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California Ocean Sport Fishing FAQ

The answers in this page are based on the official document - 2021-2022 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations (PDF) Please refer to the section in the sport fishing regulation booklet for details.

I want to learn fishing. Do I need to get a fishing license?

You may need a fishing license, only if you are 16 years of age or older. Children below age of 16 are not required a fishing license to fish.

However, you may also fish without a fishing license on public piers in ocean or bay waters. (Regulation booklet, Page 4: License Provisions).

Here's a list of public piers in Southern California:

  • Malibu Pier
  • Santa Monica Pier
  • Venice Fishing Pier
  • Manhattan Beach Pier
  • Hermosa Beach Pier
  • Redondo Fishing Pier
  • Cabrillo pier
  • Seal Beach Pier
  • Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier
  • Huntington Beach Pier
  • Newport Beach Pier

In addition to free fishing on public piers, there are 2 free fishing days per year (7/1/2017 and 9/2/2017).

On free fishing days, fishing license is not required at any place other than marine protection zone. Note that even when a fishing license is not required, all regulations are still bound.

Other than the above scenarios, fishing license is always required.

How many rods can I use when fishing on public piers?

You may use at most 2 rods per person when fishing on public piers. [Section 28.65(b)] However, some piers may have special regulation to require only 1 rod per person (for example, Mahattan Beach Pier).

Other common regulation on piers including no overhead casting, or no chumming. Please read the signs for regulation before start fishing on piers.

How many hooks can I use on a rod?

3 hooks are allowed when fishing in San Francisco Bay. 2 hooks are allowed for a certain types of fish (Rockfish / Salmon). Otherwise, there is no limit on number of hooks in regulation - use as much as you desire. [Section 28.65 and 28.65(a)(c)(g)]

Yes, treble hooks are in general allowed for fishing activity in the California Ocean, with an exception that fishing targeting salmon requires at most two barbless hooks [Section 27.80(a)(2)], which disqualifies treble hook from salmon fishing.

Yes, sabiki rigs are allowed in general, with an exception in San Francisco Bay, where at most 3 hooks can be used [Section 28.65], since a sabiki rig typically has 5-7 hooks. Note that fishing for a certain species requires no more than 2 hooks - these species are: Salmon, Rockfish, Cabezon, Greenlings, Lingcod, Scorpion fish. You are required to release them if they are caught with more than a sabiki rig.

I caught a fish. Can I keep it?

Avoid fishing in marine protected areas.

In the following scenarios, you cannot keep a fish:

  • if the season for that fish species is closed.
  • The fish is a protected species.
  • The fish is under legal size to take.
  • You already take too many, having reached the legal daily limit.
  • Some species requires reporting cards in order to keep.

Please refer to Califorina Ocean Fishing Cheat Sheet as a guide.

If you don't have intent to eat the fish or keep in your home aquarium, throw it back and let it live - wasting fish is prohibited. [Section 1.87]

Is it safe to eat a fish caught from the ocean?

The majority of the fish species tends to be clean, and safe for human consumption. However, different species have different habits and may be infected from parasites or contaminated from chemical dump to the ocean. Though being very rare, some species of fish can be poisonous. Here are the a list of ocean species around Los Angeles considered as contaminated and not recommended for human consumption:

In addition, smelts are commonly carrying parasites in their meat. Dolphins and Pelicans who swallowed smelts by mistake, are often infected by these parasites as well. Though cooking the meat through can kill the parasites, making the worms not infective to human, many people don't like to consume meat with worms, and choose to release smelts upon catching.

Filleting a fish and examining the meat against sunlight to inspect any worm infection are always recommended. But in general, even though some small infection may exist, the small infected parts of a large fish are usually cut off, instead of completely throwing away a good fish.

Additionally, many cases of food poisoning were reported because of consumption of Cabezon eggs. The venom in the eggs stays effective after being cook through. It is highly recommended to not to eat eggs of a Cabezon.

I bought my sport fishing license, do I need to pay for the Ocean Enhancement Validation?

Depending on where you live, you may need to buy the Ocean Enhancement Validation on your sport fishing license. Fishing in ocean around LA will require the Ocean Enhancement Validation, as required in ocean waters south of Point Arguello of Santa Barbara County.

Have fun fishing!