Nestled in the heart of California’s renowned Central Coast, the incorporated city of Morro Bay is definitely not your typical California seaside town. If you just happen to pass through the town (as the Pacific Coast Highway actually cuts through it), what you’d probably notice first is the quaint town itself that has that little fishing village feel to it. As you pass by the charming communities and get nearer to the sea, the next thing you’d notice are the boats anchored near the shore, the colorful restaurants along the waterfront, the sea otters frolicking in the waters, and, of course, the famous Morro Rock—a gigantic volcanic plug right at the beach. So, yes, Morro Bay may have the same stunning view of the Pacific and the same sandy beaches that stretch for miles; but the similarities end there.
Like most central and southern California regions, Morro Rock was also inhabited first by Native Americans called Chumash. In 1542, Spanish explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo arrived on the Californian coast, landing first in San Diego (claiming the land for the king of Spain) then continued his journey northward along the coast until he reached the gigantic rock formation at the beach and named it “El Moro” (after the style of hat worn by the Moors of Spain) from which the town got its name from.
Today, Morro Bay has become a favorite travel spot, thanks to its natural beauty and the tons of fun things to do here. Aside from the charming communities and the beautiful sceneries, tourists and locals can have a fun and relaxing day hiking, birdwatching, biking, kayaking, surfing, sailing, and fishing. If you don’t feel like doing anything, you can just bask under the sun on one of the town’s beautiful sandy beaches and feel fully recharged by the end of the day. And the best thing about the place is that it’s right smack in the middle of San Francisco and Los Angeles, not to mention the highway passes right through the town—so yes, getting there wouldn’t be a problem.
Given its perfect location that’s not only close to the ocean but the bay and estuaries as well, Morro Bay is definitely a mecca for anglers. One wouldn’t need to be an experienced angler to enjoy fishing here as fishing opportunities abound around Morro Bay that even kids can have a great time casting their lines on the beach, on a pier, or jetty and catch a variety of gamefish, including halibut and different types of rockfish and perch.
If you want to experience the great outdoors fully, a guided kayak fishing tour is definitely a must as it allows you to paddle through pristine hidden coves and near beaches that visitors seldom see. And if you’re lucky, you can even get really close to otters, sea lions, dolphins, and whales while paddling along the kayaking trails—this while fishing for different types of rockfish, including vermillion, copper, blue, china, bocaccio, lingcod, and cabezon. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have any experience fishing while on a kayak, as seasoned guides can teach you all the techniques and best practices to help you land these quarries.
You see, there are plenty of fishing opportunities in the waters around Morro Bay. It’s just a matter of knowing where to cast your line to be successful. To help you out, here are some of the top fishing spots in Morro Bay:
Extending out 180 feet into the bay with a 400-foot-wide end, the North T-Pier offers plenty of space for anyone who’s planning to have a quick fishing afternoon. As this is a public fishing pier, you wouldn’t need a license to fish here, and there are several tackle shops in the area beside the pier’s parking lot where you can get all your fishing needs. If this is your first time, stay close to the shore or around the pilings and use a light tackle with small hooks size 8-4 to land different types of perch and rockfish and different types of flatfish like sole, flounder, sanddab, and halibut. For bait, it’s best to use live worms such as pile worms, bloodworms, and/or lugworms, or you can use live ghost shrimp or fresh cut mussels for a chance to catch some bigger fish.
For experienced anglers looking for a bit more challenge, we suggest heading to the deeper parts of the water at the far end of the pier. Here you can target pacific sardine, jacksmelt, pacific mackerel, Spanish mackerel, and even some rays and sharks. Of course, if you’re going to be specifically targeting the big boys, you will need to bring heavier gear that can withstand the tough fight you’re going to be in while reeling in sharks and rays.
Of course, the bay itself will be a great fishing spot, given that it supports an abundance of gamefish waiting to be reeled in. There are lots of local fishing charters operating around the bay, and they can take you to the middle of the bay and catch rockfish, perch, halibut, albacore, ray, skate, and a wide array of sharks—from the fairly easy to catch horn shark to the tough fighting leopard shark. Again, the gear you’re going to be using will depend on your target. If you’re trying to catch some sharks, you will definitely need heavy gear. As for bait, large chunks of cut squid and bloody pieces of pelagic fish are the best way to go. If you don’t have your gear with you, you won’t have to worry, as local fishing charters usually rent out all the equipment you will need.
This part of the Pacific Ocean adjacent to Morro Bay is deep and teeming with marine life—the more you go offshore, the higher the chance of you catching some oceanic monsters. If you’re into offshore fishing or deep sea fishing, this is the perfect spot for you as this is where you will have the chance to land tuna, swordfish, marlin, and even different types of sharks. If you haven’t tried deep sea fishing yet and you’re somewhat hesitant (which is actually reasonable given the humongous size of fish you’re going to be targeting offshore), you wouldn’t have to worry as a fishing charter boat is usually operated by a seasoned captain and crew to teach and assist you any way they can to land these sea monsters.
Although you can pretty much cast your line here any time of the year, the best time to go is typically during summers, specifically the months from June to September. This is because when the water temperature is higher, most species of gamefish, whether nearshore or offshore, are more actively hunting and, thus, easier to hook. Aside from the higher chance of catching a fish, of course, you’ll be way more comfortable fishing under the summer sun than fishing in a chilly winter wind.
Morro Bay offers more than amazing views, relaxing beaches, and world-class fishing. In fact, once you’re done scratching your fishing itch, we highly recommend trying these fun and relaxing activities here.
You can go privately with only your mates and the fishing charter captain and crew with you on board, or you can join a fishing party and enjoy a day or two of fishing with other like-minded visitors. Either way, you will definitely have one of the best (if not the best) fishing experiences of your life.
Just right in front of the Great American Fish Company by the dock, you’ll get to see several adorable sea otters frolicking in the waves. You can also rent a kayak and get really close to the sea lions and harbor seals, either swimming around the harbor or just sunbathing on rocks and anchored boats around the bay. Join a whale-watching expedition to see some of the most majestic creatures up close. If you’re into bird watching, there are plenty of birds to see in and around the harbor, including Eared Grebe, Snowy Egret, Green Heron, and even some Hummingbirds.
You can surf right next to the Morro Rock—yes, there are many surfers in Morro Bay, and you’ll mostly find them there. For a more relaxing way to spend your days in the water, you can rent a paddleboard and paddle your way across the harbor and take in the amazing view all around you. And oh, it’s also not uncommon that you encounter otters, sea lions, and even dolphins while you’re riding the waves or paddling through the waters.
Hiking the Morro Bay State Park, Morro Strand Trail, and Crespi Trail will definitely be one of the highlights of your Morro Bay trip as you’ll be treated to the best views of the rolling hills as well as the beaches and the harbor.