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Ten Best Beaches for Surf Fishing in Southern California (full tactical guides)

Updated: Mar 1

This page is your passport to some epic surf fishing on the ten best beaches in Southern California – Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego County – with full tactical guides, map links and local bait shops listed.


These are all beaches, spots, tactics, baits, setups and shops that we use regularly and personally recommend to our customers and clients – with lots of options for beginners, families and experts alike.

best beaches for surf fishing in southern california

Ten Best Beaches for Surf Fishing in Southern California - Page Index


 

Best Beaches for Surf Fishing in Los Angeles County


Los Angeles County is a surf fishing paradise with a wide range of sandy and rocky beaches to explore across Santa Monica Bay, north to south – below are some of the best spots where we've found consistent success, great access and fun fishing for all sorts of species, big and small.


surf fishing los angeles county beach leopard shark

 

Will Rogers State Beach


History & Information: Will Rogers State Beach, situated along the coastline of Pacific Palisades on the north west corner of Los Angeles, is named after the legendary actor, humorist, and social commentator Will Rogers, and has long been a popular destination for anglers with its nearby reef and rocky jetties offering great mixed-species action right next to PCH.


With stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the iconic Santa Monica Mountains as a backdrop, the beach remains a testament to California's natural beauty and a great beach for surf fishing. Easy parking all along right behind the beach, lots of bathrooms and some food and drink vendors. A good family or beginner destination.


Surf fishing on Will Roger's Beach in Los Angeles County
Surf fishing on Will Roger's Beach in Los Angeles County

Species & Tactics: Will Rogers is on the easier end of the surf fishing difficulty scale with plenty of rocky structures and jetties to keep the species - predominantly barred surf perch, walleye surf perch, yellowfin croaker, corbina in the summer and small sharks - close to shore and angler. The jetties block severe currents and it handles small to medium-size swells without becoming unfishable.


Just watch the weed and kelp situation as it can congregate in this corner of the bay - be prepared to stay on the move with light line spinning gear and fresh baits (grubs and worms in the winter, sandcrabs in the summer) until you find clear water and the fish. A good all-year-round choice.


Best Tides & Conditions: Fishes well on most states of tide, especially around the deeper rocky areas where the fish will hold within easy casting distance until just before low tide. You can't beat a good outgoing (ebbing) tide on these rockier LA beaches - fish the middle third of the tidal swing from high to low for the most productive time here in recent sessions, with small to moderate swells in the 1 to 4ft range manageable.


Coordinates: 34.034411, -118.535359

Nearest Tackle & Bait Shop: Wylie's Bait & Tackle, 18757 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265. Call: (310) 456-2321.

 

Santa Monica State Beach


History & Information: Santa Monica Beach, an iconic California destination with the famous pier, has a history as vibrant as its vast golden sands and sparkling shallow waters. The completion of the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad in 1875 spurred development, transforming centrally-located Santa Monica into a bustling seaside resort town.


Over time, the beach became synonymous with leisure and recreation, including beach fishing, and Santa Monica Beach continues to captivate surf anglers with the flatter sandy nature offering a different challenge to rockier areas nearby.


With this being a busy LA beach, parking can be tricky so an early morning start and a little driving around might be needed to find a spot. Good bathrooms, food vendors nearby and facilities all along.


Surf fishing Santa Monica State Beach
Surf fishing the pristine shallow blue waters at Santa Monica State Beach - one of the best venues in Los Angeles County

Species & Tactics: One to watch for the summer months when the waters warm to mid 60s and the sand crab beds thicken, making this a world-class venue for corbina fishing on light line tactics. Other summer species include lots of yellowfin croaker, halibut, leopard sharks and rays, and surf perch all year round.


A classic light line Carolina Rig with sand crabs is the best choice in summer but keep it light and stealthy, or use a dropshot white fluke / baitfish imitating jerkbait in the vicinity of bait fish for halibut.


Best Tides & Conditions: If you're chasing corbina and want the challenge of sight fishing, target low tides and the first or last tidal push around the bigger swings coinciding with dawn. Dusk into dark on a decent-size ebbing tide (pre-grunion run) is a good bet for any other species with less crowds and surfers.


Coordinates: 34.011511, -118.498836

Nearest Tackle & Bait Shop: Santa Monica Pier Bait & Tackle, 404 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401.

 

Dockweiler State Beach


History & Information: Dockweiler Beach, located in Playa del Rey, was originally known as Cliffton-by-the-Sea, but in the early 20th century, the development of the area accelerated with the construction of Playa del Rey's first sewage treatment plant, which later became Dockweiler Beach State Park in the 1940s.


Named after Isidore B. Dockweiler, a prominent Los Angeles attorney and conservationist, the beach was established as one of the first recreational areas along the coast and thus became a magnet for surf anglers. Parking is normally easy in the large dedicated areas outside of peak times, with added picnic areas and good bathrooms to make this a nice family fishing beach.


Barred sand bass caught surf fishing at Dockweiler Beach in Los Angeles County
Barred sand bass caught surf fishing at Dockweiler Beach in Los Angeles County

Species & Tactics: A great mixed-species beach but one that can be challenging with large hidden reef systems harboring both fish and tactic-stealing rocks. The best way to approach Dockweiler is to scout it, or start fishing, on a low state of tide in calm conditions when the rocky outcrops and sandy areas will become obvious.


Target the transitional areas with fresh baits like mussel, squid, sandworms or shrimp for a mix of bass, perch and croaker species, including sargo and some of the rarer sea perch varieties. The old concrete structures on this beach will also be a magnet to fish when there's enough tide to make them accessible to perch and so on.


Use a dropper loop setup and heavy sputnik sinker to anchor the rig in place between rocks with a fresh bait-type rig, or a weedless swimbait lure fishing setup for targeting the bigger bass and halibut around ambush points like channels, gullies and holes.


Best Tides & Conditions: As with many rocky beaches in SoCal, a strong outgoing (ebbing) tide works well at Dockweiler, with a swell size on the smaller end of the scale preferred due to the slightly more open nature of the beach and tendency to get choked with weed fast when the swell picks up.


This isn't one for fishing on a sizeable wave forecast - 1ft to 3ft is about right, no bigger please, and avoid this post-storm due to the weed and kelp issues. For the halibut and bass, try the lower end of the tide an hour or two before or just after a low.


Coordinates: 33.938803, -118.440685

Nearest Tackle & Bait Shop: Best Fishing Tackle, 4915 Rosecrans Ave, Hawthorne, CA 90250. Call: (310) 679-1122.

 

Cherry Beach to Belmont Shore (Junipero Beach, Long Beach)


History & Information: Cherry Beach or Junipero Beach, nestled in Long Beach, is named after Junípero Serra, the Spanish Franciscan friar known for founding several missions in California.


In the early 20th century, Long Beach experienced a boom and Junipero Beach emerged as a cherished recreational spot for locals and visitors alike, offering sandy shores and calm waters for surf anglers along this lengthy stretch of beach between Cherry Beach and the furthest reaches of Belmont Shore.


A couple of large car parks serve this stretch of beach and parking is usually easy outside of peak times (midday weekends, summer holidays etc) with bathroom facilities, plus food and a bait shop on the nearby Belmont Pier.


Surf fishing near Belmont Pier in Long Beach, between Cherry Beach and Belmont Shore
Surf fishing near Belmont Pier in Long Beach, between Cherry Beach and Belmont Shore

Species & Tactics: A great bet for California halibut all along this stretch, and devoid of almost any current and swell due to the enclosed nature of Long Beach, this is an easy venue to fish with parking, bathrooms and water all within easy reach.


For the halibut, small jerkbaits and dropshot-fished flukes work great – target areas with visible baitfish activity and try a live bait smelt, too. Croaker, small sharks and rays also love the rich shallow waters with shrimp and sand crab baits on light dropper loops or C-rigs a great bet.


Best Tides & Conditions: Without masses of tide movement and swell to get the fish on the move, this beach tends to fish well around dusk and dawn when the light changes kick the food chain into gear. With the breakwaters blocking most of the swell, it'll stay fishable in most ocean conditions when other spots are blown out. Very easy to fish for all ages and skill levels.


Coordinates: 33.760597, -118.157272

Nearest Tackle & Bait Shop: Big Fish Bait & Tackle, 1780 Pacific Coast Hwy, Unit C, Seal Beach, CA 90740. Call: (562) 431-0723.

 

Best Beaches for Surf Fishing in Orange County


Orange County is famous for its long sandy beaches and great surf fishing all year round, especially for sharks, croaker and corbina in the summer, when record-size fish inhabit the warm waters. Here are our favorite beaches for all-year-round action.


surf fishjng orange county beach

 

Bolsa Chica State Beach


History: Bolsa Chica State Beach, near Huntington Beach, was initially inhabited by the Indigenous Tongva people who thrived off its abundant resources, but the land transitioned through Spanish colonization and later became a hub for ranching and oil exploration in the 19th and 20th centuries. However, mounting concerns about environmental degradation spurred activism in the 1960s and 1970s, leading to the protection of Bolsa Chica's precious wetlands.


In 1960, a portion of the coastline, including Bolsa Chica, was designated as a state beach, marking a pivotal moment in its history. Since then, the beach has evolved into a beloved recreational haven, offering visitors opportunities for fishing, swimming, surfing, and birdwatching, while ongoing conservation efforts in the nearby wetlands strive to safeguard its delicate ecosystem for generations to come.


Surf fishing at Bolsa Chica State Beach in Orange County
Surf fishing at Bolsa Chica State Beach in Orange County

Species & Tactics: A good mixed-species beach with a medium difficulty level, Bolsa Chica has several miles of sandy beach to go at. Expect surf perch in the winter, and corbina, spotfin, yellowfin, leopards, rays, skate and halibut in the summer on standard tactics for a flat sandy beach with no rocky structure. Long sections of this beach will have an obvious inner and/or outer trough-type structure parallel to the beach, and this is where most of the fish will be found. Look for big sand crab or clam beds, too.


Best Tides & Conditions: Pick your tides and conditions for fishing Bolsa carefully. This is not one for a sizeable swell forecast, or when there's a lot of current – the open nature of the beach means such conditions are often challenging to fish in.


Target times when the tide is offering a decent swing and over 3 or 4ft of water above the low tide, when the fish will be happy to feed in close along the trough structure that Bolsa often features. For the corbina and halibut, pick the lower end of the tide with the last hour of the outgoing or first hour of the incoming worth a look in mellow summer conditions and shallow structured sections of beach.


Coordinates: 33.696830, -118.049893

Nearest Tackle & Bait Shop: Charkbait, 16561 Bolsa Chica St #105, Huntington Beach, CA 92649. Phone: (877) 424-2751.

 

Newport Beach


History & Information: In the late 19th century, Newport Beach began to take shape as a seaside resort town, attracting visitors with its natural beauty and recreational opportunities. The development of the Pacific Electric Railway in the early 1900s further fueled growth, transforming Newport Beach into a bustling community with its pristine beaches, upscale shopping districts, and picturesque harbor.


It's also long been a haven for surf fishing with its long sandy beaches providing several different environments to fish. Parking can be tough at Newport with limited street and car parking spaces, so an early start or lots of patience is advised. Limited bathrooms north beyond the pier area, too, but the area between there and Balboa is well served with facilities and the larger pier car parks.


Surf fishing Newport Beach in Orange County on light line spinning tackle
Surf fishing Newport Beach in Orange County on light line spinning tackle

Species & Tactics: One on the easier end of the scale to fish and reliable all year round, the long stretch between the River Jetties at the south end of Huntington Beach right through to Balboa Pier north of Newport Pier is worth looking at on any month of the year.


Expect surf perch (barred and walleye) to be home most of the year, and croaker-type species (corbina, spotfin, yellowfin) in warmer months when sand crab beds form. The perch tend to be found in the more structured water near jetties and piers, whilst the croaker will associate with sand crab and clam beds on the more open beach areas. Target both with a light spinning setup and Carolina Rig.


Best Tides & Conditions: Fishes well on the top half of the incoming and first half of the outgoing tide, and will tolerate chunkier swells and more current than more open beaches - great for kids and beginners. Fish early mornings or evenings to avoid the surfers and crowds.

Coordinates: 33.606614, -117.928041

Nearest Tackle & Bait Shop: Ketchum Tackle, 103 E 17th St, Costa Mesa, CA 92627. Call: (949) 646-2585.

 

Doheny State Beach, Doheny Camp Ground and Capistrano Beach Park


History & Information: Doheny State Beach, located near Dana Point, has a storied history dating back centuries. In the early 20th century, oil was discovered nearby, leading to industrial development in the region.


However, in the 1930s, oil magnate Edward L. Doheny generously donated land to the state, ensuring the preservation of this scenic stretch of coastline. Doheny State Beach was established, named in honor of Doheny's contribution, and became one of California's first state parks.


Over the years, and including Doheny Camp Ground and next-door Capistrano Beach Park, the area has evolved into a popular recreational fishing destination, offering pebble-strewn sandy shores with grunion runs and corbina in the summer, and toothier critters in the winter. Easy parking in the State Beach car parks at Doheny and Capistrano, and along the street behind the railway tracks where the beach straightens out. Good bathrooms all along, too.


Yellowfin Croaker caught surf fishing at Doheny State Beach on fresh bait and a dropper loop rig
Yellowfin Croaker caught surf fishing at Doheny State Beach on fresh bait and a dropper loop rig

Species & Tactics: More of a summer species area for croaker, corbina and spotfin feeding on sand crab beds in the warm, calm waters of this largely well-sheltered stretch of beach. Fish a standard light line Carolina Rig with small bunches of sand crabs as bait, or bait and wait a good quality fresh bait like shrimp, sand crabs or Fishbites Sand Flea around the sections towards the harbor and the creek as the beach curves round. Easy fishing in summer on a good size tide when the fish come in close.


Further into Capistrano and more open ocean beach fishing as the beach straightens, its rockier nature and inshore reef system harbor more perch species along with the croaker, plus soupfin and leopard sharks, horn sharks, and various rays on the bigger evening tides to fresh mackerel, bonito, croaker and perch baits on wire leaders and heavy spinning tackle.


Best Tides & Conditions: Look for a decent size tide to get the fish moving on what can be a slightly long featureless stretch of beach in terms of visible structure in the water. Morning sessions in sandier areas for the light line species on a rapidly flooding or ebbing tide work best, with the same applicable to the evening bite for a similar species mix but with added predators. This area also sees regular grunion runs. Can get weedy.


Coordinates: 33.462032, -117.687042 

Nearest Tackle & Bait Shop: Hogan's Bait & Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Ste G Dana Point, CA. Call: (949) 493-3528.

 

San Clemente State Beach, Pier and T-Street


History & Information: San Clemente Beach, situated in the coastal city of San Clemente, began to take shape as a seaside community with the arrival of Ole Hanson, a real estate developer who envisioned it as a "Spanish Village by the Sea." The city experienced significant growth in the 1920s, bolstered by the completion of the iconic San Clemente Pier in 1928.


San Clemente State Beach has since evolved into a beloved destination for surf anglers with a great mix of species and structure to fish to along the stretch between the famous pier, T-Street area and the State Beach.


Street parking around the city stretches can be tight but the state beach car park is a good bet, albeit a bit of a walk to the pier area if that's your destination. Lots of bathrooms and facilities. Early starts to beat the crowds and surfers are recommended.


Surf fishing San Clemente State Beach area
Surf fishing in the warm shallow waters around San Clemente State Beach area

Species & Tactics: Great mixed surf fishing for surf perch, croaker and especially halibut north of the pier with some useful rocky structure to target on dropshot or swimbait tactics, whilst the sandier section south of the pier holds sand crab beds in summer and plenty of the usual species including corbina on light spinning gear and fresh baits.


As the beach turns into the State Beach, the rockier reef system close to shore comes into play and, with it, added bass, more halibut, perch, soupfin sharks, leopard sharks, rays, skate and smooth-hounds. Target with heavy spinning gear cast to sandy sections between the rocks and good fresh baits like squid, mackerel or croaker.


Best Tides & Conditions: Can get a bit tricky to fish on medium to large swells with plenty of current ripping along the open beach and not much depth of water to keep the fish close to the angler, so pick your conditions carefully for this stretch.


Ideally, you want a bit of swell in the 1ft to 3ft range and a little current with a decent tidal swing, but much more than this will see a lot of water moving around and tricky conditions for a novice. But, when it's calm, and on a decent-size tide around dawn or dusk, this is as easy a beach as any to fish.


Coordinates: 33.403157, -117.605414

Nearest Tackle & Bait Shop: Pier Market, 618 Avenida Victoria, San Clemente, CA 92672. Call: (949) 366-1063.

 

Best Beaches for Surf Fishing in San Diego County


California's southernmost county boasts some exceptional surf fishing with its warm, reefy waters home to a bumper selection of SoCal's finest species including halibut, trophy corbina, jumbo surf perch, surf sharks, rays and a few exotics.


soupfin shark surf fishing san diego county beach

 

Torrey Pines State Beach and South Beach


History & Information: Historically, the Torrey Pines area served as a vital fishing ground for Indigenous peoples such as the Kumeyaay. With the arrival of Spanish explorers and settlers, traditional fishing practices persisted, with local communities relying on the abundant marine resources for sustenance.


In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, commercial fishing operations began to thrive along the coast, contributing to the area's economy and identity. Torrey Pines State Beach, known for its rugged cliffs and scenic beauty, became a favored spot for recreational fishing enthusiasts with its healthy reef systems and abundant surf species.


This stretch is split in two by the Los Penasquitos Creek outflow between the north State Beach and South Beach, which then eventually leads into Blacks Beach as you head further south. Easy parking at the North and South Beach lots and plenty of facilities like restrooms near there, but not a huge amount of bathroom-type facilities on the actual beach itself.


surf fishing Torrey Pines
Torrey Pines offers well-structured, reefy water and great surf fishing for a variety of species.

Species & Tactics: A beach that can be moody and hard to fish with strong cross-currents and heavy swells, but the rewards can make it worth the effort with jumbo surf perch all year round on grub-style baits, epic summer bites with corbina and croaker when the sand crab beds thicken up, and plenty of halibut, leopard sharks and soupfin sharks to feast on the bait fish.


All the standard SoCal tactics work here; from light line surf fishing for the corbina and perch, to casting big mackerel baits at night for the surf sharks and rays. Bring big sinkers and proper sand spikes to handle the kelp, current and swell if you're bait fishing.


Best Tides & Conditions: With the open nature of this beach, and inshore reef system, pick conditions on the easier end of the scale to fish Torrey Pines to avoid a day of dealing with currents, kelp and big waves.


Early mornings, small swells in the 1ft to 2ft range, and a low Kj reading on the surf forecasting apps are ideal for this one. Target times when the tide is going to leave you with plenty of water in front of you - unless you want to target corbina and halibut, when the last third of the outgoing push is ideal.


Nearest Tackle & Bait Shop: 

Coordinates: 32.927972, -117.259912

 

San Elijo State Beach / Cardiff State Beach / Swami's


History & Information: San Elijo Beach is located in the coastal community of Cardiff-by-the-Sea in Encinitas, right next to the Swami's State Marine Conservation Area. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, San Elijo saw gradual development as a seaside retreat and the construction of the San Elijo Campground in the mid-20th century further solidified its reputation as a recreational destination, offering camping facilities and access to the pristine shoreline for anglers.


Parking can be tricky with street options quickly filling up, unless you can bag a spot in the camp ground lots. Bathrooms around the main areas of access and food etc nearby in Cardiff.


Surf fishing at San Elijo (Cardiff State Beach)
Surf fishing at San Elijo (Cardiff State Beach)

Species & Tactics: Lots of species including calicos, barred sand bass, halibut, croaker, surf perch, sharks, rays and moray eels reside around this abundant, kelp-rich length of beach. The reef close to shore holds plenty of food, and fishing to structured water with natural baits on the usual range of light line and medium-weight setups is a good tactic. Ensure whatever you're using tactics and tackle-wise adheres to the local Swami's SMCA rules.


Best Tides & Conditions: A beach that can be tricky to fish with lots of kelp liable to be an issue during and after bigger swells. Wait for a couple of tides to wash away the loose stuff, and the nearshore area is usually clean enough to hold a fun mix of species that are easily catchable with a mix of the usual SoCal tactics on mid-range tides and small swells before the wind kicks in. Opt for big sputnik sinkers and heavier leaders than usual. Often see's grunion runs.


Coordinates: 33.022930, -117.285943

Nearest Tackle & Bait Shop: Pacific Coast Bait & Tackle, 2110 S Coast Hwy, Oceanside, CA 92054. Call: (760) 439-3474.

 

Book Guided Surf Fishing Trips in Southern California


If you're interested in learning more about surf fishing at any of the venues listed in this article, I run guided sessions and tuitions for all age and skill levels throughout the year at many of these beaches. Click