WON SoCal Pier Report, February 7, 2005

Special to Western Outdoor News

Now that most of the storms seem to have ended, and the water is beginning to clear up, the fishing should improve. But, the key of course will be an increase in water temperatures, a condition that to date has only slowly begun to take place. As a result things are still somewhat slow—with the exception of the barred surfperch that remain the #1 target for winter pier and shore fishermen.

San Diego County—Imperial Beach Pier — Lizz, at Cox Bait & Tackle (on Palm Ave). says she hasn’t heard too many reports but anglers are picking up some decent-sized barred surfperch in the surf areas. Ocean Beach Pier — Things have slowed although a few walleye surfperch are being caught mid-pier along with some small croakers. The mackerel and bonito action has tapered off. Crystal Pier — Barred surfperch along with some walleye surfperch are making a showing in between the storms. Bonito action is hit and miss. Embarcadero Marina Pier — Miguel, at the Shelter Island Pier Bait & Tackle Shop, says some sand bass are showing up along with schools of mackerel. Overall it’s been fairly slow. Shelter Island Pier — Miguel, at the Shelter Island Pier Bait & Tackle Shop, says most of the action is on small mackerel although enough bonito are showing up to keep it interesting. Some sand bass are showing on the bottom together with small halibut and sculpin (scorpionfish); most of the sculpin are hitting early morning or at night. Shark and ray action has been slow. Oceanside Pier — George Tasulis, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), said things were dead! The rain had left the water dirty and the fish, birds, and sea lions had decided to move to a better area. About all that was being caught were a few perch.  However, a later report was posted by stuman who reported on a walk out on the pier “One angler off the end said he caught a legal lobster on Wednesday evening. I didn’t see any fish caught off the end of the pier. Another angler in the surf caught 13 fish in about 6 hours of fishing. His biggest were 2 spotfin that the tails were sticking out of a 5-gallon bucket. The others fish in the bucket were nice, perch, croaker etc.” Oceanside Harbor Pier­ — Got an end of the month report from Garth, “Not much going on. Some spotfin croaker, some perch ranging from 8” to sub-micro. There’s bait in the water and the weather is great, but the water is quite cloudy, at least right now.”

Orange County—San Clemente Pier — 5focus posted a report that said, “The bite was wide open on the surf line for small barred and walleye perch, white, yellowfin, and spotfin croakers. As soon as your bait hit the water, you’re bit. Lots of fun on 4# ultra-light. Any bait was good. Tried out my new Food Source Grubs with some luck, lots of hits.” Dana Harbor Pier — PFIC reports indicate things are slow although walleye surfperch are plentiful.  olcanepole reported “First time to fish this pier. Fished with my brother and his son with not a lot of action, using shrimp squid and mackerel as bait. Managed to catch a couple of small perch, one under-sized barracuda and one fishing rod. One other angler caught an average size bonito.” Balboa Pier — On 1/31 our reporter Snookie said, “Amazingly we still have bait.  Until recently the sardines were the main baits, but after a temperature drop of 5 degrees in 24 hours, they decided to hide. Of course the smelt didn’t care as much so they can still be coaxed out. The temperature has gone back to 60 degrees and the sardines are back. There are just not as many of them, but enough. As to catching, if you like catching thornbacks, they are prevalent. Have seen one 24 1/2 inch halibut caught by a friend, which I netted. It was a fat one too. The jacksmelt fishermen are not doing great. The barred surfperch have been there this past week.  They are using sand crabs and I am not sure what else. There are nice sized perch. There have been a few mackerel around, but they are about medium sized.  On the beach by the pier there were some big squid washed ashore.  Some were alive. None were reported on the pier though. If it is not raining, the water has been calm, but it has lots of debris in it from the rivers flowing. There has been a mild red tide once in a while. If you get bored trying to catch a fish, there are a few gray whales coming by now.” A later report, on 2/3, said, “WE had a very windy day but had lots of bait. Had both sardines and smelt. While using a sardine under the pier in the middle tee I caught a flatfish none of us had ever seen before. I took the fish home knowing it was legal and not a halibut. Looked up the flatfish in my book, NORTHEAST PACIFIC FLATFISHES. The fish was easily identified with the pictures in the book as a SAND SOLE. They usually are only as far south as Redondo Beach. They do have teeth as a halibut does, but not as sharp. There were dorsal fin rays near the head that are free of the membrane. They look more like antennas. The fish was about 15 inches and is supposed to be very good eating. (We’ll see.) A whale came by the pier today and gave us quite a show. It breached a total of eight times. What a sight!! We were well entertained today.” Newport Pier— The PFIC message board recorded a slowing of action this month but still a smattering of fish (especially thornback rays). SanClementeEric reported on a late January trip when “my eldest son and I set up at the far end of the pier and hooped and fished for nearly two and a half hours. We (he, really) got three legal rock crabs, out of about 6-7 brought up. I caught and released two skates. He caught a 9” sculpin (released) and I caught a 10” one… I also caught my first staghorn sculpin and a little mack and one little smelt. There were swimmer crabs swimming on the water and a fellow named Chuy caught a very pretty cusk eel (it took me all day to look up that one!). It was an awesome gold color.” Another report, from riverjoon, said, “Got to the pier around 8:00 armed with frozen squid and fished the right corner. Threw out two Carolina rigged setups with frozen squid. One hi/lo set up as well. Also started with the Sabiki for some bait. Started out catching thornback rays and sculpin in the mix. At one point it was wide open on the thornback rays and sculpin. The hi/lo with 4-ounce sinker 20-pound line started to screaming and my friend went over and unloaded on it and then the line broke. Probably a big ray. On the Sabiki we were able to catch lots of mackerel for bait and used that for bait also. Caught an 8-inch mackerel and put in on the Carolina rig and threw it out on the right side of the end of the pier. About 5 mins later the line goes out for a like two seconds and thinking maybe a hali I waited around one min. Then I put pressure on and felt a lot of pressure and waited to see if would run. Immediately I felt headshakes like a halibut and the fish was on. It felt really big and didn’t want to give me much ground. I was fighting for like 30 seconds then the line goes slack. I brought up the bait and it was cut in half. Should’ve waited longer cause it didn’t swallow it. Throughout the night we kept catching more thornbacks and rays and mackerel. The weather was beautiful with no wind and there was no ocean swell. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this type of weather. Total fish count: Thornback rays: 8; Scuplins: 10; Mackerel: 10; Smelt: 3. Huntington Beach Pier — Cliff, at Let’s Go Fishing on the pier, says some big 4-5 pound spotfin croakers have been showing up for anglers using fresh mussels. Some smaller yellowfin are also falling to the bait and both are in the inshore surf area. Mid-pier, some shovelnose sharks (guitarfish) are being taken on cut bait while anglers fishing the top of the water are pulling in good-sized jacksmelt Seal Beach Pier  — Juan at Big Fish Bait & Tackle says most anglers are fishing for perch in the inshore areas. Some nice barred perch are showing by the lifeguard station, most falling to ghost shrimp or fresh mussels. It’s slowed down on the mackerel and bonito. PierBum714 reported  “Went out to Seal Beach Pier today with my friend. We arrived at the pier at 6am; there were no bites until 7:15am-7:20am. We both caught mostly small yellowfin croaker all day. Used nothing but mussel and some ghost shrimp. Totals for today: 19 yellowfin, 5 thornbacks, 2 walleye and 3 smelt.”

Los Angeles County—Belmont Pier — Lowell, at Paul’s Bait and Tackle in San Pedro, reports some decent action on sargo and buttermouth perch (black perch) but the key is to use the right bait—ghost shrimp. Unless you have ghost shrimp you’re not going to get many fish. The bonito have slowed BUT some halibut continue to fall to anglers using live smelt as bait. Also received a post and picture from fill5 of a baby black (giant) sea bass caught at the pier (see picture). If you hook a fish like this DO NOT bring it up to the pier unless you can do so in a net and then immediately release it back down with the net. It is illegal to keep these fish and it’s doubtful that most fish brought up onto a pier will survive the handling. Shoreline Aquatic Park Piers — Lowell, at Paul’s Bait and Tackle in San Pedro, reports some good fishing for yellowfin croakers during the late afternoon and evening hours (on ghost shrimp). Most of the daytime action is on tomcod (white croaker) on cut bait. Cabrillo Pier — Lowell, at Paul’s Bait and Tackle in San Pedro, says things have really dropped off since recent dredging in the area. He says he would try somewhere else. Green Pleasure Pier (Avalon, Catalina Island) — It’s like a broken record as the pier continues to yield up its usual numbers of sub-legal kelp bass, halfmoon, senorita, rock wrasse, blacksmith and opaleye. Redondo Beach Pier — Pete, at Just Fishing By Pete said a few bonito are still around but most have moved offshore. Some barred surfperch have been taken inshore at the pier including a 1 3/4 pound fish. The PFIC message board recorded people pulling in walleye surfperch and jacksmelt on Sabikis while bait produced a variety of fish including mackerel, (a few), some short halibut and a couple of unusual fish for the pier—a calico bass (kelp bass) and a halfmoon. trojanfisherman posted a report on 1/28 when he caught only one thornback ray and one horn shark. However, he also said “the problem is: Everyone at the pier is snagging for spider crabs, keeping way over limits. But the big issue is they are also snagging lobsters, some that are only 7-10 inches long, and keeping them. This is an on going problem at this pier. I’ve reported this issue several times to DFG, but it seems useless, as it has continued for the two years I have been fishing there. I hope others on this board will report the problem if they see it there as well. Maybe the more reports the more likely DFG will do something about it. I hate to complain, but this is a big issue for me.” Got a late report from FGIBBONS7  “went down to Redondo Beach Pier. … Well no one was catching anything but baitfish, jacksmelt. I rig my wife’s pole for them and put out a line with anchovies. YEA, she got a jacksmelt. A little big for bait but what the heck. I put it on my big surf pole & throw it out. Started baiting her hooks again with bloodworms, and look up to see what everyone was yelling about. My big surf pole was bent like heck & line was ripping out. I was up on it faster then jumping jack flash, thinking he had me wrapped around the piling. Well yes, & no. He was on the hook & that’s all that matters. So it was up to him to come out or not. God don’t let my line break on that pilings. I let him take a little line, & he came out. Great! Now what is he a Halibut, Shark, Ray, I got it up and thought it was a lingcod. “Bummer, too small.” Then I saw it was a Cabezon. Great! Well with that big pole he came right up on the pier. I was the talk of the town… Stay for another hour or so & saw only one other fish caught worth keeping, a scorpionfish 11” long, & fat.” Redondo Sportfishing Pier — Paul, at Redondo Sportfishing, says the dirty water is hurting the fishing. Nice sized jacksmelt are still making an appearance, as are good numbers of mackerel, but the opaleye and sargo fishing has slowed. As soon as the water clears the fishin’ should pick up. Hermosa Beach Pier – Pete, at Just Fishing By Pete, says good numbers of barred surfperch are showing up in the surf areas. Got a report from toejamb on 2/5: “First halibut of ’05!!!  The tide was very low, with some cloud cover and a mild but steady breeze. The seals and surfers were keeping their distance, there were some dolphins playing out at the end of the pier and even a juvenile California gray whale made an appearance. The water seemed fishy and everything seemed right for the halibut. The only fly in the ointment was making bait. I tied on a Sabiki for about an hour for nada, so I modified the Sabiki by popping off those annoying glow-beads and snipping off the fish skin so I was left with bare hooks. I tipped each hook with a small piece of the gristly part of a mussel and went to work. I managed to snag about six or seven bait-sized smelt as well as a couple of rubberlip perch, which were released. I set up around mid pier, pinned a smelt on to my Abu/Teramar combo and waited. And waited. And then waited some more. I was beginning to get a little discouraged when the clicker went off – Halibut on! One of the pier’s regulars netted the beastie for me, and my first halibut of the year was on the deck. (Insert theme to “Rocky” here). She taped out at 22 inches on the dot (the fish, not my friend). About 15 minutes later a fellow who was fishing next to me hooked into a halibut himself. When it rains, it pours!” Manhattan Beach Pier — Pete, at Just Fishing By Pete, says good numbers of barred surfperch are showing up in the surf areas. Venice Pier — David, at Purfield’s Pro Tackle, says he’s not getting too many reports but the barred surfperch are hitting inshore. Sounds like the mackerel and boneheads (bonito) have slowed but jacksmelt are still available mid-pier to the end. Got a report from Gordo Grande who said “Hit Venice Pier for the first time in over a month. All the way out to my spot across from the bathrooms folks were telling me it was pretty slow, so I wasn’t expecting much to happen…Catch for the day was slow. I was targeting the reef that surrounds the pier. I was throwing out a hi-lo tipped with bonito bits and sardines pieces, and managed to pull in a 10” croaker. One of the guys landed a juvenile WSB. Another of the regulars had a good-sized Leopard to show for his efforts. Another of the Venice regulars, Rogelio, told me that he had a big hook-up earlier in the day that had broken off. I think he said it was a large bat ray. Not many fish, but a beautiful day and a chance to make some new friends.” Santa Monica Pier — John at the Santa Monica Pier Bait Shop, on the pier, reports there has been a good run of halibut recently. One of the fish weighed nearly 25 pounds while another hit the 20-pound mark. Many of the fish are sub-legal although some days have seen a half dozen or more legal fish. The key is to use a Sabiki to catch some live smelt and then use the smelt as bait.  Buttermouth perch (black perch), splittails (white seaperch), and sargo are also making an appearance. Most are under the pier near the pilings and falling to fresh mussels or ghost shrimp. Inshore, some nice yellowfin croakers are showing up along with a few barred surfperch. Malibu Pier — Ginny, at Wylies Bait & Tackle, reports that the water has been so dirty that the baitfish have moved out and the fishing has slowed. However, the day I called the bite on shovelnose sharks (guitarfish) was excellent. She said as soon as squid hit the water the shovelnose were there. Some barred perch were also being taken inshore but everyone agreed cleaner water would improve the fishing. Got a report from rickie777 who said, “fished from 8am till noon, lots of nice size perch and lots of jacksmelt, but windy in the early am”

Ventura & Santa Barbara Counties—Ventura Pier — Surfperch and small croakers are available inshore while a few sharks do continue to hit out at the end. Port Hueneme Pier — Michelle, at the Hueneme Pier Bait and Tackle (foot of the pier), says surfperch are showing up inshore while some jacksmelt, mackerel and halibut are being taken further out on the pier. Stearns Wharf — Angel, at Angel’s Bait on the wharf, reports people are getting a variety of perch—barred, and walleye mostly—together with some good sized jacksmelt. Other than that it is mostly rock crabs. Most perch are being taken on cut shrimp or Sabiki bait rigs. Goleta Pier — Things have definitely slowed down. Most recent reports have been rather grim. If fishing the south side of the pier, it’s a few roncadors (white croaker) on the bottom together with some throw-em-backs (thornback rays). Did hear of one puffer shark (swell shark). Fishing the north side near the kelp is yielding a few brown rockfish but not much else. A few spider crabs are also being taken. Before the storms some sardines and opaleye were making an appearance so maybe they will return as the water clears.

San Luis Obispo County—Pismo Beach Pier — Jack, from Sheldon’s Clam Stand (on the pier), reports good action on big barred surfperch when the weather cooperates. This is one of the best piers if your goal is big barred surfperch. He also mentioned a big bat ray taken the morning I called so a few are around. Also got a report from bgin, “I grubbed the incoming tide 10 to 12 this morn from the bait shack to almost the end. Got shut-out, zip, nada. Good news is that people were catching barred surfperch and walleyes of decent size. They used assorted baits, clams, mussels, and mackerel mostly. Was not a wide-open bite but fair consistence. Jim, whom I met last week, told me as he was leaving one guy got a limit of bsp that were very good size on purple grubs. I think I saw the quy and the fish as he was leaving…a very nice limit it was.” Port San Luis (Harford) Pier — Got a report HookinFish who said, “went to Port San Luis to perhaps catch some dinner. Met a guy Chris who was kind to share his bait with me a big bag of sardines and a clam. I was planning on grubbing for perch but I ended up sticking to bait. Lots of croaker in the area with a few staghorn sculpin and bullheads. Also managed a small barred perch. Was a quiet, fun evening. With a lot of people walking on the pier I guess there is a restaurant at the end of the pier. I was fishing next to the tackle store and by the cleaning stations with the most luck. Anchovy pieces worked best as bait. I recommend a good set of needle nose pliers to get those croakers off the hook. I cut up a croaker to see its flesh when a big ol’ green worm popped its head out. Changed my mind real quick about keeping them for dinner. Did keep a small perch. All in all was a nice day on light tackle…   Well the final count for the evening was: 1 barred surfperch; 12+ croakers; 2 staghorn sculpin.” Cayucos Pier – Nellie, at the Tidepool (near the front of the wharf), said it’s been fairly dead. About the only fish being taken are barred surfperch inshore. Use bait—mussels, worms, clams or plastic grubs. Got a report from cayucosjack on 2/5 who said “Fished Cayucos Pier from about 3-5:30pm Thursday. Midway through a small incoming. Went looking to get some grubbing in without getting wet. I set up just outside the surf zone and worked a Carolina’d grub from the sand back out to me on the North Side (South had a bunch of surfers out). I stuck with small Kalin’s Perch Power’s scented with shrimp oil and on the other outfit a Sabiki tipped with cut mackerel. The grub caught fish immediately but the mackerel at the edge of the surf ended up producing much better fish (numbers and size). I also tried cut shrimp, which caught a couple of fish too, but they definitely liked the blood bait better. Most fish were small, a few were pushing 1-lb. After the perch bite tapered I moved out to deeper water. The bottom from just outside the breakers to as far as I could cast off the end must have been covered in little sanddabs. Unfortunately most are the speckled variety and few were over 5″. They would hit any small hook baited with anything near the bottom (they’d hit it before it even got down). I quickly got bored releasing these little things and went home. Don’t the bullheads know that Cayucos Pier is their territory? Do they realize that a bunch of little dabs are stealing their (annoying) thunder? A regular at the pier said he caught a few sharks the night before. There must be a regular sanddab buffet for any predators lurking. Maybe I’ll give it a whirl tonight to see for myself. Stats: 4 BSP on grubs; 13 BSP on cut mack; 2 big walleyes (shrimp and mack); 32 sanddabs. ALL fish released.”San Simeon Pier — The pier is seeing some surfperch—barred, calico, walleye and silvers, in-between the storms. Got a report from cayucosjack who said “Fished San Simeon Pier with Pierhead on Thursday afternoon. Not much of anything biting. I was able to locate schools of walleyes and shiners near the pilings in the top half of the water just outside the breakers. Shrimp seemed to be best bait. One BSP (barred surfperch) bit a small chunk of squid but I couldn’t entice any others with my offerings of grubs and bait. The only other fish I saw caught was a bullhead out towards the end. The bottom was littered with kelp and it was tough to keep off the bait.”

Pier Fishing In California, Second Edition, by Ken Jones, was published in June of 2004. Covering every aspect of pier fishing in California’s waters, from the history of the piers, to tackle, techniques, fish identification, and both how to clean and cook the fish, the 516-page book has quickly become the “Bible” for many fishermen. It can be purchased at bookstores, many tackle stores, and directly through the pierfishing.com web site.

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