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Kelp Bed Fishing

Kelp Bed fishing refers to shallow reefs in the near shore ocean waters from the beach to about 150 feet. The bottom is rocky or hard. Kelp plants, a very fast growing saltwater algae, grows on the bottom and may reach up to the surface. Kelp is a great place to fish since it harbors small sea life. These tiny plants and animals are then prey for small fish, which are then a moving feast for larger game fish.

Map of California Kelp Bed Fishing Areas

Map of Kelp Bed Fishing Areas

GPS Coordinates for California Kelp Bed Fishing Areas

The following table shows the approximate center of the kelp beds identified. Many of these are several miles wide, and often the best fishing areas change along the kelp beds. In addition, kelp grows and dies off depending on wave conditions, water temperature, etc, so sometimes the kelp isn't always visible. Use caution when approaching kelp beds. Often boiler rocks (rocks just below the surface of the water) or very shallow water are in the vicinity of kelp beds. Do not take your boat into the kelp since the tough kelp strands can damage underwater running gear.

No. Name Area Coordinates
1 Point Loma Kelp San Diego 32D 42.50'N. x 117D 16.30'W
2 Bird Rock* La Jolla 32D 48.90'N. x 117D 16.57'W
3 La Jolla Kelp La Jolla 32D 50.00'N. x 117D 17.50'W
4 Del Mar Kelp No. County San Diego 32D 58.50'N. x 117D 17.00'W
5 Leucadia Kelp No. County San Diego 33D 04.00'N. x 117D 18.65'W
6 Barn Kelp Camp Pendelton 33D 18.50'N. x 117D 29.10'W
7 San Mateo Kelp San Clemente 33D 22.50'N. x 117D 35.50'W
8 Dana Point Kelp Dana Point 33D 28.45'N. x 117D 44.50'W
9 Horseshoe Kelp L.A. Harbor 33D 40.07'N. x 118D 12.15'W
10 Pt. Fermin Kelp L.A. Harbor 33D 42.11'N. x 118D 17.97'W
11 Portuguese Kelp* Palos Verdes 33D 43.29'N. x 118D 21.47'W
12 Rocky Pt. Kelp Palos Verdes 33D 46.23'N. x 118D 26.12'W
13 Big Kelp Reef Malibu 34D 00.03'N. x 118D 45.27'W
14 Harrison Reef Malibu 34D 02.05'N. x 118D 56.55'W
15 Bass Rock Point Magu 34D 06.38'N. x 119D 11.59'W
16 Dulah Reef Ventura 34D 18.15'N. x 119D 22.10'W
17 Camby's Reef Santa Barbara 34D 23.20'N. x 119D 42.50'W
18 Anacapa East Anacapa Island 34D 00.90'N. x 119D 21.50'W
19 Hidden Reef* Santa Barbara Isl. 33D 29.50'N. x 119D 04.40'W
20 Sutil Kelp* Santa Barbara Isl. 33D 28.32'N. x 119D 01.11'W
21 Eagle Rock* Catalina Island 33D 28.70'N. x 118D 36.33'W
22 Ironbound Cove* Catalina Island 33D 27.06'N. x 118D 34.65'W
23 China Point* Catalina Island 33D 19.44'N. x 118D 28.01'W
24 Church Rock* Catalina Island 33D 17.75'N. x 118D 19.67'W
25 Eagle Reef* Catalina Island 33D 27.48'N. x 118D 30.62'W
26 Parson's Reef* Catalina Island 33D 28.28'N. x 118D 32.95'W
27 Castle Rock Reef* San Clemente Island 33D 02.10'N. x 118D 36.80'W
28 West Cove* San Clemente Island 33D 00.60'N. x 118D 35.60'W
* WARNING - Exposed or Tidal Rocks & Shoal Water - Use Extreme Caution
IMPORTANT NOTE! The GPS coordinates indicated here are for informational purposes only. They represent the author's belief of the correct approximate locations of various fishing areas. These numbers should NOT be used for navigation. No guarantee of the accuracy of this information is expressed nor implied. ALWAYS use proper navigation methods and techniques when operating a boat anywhere in coastal or offshore conditions.


Best Times of Year for California Kelp Bed Fishing

Following is a chart of the commonly caught kelp bed fish, the time of year you're likely to catch them, and the preferred depths. Be SURE to check with the California Department of Fish and Game for the latest regulations on closed seasons, closed areas, minimum size and maximum bag limits on any fish you plan to take. The regulations change often. This information is available on-line on the Cal DF&G website at: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/

Fish Best Fishing Possible Depth Best Bait
Yellowtail Jul-Sep Year Round Surface to Bottom Live Squid
White Seabass Feb-Jun Year Round Midwater to Bottom Live Squid
Calico Bass Apr-Aug Year Round Surface to Midwater Anchovies
Barracuda Jun-Sep Mar-Nov Surface to Midwater Lures
Bonito Jun-Sep Mar-Nov Surface to Midwater Anchovies
Sheepshead Feb-Jun Year Round Bottom Shrimp
Halfmoon Feb-Aug Year Round Surface to Bottom Cut Squid
Whitefish Year Round Year Round Bottom Cut Squid
Treefish Year Round Year Round Bottom Anchovies


How To Fish California Kelp Beds

Flylining bait is probably one of the most successful techniques for fishing the kelp beds. Generally, a live bait hook, from #4 to 2/0 (depending on bait size) is tied to 10 to 20 lb. test tackle (with 15 lb. being probably the most common) without any sinker. A live anchovy or sardine bait is hooked and toss it overboard. Keep the reel out of gear so that the bait is allowed to swim freely, keeping only enough tension on the line with your fingers to be able to detect the struggling of the bait and the strike of the game fish. When bit, allow the fish to run with the bait for a few seconds, then clutch the reel in gear and set the hook. Certain times of the year, when available, live squid makes an excellent flylining bait.

If no fish are hitting on the surface, add small amounts of weight to fish in different depths until feeding fish are located. Rubber twist-on type sinkers are usually preferred. If fishing near the bottom, often times cut squid or small shrimp make excellent kelp bed bottom fishing bait.

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Fishing boat plans

Ever think about building a boat?

It's easier than you probably imagine. You could be out fishing in your home crafted boat yet this summer. Stop by my other web site for lots of information and to download free study plans for many different boats you can build. There's also free e-books, videos, and photo essays of boat construction.

Spira International Boat Plans Web Site

Fishing and Navigation Books by Jeff Spira


Wrecks and Reefs Book

Wrecks and Reefs

Shipwrecks and Artificial Reefs of Southern Califormia for Fisherman and Divers

The most complete listing of wrecks and reefs of Southern California complete with GPS coordinates!

Wrecks and Reefs Book

Saltwater Angler's Guide to Southern California

Over 400 pages crammed with information, maps and everything you'd ever want to know about fishing the Southern California Ocean

Wrecks and Reefs Book

Seamanship and Navigation

A simplified approach - companion book to the class taught by Jeff of the same name.

Wrecks and Reefs Book

Celestial Navigation

A simplified approach - companion book to the class taught by Jeff of the same name.

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