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Surf Fishing & Camping On Pismo Beach

Author: Colby Uva

Fishing From The Surf At Pismo Beach

"The Only Beach In California Where You Can Drive Your Car Onto The Sand"

Pismo beach is a well known beach situated just in between Los Angeles and San Fransisco.  If you are looking for a rural beach to fish this is the place to go.  There are plenty of fish to catch and miles of beach to choose from, but there are probably a few things you need to know before getting there. This article talks about camping and fishing on PISMO beach and has a few pointers from from my personal experience on the beach. 

Pismo Beach
If you are looking to camp ON THE BEACH at PISMO, you want to book a campsite on Oceano Dunes SVRA. "PISMO Beach State Park Camping" is more of a parking lot for RV's in a small wooded area a few blocks from the beach.

Camping & Fishing

One of the greatest things about Pismo Beach is that it is the only beach in California where  you can drive your car out onto the sand. From here you can take a day trip or even camp overnight by reserving a "campsite". The reason I say "campsite" in quotes is that when you book you will get a campsite "number", but really its first come first serve and there aren't plotted out sites in the sand for you to park your car on.  You just kind of pull up where you can.  Below is what a confirmation looks like,  campsites can be booked using the following website using this website

Before setting up your campsite make sure you are in the designated overnight camping zone, this is past the ATV rental area.  If you set up your tent before this area park enforcement will kick you out pretty quickly.  Trust me, because I tried and after setting up the tent the park ranger came over to us within 5 minutes. 

Camping PISMO Beach

  Once out there there are miles of beach to explore and cast out to.  If you are a hardcore surf fisherman you can bring waders (the surf can be rough and the water can be cold and rough). If not, you can always hammer some PVC's into the sand and play the waiting game.  However I would watch your rods especially during the weekend for on-coming traffic.  Most traffic is near the surf because the wet sand is much safer to drive on.

Target Species (Surf Fishing Pismo Beach)

The main targeted species at Pismo Beach is Perch. Below is a great video posted by Youtuber "TwistedVortex22" that gives you a great idea of what the beach looks like and how the fishing can be. 

I can't say that the fishing was all that great while we were at the beach, our neighbor caught a few sand perch and was kind enough to give us one which we promptly cooked up for dinner.  We cooked it over a fire in tin foil with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of Caribbean Jerk seasoning.  

Baits For Surf Fishing On Pismo Beach

Sand perch are often foraging the sand in the surf for small marine worms that are in the sand.  A great bait for sand perch is the Berkley Gulp Sand Worm.  There are a few different types of worms that are available, some are longer than others, you really don't need anything over 2-3 inches. 

A Few Warnings For Surf Fishing On Pismo Beach

Warning #1

  It is possible to get your car stuck in the sand!  

This is especially true if your car is not specifically designed for off roading.  Below we include a few tips to lower your odds of getting stuck on the beach (the state park rangers are not always that informative so its good to read this up front. 

Tip # 1:  Low Tide Is Your Friend

Driving On Pismo Beach
Try to stay on the wet sand along the beach. Low tide is your friend.

Plan your driving around low tides and stay in the wet sand.  Dry sand is way easier to get caught in and during low tide there will be plenty of wet sand to work with.  You also don't want to be driving down the beach as high tide is approaching since you will be driving a fine line between trying to keep your car from getting your car flooded and getting stuck in the dry sand at the edge of the tide line. 

Tip # 2: Release Some Pressure Out Of Your Tires

Releasing some air out of your tires will lower you chances of digging yourself a whole when you get stuck, less air in your tires makes them more adaptable. 

Tip # 3: Bring Cardboard

Cardboard To Put Under Your Tires
Having some cardboard handy can help you dig out of ditch. This image was found via google search (

When you do get stuck, and it is inevitable that you will, putting a piece of cardboard or foam in front of or behind your tires can help you gain traction and get out of a hole. 

Tip # 4: Be Ready To Make Friends  

Ok, so we already established that you are probably going to get stuck a few times on your drive on the beach.  So be ready to make friends to help you get out of a hole.  You also should probably pay it forward and be available to help when you see others 

Tip # 5: Back Up The Beach

When you finally find the place where you want to fish, reverse up the beach so that you are in a better position to get out of the sand on your way back down. 

Warning #2

Watch Your Lines (Especially On Weekends)

Pismo beach can get pretty crazy with off roading, big trucks, sand buggies, ATV's, and motorcross bikes. You can see this in the video below posted by Youtuber "Got Sand".  

Tip # 1:  Fish Weekdays

All of the craziness happens on the weekend.  If you are looking to have a quite day of surf fishing, weekdays are your friend. 

Tip #2:  Stand By Your Rods

A lot of the ATV's  and motorcross bikes come flying down the tideline.  If you are planning on fishing with your rods in PVC pipes in the sand, pay attention and be ready to ward off any ATV's that might come flying by. 

If you are getting into Surf Fishing In SOCAL the posts below may be useful for you: 

Tips From SOCAL's Surf Fishing Guru

Bill Varney talks about surf fishing at Fred Hall Del Mar.  Click on the link to watch his talk.  In it he talks about tips to catch bigger finicky fish from the surf.  Below is an excerpt from his talk.

Learn How To Catch Leopard Sharks From The Surf -  

In this article #BullbusterAmbassador Malibu Jackprovides you with a number of tips for targeting Leopard sharks from the surf. 

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