Gone Fishin’ in the Bay on Free Fishing Day

John Holton
Staff Writer

When you think of sports that are popular and easily accessible in the city of San Francisco, fishing is more than likely one of that last comes to mind. With all the hustle and bustle of a big metropolis like San Francisco, it can be hard to imagine a place where you can hook some bait, cast your line, and try to snag yourself a catch.

Surprisingly, there are quite a few places in the city that offer great fishing spots that are open to the public and there is no better time to give angling a shot than on free fishing day this Saturday, Sept. 5.

Normally to fish within the state of California a sport fishing license is required for persons age 16  years or older. On Free Fishing Day however, anyone who has access to a rod and a tackle box is free to head to their nearest fishing hole and try their luck. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife provides two Free Fishing Days each year, and while the first has passed, there is still plenty of time for anyone who is interested to prepare for the second day.

Before you cast your first line however it’s important to know which fish in the Bay are safe to eat and which are dangerous to your health. Due to high mercury content and other contaminants in San Francisco Bay certain types of fish are unsafe to consume. If you hook a jacksmelt, brown rockfish, red rock crab, California halibut, or Chinook salmon you are in the clear to filet your catch and cook it up for dinner.

However, if the creature on the end of your line is a striped bass, surfperch, white croaker, white sturgeon, or any type of shark you’ve caught something that has potentially high levels of chemicals and should be avoided. The risk associated with these fish is especially high for children and women 18-45 so if you fall into one of those categories make sure to steer clear. It’s also important to know that if you plan on catching abalone, steelhead, sturgeon, or spiny lobster, you need to have a special report card to log your catch which can be found on the CDFW website.

Now that you know which types of fish are dangerous to your health you can grab a rod and reel and head out to your nearest fishing locale. A popular spot for fishers in San Francisco is Fisherman’s Wharf. Usually thought of as a tourist trap, the Wharf also has a lot of great places to cast a line.

Another option that is a lot less busy than Fisherman’s Wharf is the Municipal Pier located in the Marina District. The pier is just a stones throw away from Fort Mason and Ghirardelli Square and provides ample space for fishermen and a great view of Alcatraz Island.

If you do go out to fish on Free Fishing Day and find that it’s something that you’d like to do more often, a sport fishing license can be purchased from the CDFW website.

To access the CDFW website, visit


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