Fishing at Point Reyes

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A lone person fishing on a sandy beach with bluffs rising in the background.

What comes to mind when you think about fishing? Patience, relaxation, challenge, and memories are a few words often associated with fishing. You will find all that and a sense of stewardship, conservation, and preservation on this page. We want you to have an enjoyable time during your visit, and for those who come after you to fish. Take some time to explore, learn what the park has to offer and learn your responsibilities before casting a line or flicking a fly into the water.

Point Reyes National Seashore allows fishing as a means of providing for public enjoyment, and customary and traditional use, and regulates fishing to ensure that it is managed in a manner that avoids unacceptable impacts to park resources. 

Licenses

A valid California fishing license is required to fish in the park, and fees vary. Children under 16 years of age do not require a license. Visitors fishing within Point Reyes National Seashore must follow the fishing license requirements in accordance with the laws and regulations of the California State Fish and Wildlife regulations.

Fishing Regulations

Unless otherwise provided for, fishing regulations apply to all finfish found in both fresh and saltwater, and mollusks and crustaceans found in saltwater (shellfish).   Other taxa, including amphibians, and freshwater mollusks and crustaceans (e.g. waterdogs, crayfish) are not considered "fish" for the purpose of NPS fishing regulations and are addressed by NPS regulations governing "wildlife" (36CFR2.2).

These fishing regulations apply, regardless of land ownership, on all lands and waters within the park that are under the legislative jurisdiction of the United States.

Fishing shall be in accordance with the laws and regulations of the State of California (36CFR2.3(a)) except as provided below. Where there is a conflict between a state regulation and a federal (NPS) regulation, the state regulation is superseded by the federal regulation.

For state fishing regulations, please visit the California State Fish and Wildlife regulations website.

For more information on how NPS fishing regulations work, go to the regulations page on the NPS Fish and Fishing website's How Regulations Work page.

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Prohibited Practices

The following are prohibited:

  • Fishing in fresh waters in any manner other than by hook and line, with the rod or line being closely attended.
  • Possessing or using as bait for fishing in freshwaters, live or dead minnows or other bait fish, amphibians, non-preserved fish eggs or fish roe, except in designated waters.
  • Chumming or placing preserved or fresh fish eggs, fish roe, food, fish parts, chemicals, or other foreign substances in fresh waters for the purpose of feeding or attracting fish in order that they may be taken.
  • Commercial fishing, except where specifically authorized by Federal statutory law.
  • Fishing by the use of drugs, poisons, explosives, or electricity.
  • Digging for bait, except in privately owned lands.
  • Failing to return carefully and immediately to the water from which it was taken a fish that does not meet size or species restrictions or that the person chooses not to keep. Fish so released shall not be included in the catch or possession limit: Provided, that at the time of catching the person did not possess the legal limit of fish.
  • Fishing from motor road bridges, from or within 200 feet of a public raft or float designated for water sports, or within the limits of locations designated as swimming beaches, surfing areas, or public boat docks, except in designated areas.
  • Introducing wildlife, fish, or plants, including their reproductive bodies, into a park area ecosystem. This includes the discarding and/or dumping of bait and bait buckets.
  • The use or possession of fish, wildlife, or plants for ceremonial or religious purposes, except where specifically authorized by Federal statutory law, or treaty rights.

Except as otherwise designated, fishing with a net, spear, or weapon in the salt waters of park areas shall be in accordance with State law.

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Regulations specific to Point Reyes

The following regulations apply only within Point Reyes National Seashore.

Fishing is allowed on most park beaches and freshwater lakes and ponds.

To better protect endangered and/or threatened species of fish or to preserve critical habitat, fishing is prohibited in:

  • Lagunitas Creek and all its tributaries including Olema and Bear Valley Creeks;
  • all inland freshwater streams in the park (although fishing is allowed in freshwater lakes and ponds)
  • Estero de Limantour;
  • the Point Reyes Headlands Marine Conservation Area;
  • certain Marine Protected Areas. Visit our Marine Life Protection Act for more details.
  • Point Reyes State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) extends from the end of Point Reyes SMR to the three mile state line. This SMCA allows for recreational and commercial take of salmon by trolling and Dungeness crab by trap.
    • Permitted/Prohibited Uses: It is unlawful to injure, damage, take, or possess any living, geological, or cultural marine resource for recreational and/or commercial purposes, with the following specified exceptions:
      • The recreational take of salmon by trolling and Dungeness crab by trap is allowed.
      • The commercial take of salmon with troll fishing gear and Dungeness crab by trap is allowed.
    • CA Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) official maps and latitudes and longitudes
  • Drakes Estero SMCA is in Drakes Estero north of the Estero de Limantour SMR and allows for recreational clamming. The plan also states, "if at any time, it becomes feasible to create a SMR at Drakes Estero, this proposal recommends doing so."
  • Duxbury SMCA is located at the intertidal zone of Duxbury Reef and is intended to protected intertidal invertebrates and algae. This SMP allows for the recreational take of finfish take from shore and abalone.
  • Point Reyes Headlands Special Closure: 1000' special closure around Point Reyes Headlands.
  • Point Resistance Rock Special Closure: 300' special closure around Point Resistance.
  • Double Point/Stormy Stack Special Closure: 300' special closure around Double Point and Storm Stack.

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Fish Consumption Advisories in National Park Waters

The Environmental Protection Agency, states, territories, and tribes provide advice on fish and shellfish caught in the waters in their jurisdiction to help people make informed decisions about eating fish. Advisories are recommendations to limit your consumption of, or avoid eating entirely, certain species of fish or shellfish from specific bodies of water due to chemical or biological contamination.

Fish is part of a healthy balanced diet, but eating wild fish and shellfish caught in park waters is not risk free. Parks are "islands," but the much larger "ocean" that surrounds them affects the natural resources inside a park. Other aquatic toxins are the result of natural biological processes. Also, chemical contaminants that originate outside of park boundaries can come into parks.

Mercury is an example of a toxin originating outside a park that can find its way into a park. Mercury exists naturally in some rocks, including coal. When power plants burn coal, mercury can travel in the air long distances before falling to the ground, usually in low concentrations. Once on the ground, microorganisms can change this elemental mercury to methyl mercury. This type of mercury can build up in animal tissues, and it can increase in concentration to harmful levels. This high concentration can occur in large predatory fish—those often pursued and eaten by anglers. Studies have shown that fish in some National Park System waters have mercury levels that may be a concern to people who regularly eat a lot of fish.

Point Reyes National Seashore Fish Consumption Advisories

Fish from Tomales Bay have been found with high levels of mercury. The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (916-324-7572) publishes Safe Eating Guidelines for Fish and Shellfish from Tomales Bay. An advisory map and general advice can be found on their Fish page.

An annual mussel quarantine is normally in effect from May 1 through October 31. However, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) may begin the quarantine early, or extend it, if monitoring results indicate the presence of dangerous levels of biotoxins outside of the normal quarantine period. The quarantine is intended to protect the public from paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and domoic acid poisoning (DAP). More information about the quarantine, PSP, and DAP may be found on the CDPH's Mussel Quarantine Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) web page.

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Aquatic Invasive Species

Imagine your favorite fishing spot and the wonderful memories. Things may look fine but underneath the surface there is a serious threat. Everything you remembered is now cemented together in a sharp, smelly mess. Invaders have wiped out the fish species you used to catch.

Aquatic invasive species are not native to an ecosystem. Their introduction causes, or is likely to cause, harm to the economy, the environment, or to human health. Aquatic invasive species are a growing risk to parks and their values. In the United States alone, there are more than 250 non-native aquatic species.

For many centuries, humans have contributed to spreading non-native species around the globe. You can make a difference. To learn more about Aquatic Invasive Species in the National Park Service, visit the NPS Fish and Fishing website's Aquatic-Invasive Species page.

How You Can Help – Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers

As of 2021, fisheries biologists at Point Reyes are most concerned about the New Zealand mudsnail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum). It is an introduced aquatic species that has invaded estuaries, lakes, rivers, and streams in many states in the western U.S., including Lagunitas Creek and Redwood Creek in Marin County. It was first recorded in North America in the late 1980s in the Snake River and has since spread throughout the West.

The New Zealand mudsnail is a threat to our waters. By competing with native invertebrates for food and habitat, it has a detrimental impact on fish populations, vegetation, and other native biota.

Range expansion of the mudsnail has been unwittingly hastened by anglers, hunters, and field personnel—in other words, people who frequently move between streams and lakes in watersheds, hauling wet waders, nets, and other gear with them. The small size (< 5 mm), cryptic coloration, and ability to survive out of water for weeks make the New Zealand mudsnail an ideal hitchhiker. Once the mudsnail is established in a new habitat, it is impossible to eradicate it without damaging other components of the ecosystem. Thus, inspecting, removing, and treating gear before moving to a new water body is the most effective means of minimizing the spread of mudsnails.

Download Oregon Sea Grant's New Zealand Mudsnails: How to Prevent the Spread of New Zealand Mudsnails through Field Gear (1,206 KB PDF), on which the above text is based. This brochure is a guide for field detection and for treating field gear to prevent the spread of New Zealand mudsnails. It is intended for researchers, monitoring crews, watershed survey groups, and anyone else who travels frequently between aquatic or riparian locations, including fishers.

Tips from PlayCleanGo®

  • Clean off plants, animals, and mud from gear and equipment, including waders, footwear, ropes, anchors, bait traps, dip nets, downrigger cables, fishing lines, and field gear before leaving water access. Scrub off any visible material on footwear with a stiff brush.
  • Drain water from watercraft, motor, bilge, bladder tanks, livewell, and portable bait containers before leaving water access. Replace with spring or dechlorinated tap water when keeping live bait before leaving water access.
  • Dry everything five days or more, unless otherwise required by local or state laws, when moving between waters to kill small species not easily seen OR wipe with a towel before reuse.
  • Dispose of unwanted bait, fish parts, and packing materials, in the trash; do not dump them in the water or on land.
  • Other key actions:
    • Use non-felt soled boots to further reduce the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species.
    • Fish caught for eating or taxidermy should be cleaned at designated fish cleaning stations or placed on ice.
    • Never dump live fish or other organisms from one water body into another.
    • Learn more steps you can take by visiting the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!™ website.

Additional Information

Boat Launching Facilities

Boat launching facilities are found at:

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Fishing Throughout the National Park Service

We invite you to visit the Fish and Fishing website for more information about fish and fishing in the National Park Service. You will learn about conservation, different fish species, and parks that offer fishing.

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More Information

Check out the California State Department of Fish and Wildlife: Marine Region (707-576-2882) for Fishing Regulations, information about the Marine Life Protection Act, and Health Advisories for California Finfish, Shellfish, and Crustaceans.

The Environmental Protection Agency (866-EPA-WEST or 866-372-9378) also publishes Fish Advisories and The National Listing of Fish Advisories.

Check with Marin County Environmental Health Services (415-473-6907) for Mussel Quarantine Orders and information about Tomales Bay water quality.

Consult the California State Water Resources Control Board (510-622-2300) for information about water quality.

Download a copy of the final report Health Advisory: Guidelines for Consumption of Fish and Shellfish from Tomales Bay (Marin County) (1.67 MB PDF) published in October 2004 by the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. This report provides recommended guidelines for consumption of fish from Tomales Bay. [Please note: Consult OEHHA's Safe Eating Guidelines for Fish and Shellfish from Tomales Bay for current guidelines.] These guidelines are provided to the public as a result of findings of high levels of mercury in fish tested from Tomales Bay. These recommendations were developed to protect against possible adverse health effects that may result from consumption of mercury-contaminated fish. The report provides background information and a description of the data and criteria used to develop the guidelines.

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Last updated: April 10, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

1 Bear Valley Road
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

Phone:

415-464-5100
This number will initially be answered by an automated attendant, from which one can opt to access a name directory, listen to recorded information about the park (i.e., directions to the park; visitor center hours of operation; weather forecast; fire danger information; shuttle bus system status; wildlife updates; ranger-led programs; seasonal events; etc.), or speak with a ranger. Please note that if you are calling between 4:30 pm and 10 am, park staff may not be available to answer your call.

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