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Fishing at the Santa Monica Pier

Published on October 29, 2020

The Santa Monica Pier has been a popular fishing sport for both amateurs and seasoned anglers for more than a century and continues to be a popular place to catch perch, bass, and mackerel.

Even before the Pier opened in 1909, fishing has been a favorite activity for locals looking for a place to fish as well as traveling anglers. The Pier’s pilings are an ideal habitat for small sea creatures like clams; these bivalves are delicious treats for many sea creatures and they flock to the shaded waters under the pier to feed. The pier extends some 1,000 feet beyond the tide line providing deep water access to those hoping to hook a sea bass or mackerel.

Along either side of the Pier Boardwalk there are two fishing decks accessible by a small stairway and ADA accessible ramp; additional fishing platforms are located on the west end of the pier under Maria Sol Sunset Cantina. Although the fishing decks are very popular for local anglers, you can usually find a spot easily. Just be sure to check posted signs as some areas are not permitted for fishing.

There are many species of fish and sea life in the waters under the pier. Croakers, sea bass, and perch are all very common. Many fisherman and women who frequent the pier will claim success catching rays and small sharks. Most of these regulars catch-and-release, but many of the fish caught at the Santa Monica Pier can be cleaned and taken home for dinner including mackerel and squid – just be sure to check for what’s in season.

The staff at the Santa Monica Pier Bait and Tackle Shop located at the west end under the Harbor Guard’s office can provide information on what is in season, limits, and the best bait to use. This family owned-and-operated staple has been a part of the Pier for decades and sells bait, fishing supplies, snacks and souvenirs. They also have fishing rods for rent if you just want to try your luck for an hour or two.


Is Fishing Allowed on the Santa Monica Pier?

Yes – fishing is permitted on the fishing platforms located on either side of the Pier boardwalk just west of Pacific Park and the lower fishing platform located at the Pier’s west end.

Do you need a fishing license to fish off the Santa Monica Pier?

No – there is no requirement for a sport fishing license when fishing from public fishing piers in the state including the Santa Monica Pier. All other California Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations apply including minimum size, bag limits, and seasons. No commercial fishing is allowed.

What kind of fish can you catch at the Santa Monica pier?

Due to the relatively deep water at the end of the Pier, nearby breakwater, and plentiful growth of mussels and clams clinging to the pier’s submerged pilings, the waters yield a wide variety of species: black cod, sea bass, walleye, rainbow perch, sargo, black croaker, sand and calico bass, bonito, mackerel, halibut, turbot, corbina, yellowfin, croakers, rays, and even sharks. On the day of your visit be sure to talk to the staff at the Bait and Tackle Shop located at the west end of the Pier to see what’s biting and in season.

Is the fish caught at the Santa Monica Pier safe to eat?

Yes – the fish caught off the Santa Monica Pier are rarely different than fish caught anywhere else in the Pacific Ocean. According to the California Office of Environmental Health, many species of fish are not only safe, but excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, including mackerel and sardines. Larger predatory fish at the top of the food chain can accumulate unsafe levels of mercury and other chemicals; it is not recommended to eat barracuda, croakers, or topsmelt caught in the area.

Can I rent a fishing pole or other fishing equipment in Santa Monica?

Fishing poles, tackle, bait and other fishing supplies are available for purchase or rent at the Bait and Tackle Shop located at the end of the Pier under the Harbor Master’s office. Rods can be rented for a few bucks an hour; the shop will hold onto your ID while you fish then charge you for the hours used.

Where do I clean my fish caught at the Santa Monica Pier?

You will see many bait/fish cleaning stations along the Pier and fishing decks. They look like a 12” slab of wooden plank bolted onto the hand rail. If you cut up your bait here or clean your fish, be sure to rinse off the board with plenty of water.

Can I fish at Santa Monica State Beach?

Yes – beach fishing is also a popular activity on the beaches in Santa Monica. Unlike the Pier, you will need a valid fishing license from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (this can be purchased online). The beaches around the Pier are very popular with families and sunbathers so be sure to keep a safe area around you while casting.

Are there fishing boats and charters at the Santa Monica Pier?

No – there are no boats at the Santa Monica Pier. Despite the famous sign above the Pier’s entrance at Ocean and Colorado, there are no longer any charter boats, water taxis, or yachts parked at the Santa Monica Pier. The Pier’s famous sign advertising sport fishing and boats was placed in 1941 when the Pier offered moorings for local fishing and sport boats. The last of the Pier’s fishing charters moved down to Marina del Rey in the 1980s, but the sign had become such an iconic piece of Santa Monica’s identity it was declared a historical landmark so it stands above the Pier ramp to this day. Occasionally you will see a small center-consul water craft parked on the south side of the Pier – this is used by the Santa Monica Harbor Guards and not a public area.

Where can I rent a fishing boat in Santa Monica?

There are no fishing charters or boat rentals in Santa Monica. Nearby Marina del Rey offers many options for boating, water sports, and fishing. In the Marina you can rent kayaks and paddle boards, join a half-day fishing cruise, or charter your own private boat to explore the many fishing destinations out in the Los Angeles Bay.

What are the best fishing charters in Santa Monica?

There are no fishing charters that operate directly in Santa Monica, but there are many options for deep sea fishing charters that leave out of Marina del Rey which is located just a couple of miles south of Santa Monica.

For more activities you can check out our guide to planning your visit to the Santa Monica Pier.

Feature image by @fixing_travel_bug