Location: Capitola near Santa Cruz, California
Process: Fishing seems like a daunting topic to write about so I can't offer any best practices as a first-timer, but will offer steps, hoping it helps someone else try it if they want:
Purchase a fishing license (link) - one-day or annual - "2020 - Sport Fishing 1-Day License (Res/Nonres)” for ~$16; after uni foraging, crabbing, and now fishing, I bought the annual license (~$50) expecting to do more this calendar year.
Rent your boat from Capitola Boat and Bait ('CBB' for brevity, link) for $40/hr with a max cap of $150 per day. They'll set up a motorized skiff for you to use which is straightforward to learn how to drive.
Bring fishing gear, or you can also rent this from Capitola Boat and Bait. We paid about $50 for two people to get full set ups with rod/reel, sinker, slider, and halibut (or other fish) rig.
The great folks at CBB will teach you how to operate the skiff and how far off to take it out. Make sure to know what season you're in, as the fish you can catch is restricted during certain times of year. Out on the water, you don't have to cast your line out, so you can just drop a line in the water and wait for the nibbles.
My experience: It was my first time fishing ever, so I had a lot to learn. Tim at CBB helped teach us what we needed, everything from rod+reel, how heavy our fishing weight had to be, and what type of bait was best. He was patient and kind as he explained the absolute basics to two naive beginners, and I'm so grateful for him!
Driving the skiff out was also a lot of fun, starting the motor and navigating out about a mile by following buoys. It was a clear, beautiful day and the sun shining on the water is always one of my favorite sights. We fished for about two hours; dropping our anchor, then our lines, and waiting patiently for fish to bite. I learned that there are definitely hot spots where some fish may gather, as the first area we tried had no luck. We moved around and finally started getting some pulls on our lines - the fish were eating the squid! But as we reeled in, they would never be on the hooks, and half our squid would be missing.
The disappointing (lack of) haul was definitely overshadowed by a great time shared learning a new activity. I got a little seasick (not surprising, as I used to get carsick when younger) and so we called it a day earlier than we had to. Given the nausea I'm not sure if I'll go out again, but the season changes first weekend of April (salmon) and May (a lot of other fish) so I might be willing to give it a try in the summer!