Saltwater Fishing

Reviews of Pier Fishing in California — 1st. Edition

 “Pier Fishing in California” — 1st Edition — 1992


“Ken Jones has put a lifetime of pier fishing experience into a book that should be in every angler’s library. It is full of valuable information that will benefit the beginner, the expert and everyone in between.”

—Guy Clifton, Editor, Fishing & Hunting News


“Finally, a fact-filled book for California piers…how, what, where, why and when. Don’t go pier fishing without it.

United Anglers of California


 “This is the best pier fishing book I’ve ever seen. Piers are eminently accessible, mostly free of charge and offer excellent fishing. And the information in PIER FISHING IN CALIFORNIA is just what you need for a successful fishing venture anywhere along the California coast.

—Bill Karr, Editor, Western Outdoor News


“Pier fishing is great fun. And now there is a book that reveals how to pier fish with confidence, and how to catch each of the many species California’s 80-plus piers have to offer.”

—Ron Kovach, Author of Saltwater Fishing In California


PIER FISHING IN CALIFORNIA is an outstanding guide. It provides a first hand, insiders view to every pier in California. It’s eminently useful to everyone from the beginning angler to the expert.”

—Jim Matthews, Editor, California Angler Magazine


The Pier Rats Speak —  Amazon.Com — Customer Reviews — Pier Fishing in California, 1st. Ed.

Classic fishing in the mode of simplicity, December 20, 1999  ★★★★★ Reviewer: gurdonark from La Crescenta, CA  

“Consumerism has invaded fishing much as it has ruined many other pastimes. We are constantly called upon to buy more and better exotic products, in pursuit of the perfect trade magazine nirvana. No longer can one just go to a pleasant locale and just fish—one must be on a five day trip in Mexican waters aboard a luxury yacht with a ton and a half of electronic equipment and shiny tackle materials that make graphite seem archaic. Pier Fishing in California is about a simpler way—fishing from public piers across the state. Here are simple, inexpensive ways to have a day of fascinating fishing, without the need for boat, high tech tackle, trawling motor, or (in the cases of public piers), even a fishing license. The book does the job just right—a pier by pier rundown of where to fish, what you’ll catch, how to catch it, and how good the fishing is, usually with a pier picture. All “how to” books should be this simple and useful, and pier fishing is a sport that deserves more attention. I suspect if more young people were taken to piers and taught patient technique rather than taken on expensive charters and taught how big money = easy fishing, then we might generate more young people with a genuine love for the sport.”

One of the Finest Books on Saltwater Fishing Ever, August 2, 2001 ★★★★★ Reviewer: jimbojack  from Huntington Beach, CA  USA 

“Ken Jones has written a masterful book that details California piers up and down the coast. This books tells you the secrets and tips for more successful fishing adventures on California piers. An in depth look at each pier, what types of fish you’ll catch, and most importantly, how to catch them. Ken reveals what baits to use, how to hook them and even some favorite recipes to prepare your catch. Also included are pictures of many species to easily identify fish. You will learn knots, rigs and what type of tackle you’ll need to become a better angler. This book is no nonsense and straight to the point but never lacks for detail. This book is great for saltwater anglers no matter where you live. If you love fishing the way I do, this is a must read… Great book!”

Bible for the California Saltwater Shorefisherman! August 3, 2001 ★★★★★ Reviewer: Salty Nick from San Francisco Bay Area

“A must for any person who enjoys saltwater fishing in the state of California. Ken has done a wonderful job of clearly and concisely describing fishing tackle & techniques for angling at California’s coastal piers, as well as environments and species available at each specific pier. Though useful to any fisherman—as a boatless shorefisherman, this guide has been invaluable to me. The author’s obvious years of experience are reflected in this book, which has greatly increased my learning curve (and fish count). And the illustrated reference guide in the back of the book is a great tool in identifying what you’ve hooked into. Makes me want to go fishing!”

Pier Fishing In California (the book) and in the news—

The First Article —USA Weekend Magazine, May 9, 1997

Pier Fishing In California and the website was mentioned in the article

Of course there have been other articles —


Pier fishing site assists anglers in California

By Thom Gabrukiewicz, (Redding) Record Searchlight

August 15, 2004

Ken Jones just might be California’s “No. 1 pier rat,” a title he takes very seriously.

“It’s an old term, like wharf rat,” Jones said. “We’re pier rats, we fish from piers. We have a lot of fun with it.”

What makes him Pier Rat No. 1? Jones is the author of “Pier Fishing in California,” a 516-page bible of pier fishing, from Crescent City to San Diego, that describes all 113 piers where people can toss in a line (the second edition came out in June, and sells for $29.95 at Publishers Design Group,

He’s also the rat behind the online version of the book, at, (where people also can buy the encyclopedia of pier fishing).

“It’s not a commercial site, other than the fact you can buy the book on it,” said Jones, who helps run the site from Lodi. “It’s something for the pier or surf angler, something different that gives people who want to do this kind of fishing find the right information.”

The site is clean, simple, easy to navigate — and has a vast amount of information for anyone who wants to throw a line in the ocean, either from a pier, or the surf. The site regularly highlights two of California’s 113 accessible piers. It has a message board, so pier rats can keep up with one another, an event organizer and an archive where all the site’s great information has been stored since beginning in 1997.

“When I started it, I wanted to teach people how to be successful pier fishermen,” said Jones, a former high school teacher. “Pier fishing is different. It’s probably not as good as being on a boat in the ocean. But I catch a lot of fish — and I can help you catch a lot of fish, by letting you know what you’re doing, whether it’s by lure or by bait.”

A good place to start, especially for newcomers to pier fishing, is the archives, Jones said. But the site’s best feature also is its newest. Back in 1999, Pier Fishing in California added the message boards, where people go to swap information. That has led to a vast archive of information.

“There have been literally thousands of threads over the years,” he said. “And you can get all the info you need about pier fishing.”

The event calendar also is a great place for people to find like-minded souls to fish with. The next outing is set for Saturday at Point Reyes, for example. The organizer, known online as xpostman, will be serving up barbecued chicken and oysters, served with red rice on Kehoe Beach. The anglers will then grub for redtail perch.

“This is a simple event,” xpostman wrote. “Meet, eat and fish.”

“Pier fishing, by its very nature, is social,” Jones said. “If you’re uncomfortable around people, you will have problems pier fishing.”

Piers also are where families can go to be successful anglers.

“It’s great for families,” Jones said. “Pack a picnic lunch, head down to the pier and spend the day. A lot of people I know got their start fishing from a pier.”

Which might be fodder for Jones’ next project — and sure to be part of Pier Fishing in California’s Web site.

“My next book may be stories from all the people who grew up fishing from a pier,” Jones said.

Know an Outdoors Web site you’d like to share? Outdoor Web runs every Sunday in the Record Searchlight. Reporter Thom Gabrukiewicz can be reached at 225-8230 or


 San Diego Union-Tribune — OUTDOORS

No boats necessary — Dedicated pier patrons are proud and happy to spend their days fishing from California’s shoreline pilings

 By Ed Zieralski, STAFF WRITER, January 22, 2005

Basketball has its gym rats, golf has its range rats and, yes, fishing has its very own pier rats. They are a special breed of angler, these fanatics who fish from pilings, whether they be concrete or wooden. Pier rats don’t care.

“Our motto is no boats, no kayaks and no freshwater for posts on our board,” said newby pier rat Garth Hansen of Escondido. Their message board is on

In his excellent book, “Pier Fishing in California,” Ken Jones, the modern-day Pied Piper of this new breed of pier rat, leads his cult-like followers to 113 piers, including those in the Carquinez Strait (about 20 miles northeast of San Francisco) and West Delta. In his second edition of the book, Jones includes an enlarged fishing-tips section and also details a history of the piers. There’s an entire section on fish identification, and he tops it with a section called “The Pier Rats Speak,” a dozen classic posts from the “Pier Fishing in California” message board on

At a recent get together at Oceanside Pier, Hansen was joined by John Kim of Carlsbad, Reid Mimaki of San Marcos, Rod Mina of San Diego and Rich Reano, the site’s Web master from Chula Vista, for some early-morning shore fishing followed by a trip to the pier.

Hansen discovered the group while searching the Web one day. “The fishing report is one of the more useful things about the site,” Hansen said. “I’m a beginner, so it helped me with good fishing information and tips. I took my daughter out to the pier the first time. Except for a 16-inch smelt, we got skunked. But since then I’ve landed my first legal halibut, first legal sand bass and way too many croakers.”

Reano fished from the beach early and, like the others, landed a handful of barred surf perch. He used a unique offering, a size 8 Wooly Worm fly with a half-ounce barrel sinker, a standard Carolina rig. Reano has been the group’s Web master since 1997. “We get just over a half million page views a month,” Reano said. “We’re small compared to boards like Allcoast Sportfishing, but for pier fishing, we do OK. We have a narrow focus, but still have a lot of views for that.” There are 8,000 registered members of the board but, as Reano said, “many more lurking out there.”

Mina said the reports and pictures that pier and shore anglers post make the site valuable to those looking for information, tips and places to fish. “Part of it is people want to educate others about pier and shore fishing, but part of it is people want to brag, too,” Mina said.

The group stresses that all pier and shore fishermen follow Department of Fish and Game regulations, a big issue on the state’s piers. Many pier fishermen are recent immigrants who often plead ignorance on fish and game laws. They have a reputation with other fishermen for taking over-limits and fish or lobsters out of season. “We place a huge emphasis on rules,” Reano said.

Ben Acker and Bryan Burch traveled from Pasadena to join the others for the rare get together last Saturday. Acker, a sixth grade teacher in Arcadia, is a veteran hoop-netter and pier angler. “I have five younger brothers, and my mom said the only thing we could ever do without fighting is fishing and singing,” Acker said. Acker converted an old baby jogger into a fishing pier buggy that he loads all his gear on for an easy trek to a spot along the pier’s rail. As Acker was setting up his gear, a tourist passed by and said: “Do you need a fishing license to fish on a pier?” Acker responded, “No.” And the guy winced and said, “I just lost a $5 bet with this guy because I bet him you needed one.”

Anglers don’t need a fishing license, but knowledge of the shoreline structure under the pier is a huge benefit. And knowing how to rig for the various fish is equally important. “It’s a sharp learning curve, but if someone puts the time in, it’s not that hard to learn,” Acker said. Acker said piers are the best-kept secret for hoop-netting lobsters. “I’ve probably hoop-netted more lobsters from a pier than I have from my kayak,” said Acker, who has his own special way of lowering his hoop net. He cradles it under his arm and tosses it the way someone would toss a discus. He got a good 30 yards on his toss on this day.

Down the pier from Acker, Daniel Elrod of Lancaster, another bona fide pier rat, displayed his invention, the L-Rodholder that he uses for rods and even a pulley arm for pulling hoop nets up from the depths. He sells them for $45 to $59. “I’m 46 years old and I’ve been pier fishing my whole life,” Elrod said. “My dad started me out when I was young.” Elrod said he visited Ocean Beach Pier during lobster season last year and asked a hoop-netter there if he’d like to sample his pulley arm device for pulling up his net. Elrod said the man hoisted up 30 lobsters in two hours before the men were kicked off because there was an electrical problem on the pier. “It was the middle of the day, too,” Elrod said. “I mean every pull, every 15 minutes, he’d have five, six lobsters in there. It was incredible because they were all keepers (legal-size) except for one.” Elrod had his 14-year-old son, Kyle, along with him, doing his part to pass on the pier-rat tradition.

“I’m on that site every day,” Elrod said. “It’s an addiction. I like to read what’s going on in Northern, Central and Southern California, and it’s a great place for that. Everyone has their own style of fishing, their own personality. But by knowing what’s going on along the whole coast helps me plan my own fishing trips and excursions.”

Boyd Grant is vice president of United Pier and Shore Anglers of California. He travels in his motorhome and checks on piers. He’s a mobile pier rat with a shell. “I’m a full-time volunteer and field representative,” Grant said. “I drive the entire coastline and check out the beaches and the piers. I have over 30 years of fishing every pier in California.”

Grant said one of the other features of is that it includes a link to Ken Adelman’s The site offers up-close and updated looks at beach access and fishing areas. Grant called “Pier Fishing in California” author Ken Jones “the best piling fisherman I’ve ever seen.” “When we go to Catalina, we get 20 fish. He catches and releases 200 or more,” Grant said of Jones. “I don’t care where it is. Any pier, any piling. He’s the piling master.”

Grant said he loves the entire atmosphere that can usually be found on a fishing pier “There’s a lot more to pier fishing than just hooking fish,” Grant said. “I’ve found that no matter where in the world we go, when we visit a pier we have so much in common with the people there. Within five minutes, we’re talking like we’ve known each other all our lives.”

As Grant spoke, the Flatt family fished behind him on the north side of the pier. Steven and Melissa Flatt were there with Kalyn, 2. It was a family, glad to join the ranks of the pier rats. “He wanted a fisherman, so Kalyn now is into fishing,” Melissa Flatt said. “This is her first time fishing the pier, but she’s caught bluegill and has fished in Yosemite already.”

© Copyright 2005 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

Blue Rockfish —

 Blue Rockfish from Monterey Wharf #2

Species: Sebastes mystinus (Jordan & Gilbert, 1881); from the Greek words sebastes (magnificent) and mystas  (priest, referring to the dark color of a priest’s clothing).

Alternate Names: Often called blue bass, blue fish, blue perch and reef perch; also confused with black rockfish and called snapper, black bass, black snapper and black rockfish; sometimes called priestfish, nervi or neri. Called peche pretre (priest fish) by Portugese fishermen in Monterey in the late 1800s. Called ao menuke or kuro mebaru by Japanese fishermen; rocote azul in Mexico.

Identification: Typical bass-like shape. Their coloring is usually light blue with blue mottling. To separate it from the black rockfish look at the upper jaw and the anal fin. In the blue rockfish, the upper jaw only extends back to a point midway in the eye orbit. In the black rockfish, the jaw extends to a point at the rear of the eye. In the blue rockfish, the anal fin is slanted or straight; in the black rockfish, the anal fin is rounded. Overall the blue rockfish has a smaller mouth and is less elongated than black rockfish.

Size: To 21 inches, although most blue rockfish caught from piers are young fish under 10 inches in length. The California record fish weighed 3 lb 14 oz and was caught at San Carpoforo in 1993.

Range: From Punta Santo Thomas, northern Baja California to Chatham Strait and Kruzof Island, southeastern Alaska. Less commonly seen south of the northern Channel Islands and north of Eureka. Blues are the most frequently taken rockfish by recreational anglers from Point Conception to Fort Bragg (and generally in the top three species overall for the same area). Adult blue rockfish rarely move more than 6 miles from their home area.

Habitat: Although adults have been recorded from the shoreline to nearly 1,800 feet deep, they’re a mid-water species most common to shallow-water reefs and kelp beds. They are often found mixed with olive, yellowtail, and black rockfish. Most pier-caught fish are younger fish that prefer shallow-water rocky areas or kelp-covered pilings. Because of their small mouths, blues primarily feed on plankton and are considered to be “omnivorous/zooplanktivorous” happily gulping down such delicacies as jellyfish, tunicates, thaliaceans and algae. However, they will also feed on squid, small crustaceans, and small fish, including young-of-the-year rockfish. During years of rich, upwelled water their numbers increase, during warm-water years and less plankton, their numbers can drop.  

Piers: Most blue rockfish caught from piers are landed from Monterey north. Best bets: Monterey Coast Guard Pier, Monterey Wharf No. 2, Santa Cruz Wharf, San Francisco Municipal Pier and the Fort Baker Pier. Fishing in the wells out toward the end of the Santa Cruz Wharf can produce a lot of small blue rockfish.

Shoreline: An occasional catch by rocky shore anglers in central and northern California.

Boats: One of the most common rockfish taken by “rockcod” anglers fishing in central California north. Blue rockfish have been over fished. The blue rockfish catch by recreational vessels off southern California dropped by 95.2% between 1980 and 1996; in Monterey Bay, almost all blue rockfish now taken by anglers are immature fish.

Bait and Tackle: On piers, most often caught around the pilings under the piers on small, size 6-4 hooks. Best baits are pile worms, small pieces of shrimp, strips of squid, or fresh mussels. On boats they are often taken just under the surface of the water with squid being the most common bait.

Food Value:  An excellent eating, mild-flavored fish that is best fried. Best when fresh, flesh seems to become strong flavored more rapidly than some.

Comments: Blue rockfish males can live to 44 years, females to 41 years. They’re one of the faster growing rockfish species (with females growing faster than males): one-year-old fish may reach 4.5 inches in length, two-year-old fish 6 inches. Some females are mature (reproductive) at 9 inches and 5 years, all are mature by 14 inches and 11 years; males mature somewhat later (just like Humans). Genetic evidence suggests two species of blue rockfish may exist in California.

Many thanks to Robert O’H for the help with the pictures.

Black Rockfish

Black Rockfish  — Trinidad Pier

Species: Sebastes melanops (Girard, 1856); from the Greek words sebastes (magnificent), melas (black), and ops  (face).

Alternate Names: Commonly called black bass, bass rockfish or black snapper; also confused with and called blue rockfish; sometimes called bluefish, Columbia River rockfish, gray rockfish, Pacific snapper, black rock cod; Commercial fishermen once called these nero (black in Italian), cherna (a Portugese fish), or pesce pretre (used in Monterey).

Identification: Typical bass-like shape. Their coloring is black or blue-black, and white below. There are usually black spots on the back, up onto the lower parts of the dorsal fin (no spots on the dorsal fin of blue rockfish). Often confused with blue rockfish but can be differentiated from the blues by the following: in black rockfish the upper jaw extends to or past the rear of the eye and the anal fin is rounded.

Size: To 27.6 inches and 11 pounds. Most caught from piers are under a foot in length. The California record weighed 9 lb 2 oz and was caught near the San Francisco Light Station in 1988. 

Range: Northern Baja California to Amchitka Island in the Aleutian chain, Alaska; uncommon south of Santa Cruz.

Habitat: Generally found in shallow water rocky areas and reefs down to 120 feet although they’ve been taken to 1,200 feet dep. An opportunistic predator that primarily feeds mid-water to the top on other fish and zooplankton although they will also head down to the bottom to feed on shrimp, crabs and octopi.

Hans Jones Jr. and a black rockfish from the Trinidad Pier

Piers: Black rockfish, especially juveniles, are caught at most piers north of San Francisco.

Best Bets: San Francisco Municipal Pier, Point Arena Pier, Eureka Municipal Wharf, Trinidad Pier and Citizens Dock (Crescent City).

Shoreline: A common catch by rocky shore anglers in northern California.

Boats: Black rockfish are the most frequently taken rockfish by recreational anglers (boating) from Eureka to Crescent City and generally among the top ten species between San Francisco and Fort Bragg.

Leo Vrana and a black rockfish from Gotcha Hooked in Crescent City

Bait and Tackle: Most of the black rockfish caught by pier anglers are young fish hooked while the anglers are fishing around the pilings for perch or other bottom fish. Most are landed on high/low leaders using small hooks. Some are caught on bait-rigs that anglers use in pursuit of jacksmelt, walleye surfperch, herring, or even anchovies; this is most common at Eureka and Crescent City. If the pier isn’t crowded, an angler should try artificial lures such as small swimbaits.

Food Value: An excellent eating, mild-flavored fish that is best fried. Best when fresh; fat becomes rancid rather quickly.

Comments: Black rockfish live to be about 50 years old; a few mature (reproductive) at about ten inches in length and 3 years of age, most are mature at about 14 inches and 6-7 years in age; all are mature by 17 inches and 9 years in age.

Many thanks to Robert O’H for the help with the pictures.

California Lizardfish —

California Lizardfish — Goleta Pier

Species: Synodus lucioceps (Ayres, 1855); from the Greek word synodus (the ancient name of a fish in which the teeth meet), and the Latin word lucioceps (pike head).

Alternate Names: Gar, barracuda, candlefish. Called lagarto lucio or chile lucio in Mexico.

: They are cylindrical shaped with a broad lizard-like head and a mouth full of large canine-like teeth; the snout is almost triangular. Their coloring is mostly brown or greenish-brown above with a brassy luster on the side; blackish stripes along the lateral line; some criss-cross lines running at angles from the lateral line to the back; sides and belly usually a light gray; lower jaw and fins yellow. Young fish have a series of blue-colored diamonds along the lateral line.

Size: Up to 25.2 inches and around 4 pounds; most caught off piers are under 14 inches.

California Lizardfish — Cayucos Pier

Range: From Guaymas, Mexico, and Gulf of California, to Cape Beal, British Columbia. Listed in most “fish” books as an uncommon catch, especially north of Point Conception, and rare north of San Francisco. I used to agree. I fished California piers for 17 years before I caught my first lizardfish, a fish from the Newport Pier in 1978. Four years later I caught my second, a fish at Port Hueneme, and then in 1984 a third was caught at Wharf #2 in Monterey. It would stay that way, basically an occasional, incidental catch into the mid-90s when they began to show up more regularly. Then, in 2006, it seemed their numbers took off and in the intervening years they have become a regular catch at many if not most piers from San Dego north to Santa Cruz. In 2013 reports were coming in of vast numbers of lizardfish from San Diego north, and in personal visits to Stearns Wharf (Santa Barbara), Gaviota, Port San Luis, Avila, the Morro Bay T-Piers, Cayucos, San Simeon and Wharf #2 in Monterey, they seemd to literally cover the bottom and anglers using Sabiki-type bait rigs were bringing in 4-6 fish every cast. Why the change? I haven’t heard a good reason although they do seem to show up most commonly in cold-water years.

Habitat: Prefers shallow, sandy areas 5 to 150 feet deep. Lizzies are ambush predators that spend most of their time sitting motionless on the bottom with the body at a slight angle (using their large pelvic fins) waiting for food to swim by. They then dart out at a fairly amazing speed to grab their meal with their long, pointed teeth.

California Lizardfish — Cabrillo Pier

Piers: Once uncommon but now common at many piers—Imperial Beach Pier, Crystal Pier, Oceanside Pier, Balboa Pier, Newport Pier, Venice Pier, Malibu Pier, Port Hueneme Pier, Stearns Wharf, Goleta Pier, Port San Luis and Wharf #2 in Monterey.

Shoreline: Rarely caught by shore anglers.

Boats: Taken occasionally on skiffs and kayaks fishing in bays or shallow water areas.

Young Lizardfish

Bait and Tackle: Commonly caught when fishing the bottom for other species. Seems to hit almost any bait but the key is to keep the bait moving. I have caught them on cut bait, strips of squid, pile worms and Sabikis. Use light or medium tackle and a size 6 to 2 hook. Several people have reported that small lizardfish themselves make good bait for halibut, another predator species that mimics the lizard’s behavior.

Food Value: Reportedly, they are good to eat but quite bony. Some people say the flesh has a strong “fishy” odor and an iodine taste, but others say they are good eating. I’m not sure.

Comments: You can’t always choose your relatives (and luckily mine are a nice group). But consider the poor lizardfish. Lizzies are a cyclosquamate fish placed in the order, Aulopiformes, along with a dozen or so other families. Nothing strange about that except that all of those other families are deepwater fish, what one Ichthyology book (Fishes, Moyle and Cezh) calls “a mixed bag of odd fishes.” Included are the barracundinas, sabertooths, pearleyes, lancetfishes, greeneyes, spiderfishes and grideyes. All of these either occupy the water column of the deep sea or are actual deepsea bottom-dwellers. Only the various lizardfish are considered inshore fish (although two species are deepwater fish). And while both the California lizardfish and Atlantic lizardfish reach fairly cool waters, most lizzies call tropical and subtropical waters their home.

California Lizardfish — Avila Pier

I found that out during a trip to Hawaii in 1993 while chaperoning a group from Anderson Valley High School. We were staying near Waikiki Beach and several of us headed over to the beach to do a little surf fishing. In two hours I only managed three fish but one surprised me by being a lizardfish—a variegated lizardfish (Synodus variegates). It was the only lizardfish I caught on that trip although a return trip to Waikiki Beach two years later yielded up another variegated lizardfish. Two trips doesn’t mean they’re common for that beach but they were certainly common for me.

Notwithstanding their oddball cousins, lizardfish do have one honor. Not too many fish have had Naval vessels named after them. Not so with the typically maligned lizardfish. The USS Lizardfish (SS-373) was a Balao-class submarine commissioned December 30, 1944. Built in Illinois, she was towed down the Mississippi River to Algiers, Louisiana before putting out to sea where she traveled through the Panama Canal on way to Pearl Harbor. Soon after, she was headed out to the Java Sea and South China Sea where she was successfully engaged in several battles. The ship earned one battle star for World War II but the end of the war brought an end to the need for her service. The ship was decommissioned in June 1946 after less than two years of service.

California Lizardfish — Cabrillo Pier