If you have a little angler who is hankering to get out and cast a line, then this is the list for you. We’ve got lakes, piers, stocked ponds and more, ready for your fishing fun. You just might be able to bring home dinner!

photo: Kate Loweth

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!

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
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!

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

Golden Gate Park Anglers Club and Casting Pond
Want 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, CA
Hours: second Saturdays, 9:30 a.m.-noon
Cost: Free

 photo: California Parks Company

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 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.

Lake Chabot Rd.
Castro Valley, CA
Hours: vary by season, check the schedule
Cost: $5/vehicle
Phone: 888-327-2757
Online: lakechabotrecreation.com


Shadow Cliffs Lake
A 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, CA
Hours: Summer: 6 a.m.–9 p.m.
Cost: Vehicle Fee: $6, Fishing Permit: $3
Phone: 510-544-3230
Online: ebparks.org

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
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.

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
online: parks.smcgov.org

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
Online: sccgov.org

Oyster Point Pier
This 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, CA
Hours: 6 a.m.-10 p.m.

photo: Kate Loweth

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 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 Park
10840 Coyote Lake Rd.
Gilroy, CA
Hours: open daily at 8 a.m.
Phone: 408-842-7800
Online: sccgov.org


photo: 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 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 Road
Fairfax, CA
Hours: 7 a.m.–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 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 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. Entry and parking is free on the first Saturday of the month.
Phone: 415-473-6387
Online: marincountyparks.org

photo: Kate Loweth

Farther Afield

Hagemann Ranch Trout Farm
Already open for the season, this 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.

Hagemann Ranch
18797 Highway 1
Bodega Bay, CA
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m., closed Nov.-Feb.

Lake Camanche
The 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.

Lake Camanche
North Shore: 2000 Camanche Road, Ione, CA
South Shore: 11700 Wade Lane, Valley Springs, CA

Lake Amador Resort
Just 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.

Lake Amador Resort
7500 Lake Amador Drive
Ione, CA

—Kate Loweth and Sonia Gandiaga



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