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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. 

Below Are A Few More Of My Trips And Experiences That Have Introduced Me To Southern California Fishing loop

My First Impression Of SOCAL Fishing In January - When I first got to Southern California I really didn't know what to expect. My mobility was limited without a car, so I joined fishing clubs and got tips from local anglers and friends that had fished in San Diego. I spent the first few months Airbnbing and that allowed me to be near the action to see what was going on without having to p as a fortune for ubers. (Also see ubering as a fishermen).

Learning About All The Long Range Boats -

Coming from Florida I had always seen pictures of Cow Tuna lining the rails of big long range boats. It seemed so far, and so expensive for a young fisherman, actually out of reach. Before coming over here I did all of my research to learn about all the boats. It still astounds me the scale of the operation at H&M Landing & Fisherman's Landing. It's the most impressive fishing fleet I've ever seen.

Each boat is there own full on hospitallity business. They are basically floating hotels who compete on amenities,  "restaurants" as most have their own chefs and of course the most important "fish counts" which are regularly updated on the landings websites.

Fishing From A Center Console In San Diego

When I first came to San Diego I fell in the love with the marlin club building. It was fricking awesome. There is nothing like it that I ca  think of in Miami. It's a piece of history. Fishing history that is actually preserved, and that's something to speak of especially in 2020.

Anyways I went down there so often that eventually the weighmaster Roger asked me if I wanted to come speak at the club. So I did I gave a speech about the concept of Spend More Time Fishing which after much research I have found is responsible for most of the major innovations of the world from the conquest of much of The Roman Empire to the fricking lightbulb. As a matter of fact I found this out later but one of Andrew Carnegie's biggest scandals was when a fishing club that he was a member of "didn't keep up with" a damn they had bought and it killed thousands of people.

Oh back to fishing on a center console in San Diego. Yea I met Will at the club and he invited me to go fishing on his 18 foot Boston whaler out to the canyons for tuna and that was my first offshore experience in a private boat. Click the link up top to see that report.

First Mexican Rockfish Trip -

Every year from January to February rockfish season in US waters closes for them suckers to spawn. You can still target them, but you will need to head south down into Mexican waters. By getting on a 3/4 day trip out of San Diego you should have plenty of time to get down there. What is nice about the trip is since it's a little specific, most people on the trip are decent fishermen and so you will have a pretty good crew to fish with. My first trip for Mexican rockfish was with JD on the Fisherman III , check it out at the link above.

First Full Day Trip Out Of San Diego

My first full day trip I actually drove down. From Dana Point with my fiance Fiona to fish on the Liberty. We saw a ton of tuna but only one was caught, lucky for Fiona the crew hooked it and handed it to her because she was the only girl on the boat. While it was tough for me to watch her catch a bluefin before me after I cleaned the 40Lber at the house we had Sashimi for us and a ton of family members who visited. I hooked one on and iron on the surface but he pulled the hook.

First Overnight Trip In Southern California

After months of moving , tradeshows, setting up a new warehouse etc, I finally made it out on my first over night trip in Southern California aboard the Fury (I highly recommend this boat and Cpt. Marcus it's new owner). It was some of the most insane fishing I have ever experienced. While I had hoped for bluefin the quantity of yellowfin we caught more than made up for it. It was so wild in fact that at one point I switched to a 12Lb set up just to have fun with the yellowfin. We ended up leaving them biting because our boat full of 30 people had limited out. Take a look at the link above to read about that trip.

Join A Fishing Club In San Diego

Fishing clubs are probably one of the best inventions in the fishing world. Fishing clubs are a great way to warn about a local fishery and its ins and outs. By joining a fishing club, not only will you learn more about that type of fishing, but you also meet new fishing buddies to go fish with, and learn of exclusive deals on tackle, trips and more. The link above is list of all of the fishing clubs in Southern California. If you want to fish out here. Join these clubs and get involved.

Drive South From San Diego To Fish  In Ensenada

In March to take a break from moving Fiona from DC and busting our asses in the warehouse we took a trip down to Ensenada to fish and relax. Click the link above to learn more about that trip.

My article is mostly about the fishing aspect but the goal of Bullbuster is to help you spend more time fishing. If you have a family a lot of time that means getting them involved. Fiona wrote a great article covering this perspective with a Things To Do In Ensenada Mexico article.

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