Want to Fish for Free? Come On Down to Your Local Public Pier!

pier fisherman
Fishing at Ocean Beach Pier, San Diego

Where can you go to catch some tasty California ocean fish if you don’t have a recreational fishing license? Try one of the many free fishing piers, jetties, or breakwaters along the coast, where you can wet your line for fish such as perch, greenling, rockfish, and bass. A list of free fishing piers and a zoomable map of pier locations is now available on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website to help you plan your pier fishing adventure.

Recreational fishing licenses are not required when fishing from a public pier in ocean or bay waters. Public piers are defined in Section 1.88 of Title 14, California Code of Regulations. They must be connected to the shoreline, allow for free, unrestricted public access, and have been built or currently function for the primary purpose of fishing.

Publicly owned jetties and breakwaters may also be considered “public piers” but, in addition, they must form the most seaward protective boundary of an ocean harbor. Jetties and other structures that are not the most seaward boundary are not public piers.

Even though a fishing license is not required on a public pier, all other regulations (including minimum size, bag limits, report cards, and seasons) apply while fishing from a public pier. Additionally, only two rods and lines, handlines, or nets, traps, or other appliances used to take crabs may be used per person on a public pier (per California Code of Regulations Title 14, Section 28.65(b)).

For more information about pier fishing, read Frequently Asked Questions: Pier and Shore-based Sport Fishing and watch the “How to Fish from a Pier” video on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website. Another good source for pier fishing information is the Pier Fishing in California website.

With just a bit of luck, a delicious meal of saltwater fish or crab caught from one of California’s free fishing piers, jetties, or breakwaters could soon grace your dining table.

PLEASE NOTE: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife cannot guarantee that individual piers, jetties, or breakwaters will be open to the public. The landowner may close these areas for safety, maintenance, or other reasons at any time.


post by Mary Patyten, CDFW Research Writer