California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Fishing in the City
Program Overview

Catching a New View of the World

Why an Urban Fishing Program?

The Fishing in the City program was created in 1993 to improve angling opportunities to California’s growing urban population. Consistent with trends across the country, California’s urban anglers identified a lack of free time as the primary reason why they don’t fish more or stopped altogether. Many city and regional park lakes, ponds, and streams were all but forgotten as potential fishing sites and many lacked adequate facilities, staff, or fish to sustain a fishing program. Some suffered from non-source-point pollution and habitat degradation. All were surrounded by communities ready to provide the support necessary to create fishing in the city.

Fishing in the City has four simple objectives:

  1. Provide fishing opportunities close to home
  2. Teach a new generation the joys of fishing
  3. Build support for aquatic resource stewardship
  4. Develop programs by communities for communities

Fishing Close to Home

Fishing in the City is offered in four California metropolitan areas:

How are lakes selected for the program?

A careful analysis is done before a new lake is accepted into the program. Here are the basic criteria:

  • Is the lake within an urban area – accessible by public transportation, bicycle, etc?
  • Can the lake biologically sustain a year round fishery?
  • Are there water quality problems that would make the fish unsafe to eat?
  • Does the lake manager support fishing and are they wiling to maintain the site for fishing?
  • Is there community support for a fishing program – volunteers, businesses, schools?
  • Are the Lake Manager and community members willing to provide long-term in-kind support for maintaining a community fishing education program?

Learning How to Fish

Fishing Education and equipment loan programs provide beginning angles with the tools to make fishing an activity to last a lifetime.

  • Introductory Clinics
    Wanna-be anglers are provided with basic instruction in how to get started. Clinics are about 40 minutes long and cover such topics as safety and ethics, knots, rigging, casting, regulations and conservation of fisheries.
  • Advanced Aquatic Education
    Educational programs are designed to grow with the angler, from the basic introductory clinic to the master angler who in turn teaches others to fish.

Caring for Urban Waterways

When drinking water comes from a five-gallon jug delivered to our front porches and fish comes from the supermarket, it’s no wonder that our urban waterways are being used as garbage dumps or repositories for oil and pesticides from storm drain runoff.

Fishing offers the perfect tool to reconnect people with their community waterways. It is an easy step to connect healthy aquatic habitats with healthy fish and healthy people. From this basic awareness comes action. Fishing in the City encourages schools and community members to participate in local habitat improvement projects. Storm drain stenciling, removing exotic weeds, picking up litter, and monitoring water quality all help to keep urban waterways healthy.

Teaming with Others

The strength of Fishing in the City lies within the communities it serves. Each individual program is custom designed by the community for the community. CDFW provides fish, scientific and educational consultation and guidance while the other community partners provide other assistance as they are able. Scores of service clubs, youth groups, church organization, businesses, local governments, and individual contribute to the success of Fishing in the City.

  • Volunteer Support Adds Up
    Over tens of thousands volunteer hours each year. Volunteers provide a wider variety of services: from teaching clinics and repairing equipment, to conducting marking programs and designing publications. Look for volunteer opportunities in your area.
  • Stocking Program
    Rainbow trout and catfish are stocked in many urban lakes prior to clinics to increase the chance of catching a fish by participants. Lakes are also stocked at regular intervals to help improve fishing in urban areas for all lake users. The Department has a special allotment of funds which are used to stock urban lakes for this program.
  • License Requirements
    Anglers 15 years old and younger do not need a license to fish in California. All anglers 16 years and older are required to have a valid California Fishing License to fish, including at Fishing in the City Programs (except on Free Fishing Days).
  • Discrimination
    This program receives financial assistance through the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act. The U.S. Department of the Interior prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, sex, or disability. If you believe you have been discriminated against in any program, activity, or facility, or if you desire further information, please write to:

    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
    Office of Human Resources
    4040 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 300
    Arlington, VA 22203
  • Program Funding Through Sport Fish Restoration
    CDFW's portion of Fishing in the City is entirely funded from Federal Aid through the Sport Fish Restoration Fund. This Federal excise tax on fishing equipment and motor boat fuels is returned back to the states to support sport fishing restoration and education programs.

Link to information about this program's Federal Sport Fish Restoration funding