This post is not meant to be a comprehensive list of marinas or launch ramps. There are several websites that specialize on this type of info, and there is simply too much data for us to maintain. If you are looking for detailed information about fees, facilities, etc., one of the best sites we’ve found is: The FishingNetwork.Net’s list of SoCal Private Boater Launch Ramps.
What we offer below is information on what ramps work better under different weather or water conditions, are better for reaching different spots, and/or have some feature or quirk of special interest or concern to fishermen.
If we don’t have any entries for the launch ramp you’re looking for, it’s because we have not received any feedback on it yet. Feel free to send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
San Diego Launch Ramps
All public marine launch ramps in the San Diego area are free, with free parking, except for the ramp at Oceanside. Oceanside charges a parking fee if you want to park near the ramp.
In general, all ramps are in good condition, and most, but not all, have ample parking. The only ramp with washdown facilities is Oceanside.
None of the public ramps have associated campgrounds, but most have hotels / motels nearby, and most allow self-contained RVs to park overnight. In Mission Bay, Campland-on-the-Bay is a large private campground with its own ramp. It is on the northeast side of Mission Bay, which puts it a few miles away from the other Mission Beach ramps, and about a 15 minute drive from the Shelter Island launch ramp in San Diego Bay
San Diego Bay
San Diego Bay is the closest launch area to Mexican waters. Its entrance faces almost due south, so it offers the safest departure/entry when there are big swells from the west or northwest. It also does not have restricted speed areas in much of the bay, allowing for speedier exit and entry than Mission Bay to the north, which is restricted to 5 mph speeds throughout much of the bay.
- Shelter Island Ramp (Near Lindbergh Field):
- Shelter Island is the closest launch ramp to the Mexican Border, and as a results, gets hit heavily during the prime fishing months. The ramp, although wide and in great condition, is enclosed by a verrrryyy small turning basin, making launching and retrieving your boat in crowded conditions at low tide a white-knuckle experience.
- Because of the long lines during peak season, you may be better off going to one of the other SD Bay ramps, such as J Street in Chula Vista, or the Glorietta Bay launch ramp near the Hotel Del Coronado, and making the longer run to the ocean. Another possibility is to launch in Mission Bay and make the run from there
- Glorietta Bay Ramp (Coronado Island):
- A 2-lane ramp located next to the Coronado Aquatic center and the fabled Hotel Del Coronado, this ramp is usually uncrowded. Parking is limited to about 12 vehicles with trailers.
- This is the next closest public ramp to the harbor mouth, but because of it’s size, many people pass it by. It’s also a good access point for people fishing San Diego Bay itself.
- It’s adjacent to Glorietta Bay Marina, which is a full service facility with rental skiffs.
- Bayside Park Ramp (National City) : This is a nice ramp, but it has restricted hours of operation (sunrise to sunset, locked gate). Not a popular ramp with fishermen unless they are taking a short daytime trip.
- J Street (Chula Vista) : This is a nice wide ramp, located next to the Chula Vista Marina, which is a full service facility with fuel and rental slips. It is also the furthest away from the harbor mouth, requiring about a 15-minute run to get to Shelter Island.
Mission Bay is man-made – it consists mostly of dredged and recovered marshland – but it was built with marine recreation and vacationers in mind. It has a multitude of launch ramps, separate areas for water skiing and PWC (versus sailing and fishing), a campground, lots of hotels and motels, Sea World, and is in close proximity to the San Diego Zoo.
It is only about 8 miles further north than San Diego Bay, so during peak season it is often faster to launch at Mission Bay and run south, rather than fighting the crowds at Shelter Island. There are two major drawbacks for fishermen: speeds are restricted to 5mph in the areas not set aside for waterskiing / PWCs, and the harbor entrance faces due west, making it a bit more risky exit/entrance when there’s a big west swell.
- South Shores (just before Sea World) : South Shores is an outstanding ramp – brand new, wide, large mooring docks, well lit, lots of parking. It’s only drawback is that is about another 15 minutes (at the harbor speed limit of 5 mph) east of Dana Landing, which is the closest Mission Bay ramp to the harbor entrance
- Dana Landing Ramp (Just past Sea World) : The closest ramp to the ocean, Dana Landing is the most popular ramp with fishermen. It is not that wide, but it has lots of parking, and a deli/market/tackle shop next to the ramp. It is also the meeting point for several guide companies, including Bowman Bluewater Guides and Outfitters, On the Fly Fishing Charters, and Stock Charters
- Santa Clara Point Aquatic Center (on Santa Clara Point in Pacific Beach) : The Aquatic Center launch ramp is tiny – really suitable for just one boat – and the parking is nonexistent, if you get there too late in the day. But if you’re deperate for a launch point, it’s worth checking out.
- Ski Beach (Across the Ingraham Street bridge from Dana Landing) : This ramp is a sleeper. Wide with easy access, it is popular with water skiers and PWCs, so most fishermen bypass it in favor of Dana Landing or South Shores. If you launch too late, or come back too early, you’ll have to fight the water skiers and PWCs. But if the line’s long at Dana Landing, it’s a viable alternative.
- MB Visitor’s Center (Clairemont Blvd offramp, visible from I-5) : Similar situation to Ski Beach, the Visitor Center ramp is easily accessed from the freeway, but is the furthest public ramp from the ocean. However, there is no speed limit on the bay between this ramp and the channel connecting South Shores and Dana Landing, so the actual added trip time is not that bad.
La Jolla Shores Boat Launch Beach
Located at the end of Avenida del La Playa, near the La Jolla Beach and Racket club, this beach is a popular launching point for kayaks and cartop skiffs.
Some of the biggest white seabass and yellowtail in the San Diego area are caught from ‘yaks and skiffs launched from this beach, which is on the southern edge of the La Jolla Canyon Marine Preserve, and a moderate-length paddle from the fabled kelp beds of La Jolla Point. This is also a very popular dive spot.
Oceanside Harbor’s ramp is an anomaly. Unlike other San Diego ramps, parking adjacent to the ramp requires a fee ($10.00 / day), but it is also the only ramp in San Diego with a freshwater washdown area for boaters. Popular with PWC users, however, the washdown area can be hard to get to late in the day. BYOH (Bring Your Own Hose)!
The bait barge opens at 6:00am, so late night or early morning departures will have to leave without chum, unless it is purchased the day before.
Note – the harbor entrance can be hazardous when the swell is running at right angles to the exit channel (a WSW or West swell).
Orange County Launch Ramps
Information for this section provided by Randy Norris. Thanks!
Orange County has major launch ramps in Alamitos Bay, Huntington Harbor, Newport Bay and Dana Point Harbor. All facilities charge a fee to launch, with fees ranging between $10.00 and $15.00.
The northernmost ramps are close to the Horseshoe Kelp, which hosts many migratory species such as yellowtail, bonita and barracuda during the Spring through Fall, and is a consistent producer of calico bass and sand bass in the summer. Another popular area is the Huntington Flats, which has a large spawning run of sand bass in the Spring.
Catalina Island, which has good fishing for inshore and seasonal pelagic species, is a 25 – 35 mile run from these ramps. The route to Catalina from the northernmost ramps takes you close to the Horseshoe Kelp, providing an opportunity to check out the local fishing before making the cross-channel trip.
Dana Point Harbor, the southernmost launch point in this group, is the closest Orange County ramp to the northern edge of SoCal’s offshore banks, which hold yellowtail, tuna, dorado and marlin during the Summer and Fall.
DPH also a popular take-off point for Catalina because the crossing is partially protected from the prevailing northwest swell by the Island itself. This makes for a longer, but nicer trip. For people in south Orange County, or coming north from San Diego, it is sometimes quicker to launch in Dana Point and make the longer run to Catalina, than fight traffic on the freeways all the way up into the Long Beach area.
The relatively small number of launch ramps in Orange County requires boaters to schedule their trips carefully to avoid the crowds.
- Dana Point Harbor (Dana Point) : For fishermen, the ramp at Dana Point Harbor is more luxurious than its northern Orange County counterparts. The $10.00 launch fee includes several fresh water wash-down spigots, the ramp is well maintained, and security is provided for the parking lot. There are fewer problems with capacity with this ramp, and you can usually access it, even on summer days and holidays. The bait receiver is close to the ramp, and is open early during fishing season.
- The run to open water is the shortest of all the Orange County ramps, and the harbor entrance is well protected. Good restaurants are within walking distance of the ramp.
- As mentioned previously, the run to and from Catalina is often the easiest from Dana Point, as it passes through the swell shadow of the Island. This provides a smooth ride home in the afternoon, as you are running with the swell towards the harbor
- Some boats also make the run to San Clemente Island, which is one of the most prolific fishing destinations in Southern California, but is almost 60 miles offshore.
- As the furthest south of the Orange County launch ramps, there is increased access to the offshore banks which harbor migratory pelagic species such as yellowtail, yellowfin tuna, dorado and marlin. In some years even the albacore can be found in these areas. Closer to shore, there are popular sites just down the coast, including the water outlets from the San Onofre Nuclear power plant, and the kelp beds and boiler rocks off Laguna Beach and Corona Del Mar to the north.
- Newport Dunes (Newport Harbor) : This is one of the prettiest launch areas in Southern California, and is the only place to launch on Newport Bay. As a result, the fee is also the highest at $15.00.
- The two ramps at this facility are well maintained, and mooring along the ramps provides easy access once you are launched. The parking for this ramp is often full and access is difficult during popular summer days and holidays. The line for the available wash-down can be long.
- On the other hand, this ramp can be a good choice when including family in your plans, as they have a wonderful swimming beach, and there are many attractions (including a major shopping mall) and restaurants close by.
- The ramp is located in the back portion of Newport Bay, and because of a 5 mph speed limit inside the Bay, 20 to 30 minutes are required to access the open water.
- The fishing access is similar to Huntington Harbor, with the Huntington Flats and Catalina being popular destination. There is also good calico bass fishing in the kelp beds and rocks just outside the surfline between Newport Bay and Dana Point, but because of the speed limits inside the Bay, it can be faster to launch at Dana Point, and run north. There is a seasonal bait receiver just before the harbor exit.
- There are free launch beaches scattered around the harbor that are popular with kayak and kick-boat fishermen fishing in the bay. However, there is no easy launch point for kayaks that give access to waters outside the Bay.
- Sunset Aquatic Park (Huntington Harbor) : This launch ramp used to be undeveloped, but with bayside home construction in the area, the facilities have been upgraded considerably.
- There is a $12.00 fee, which does not include freshwater wash-down, although a coin-operated system is available. Clean public restrooms are next to the ramp.
- There is ample mooring space along the ramp, making for easy launches and take outs. Ample parking is available, and it is paved and well-lit. There is plenty of space, even on holiday weekends.
- The run out to open water is moderate in length. It is about a mile through the harbor, under the PCH Bridge, and through the Naval Weapons Depot to the harbor entrance. Speed is closely monitored as there is increased security around the Naval operations areas. Don’t be surprised to see Navy Swift boats escorting you past moored vessels. There is no stopping and no fishing as you pass through the last part of the bay.
- The bait barge is the same one accessed by people using the Davies Launch ramp in Seal Beach (Long Beach Bait Company, AKA Nacho’s), and this ramp’s proximity to the fishing spots is just about equal, since it is just a mile or so south of Alamitos Bay.
- Huntington Harbor Yacht Club (South end of Huntington Harbor) : This tiny, one lane ramp is located next to the fire station at the end of Warner Blvd on Pacific Coast Highway. It has limited parking, no washdown facilities, and is a long way from the harbor entrance, so it is rarely used by fishermen.
Los Angeles Launch Ramps
All public marine launch ramps or hoists in the Los Angeles area charge launch fees, which include parking. While most entry gates now take credit cards, be sure to bring small bills “just in case” ($1, $5). In general, all facilities are in good condition, and most, but not all, have ample parking. Many have washdown facilities.
None of these facilities have associated campgrounds, but most have hotels / motels nearby. Most do NOT allow overnight RV parking.
Ramps located in the San Pedro and Long Beach areas are well positioned for accessing the south side of Palos Verdes Peninsula, the Long Beach Breakwall (“The Wall” ), the Horseshoe Kelp, San Clemente and Catalina Islands. Ramps and hoists further north are better choices for accessing the north side of the Palos Verdes peninsula, Santa Monica Bay, and the coastline north to Oxnard.
- Davies Launch Ramp (Alamitos Bay / Belmont Shore area) : This is a popular launch ramp for both power boaters and fishermen.
- The ramp has numerous lanes, and is fairly steep, making it popular with people launching long power boats. For fishermen, it is a short run to the Izor’s Reef, the Horseshoe Kelp and the Long Beach Breakwater (often called “The Wall”).
- There are some great restaurants available that have slips should you wish to dine on your way back or during a lunch break.
- Davies charges a $10.00 daily use fee, and there is a fresh water wash-down available. However, it is often crowded on summer days.
- Because of the popularity of this ramp, there is limited docking space, which can result in a wait to moor your boat while parking your vehicle, or when returning to take out. On summer weekends, parking can also be an issue, despite a large parking lot. There is another launch ramp across the bay that is used mainly by water skiers that is an option during these times. This can be a good choice for fishermen who leave early and can avoid the ski boat crowds.
- The exit from Alamitos Bay is one of the safest around, although a big south swell can make exiting the bay difficult. Under these conditions, you should look at launching at Golden Shores or Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro. As mentioned earlier, the bait receivers, which are open 24 hours/day most of the year, are a short distance outside.
- Golden Shores Launch Ramp (Long Beach Convention Center area) : Golden Shores can be a tough launch on minus low tides, due to muck and algae on the lower section of the ramp. The exit to the main harbor is well protected from any prevailing swells.
- Cabrillo Beach Launch Ramp (San Pedro) : This small ramp is well protected from swells, and is one of the closest ramp to the west end of the Breakwall, the south side of the Palos Verde Peninsula, the Horseshoe Kelp, and Catalina. It suffers from a small parking area.
- King Harbor Boat Hoist (Redondo Beach) : If you’ve never used a hoist before, it can be a bit disconcerting. You pull up, they clip hoist lines to your transom eyes, put a strap under the bow, and lift your baby off your trailer and lower it gently into the water. The mouth of the harbor faces almost due south, but is blocked from south swells by the Palos Verde peninsula. However, the harbor mouth is narrow enough that exiting under a big west swell can be a bit hairy. Fishing inside the harbor for mackerel, bonito, and barracuda can be good at times.
- Marina Del Rey Launch Ramp (Marina Del Rey) : Coming soon!
Oxnard and Points north Launch Ramps
Information in this section was provided by Captain Robert Cooper.
Channel Island Harbor (Oxnard)
CIH is a good launch point if you want to fish Anacapa Island, or back to the south along the coast towards LA (Point Mugu, Leo Carillo Beach or Point Dume, for example). For Point Dume, depending on the weather, it might be better to leave from Marina Del Rey, because you’ll be going back to port at the end of the day with the weather.
If you want to fish Point Mugu, be sure to stay clear of the Naval target practice range along the beach, which is clearly marked.
CIH is the closest launch point to Anacapa Island, and is close to the East end of Santa Cruz Island.
Ventura Harbor (Ventura)
Ventura Harbor is the best overall departure point for the West End, Front Side, and East End of Santa Cruz Island.
Santa Barbara Harbor (Santa Barbara)
SBH is probably the best launch point to reach the Channel Islands if there’s any kind of weather, especially if it’s a Santa Ana (east) wind. There’s less wind in the Santa Barbara area, plus the wind comes from a better angle relative to your return course. It is the closest departure point for Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands, and the West end and South side of Santa Cruz Island.
Gaviota State Park (Gaviota)
Gaviota State Park has a pier with a hoist that can be used to launch skiffs, but the local surfers sometimes sabotage it. This is to prevent people from launching a boat there to get to Hollister Ranch, which is one of the premier surf spots in Southern California.
There is great fishing in the area, but if you want to launch at Gaviota, you should contact the park rangers to make sure the hoist is working. The hoist is operated by the park, so you should also review with them requirements for hoisting your boat. If you have a small skiff or inflatable boat, you can beach launch instead of using the hoist.