Southern California Surfperch Fishing: 5 Beaches To Try

What’s not to like about Southern California?  Warm sand, beautiful sunsets and miles of Pacific Coast beaches teaming with countless species of fish.  Fishing opportunities along the SoCal coast are endless and nothing beats the fun of surfperch fishing.

The primary perch species along the southern stretches of California include barred, silver and walleye surfperch.  Barred surfperch are spunky fighters and are easy to catch as they feed between crashing waves along the beach.  On average, they reach 1 to 2 pounds and taste delicious.

It’s hard to pick a bad beach for surf fishing in Southern California.  In this article, we do our best to highlight 5 must-fish destinations that should be on every angler’s list. Time your visit to the beach just right and the surf fishing action can be as hot as the California sun.

Here are 5 great Southern California surfperch fishing hot spots to try:

  1.  El Capitan State Beach
  2. Zuma Beach
  3. South Carlsbad State Beach
  4. Mission Beach
  5. Coronado Beach

1. El Capitan State Beach

Our first stop along the Southern California coast is El Capitan State Beach.  Situated only 20 minutes north of Santa Barbra, this beach gets a fair amount of local fishing pressure.  Don’t let that stop you though.  Plenty of fish swim in the ocean and a short walk towards El Capitan Creek to the south gets you out of the crowds.

Directly in front of the parking lot and heading north, the sandy beach slopes moderately into the surf.  Fish between the first and second breakers as you work your way along the beach searching for schools of feeding surfperch.

Most of the beach is sand but the point is predominantly rock near shore.  Fishing along the edges can be fruitful but it’s easy to get hung up in the rocks if you are not careful.  

We like targeting surfperch with light tackle Carolina rigs.  Sand crabs are abundant at this beach so dig up a few and use them as bait.  The big perch that swim in these waters love them.  There’s also a chance to catch rockfish and even the occasional halibut in deeper water.

Stay at one of the 132 campsites for easy access to the beach when rising early or staying out late to fish. Other lodging is available in Santa Barbra.  For a change of venue, several small fishing beaches are nearby.  Refugio Beach is another popular surf fishing destination.

2. Zuma Beach

Yet another beautiful Southern California beach, this Malibu beach is within a short drive from LA so you won’t be alone on summer weekends.  Luckily, September through May is the prime time to fish for surfperch.  Late fall and early spring crowds are much more bearable and with miles of sandy beach, finding a good fishing spot is easy.

The huge parking area gives you an idea of the popularity of Zuma beach.  Come early on weekends or during the week and you’ll have it almost to yourself.  Restrooms and water fountains are available.

Surfperch predominate along this sandy stretch of coast.  Look for rip currents and deep troughs which concentrate fish activity.  You won’t need to walk far to find perch but watch out for surfers and swimmers.  

It may be a good idea to park at either end of the main beach and walk to one of the smaller surround beaches were the crowds are thinner.  Just about everywhere you cast will be surfperch so find your spot and start casting.

Lodging and amenities are plentiful in the area.  

3. South Carlsbad State Beach

South Carlsbad is one of many San Diego county beaches that provides excellent surf fishing opportunities.  Barred surfperch are abundant but you can also expect to catch corbina, spotfin croaker and the occasional shark.

This relatively steep beach has minimal structure so look for fish concentrated in troughs and holes.  Get a bluff-top view during low tide to find likely spots.  You’ll also find that simply fan-casting over a large area is a great way to cover water and locate schooling fish.

You’ll find top notch surf fishing as far south as Ponto Jetty.  The estuary is closed to fishing but the jetty rocks are a good place to catch fish.

Stay the night at South Carlsbad Campground which is located only 4 minutes off I-5.  The campground has 223 bluff-top camp sites with picnic tables and fire rings.  End a great day of surf fishing next to a cozy campfire as you overlook the rolling waves.  Be sure to book early since sites often fill months in advance.

The beach here slopes immediately from steep, sandy bluffs to the surf.  There are six stairways/ramps that lead from the bluff to the beach.  Always keep an eye on the tide as there is 0.4 miles between each exit to the north of the campground.  The stairs south of the campground are closer together. 

4. Mission Beach

Making up the costal edge of Mission Bay, Mission Beach runs along the north end of San Diego.  This long, narrow beach eventually runs into Pacific Beach.  Early mornings and late evening hours will give you more space to yourself.  This is a very popular sandy beach and the crowds here are thick along its entire stretch. 

There are two public parking lots that service this beach; Mission Beach and South Mission.  The Mission Beach parking lot is next to Belmont Park which has gift shops, food, beach rentals and a roller coaster.

The southern end of this beach is called South Mission and has a grass park with ample parking and restrooms.  If this parking lot is full, the walk from Mission Beach parking lot is just over 0.6 miles.  Enjoy the exercise and fish along the way.

At South Mission, there is a long rock jetty protruding into the surf that holds many types of surf fish.  Walk along it and try fishing both sides depending on the waves.  

If you want to fish the sandy flats along the beach, fish on an incoming tide that will stir up food and get the feeding frenzy going.  Surfperch on Mission Beach tend to be larger than average but you’ll still find good numbers of fish along the entire stretch.

5. Coronado Beach

The final entry on this list makes up a long spit of land in San Diego Bay.  Coronado Beach is the place to be for some of the best surfperch fishing in the area.  Rarely do anglers go home empty handed.   

When fishing this flat, sandy beach try timing your trip with an incoming high tide in the early morning or right before dusk.  This will also help you miss the large crowds.  It’s hard to cast your line safely into the surf with people wading and swimming all around.  

The only form of structure on this beach is to the south in front of the Hotel del Coronado.  A small jetty of large boulders curves into the surf providing a great place for fish to forage when the tide is up.  Small halibut and corbina are frequent catches.

September through May are the peak months for Southern California surfperch.  When the winter months roll around and the other beaches start to slow, this one continues to produce.  


For every beach on this list, there are a dozen others worth fishing.  Surfperch are some of our favorite fish to tackle but you never know what kind of fish you’ll drag in when surf fishing Southern California.  Enjoy the sun, beautiful beaches and unbeatable fishing.

Interested in heading north?  We’ve also complied 5 top surfperch beaches in Northern California and 11 best beaches in Oregon and Washington.  Check out these articles to plan a surfperch fishing adventure along the entire western coast!