Location and Overview
Dana Point Harbor, named after the sailor and author Richard Henry Dana, is located off Pacific Coast Highway (CA State Route 1) about 75 miles north of San Diego (check out the map). In addition to a small fishing pier, the harbor is home to a plethora of shops and restaurants, and to the Ocean Institute. A replica of Dana’s ship the Pilgrim is also anchored in the harbor near the pier.
Fishermen rate Dana Point Harbor:
Fishin’ Dana Point Harbor
There are actually two different places to fish at Dana Point Harbor: the fishing pier, located within the protected harbor area, and the rock jetty which protects the harbor and marina area. The pier sits adjacent to the parking lots at the west end of the harbor, near the Ocean Institute buildings. It is 150 feet long, and has no amenities other than a fish cleaning station with running water – although public restrooms are conveniently located near the foot of the pier. Due to the pier’s location inside the harbor, fishing here is typically only fair, although children usually have a good time fishing from the loading platform which floats at water level below the pier itself.
The bottom inside the harbor is mostly sand, but due to the presence of the nearby rock jetty species normally found around rocky areas will put in the occasional appearance. Expect to see seaperch and opaleye around the pier, and croaker farther out. Halibut, kelp bass, spotted sand bass, mackerel, and small sharks and rays are all found here as well. The sharks and rays are caught mostly at night. You may also see mullet and needlefish jumping in the shallows or swimming near the surface, but these are typically almost impossible to catch.
Best results can be had using ghost shrimp, squid, mackerel, bloodworms, or artificial baits such as Scampis or Fish Traps. At night, use squid to fish for sharks and rays. Frozen green peas often work well for perch under the bridge connecting Dana Island to the mainland.
The jetty, located on the other side of the Ocean Institute from the pier, offers anglers an opportunity to get their bait out into the unprotected water outside the harbor. Here kelp grows close to shore and gives protection to several different species of fish. Be careful, though, if you decide to fish here. Getting out along the top of the jetty involves some degree of scrambling and jumping from rock to rock, and at times waves will break over the top. Make sure you heed any warning signs posted at the foot of the jetty, since during periods of high surf it may be closed to public access.
The harbor features a number of amenities for fishermen and sightseers, including public restrooms, and several restaurants ranging from casual to dressy and expensive. Picnic tables are also strategically placed along the shoreline throughout the harbor area. Numerous shops are located along Dana Point Harbor Drive and on Dana Island, which is accessible via Island Way. Dana Wharf Sportfishing, located near the harbor entrance off of Dana Point Harbor Drive, offers fishing and whale watching trips, as well as boat charters for any occasion.
Southern California weather is usually temperate, and along the coast can get downright cool during the winter. The beach is a great place to escape the summer heat, as temperatures here are usually a good ten degrees cooler than inland areas. Highs typically run from the 70’s into the 80’s during the summer months, while winter sees temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s during the day. Clouds and fog on summer mornings usually burn away by afternoon. As with any coastal area, always check the weather forecast before heading out, and don’t forget your sunscreen if you plan on spending the day at the harbor.
Click here to see current weather conditions and forecasts for the city of Dana Point.
Lodging and Camping
South Orange County contains a number of hotels, although room rates here tend to be somewhat higher than in other areas. Dana Point itself has several lodging options for those who want to stay close to the harbor; click here for more information including room rates or to make reservations.
Camping is also available for those so inclined. Doheny State Beach is conveniently located right at the entrance to the harbor,and Capistrano Beach (949-661-7013 for info) is reasonably close to the north. Other campgrounds can be found throughout Orange and San Diego counties, including San Clemente State Beach and San Onofre State Beach to the south.
Licensing and Regulations
The Dana Point fishing pier is managed by the Dana Point Harbor District, and is open 24 hours a day. Since it is a public fishing pier, no fishing license is required. Up to two fishing poles per angler may be used. Make sure you check the CA Department of Fish and Game website and familiarize yourself with the most current ocean sportfishing regulations, including minimum sizes and bag limits for various species.