8 Kid-Friendly Fishing Spots to Cast a Line

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. Black fish, blue fish, old fish, new fish! Good ol’ Doc Seuss must have had the San Francisco Bay Area on the brain when writing those famous lines. Tons of lakes, docks, streams, not to mention the bay itself, call out for budding fishermen to cast their lines and try to snag a nibble. There is no end to enjoyable, kid friendly spots where families can try their hand at reeling in some of the region’s finest aquatic selection. What’s the best part? Kids under the age of 16 are not required to register for a fishing license, so grab those poles, weights and flies, head out for a fun and fish filled day at awesome angling spots all over the bay.

San Francisco

Lake Merced
The 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-duper close to the SF Zoo too, listen carefully to hear the lions roar at feeding time!

Insider tip: At the beginning of September, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife planted trout in North Lake. Your best bet is to cast your line there.

Skyline Boulevard and Harding Road
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: One hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset
Cost:  Permits for North Lake are $4
Online: sfrecpark.org

Municipal Pier
One 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!

Insider Tip: Catch a Dungeness crab?? Better throw it back, anyone who catches one of these favorite crustaceans inside the bay could be slapped with a fine upwards of $1,000, yikes!

Van Ness and McDowell Avenue
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: 24 hours a day
Cost: Free
Phone: 415-447-5000
Online: nps.gov

kid with catfish

Marin County

Bon Tempe Lake
This 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 7 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 Road
Fairfax, Ca
Hours: 7:00 am – Sunset
Phone: 415-945-1194
Online: marinwater.org

McNears Pier
Located 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 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!

201 Cantera Way
San Rafael, Ca
Hours: Summer: 7:00 am – 8:00 pm, Fall & Spring: 7:00 am – 7:00 pm, Winter: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Cost: Summer Vehicle Fee: $10, Winter Vehicle Fee: $5
Phone: 415-473-6387
Online: marincountyparks.org

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.

kid with fish

East Bay

Lake Chabot
This 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, bass and catfish. The Lake Chabot Marina Cafe is well stocked with bait and tackle and although there are fish cleaning tables nestled around the lakeshore, catch-and-release angling is encouraged.

Insider Tip: Kids will get a kick out of seeing other fishermen during the annual Spring Fishing Derby.

Lake Chabot Road
Castro Valley, Ca
Hours: Fall/Spring: 6:00 am – 7:00 pm, Winter: 7:00 am – 6:00 pm, Summer: 6:00 am – 9:00 pm
Cost: Vehicle Fee: $5
Phone: 888-327-2757
Online: ebparks.org

Shadow Cliffs Lake
A small lake in Pleasanton, this is a great place to fish for trout. 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, bass and bluegill.

Insider Tip: As Shadow Cliffs has no natural inlet, the water stays clear during the winter, making it one of the best spots in the bay area for trout fishing.

2500 Stanley Blvd
Pleasanton, Ca
Hours: Fall/Spring: 6:00 am – 7:00 pm, Winter: 7:00 am – 6:00 pm, Summer: 6:00 am – 9:00 pm
Cost: Vehicle Fee: $6, Fishing Permit: $3
Phone: 510-544-3230
Online: ebparks.org

kid fishing


Pacifica Pier
Most 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, Ca
Hours: 4:00 am – 10:00 pm
Cost: Free
Phone: 650-738-7381
Online: pacificapier.com

Coyote Point Recreation Area
Home 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 Area
1701 Coyote Pointe Drive
San Mateo, Ca 94401
hours: open daily at 8:00 am
phone: 650-573-2592
online: co.sanmateo.ca.us

Where do you take your family fishing? We want to hear from you in the comments below!

Written by: Gabby Cullen

photo credit: U.S. Army of Engineers via Flickr, David L. Via Yelp