What Do I Need to Start Fishing the California Coast?
Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably know that fishing in America is popular. In any given year, over 45 million of us will cast a line. It is estimated there are at least 2 million people who go fishing in California each year. All you really need to get started is a fishing license (except for public piers) and some equipment. On the coast, you can fish from the shore, usually in the form of surf casting. Another popular pastime is fishing from community fishing piers that get you off the direct coast and into slightly deeper coastal waters. Many others will try their luck on a charter, commonly known in the industry as a "party-boat." These are charters from coastal harbors that are sold by the ticket with rental equipment and short-term licensing available. This type of adventure gets some people hooked themselves! They want to get into more offshore, long range, and near-shore fishing. California offers two free fishing days for you to find out if you like the activity or not!
- Fishing From Shore - On the California coast, surf casting is quite popular. If you are 16 or older, you need a fishing license to fish from shore. Chances are, you will see "regulars" if you go in the early morning hours or an hour before sunset. They know this is when the fish are the most active. Especially when there is an incoming tide at those hours during mild to moderate surf. These are the conditions that wil produce fish! Keep your eyes out for feeding birds or marine mammals. That's where the fish are. It is suggested that a 10-12 foot rod be used for "heavy" bait casting. For light bait fishing, which might be the easiest way to get started, you can use a 7-9 foot rod with a traditional spinning reel. If its' warm out you might get by in shorts but waders are recommended as you will be in and out of the water regularly. You can catch Corbina, halibut, surf perch, croakers and maybe even a sting ray. You can do some reading on the internet about specific gear and a good place to start is with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
- Fishing from the Piers - On any given day you will see a lot of people fishing from the public piers on the California coast. It is a FREE place to fish from, recreationally, so it is very popular. Keep in mind a jetty is not a pier! Quite often you will even find an outlet that rents pier fishing gear and bait right at the pier. By doing this you begin to learn what kinds of equipment work best on the pier without having to buy. There are half a dozen piers to fish from in the San Diego area, alone. A variety of good eating fish can be landed from pier fishing but always check for any notices regarding fish that should not be eaten for various reasons. There are plenty of rules to follow. For instance, you cannot keep that crab you caught so throw it back in the water! You are allowed up to 2 poles in the water on piers.
- Party Boat Fishing - If you've hung out in Southern California harbors at all you've probably seen party fishing boats. They are called this not so much because of any sort of party planned but because they are charter operators who take "parties" of people out fishing on a per ticket basis. Party boats go out for 1/2 day, full day and overnight or multi-day trips. Party boats are usually larger ships capable of taking several dozen people. Many rent the equipment, sell bait and refreshments as options. In nearly all instances they even clean your catch for you to take home. You do need a fishing license for this activity and they can usually be bought right at the office where you pay for your ticket. For many anglers this is an annual or monthly excursion. If your future plans include owning a fishing boat, taking at least one of these trips will help you understand what's involved before you make that boat purchase.
- OPB Fishing on Other People's Boats - Perhaps the best way to enjoy coastal, open ocean or bay fishing is with OPB, fishing on other people's boats... What a great way to fugure it all out! How to provision the boat. Getting bait. Learning about all the potential equipment that can be used. If you offer to help pay for fuel you will probably be welcomed aboard with open arms. Taking a couple trips like this is sure to be an eye-opening experience. With time on your hands during the journey you can ask questions and find out more about the various types of fishing craft to consider and so much more. Keep in mind that you will need a fishing license when fishing this way as well.
From these casual beginnings the true salt water sport fisherman is born. The idea of owning a fishing boat becomes the central obsession. Will it be an 16 foot Skiff with an outboard or a sophisicated, purpose built, 50’ + sport fishing boat? The possibilities are truly endless. There are easily over 100 American power boat manufacturers alone! The only limitation is funding. Pricing varies widely from a few thousand dollars to well over a million!