Best Beaches for Surf Fishing San Diego: Tides and More (2024)

Originally Published: 12/30/2019 | Last Updated: 10/13/2023

Best Beaches for Surf Fishing San Diego: Tides and More (1)

What are the best beaches for surf fishing? After fishing every beach in San Diego and many north of San Diego, I figured it’d be helpful to provide an overview of where you can fish the beach in San Diego. There are a few things you want to consider when trying to figure out the best beaches for fishing including, the right tides for each beach, parking, crowds, is it rocky, pebbly, or sandy, and much more. In this article, I’ll give you a run down of the best beaches for fishing in San Diego.

Table of Contents: Best Beaches for Fishing

  • Silver Strand
  • Coronado Beach
  • Mission Beach
  • La Jolla
  • Blacks Beach
  • Torrey Pines State Beach
  • Del Mar
  • Solana Beach
  • Carlsbad Beaches
  • Encinitas Beaches
  • Oceanside Beaches
  • San Onofre State Beach

This page was last updated on 8/27/2023

So you might have questions like, “what are the best surf fishing spots in San Diego?”, or “which styles of surf fishing are best for the beach nearest to me?” These are tough questions, but hopefully having this guide at your fingertips helps out. Additionally, you can always book a guided surf fishing session with me too.

Below, is a comprehensive list outlining some of the best San Diego County beaches for surf fishing. This list will be expanding north, deeper into Orange County and eventually LA, so continue to check in constantly if you’re looking for info on new spots. If there’s a spot near you that you’re tempted to try out, but still not sure, let me know and I’ll do my best to make some time and write a review. Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll have the confidence to try out a new spot while not feeling “completely in the dark”.

Before you go on, here’s what I use for light-tackle surf fishing.

What I Use for Light Tackle:

Silver Strand State Beach

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Parking at Silver Strand State Beach:

The state beach offers paid-parking, but if you’re looking for free parking at Silver Strand State Beach, the Coronado Cays Boulevard and the residential streets around there are your best bet. There are also showers on either end of the beach. For current information, check their website.

Video: Surf Fishing Silver Strand State Beach

Where to Legally Fish at Silver Strand Beach:

No Marine Protected Areas to my knowledge.

Tides for Fishing at Silver Strand beach

Silver Strand is what I like to call an “any tide beach”. You can fish it at low tide and you can fish it at high tide. It can take as high a tide as it gets and you’ll be able to find the structure by learning how to read the surf.

Overview of Surf Fishing at Silver Strand State Beach

Parking InfoFree and Paid – Free is typically easy to find.
Ease of AccessVery Easy
TidesAny Tide is Good
CrowdsLess Crowded Than Most
Terrain TypeMostly Sandy
No Fishing AreasNone
Recommended Gear and TackleSurf Fishing Gear and Tackle

The Strand is a state beach that connects Coronado to Imperial Beach. If you’re looking for an easy access beach with minimal crowds, it doesn’t get much better than Silver Strand State Beach. Before I get into the location, it’s a flat sandy beach that houses plenty of corbina, croaker, perch, guitarfish and all the other usual suspects. The structure you’ll be reading will typically be made of sandy indents (troughs, rips, scallops, and deep pockets). But, just because there’s no permanent structure, doesn’t mean it’s a bad spot. I’ve caught plenty of monsters at beaches that are pure sand.

It’s location offers one popular con and one suspected pro in my mind. The con, Silver Strand is located near the Mexican border and sewage run off is a regular occurrence over there. Typically, when I fish here, I practice 100% catch and release unless the water quality looks really good. For you’re reference, you can always check the water quality of your local beach by visiting this website.

The pro? With the exception of IB, it’s about as close as you can get to Mexico, north of the border. So, the con is the pro and the pro is the con, sounds weird right? Well, you’ve probably heard that the fishing in Mexico is insane, and from what I know about it, Mexico’s surf is under-fished in comparison to our surf over here. I know of anglers who have landed 28+ inch spotfin croaker just south of the border so if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll get one from the strand.

Where to Book Your Stay:

If you’re on a vacation and you’re looking to stay in Coronado, there’s really only one place to stay. The iconic Hotel Del! Aside from the fabulous view, beach access and parking, the Del usually offers some pretty incredible perks.

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Coronado Beach

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Parking at Coronado State Beach:

Despite Coronado beach being known for heavy foot traffic and limited parking, it’s not too tough to find parking here. Obviously, it depends on your timing, but, anywhere along Ocean Boulevard and it’s many “cross streets” are usually a really good bet. Peak summertime can be tough to find parking.

Video: Surf Fishing Coronado Beach in the Winter Time

What I Use for Shark Fishing:

Where to Legally Fish Coronado State Beach:

While there are no Marine Protected Areas here, there are two naval bases. One to the south and the other to it’s north. The naval base on the south end of Coronado Beach begins roughly on Avenida Lunar. The naval base on the north side is much more definitive and it begins where Dog Beach ends. There’s fencing there too so you don’t need to worry about accidentally wandering across the line. Usually, you cannot fish these beaches without explicit permission, so steer clear.

Tides for Fishing Coronado Beach

Coronado is another “any tide beach”. This is because there’s no limit to how high or low a tide this beach can handle. You won’t be backed into any cliffs and there’s a tremendous amount of sand. It’s also incredibly easy to access.

Overview of Surf Fishing at Coronado Beach

Parking InfoFree – Nearby parking can be tough in the summertime. Lots of options further from the water.
Ease of AccessVery Easy
TidesAny Tide is Good
CrowdsMore Crowded Than Most
Terrain TypeMostly Sandy
No Fishing AreasTwo Naval Areas – Read Above
Recommended Gear and TackleSurf Fishing Gear and Tackle

Coronado beach is one of the more interesting beaches I’ve come across. It’s produced some big corbina, some chunky yellowfin croaker, and some nice barred surfperch, and even some walleye surfperch!

Coronado Beach is one of the many flat, sandy beaches that San Diego has to offer. But, Coronado takes “flat and sandy” to a whole new level. It’s the one beach that I consistently cannot seem to pinpoint structure like troughs, scallops, and holes. It just seems like such a consistently flat, sandy beach. It could be because of the average swell direction given its angle, but all I know is that it’s tough to read the surf at Coronado.

Where to Book Your Stay:

If you’re on a vacation and you’re looking to stay in Coronado, there’s really only one place to stay. The iconic Hotel Del! Aside from the fabulous view, beach access and parking, the Del usually offers some pretty incredible perks.

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Mission Beach Surf Fishing

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Parking at South Mission Beach:

South Mission Beach offers one public lot immediately at the jetty. There are fire pits, volleyball nets, a basketball court, bathrooms/showers, and plenty of grassy area. If you can’t find parking in the south mission lot, you can try street parking along the street or even try parking at Mission Point Park. Typically, if South Mission is full, Mission is definitely full.

Video: Surf Fishing Mission Beach

Parking at Mission Beach

There are public parking lots at Belmont Park and South Mission Beach. Additionally, there are always the bay lots and limited street parking. There’s a lot of parking at Mission Beach, but lots of people too so spots fill up quick.

Where to Legally Fish at Mission Beach:

Mission Beach has no Marine Protected Areas nor naval bases so fishing along the entire stretch of the beach should be permitted. It isn’t until you enter La Jolla where you need to stop. Diamond Street is the south border line of the South La Jolla State Marine Reserve which extends North to Palomar Avenue.

Tides For Fishing Mission Beach

Yet again, Mission Beach is another “any tide beach”. If you haven’t made the connection, many southern San Diego beaches have lots of sand. As we work our way north, tides are a bigger factor.

Overview of Surf Fishing at Mission Beach

Parking InfoFree – Harder Than Most
Ease of AccessVery Easy
TidesAny Tide is Good
CrowdsMore Crowded Than Most
Terrain TypeMostly Sandy
No Fishing AreasNone
Recommended Gear and TackleSurf Fishing Gear and Tackle

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to fishing Mission Beach. Mission Beach is a popular beach for surf fishermen across the county. It’s known for the infinite amounts of sandy beach for all-purpose needs. Meanwhile, it’s also incredibly popular in terms of beachgoers, which, for fishermen, isn’t the best-case scenario. When fishing Mission Beach, plan to fish the evening through sunset and maybe into the night, or the early morning until crowds arrive.

Mission Beach is an interesting surf fishing spot. The perch here seem to be larger than anywhere else on average. We’ve also pulled up some pretty big corbina here (all while surf fishing with sand crabs).

When it comes to surf fishing in San Diego, it’s most convenient when the surf is sandy rather than rocky. Mission itself is very sandy, but, just south of mission lies the iconic shoreline of Sunset Cliffs. This area (while tough to surf fish) is known for its big 7-gill and Soupfin for the purposes of diving and San Diego surf fishing. To its north, La Jolla. If there’s one sandy spot likely to hold reef critters on their break, this is it.

It’s also worth mentioning that Mission beach has a track record of being smothered in seaweed. Seaweed aside, It’s full of potential and full of great spots. On days in which few people crowd the waters, I strongly recommend this beach for surf fisherman across San Diego.


Aside from being one of the best shore fishing spots in San Diego, it is also a great spot for grunion runs during the late spring and summer months. The long, flat, sandy beach is exactly what grunion seek out when spawning. Similarly, night fishing during grunion runs here has been solid in the past. It isn’t a guarantee (as I have found to be the case), but the potential is through the roof. Here’s my video on a grunion run at mission beach that occurred in early 2021.

To learn more about this super cool phenomenon, check out this link on everything you should know about grunion runs.

Where To Book Your Stay:

Blue Sea Beach Hotel is likely the best option for people staying at Mission Beach. A couple of steps across the boardwalk and you’re on the beach. On the other hand, the bay is a quick walk in the opposite way. It’s a moderately priced, very well-rated hotel that’s popular among San Diego beach stayers.

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Surf Fishing La Jolla

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Parking in La Jolla

Finding Parking in La Jolla can be a challenge depending on where you look. It’s such a large area that I can’t speak much about it. But, La Jolla Shores is probably the toughest place to find parking, followed by the children’s pool.

Where to Legally Fish in La Jolla:

To make this one simple, I’ll just tell you where you CAN’T fish in La Jolla. There are three main Marine Protected Areas that we should go over. 1) the South La Jolla State Marine Reserve, 2) the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve, and 3) the San Diego – Scripps Coastal State Marine Conservation Area.

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What does all this mean? Well, don’t fish between Diamond Street and Palomar Avenue (South la Jolla SMR). If you’re fishing Pacific Beach, stay south of Diamond Street. If you’re fishing near Windansea, stay north of the stair-line that stems down from Palomar Avenue. Don’t fish the surf between Point La Jolla and Ho Chi Minh Trail/Box Canyon. If you’re really fishing “the surf”, you shouldn’t really worry about Point La Jolla, but for “Ho Chi Minh Trail” or “Box Canyon“, you’ll run into this landmark if you’re fishing Black’s Beach which will be outlined in the next beach section. It’s that big crevasse in which you’ll see people climbing down with a rope.

Tides for Fishing at La Jolla Beaches

La Jolla is an “any tide area” but some parts of La Jolla need lower tides. For example, Marine Street can take any tide, but some more rocky, reefy areas, can’t take more than a 4 foot high tide. Head over there, check it out, and you’ll see what I mean.

Overview of Surf Fishing In La Jolla

Parking InfoFree – Ease depends on where you go.
Ease of AccessEasy
TidesAny Tide is Good But Some Zones Need Lower Tides
CrowdsAverage Crowds
Terrain TypeMix of Reef and Sand
No Fishing AreasMPA’s – Read Above
Recommended Gear and TackleSurf Fishing Gear and Tackle

As far as the fishing goes, it’s an interesting option. Due to the reef and abundance of rocky structure, many different species are attracted to the area. It also leads to an excess of seaweed which sort of sucks… a lot. But, you can get anything from the typical corbina and croaker, to leopard sharks and bigger sharks, as well as calico bass and more reef-fish.

Where To Book Your Stay:

Depending on which part of La Jolla you plan to stay in, you’ve got a world of options. From hotels to houses, these are some of the best rated options per price: Sands of La Jolla, La Jolla Riviera Inn, Holiday Inn (classic), Pantai Inn, Inn By The Sea. You can check all their rates and availabiity below by clicking the button.

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Blacks Beach Surf Fishing

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Parking at Blacks Beach and How to Access the Sand of Blacks Beach:

There are a few ways to get down to Blacks Beach and where you decide to access the sand might affect where you park or vice versa. The main access point is via the Torrey Pines Glider Port. When you drive in to the dirt/gravel lot, you’ll take an immediate left turn and find parking where you can, the trailhead is immediately ahead at that point.

If you miss the initial turn, there is a north Blacks Beach trail. It’ll be at the very end of the dirt lot (some 600 yards down) and it’s a bit more sketchy so be careful. Otherwise, you can go down Ho Chi Minh Trail but I’ve never actually done that so don’t ask me about it. On low tides, you can actually access Blacks Beach from La Jolla Shores and even from Torrey Pines State Beach, but time your trek right or else you’ll get stuck, or worse… you won’t make it.

Video: Surf Fishing Blacks Beach

Where To Legally Fish Blacks Beach

Like La Jolla, there are legal restrictions that need to be noted when fishing Blacks. As illustrated in the photo above, there’s an SMCA that effectively disallows surf fishing for the general public in that section of the beach. Be sure to take a look at the exact location in which the boundary ends if you plan on fishing Blacks.

Tides for Fishing Blacks Beach

Blacks Beach is yet another “any tide beach” for the most part. Every winter/spring, we lose some sand, and it get’s tight against the bluffs at those higher than 6-foot high tides, but usually by summer, the sand is plentiful enough to take even a 7-foot high tide. Be careful for the bluffs though as the cliffs are known to collapse a few times a year.

Overview of Surf Fishing at Blacks Beach

Parking InfoFree – relatively Easy at the Glider port
Ease of AccessDifficult
TidesAny Tide is Good
CrowdsLess Crowded Than Most
Terrain TypeMostly Sandy
No Fishing AreasSouth at Box Canyon – Read Above
Recommended Gear and TackleSurf Fishing Gear and Tackle

While the fishing is good, the scenery is simply gorgeous. But, if you plan to trek down to blacks, please be careful. Every year, the terrain changes so hike at your own risk.

Black’s Beach is one of the most beautiful and secluded beaches in all of San Diego. The crowds tend to be minimal except during holidays and very sunny or hot days. The reason for its minimal crowds as well as stunning beauty, can be linked to the fact that it isn’t the easiest beach to access. Another “interesting aspect about Black’s Beach is well… it’s a nude beach, and the majority of these nudists tend to be old men with no shame. Nonetheless, Blacks beach makes the list of best beaches for surf fishing in San Diego simply because of its seclusion and pure beauty.

The most prominent fish at Blacks beach tends to be yellowfin croaker. Maxing out at around 15″, these guys aren’t huge, but they’re pretty. Surfperch and corbina are also common.

Where To Book Your Stay:

Most of the places in la Jolla are no more than a 5-10 minute drive to Blacks beach, but here are the three closest hotels: Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa, Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines, and The Lodge at Torrey Pines. Check the Rates and Availability Below.

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Torrey Pines State Beach

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Parking at Torrey Pines State Beach:

There are a few different options for Torrey Pines beach parking. There are two pay lots that are run by the state park. Then, there’s a limited stretch of diagonal and parallel parking that runs along the beach. Other than that, there’s street parking, but it’s relatively far wherever you find it. If you’re open to going to North Torrey Pines or even a little further north to Del Mar, you have a few more options that will be covered in the “Del Mar” section.

Video: Surf Fishing Torrey Pines State Beach

Where to Legally Fish at Torrey Pines State Beach:

As long as you don’t fish the lagoon east of the bridge, there are no MPAs that you need to worry about. You CAN fish the mouth of the lagoon, but do NOT fish east of the bridge as you will be subject to fines.

Tides for Fishing Torrey Pines State Beach

The entire stretch of Torrey Pines State Beach requires a tidal height of lower than 4 feet. Depending on the height of the surf and the amount of sand loss we had for the given year, 4 feet plus/minus 1 foot.

Overview of Surf Fishing Torrey Pines State Beach

Parking InfoFree and Paid – Free is typically tough to find.
Ease of AccessEasy from Parking Lot
TidesNo Higher than a 4-foot High Tide
CrowdsCrowded Near Lots – Thins Out North and South
Terrain TypeMostly Sandy with Mixed Reef and Pebbles
No Fishing AreasNone
Recommended Gear and TackleSurf Fishing Gear and Tackle

Torrey Pines is one of the best beaches for surf fishing in San Diego. The south end of Torrey Pines State Beach is a tricky beach to figure out when it comes to consistency and reliability. The stretch from the last lifeguard tower to Flat Rock is the epitome of a “hit or miss” beach. South Torrey is quite popular among the surf fishing community and rightfully so.

I’ve heard of days in which spotfin croaker were hitting left and right! The structure and terrain at Torrey Pines is best described as “mixed structure” with lots of sand, pebbles, and reef. Flat Rock (AKA “The Rock”) attracts a myriad of species of fish; the most abundant being baby leopard sharks about 12-18″ in length.

Baby leopard sharks appear to find refuge at Torrey Pines. They are attracted to the structure and marine wildlife that The Rock provides. Commonly caught species include corbina, perch, croaker, rays, leopards, halibut, and bass.

Flat Rock

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Certainly, the south stretch of beach offers great success, but South Torrey Pines beach ranks high on my list of best beaches for surf fishing for another reason. The Rock is one of few places that can be full of fish when all other spots simply aren’t! You never know what kind of day your going to have when surf fishing at the Rock!

One of my favorite experiences here occurred in the Winter months. When I arrived and climbed atop The Rock, I noticed something that left me awestruck. I looked down at the water and saw more than 50 leopard sharks ranging from 1-3 ft! My buddy and I caught a myriad of sharks that day and it was just an incredible experience. But, we’ve also had many slow days and even skunks here. Regardless, it’s one of the most beautiful beaches in So Cal and I’d recommend at least taking a stroll on the beach.

Similar to South Torrey Pines, North Torrey Pines shelters all the same types of fish. Additionally, this beach tends to be less crowded than most beaches as it offers limited parking (for free). Corbina and Perch are prominent here and there’s one really interesting characteristic about North Torrey Pines that brings in different species.

Due to the channel that flows into the North side of Torrey Pines, halibut can be targeted with great success! Halibut like structure and they like moving waters, like inlets and such. Torrey Pines is a good beach to choose if you’re looking for Halibut or any fish for that matter.

Two more things: No you cannot fish the actual lagoon, do NOT cross under the bridge to fish the lagoon, you may fish the inlet on the beach portion. Also, this beach is another one that cannot be fished at a higher tide than 4 feet as you’ll be pushed up against unstable bluffs. Also note that when I say a specific tidal height like “4 feet”, that’s going to fluctuate as the swells/surf increases and decreases in size.

Where To Book Your Stay:

For Torrey Pines, you’ll have a few options from either side. From the south, you have Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines and The Lodge at Torrey Pines. directly east of Torrey Pines (just up the hill) Residence Inn San Diego is recommended. Double Tree by Hilton San Diego del Mar is right there too, but for the price, Residence Inn is better. Than, from the north (if you’re looking to hit Del Mar and Torrey Pines, Hotel Indigo is a super central bet with affordable rates and great location. Check all the rates and availabilit below.

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Best Beaches For Surf Fishing (cont.)

Del Mar Beach Surf Fishing

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Parking at Del Mar Beach:

So, there are many different options for parking at Del Mar Beach. Literally from 4th street through 29th street, you have residential options (all along Camino Del Mar which turns into the 101). Powerhouse Park has metered parking and some limited 2 and 4 hour parking spots. But, if nothing looks good, I usually head over to Santa Fe Avenue.

Video: Surf Fishing Del Mar Beach

Where to Legally Fish at Del Mar Beach:

Aside from the San Dieguito lagoon, there are no MLPAs that restrict surf fishing on Del Mar Beach. Just don’t fish the actual lagoon area, only the surf around it.

Tides for Fishing Del Mar Beach

Again, be careful here. While the bluffs aren’t as tall, they may be just as unstable. The south stretch is similar to the south stretch at Torrey Pines, maybe a 4-5 foot high tide is all it can handle, but the north side has plenty of sand to withstand even King Tides.

Overview of Surf Fishing at Del Mar Beach

Parking InfoFree and Paid – Free is all street parking and medium/difficult to find
Ease of AccessVery Easy
TidesAny Tide is Good
CrowdsLess Crowded Than Most
Terrain TypeMostly Sandy
No Fishing AreasNone
Recommended Gear and TackleSurf Fishing Gear and Tackle

The beach is located immediately north of Torrey Pines. Like Torrey Pines, it’s terrain is made up of a mix of sandy flats, pebbly sections, and partial reefs. For this reason, you’ll catch the occasional bass here. Halibut will be a good bet if you plan to target them as well.

I mentioned above that halibut fishing can be productive here and that’s because of all the structure. All of Del Mar is essentially a massive intermittent reef. For this reason, just like most good halibut fishing spots, it’s a great place to lose a lure. Just another fair warning… don’t blame me when you lose that $20 lure to a rock! But, when you get your first legal halibut, I’ll take the credit.

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Where To Book Your Stay:

If your planning to stay in Del Mar, I ‘d recommend either Hotel Indigo or the local Holiday Inn. The nice thing about Hotel Indigo is that it’s central to Torrey Pines, Del Mar, and even Solana Beach. No beach should be more than a 10 minute drive from Hotel Indigo. Check for the rates and availability below.

Solana Beach

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Parking at Solana Beach:

Within the parameters of “Solana Beach”, we have Fletcher Cove Beach, Tide Park Beach, Table Tops, and Seaside Beach. As we get further north, some cities have many separate “beaches”. Given the limited sand access points, you’ll want to either access Solana Beach by Fletcher Cove or the north side by Swami’s. There’s lots of public parking and street parking but some is paid and the rest is limited. A good “secret” spot for parking at Solana Beach would be E Circle Drive and Ocean Street.

Video: Surf Fishing Solana Beach

Where to Legally Fish in Solana Beach:

Just north of Del Mar, lies Solana Beach and then Encinitas. Again, this is another intermittent reef. One thing to note however is that Swamis State Beach borders Solana Beach. Within this general location the following MPA’s can be found – San Elijo Lagoon SMCA (No-Take) and Swami’s SMCA and Swami’s SMCA (image).

Swamis’s SMCA begins near the San Elijo Lagoon inlet and ends near Moonlight State Beach. For exact coordinates, refer to this link (image). To my knowledge, you can fish the surf at Swami’s Beach and you can even keep your catch so long as it’s of legal size and limits. It has to be recreational and by hook and line, but you CANNOT use sand crabs as they are among the “prohibited take”.

Seems kind of weird to me that they’d be concerned about sand crabs as they’re literally everywhere but they’re within the crustaceans and invertebrates category so we cannot use sand crabs at Swami’s State Beach. Do your research before you fish this area as you do NOT want to get fined for illegal take of any sort. But, Spotfin, corbina, and other species are good here.

Overview of Surf Fishing in Solana Beach

Parking InfoFree Lot and Street Parking – Relatively Easy
Ease of AccessVery Easy at Access Points – Ramp at Flecther Cove and Stairs at Table Tops
TidesLower Than a 5-foot Tide
CrowdsLess Crowded Than Most – But Still Very Crowded At Access Points
Terrain TypeMostly Sandy with Intermittent Reef
No Fishing AreasNorth at Swamis – Read Above and Below
Recommended Gear and TackleSurf Fishing Gear and Tackle

You’ll find plenty of flat sandy areas at Solana and it’s got enough sand to withstand your typical 5.5 ft high tides and maybe a little higher. All that aside, this is definitely one of the best beaches for surf fishing.

Where To Book Your Stay:

If you’re looking to stay on the northern side of Solana Beach, I’d recommend Cardiff By The Sea Lodge. The Southern side would be best for Holiday Inn Express.

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Encinitas Beaches

Best Beaches for Surf Fishing San Diego: Tides and More (12)
Parking for Encinitas Beaches:

After Solana Beach, we have a small collection of beaches for surf fishing in Encinitas. From south to north, we have Moonlight State Beach, Stonesteps Beach, Encinitas Beach Country Park, Leucadia State Beach, and Grandview Beach.

  • Swami’s Beach Parking – Lot Above
  • Moonlight Beach Parking: paid parking on C Street but try Moonlight Ln and Fourth St.
  • Stonesteps Beach Parking: Anywhere along Neptune Ave or either El Portal Streets.
  • Encinitas Beach Country Park Beach: Neptune Ave and Athena St.
  • Leucadia State Beach: Neptune Ave, Jasper St, and W Leucadia Blvd.
  • Grandview Beach: Small parking lot at beach, Neptune Ave, Grandview St, and Avocado St.

Video: Surf Fishing Encinitas Beach

Where to Legally Fish in Encinitas:

As long as you stay north of Swami’s SMCA and you don’t fish in any lagoons, you’re good to go. If you’re trying any of these beaches, there’s always a possibility of line snags in rocks so be aware of that.

If you’re just learning in the surf and you don’t have a solid understanding of what a bite feels like versus what your weight rolling over rocks feels like, I’d recommend getting the basics down at a more sandy beach. Certainly, there are sandy portions at certain times of the year, but with how much the terrain changes with the rock exposure over here, just be prepared.

Tides for Fishing Encinitas Beaches

Many of these beaches can’t support more than a 4.5 high tide so be careful.

Parking InfoFree – Mostly Street Parking – Medium Difficulty
Ease of AccessUsually Steep Staircases Down To Sand
TidesBelow a 5-foot High Tide
CrowdsLess Crowded Than Most
Terrain TypeIntermixed Sand/Reef/Pebbles
No Fishing AreasSwami’s – Read Above
Recommended Gear and TackleSurf Fishing Gear and Tackle

This beach was a really tricky one for me to figure out. I remember fishing this stretch years back. It was the first time I had to deal with pebbly bottoms and it took some time to get familiar with the terrain. When you fish the classic sandy bottom, it really isn’t difficult to detect bites. A pebbly bottom with decent currents and water movement can make surf fishing really difficult, especially if you’re just beginning.

The feeling of your weight catching and rolling on a pebbly bottom is very similar to the feeling of a bite. I remember my first time, I didn’t realize what was happening for a good 30 minutes or so. It took some time, but I figured it out, and you can certainly have success with croaker, corbina, perch, and even halibut.

Where To Book Your Stay:

Encinitas is such a beautiful little strecth of sand and surprisingly, there are some pretty inexpensive options here. Again, you could go with Cardiff By The Sea Lodge, but a few other options from south to north include Best Western, Econo Lodge at Moonlight Beach, and Rodeway Inn. Check the rates and availability below.

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Carlsbad Beaches

Best Beaches for Surf Fishing San Diego: Tides and More (13)

Parking at Carlsbad Beaches:

Again, something about North County, it seems each city has a small collections of beaches. So, from south to north, we have South Ponto, North Ponto, Terramar Beach, Tamarack State Beach and Frazee State Beach.

  • Parking at South Ponto and North Ponto Beach: there are two lots nearby and also additional street parking along the sand. Worse comes to worst, you can always find parking over closer to Grandview and walk.
  • Parking at Terramar Beach: Carlsbad Blvd and Cerezo Dr. (you’ll walk from Warm Water Jetty Beach.
  • Parking at Tamarack State Beach and Parking at Frazee State Beach: There are multiple public parking lots located between these two beaches and given all the cross streets above, it won’t take long to find a street spot.

Video: Surf Fishing Carlsbad State Beach

Where to Legally Fish at Carlsbad Beaches:

At Carlsbad Beach, you’re good to fish the whole stretch with no worries of MLPAs or any other added restrictions. Remember! Make sure you’re not fishing in any lagoons.

Tides for Fishing Carlsbad Beaches

Areas like Robert Frazee State Beach can take a lot of water – aka: “any tide beach”. But, areas like Terramar can only take 4-feet or so. It’s a mix of no bluffs and bluffs for what you’re backed up against.

Overview of Carlsbad State Beach Surf Fishing

Parking InfoFree and Paid – Medium Difficulty
Ease of AccessVery Easy to Mild Easy with Staircases
TidesAny Tide is Good for Some Zones – Others Need Less Than a 4-Foot High Tide
CrowdsLess Crowded Than Most
Terrain TypeFrazee – Sandy
Tammarack – Sandy
Terramar – Reef
Pontos – Pebbly/Sandy/Reef
No Fishing AreasNone
Recommended Gear and TackleSurf Fishing Gear and Tackle

Carlsbad has a few different beaches that make it one of the best beaches for surf fishing in San Diego. When fishing a beach like Ponto (and even those in Encinitas), at least for light tackle, I like to find the sandiest area in comparison to a nearby pebbly area, and fish that. I’ve had good success using that method. In theory, the pebbly beaches reduce the size and amount of hunting grounds for fish like corbina and croaker. They prefer sandy areas as that’s where the sand crabs will be. So, find the sandy spot and it should only be a matter of minutes before you get hit.

For perch and halibut, I lean more towards finding small sandy sections that have good rocky structure nearby. For Lucky Craft fishing, I’ll run my lure as close to the structure as possible, hoping for an ambush from behind or from the base of the rock. If I’m fishing Carolina Rig for perch, I’ll cast into the sandy section adjacent to the rocks.

Another thing worth mentioning is the corbina fishing at Carlsbad. I personally haven’t put in enough time to formulate my own opinion, but I know of an angler who caught a couple corbina over 24-inches here sight casting a few years back.

Where To Book Your Stay:

Ocean Palms and Carlsbad By The Sea might be the most well-known places to stay for a beachside booking, but again, there are some really affordable spots down here. Check the rates and availability below.

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Oceanside Beach

Best Beaches for Surf Fishing San Diego: Tides and More (14)

Parking at Oceanside Beaches:

From south to north: St. Malo Beach, Cassidy Street Beach, Oceanside Pier, Trestles Beach.

  • Parking at St. Malo Beach and Cassidy Street Beach: Where Cassidy St meets South Pacific Street, there’s usually plenty of parking. Just watch out for hidden fire hydrants lol.
  • Parking at Oceanside Pier: North Pacific Street is a good bet as well as some parking around The Strand N.

Where to Legally Fish at Oceanside Beaches:

Oceanside Beach is free of all MLPA’s but again, don’t fish in any lagoons. As far as the fishing goes, all the usual suspects reside here. From corbina, all the way to leopard sharks and even some bigger sharks if you’re lucky.

Tides for Fishing at Oceanside Beach

Oceanside has gone through a lot of change in the last few years. The north side by the pier can take a lot of water, but once you get south of the pier by a couple hundred yards, you’ll be backed up against boulders and houses and likely standing on pebbles if the tide is higher than 1.5-feet.

Overview of Surf Fishing Oceanside Beach

Parking InfoFree and Paid – Free is Medium-Difficult to Find
Ease of AccessVery Easy
TidesAny Tide By Pier – Less Than 2 Feet South
CrowdsLess Crowded Than Most South – Relatively Crowded North
Terrain TypeMostly Sandy and Pebbly
No Fishing AreasNone
Recommended Gear and TackleSurf Fishing Gear and Tackle

Oceanside Beach is one of the best beaches for surf fishing. An important factor to keep in mind about Oceanside is the tidal height. Be careful, as with any beach, Oceanside has its limit. The further south you go, the more narrow the sandy beach becomes.

I would say anything above 4 ft and you’ll be fairly snug against the rocks. But, as you work your way north, especially beyond the pier, there’s much more sand available. I couldn’t pinpoint the max tidal height for North Oceanside for you, but I would guess that a 5.5 ft tide would be doable.

Every beach has something unique that defines it. Oceanside, while mostly sandy, has a few lagoon mouths that enter the ocean either in or near this shoreline. If you’ve read my article on Halibut fishing you’ll know that these characteristics drastically increase your odds of catching one.

Where To Book Your Stay:

Oceanside is yet another iconic San Diego beach city and it provides some incredible scenary both during the day and the night. With plenty of options through, check out the rates and availability below.

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San Onofre State Beach

Best Beaches for Surf Fishing San Diego: Tides and More (15)

Surf fishing at new beaches is always fun, but it can be frustrating and you might lack the confidence to really put the necesarry time in. For that reason, I’ve been working on putting together an overview for surf fishing every beach in Southern California. In this article, I’ll be explaining what you should expect and how to go about surf fishing at San Onofre State Beach.

Parking at San Onofre State Beach

First things first, Let’s talk about where to park at San Onofre State Beach and how you even get there. Most locations are pretty self-explanatory, but this one requires a little bit of clarification. We’ll be talking about three main access points to San Onofre State Beach. From south to north, we have Bluffs Beach, Surf Beach, and Trestles Beach. Each of the three beaches here will require that you pay a parking fee for the day with the excpetion of Trestles. With Trestles, you’ll be able to park above San Clemente State Beach orCalafia Beach Parkand find street parking. It’s a little bit of a walk, but it’s free. I hear Cristianitos Road is also an option where it meets S El Camino Real.

Where To Legally Go Surf Fishing at San Onofre State Beach

No Marine Life Protected Areas | Don’t Illegally Hop on Base

Tides for Fishing San Onofre State Beach

Most areas are best at lower tides at San Onofre State Beach but can be fished up to a 4-foot tide. You’ll just get backed up on pebbles before getting backed up against the bluffs.

Overview of Fishing at San Onofre State Beach

Parking InfoPaid
Ease of AccessVery Easy
TidesPreferrabley Lower Than 2-ft High Tide
CrowdsLess Crowded Than Most
Terrain TypeSan/Reef/Pebbles
No Fishing AreasNone
Recommended Gear and TackleSurf Fishing Gear and Tackle

Video: Surf Fishing San Onofre State Beach

Common Species To Catch:

All the usuals+ possibility of sheephead, calicos, black perch and other reefy/rocky fish

Surf Fishing Bluffs Beach and the 6 Trails

Best Beaches for Surf Fishing San Diego: Tides and More (16)

After paying your fee to the State Ranger at the entrance booth, you’ll continue driving straight ahead. At this point, you will have been driving south for some 3 miles since exiting the freeway. As you drive past the ranger, on your right, the first of 6 trails will be labeled on a sign at the trail entrance. You have options here. All the hikes are relatively easy and pretty quick so don’t let that factor intimidate you. The first trail is technically the quickest trail but it’s also a little steep. Another benefit to the first trail is that it likely has the highest sand-to-pebble ratio. However, there’s only a very small section of beach here before it turns into river rock again.

Trails 2 through 6 will take you down to more sandy/pebbly beach. All these trails lead to very similar-looking terrain. The higher the tide, the more pebbles you’ll be walking over and fishing through. If you’re looking to fish sandy bottoms, this beach might not be for you, but that said, trail 1 is your best bet. It’s said that trail 6 will take you to a clothing-optional beach so just a fair warning there.

Depending on the seasons and years, the terrain I’m describing here can vary. But from what I’ve seen when I’ve gone, and the photos I’ve seen, I’d expect the following: Trail # 1 will offer (I think) fewer snags if your fishing a Carolina rig and trails 2-6 will feel more secluded with more pebbles and rocky bottoms to fight through. I’ve heard that casting further might be more productive here as it can get you out past the rocky bottoms onto sand where there’s more bait.

Surfing Beach: San Onofre State Beach

Commonly referred to as “Surf Beach” or “Old Man’s”, Surfing Beach is located just north of Bluffs Beach. You’ll enter from Old Pacific Highway again and pay your parking fee at a different Park Ranger booth. Parking will be running along side the beach and there should be a decent amount of it.

This beach will be a little more crowded than those down from the bluffs and it will still be a mixture of sand and pebbles. From my limited experience here, it appears that it’s most comparable to trail #1 down at Bluffs Beach. Still a good amount of pebbles and rocks in there but also some sandy flats to fish.

Surf Fishing Trestles Beach

Given that access to Trestles is actually via San Clemente (for the most part), I was debating making this it’s own page, but I decided it was close enough and similar enough and after all, it is one of the best beaches for surf fishing. Trestles is again, very similar terrain in that it’s a mixture of rocky, reefy, pebbly and sandy bottom. At all of these beaches, you can expect the usual suspect in corbina, croaker, perch, etc. But, you also have a chance at sheephead, black perch, calico, halibut, and similar fish that hangout near rockier structure.

My opinion on all of these beaches: If you’re throwing a C-rig, you’re going to want to find sandy flats to set your bait in. If you’re working a lure of sorts, I’d shoot for the areas with good, defined reef and or bigger rocks near sandy flats. Also, try casting further out. These beaches are still relatively new to me and I’ll be updating this page as I fish them more often, but I hope this rundown gives you a little taste of what to expect so you don’t feel like you’re going in blind like I did.

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Thanks for Reading

I hope you enjoyed my list of the best beaches for surf fishing in San Diego. Please let me know if you have any recommendations of other beaches and I hope this information helps you in your surf fishing endeavors.

Be sure to take a look at my reviews pages on “gear and tackle” and the surf fishing rods and surf fishing reels I recommend. All products are overviewed and explained in detail. If you have any questions about any of the items listed feel free to reach out to me directly at Or use the Contact Us page or post a comment and I’ll be sure to respond within 48 hours.

And don’t forget to take a look at my fishing reports page. I publish a new report or informational article every week and I’ll let you know what’s biting and what tactics you should use to increase your odds of hooking that fish of a lifetime! Make sure you enter your email address below or in the sidebar and hit subscribe to receive the weekly reports.


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