Are you ready to have your kid catch dinner? There are plenty of beautiful spots where families can try their hand at reeling in some of the region’s finest aquatic specimens. What’s the best part? Kids under the age of 16 are not required to register for a fishing license, and you don’t need a license at all if you fish from a pier. So grab those poles, weights and flies, head out for a fun and fish filled day at awesome angling spots all over the bay.

merced_fishingPhoto: Mikol via Flickr

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 close to the SF Zoo too, so listen carefully to hear the lions roar at feeding time!

Insider tip: Lake Merced will offer fishing lessons for kids 8 and up this fall, check out the website for more details!

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

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 Ave.
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: 24 hours a day
Cost: Free
Phone: 415-447-5000


 U.S. Army of Engineers via Flickr

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 a.m.–Sunset
Phone: 415-945-1194

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 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
Phone: 415-473-6387

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.


 Photo: David L. Via Yelp

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: A bald eagle pair has returned, and the new nest—with a new chick—is visible across the lake from an easy, accessible place on West Shore Trail at Alder Point, or from a boat on the lake.

Lake Chabot Rd.
Castro Valley, Ca
Hours: Fall/Spring: 6 a.m.–7 p.m., Winter: 7 a.m.–6 p.m., Summer: 6 a.m.–9 p.m.
Cost: Vehicle Fee: $5
Phone: 888-327-2757

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: Trout and catfish are planted weekly at Shadow Cliffs lake, and anglers can also try for bluegill and black bass. Fishing derbies are held annually, and the swimming beach has a bathhouse and refreshment stand!

2500 Stanley Blvd.
Pleasanton, Ca
Hours: Fall/Spring: 6 a.m.–7 p.m., Winter: 7 a.m.–6 p.m., Summer: 6 a.m.–9 p.m.
Cost: Vehicle Fee: $6, Fishing Permit: $3
Phone: 510-544-3230

pacifica_fishingPhoto: Bob n’ Renee via Flickr


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 a.m.–10 p.m.
Phone: 650-738-7381

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.

Insider tip: Kids will love the giant, castle-and-dragon-themed Magic Mountain Playground.

Coyote Point Recreation Area
1701 Coyote Pointe Dr.
San Mateo, Ca
Hours: open daily at 8 a.m.
Phone: 650-573-2592

Pillar Point Harbor
Pillar 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 Harbor
1 Johnson Pier
Half Moon Bay, Ca

Hours: open daily at 8 a.m.
Phone: 650-726-4382


Photo: Don Debold via Flickr

South Bay

Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Ranch County Park
Coyote 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 currently open to boat or shoreline fishing. Coyote Lake has a “world-class” population of Black Bass, as well as rainbow trout, bluegill, black crappie, and Eurasian carp.

Insider tip: Visitors who wish to stay overnight can make reservations online for the park’s Lakeview Campground.

Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Ranch County Park
10840 Coyote Lake Rd.
Gilroy, Ca
Hours: open daily at 8 a.m.
Phone: 408-842-7800

Where did you and your family catch the biggest fish this summer? Let us know in the comments section below!

—Sonia Gandiaga