Have you ever felt the excitement of watching your bobber suddenly jiggle, then dive out of sight? Or feeling the tap-tap-tap of a bass as it tastes the worm on the end of your line? Or having a salmon practically tear the rod out of your hands as it smashes your lure? What’s that? You say you never learned to fish?
Dept of Fish & Game’s Free Fishing Days for 2023: Saturday, July 1 and September 2.
On these days, you can fish in certain lakes without a sport fishing license. Free Fishing Days provide a great, low-cost way to give fishing a try.
Fishing in the City Days are designed to educate novice anglers about fishing ethics, fish habits, effective methods for catching fish, and fishing tackle.
While all fishing regulations, such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements, fishing hours and stream closures remain in effect, there are two days each year when anyone can fish without purchasing a fishing license.
On Free Fishing Days, every angler must have the appropriate report card if they are fishing for:
- Salmon in the Smith and Klamath-Trinity River Systems
Lake Merced (Free only on Free Fishing Days)
Fishing is allowed 1 hour before sunrise to 1 hour after sunset from any of the docks that are located around the perimeter of the lake. Shore fishing is not allowed. (This info is from 2022 and it could be different for 2023.)
- North Lake Merced: 105 acres. Stocked spring, summer, and fall with catchable trout. A North Lake daily fishing access permit is charged.
- South Lake Merced: 203 acres. Stocked with catchable trout.
- Lake Merced Impoundment: 17 acres. Not planted with catchable trout.
According to fishbrain.com, the best time for fishing is around 6am (when they say they get the most “bites”) and the most popular species caught in the lake are Largemouth bass, River blackfish, and Rainbow trout. (This info is from 2022.)
San Francisco Piers (No permit required year-round)
When recreationally fishing from a “public pier” in ocean or bay waters, a fishing license is not required. Public piers have a specific definition and must be connected to the shoreline, allow for free, unrestricted public access, and have been built or currently function for the primary purpose of fishing.
Publicly owned jetties and breakwaters may also be “public piers” but, in addition, must form the most seaward protective boundary of an ocean harbor. Jetties and other structures that are not the most seaward boundary are not public piers.
Even though a fishing license is not required on a public pier, all other regulations (including minimum size, bag limits, report cards, and seasons) apply while fishing from a public pier. Additionally, only two rods and lines, handlines, or nets, traps, or other appliances used to take crabs may be used per person on a public pier
Free Fishing Piers (year-round)
- Candlestick Fishing Pier (Eastern of two)
- Islais Creek Pier
- Agua Vista Pier
- South Beach Harbor Pier
- Pier 14
- Pier 7
- Pier 45
San Francisco Municipal Wharf “Muni” Pier – Currently Closed
- Fort Mason Pier 3
- Fort Mason Pier 2
- Saint Francis Jetty
- Torpedo Wharf (Fort Point) Pier
- See a full list of Bay Area free fishing piers