cities Drive exit to the middle of town. Head west down Pomeroy to the pier parking lot.

Notes: The top catch at Pismo, along with most San Luis Obispo County piers, is barred surfperch and jacksmelt. By the time you reach Pismo, most southern species like the croaker and corbina usually taper off. Check the pilings for black, ruberlip, walleye and barred surfperch. While trophy catches are rare, a peak at the photo board near the bait shop proves thresher, shovelnose guitarfish and even leopard sharks have been caught in the rough waters below.

Avila and Hartford piers

Directions: Take Highway 101 north of Pismo Beach and take the Avila Beach Drive exit. Head west on Avila Beach Drive until you reach the pier parking lot.

Notes: Clean water and an abundance of bait fish makes Avila the perfect locale for halibut in the late summer and fall. For flatties, fish the bottom using streamers that resemble baitfish. Bat rays, swell sharks (also known as the puffer), smoothhounds, guitarfish and skates add to the fun.

Morro Bay

Directions: Take Highway 1 north of San Luis Obispo and exit at Main Street. Stay right and continue to Beach Street and the embarcadero.

Notes: The north and south T-piers aren’t as popular as the bookend piers to their north and south, but a chance to catch a rare red snapper, bocaccios, jacksmelt, perch and random rockfish make it a worthwhile trip.

Cayucos Pier

Directions: Take Highway 1 to the Cayucos Drive exit, which takes you straight to the pier parking lot.

Notes: Like the San Simeon Pier, jacksmelt are the hot bite this time of year, although there is said to be one or two weeks during the summer when halibut spawn in the shallow waters near the pier. If you’re lucky, a fat flattie might just take you for a ride. Some of the coastal rivers to the north are also known to provide some OK steelhead fishing during the California steelhead season, depending on water levels, of course.

San Simeon Pier

Directions: Take Highway 1 north of Cayucos and exit left in San Simeon at the entrance to the park.

Notes: Sam Simeon is a great getaway along one of the most beautiful stretches of highway the state has to offer. Hearst Castle gets most of the attention around these parts, but don’t count out the surfperch and jacksmelt fishing. If you’re reel’s packed with plenty of line, you can also reach the larger fish that cruise the kelp beds sprinkled along the coastline.

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