There’s nothing that teaches patience like a day of fishing with your kids. Pick your nearby lake or pier and find out about the fishing opportunities there. Many park districts offer “learn to fish” classes to get kids hooked (so to speak) on fishing and lots of lakes offer gear to rent. Get ready to catch the big one and put dinner on the table!
Editor’s Note: Please check current park status before you head out as COVID-19 closures change all the time.
Lake MercedThe only lake fishing in San Francisco can be found at here, at both North and South Lake. Stocked with catchable trout year round, this is a great spot to let the kiddos try newly acquired skills. The lake is super close to the SF Zoo too, so listen carefully to hear the lions roar at feeding time! Fishing is allowed at any of the docks along the perimeter but shoreline fishing is not allowed.
Skyline Boulevard and Harding Rd.San Francisco, CAHours: One hour before sunrise to one hour after sunsetCost: Permits for North Lake are $4Online: sfparksalliance.org
Municipal PierOne of the most popular of the piers dotting the edge of San Francisco and home to amazing amount of sea life. Crabs, sharks, stingrays, perch, salmon and halibut are only a few of the creatures that might end up on the end of the pole. Fishermen mingle with joggers and tourists, as it’s location is only three blocks from Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square. No fishing license is required!
Van Ness and McDowell Ave.San Francisco, CAHours: 24 hours a dayCost: FreePhone: 415-447-5000Online: nps.gov
Golden Gate Park Anglers Club and Casting PondWant to practice your fly fishing techniques? On the second Saturday of every month, the Golden Gate Angling & Casting Club offers classes for all levels at the casting pools in Golden Gate Park. The club has equipment to loan out for these lessons but arrive early to take advantage of that. Pre-registration is required and check the calendar before you go in case other events have moved the date.
The ponds are located within Golden Gate Park and this address will get you closest: 1232 John F. Kennedy Dr. Look for signs to the Angler’s Lodge.San Francisco, CAHours: second Saturdays, 9:30 a.m.-noonCost: FreeOnline: ggacc.org
photo: California Parks Company
Lake ChabotThis beautiful reservoir is a perfect spot for kids to experience fishing for the first time. From fly-fishing to renting a canoe and heading for the middle of the water, the lake is well stocked with trout and catfish. The Lake Chabot Marina Cafe sells bait and tackle as well as fishing licenses (required for those 16 and older). Although there are fish cleaning tables nestled around the lakeshore, catch-and-release angling is encouraged.
COVID-19 Update: As of 6/4, the Lake Chabot Marina Cafe is open but the boat launch is closed. Check the website for updates.
Shadow Cliffs LakeA small lake in Pleasanton, this is a great place to fish for trout and catfish. Kids can try their hands on the shore or the piers but get in early! A hidden gem of a fishing spot, the good spots can be taken right away. As it’s not a reservoir but a deep lake created for the sole purpose of fishing and recreation, the water levels stay high year-round. Look for trout up to 10 pounds, catfish, bass and bluegill. A park district daily access pass is required to fish.
Insider Tip: Fishing derbies are held annually and the swimming beach has a bathhouse and refreshment stand!
2500 Stanley Blvd.Pleasanton, CAHours: Summer: 6 a.m.–9 p.m.Cost: Vehicle Fee: $6, Fishing Permit: $3Phone: 510-544-3230Online: ebparks.org
COVID-19 Update: As of 6/4, the Shadow Cliff Lake is closed to boating. Check the website for updates.
Pacifica PierMost expert pier fishing folk would call this the best pier for fishing in all of California. Salmon, sanddabs, flounder, Dungeness crab and other saltwater fish can be lured in. Warm drinks and snacks can be bought at the Chit Chat Cafe. Be sure to check the state rules on number of catches!
Insider Tip: The Pacifica Pier is also an excellent place for bird and whale watching, for those wanting to take a break from fishing.
2100 Beach Blvd.Pacifica, CAHours: 4 a.m.–10 p.m.Phone: 650-738-7381Online: cityofpacifica.org
Coyote Point Recreation AreaHome to San Mateo’s biggest waterside play space, Coyote Point offers you and your little fisherman a chance to sit back, relax and enjoy the salty breeze as you cast off in to the Bay. The plus side to fishing at Coyote Point? Even if you come up short for the day, you can always hit the playground, take a swim in the bay or visit the CuriOdyssey museum.
Coyote Point Recreation Area1701 Coyote Pointe Dr.San Mateo, CAHours: open daily at 8 a.m.Phone: 650-573-2592Online: parks.smcgov.org
Pillar Point HarborPillar Point is home to the best commercial and sport fishing in the region. There are several sport fishing charters operating at Johnson Pier and salmon season normally runs into September. You can buy fresh bait and fishing tackle right there.
Insider tip: If your family has no luck you don’t need to go back home empty handed. Purchase fresh fish from commercial fishermen that sell their catch of the day right off their boats.
Pillar Point Harbor1 Johnson PierHalf Moon Bay, CA
Hours: open daily at 8 a.m.Phone: 650-726-4382Online: sccgov.org
Oyster Point PierThis pier in South San Francisco is a favorite of shark anglers. Striped bass and sturgeon are also common catches. Check the tides before your visit as high tide is the prime fishing time from the pier. The bait and tackle shop has closed so come prepared with your own equipment.
Oyster Point Blvd.So. San Francisco, CAHours: 6 a.m.-10 p.m.Online: smharbor.com/oysterpoint
photo: Kate Loweth
Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Ranch County ParkCoyote Lake is one of the most popular fishing lakes in the South Bay due to its superb water quality. The lake, just east of Gilroy, is open to shoreline fishing or you can launch your boat there. Coyote Lake has a “world-class” population of black bass, as well as rainbow trout, bluegill, black crappie and Eurasian carp. Unfortunately, no swimming is allowed here.
Insider tip: Visitors who wish to stay overnight can make reservations online for the park’s Lakeview Campground.
Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Ranch County Park10840 Coyote Lake Rd.Gilroy, CAHours: open daily at 8 a.m.Phone: 408-842-7800Online: sccgov.org
Loch LomondLocated in Felton, Loch Lomond Reservoir offers boat rentals, fishing, hiking and plenty of picnicking spots (but no swimming). Get your fishing license on site (kids don’t need them) and cast away to try and hook your own bass, trout or catfish to take home.
Insider tip: It’s $8/car to enter.
Santa Cruz WharfHead to the end of the wharf for a day of pier fishing. There are cleaning tables dotted along the way and public restrooms as well. If you don’t catch the big one, you can buy some fresh fish from vendors on the wharf and call it a successful day.
21 Municipal WharfSanta Cruz, CAOnline: cityofsantacruz.com
photo: Kate Loweth
Horseshoe Cove at Cavallo PointThis spot at Cavallo Point offers rocky spots and a pier for fishing. But best of all, you’ll have some pretty epic views of the Golden Gate Bridge if the fog stays away. Park near the Bay Area Discovery Museum and plan to spend the day there. Watch out for frolicking sea lions!
Sausalio, CACost: free, no fishing license requiredOnline: nps.gov
COVID-19 Update: Golden Gate Park is closed as of 6/4. Check the website for updates.
Bon Tempe LakeThis 140-acre lake is located at the base of Mt. Tamalpais, a quick three miles outside of Fairfax. Warm water swimmers such as bass, bluegill, catfish and rainbow trout can be caught seven days a week. With easy parking and trailheads flat enough for little ones, this reservoir is ideal for a day trip.
Insider Tip: This is a reservoir so leave swimsuits at home; no swimming allowed.
Sky Oaks RoadFairfax, CAHours: 7 a.m.–SunsetPhone: 415-945-1194Online: marinwater.org
McNears PierLocated inside the 55-acre San Rafael park along the San Pablo Bay, this extremely popular pier is often packed with would-be fishfinders hoping to catch a mix of swimmers such as sturgeon, striped bass, perch, bat ray, halibut and crab. One of the best parts about this pier is it’s location, though. McNears also offers swimming, volleyball, tennis and BBQ spots. Have your kiddos try their hand at the pole and maybe they’ll be able to dine on their prize after a day-long adventure!
Insider Tip: Check the tide report before heading to McNears, it plays a huge role in whether or not your kiddo will be able to bring in a haul.
201 Cantera WaySan Rafael, CAHours: Summer: 7 a.m.–8 p.m., Fall & Spring: 7 a.m.–.7 p.m., Winter: 8 a.m.–5 p.m.Cost: Summer Vehicle Fee: $10, Winter Vehicle Fee: $5. Entry and parking is free on the first Saturday of the month.Phone: 415-473-6387Online: marincountyparks.org
Hagemann Ranch Trout FarmThis trout farm near Bodega Bay supplies everything you need for a fun day of fishing. Bring your own bait and tackle or use what’s available on-site. Enjoy a picnic or grill up your catch on one of the grills on the property. Snacks, candy and drinks are available for sale if the natives get restless. No license is needed for adults and kids.
18797 Highway 1Bodega Bay, CAHours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m., closed Nov.-Feb.Online: hagemannranch.com
Lake CamancheThe Sierra foothills are home to this lake that is best known for its bass and trout fishing. You can rent a boat on-site for the day or bring your own. A fishing license for those 16 and up can be purchased at the marinas. Stay the weekend by reserving a camping spot or glamping it up at one of the cottages and vacation rentals at the lake.
Insider tip: Kids will enjoy the large trout pond at South Shore.
North Shore: 2000 Camanche Road, Ione, CASouth Shore: 11700 Wade Lane, Valley Springs, CAOnline: lakecamancheresort.com
photo: Kate Loweth
Lake Siskiyou ResortYou’ll feel like you are back in your summer camp days when you visit Lake Siskiyou Resort. Stop by for a day by the lake where you can find miles of shores for casting. Head down to the Bait & Brew shop to get outfitted for a day of fishing. They have gear, snacks and event boats to rent.
4239 W. A Barr Rd.Mt. Shasta City, CAOnline: lakesiskiyouresort.com
Lake Amador ResortJust two hours from the Bay Area, this resort offers day passes for fishing as well as camping spots if you want to stay overnight. The 400-acre lake is stocked with trout just ready to be your dinner. Bring your own boat, rent one from the clubhouse or fish from the lakeside.
Insider tip: Bring your swimsuit to enjoy the swim pond and water slide.
7500 Lake Amador DriveIone, CAOnline: lakeamador.com
—Kate Loweth and Sonia Gandiaga