Saltwater Fishing

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

Reviews of Pier Fishing in California — 2nd. Edition

“Pier Fishing in California: The Complete Coast and Bay Guide, 2nd Edition”     


“Pier Fishing In California, The Complete Coast and Bay Guide, 2nd Edition, by Ken Jones named 2005 Second Place Winner for book”

Outdoor Writer’s Association of California  (OWAC)


 “One of the great original efforts at fishing books published in recent years is Pier Fishing in California by Ken Jones.”

—Bud Neville, Western Outdoor News


“Pier Fishing in California, the encyclopedic-and-then-some guidebook, by Ken Jones”

—Jonathan Miles, Field & Stream


“Ken Jones’ Pier Fishing in California is the ultimate pier fishing resource for Pacific Coast anglers. This second edition covers 113 piers; the history of California piers and pier fishing; tackle, rigging, baits and lures; cleaning and cooking; and an “encyclopedia” of the 100 most commonly caught species. The chapter “The Pier Rats Speak”, compiled from the discussion boards at, offers a colorful glimpse into pier fishing “culture.”

International Game Fish Association Magazine, 2005


The Pied Piper of Pier Rats —

“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… 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”

—Ed Zieralski, San Diego Union-Tribune


 “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.”

—Thom Gabrukiewicz, Redding Record Searchlight


“Even experienced anglers know somebody who is just getting interested in fishing. Whether they are a relative, friend or neighbor, the great new book “Pier Fishing in California” by Ken Jones is a perfect choice for any new angler with access to the coastline. The book is a hefty 516 pages long, and the author has completely re-written his earlier 1992 edition.

            Pier fishing is a perfect way to get started in fishing. However, nothing will turn a “newbie” off from the sport quicker than getting skunked. I spend a lot of time walking on piers, and am amazed that some of the anglers I see ever catch anything [many don't!].

            Fishing ranges from fair to excellent on almost any pier in the state, and this book makes sure that the reader joins the 10-percent of the anglers who catch 90-percent of the fish. That old cliché is even truer on piers than anywhere else.

            Included is comprehensive information on hundreds of piers from Imperial Beach to Crescent City. Fishing techniques, common species, and the history of each pier are all included. The fishing information is especially detailed, and will help the beginner or experienced angler alike maximize their catch.

            Jones has really done his homework, and this book will be interesting to almost any angler. The book answers questions like how to rig for perch, halibut, sharks, striped bass and salmon off piers. You’ll even find out which California piers have seen albacore and bluefin tuna caught on them in relatively modern times, and which pier had a 600-pound black seabass caught during the 1920′s.

            I spent much of my youth on the Santa Monica, Venice and Redondo Beach piers; I wish something like this book had been available back then!”

—Steve Carson, Fishing Writer, Radio and TV Personality, Member of the Outdoor Writer’s Hall of Fame, and a “Berkley” Pro


“The Ultimate Pier Fishing Resource. The ultimate resource for Pacific Coast pier anglers is Ken Jones’ remarkable book Pier Fishing in California: The Complete Coast and Bay Guide, the second edition of which is due out in May. The first edition was a 200-page volume covering 92 piers from the Mexican border to the Oregon border, but the vastly expanded second edition runs 528 pages and covers 113 piers.

In addition to the 20 new piers, the second edition also features expanded chapters on the history of California piers and pier fishing, cleaning and cooking a wide range of species (including “oddballs” like skates and rays), and an exhaustive discussion of tackle, rigging, baits and lures.

Over 350 new photos and illustrations have also been added, including detailed, species-specific illustrations of fish-cleaning, rigging illustrations, and maps. An “encyclopedia” of the 100 most commonly caught pier species is also completely illustrated.

Another new chapter in the second edition, “The Pier Rats Speak,” reproduces a dozen classic “threads” from the discussion boards at, which offer a colorful glimpse into the unique pier fishing “culture.”

The sheer amount of research and experience that’s gone into this book is simply mind-boggling; it really does seem to contain just about everything there is to know about California pier fishing. Even if you’re not a dedicated pier angler, it’s a fascinating read and an admirable accomplishment.”

—Zack Thomas, Pacific Coast Sportfishing


 “This book is positively biblical in scope. And that is fitting because, if pier fishing is a religion, and perhaps it is, Ken Jones is certainly its prophet.”

 —Milton Love, (self-described) Hotshot Marine Biologist, University of California Marine Science Institute—Santa Barbara, author of Probably More Than You Want To Know About The Fishes Of The Pacific Coast, A Humorous Guide To Pacific Fishes, and director of “The Love Lab.”


 “Pier Fishing in California will teach you everything you want to know about fishing on piers and the piers themselves. An amazing amount of time and research went into this book. Ken Jones’ passion for pier fishing comes through loud and clear. In addition to all of the facts, the book is weaved with clever and funny anecdotes. A must read for anyone who has fished on a pier or is thinking of it.”

 —Shawn Arnold, publisher— Fish Taco Chronicles


“This book will appeal to any angler who has a curious mind. That is, one to whom an answer to a question only suggests more questions. In addition to having a curious mind, the author uses his skills as a former teacher, to share his storehouse of fishing lore with the reader. This book is filled with the answers to every pier fishing question the author has thought of, plus the questions of every angler he has talked to; and that is hundreds. In addition to practical tips for catching fish from piers, there is a host of related topics such as pier histories, conservation ethics, angler manners, fish biology, and how to clean and cook your catch. This book will foster a love of fishing, and quickly build angler confidence to try other venues for fishing such as shoreline and boat fishing. I recommend this book to pier anglers who want to fully understand their sport and catch more numbers and varieties of fish.”

 —Paul Gregory, retired DF&G Marine Biologist


 “Ken Jones, the authority on pier fishing in California, has done it again. His book, Pier Fishing in California, has been the definitive book on fishing from Piers in this state. This revised edition includes more piers, adds details about fishing and the fascinating history of California piers all the way back to the 1800s. If you even think about fishing from piers or are just interested in their history, you need this book.”

 —Ray Rychnovshy, Outdoor writer and author of numerous fishing books including California Guide: Great Saltwater Fishing, and San Francisco Bay Area Fishing Guide.


 “Every angler in California ought to have this book! In addition to telling you the when, where, how, and even the why, of pier fishing, the book is just plain fun reading.”

 —Tim Turner, Editor in Chief, Rabid Angler Magazine


 “Pier Fishing. Never did I hold Daddy¹s hand more tightly than when we walked out on a pier. Too young to understand my own size compared to the threats in the big world around me, I feared slipping through the cracks into a world populated only by naughty children who wandered away from their folks.

            I grew older and discovered other dangers, and my childhood fear was buried under other emotions, good and bad. It returned in a new form only recently, when I discovered Pier Fishing in California: the Complete Coast and Bay Guide, by Ken Jones. Now I fear slipping through the pages of this book onto a rickety old wooden structure jutting out into constantly plunging waves. I fear baiting up once again, again to fall short of that perfect cast I need for success. While standing and waiting, my hair will turn gray, my hems grow uneven and my bifocals crust with salt spray. Hours and days will slip through those fearful old cracks, and the time to leave will always lie just beyond the surf line.

            If your soul finds satisfaction in fishing, or in history replete with black-and-white photographs, in meeting genuine characters far too real for reality television, or merely in settling down with great literature, acquire this book, already in its second edition.

            True, you can use Pier Fishing as your guide to fishing from the B Street Pier in Crescent City all the way to the Imperial Beach Pier from which it¹s an easy walk across the border into Mexico. Wherever life takes you, this book offers the best information on how to while away a few hours in the company of your oldest or youngest family members, your most driven colleagues, or just yourself. You¹ll meet other pierophiles there, folks who share your fantasies. I still recall waking one night from a dream that I free-gaffed a marlin from the Redondo Beach Pier.

            Pier Fishing tells what species you¹re likely to catch, what tackle is best for catching them, some interesting methods for cooking them, the history of the pier and the personal experience there of the author.

            But valuable as Pier Fishing is for its information, the quality of the writing makes it as readable, and rereadable, as the finest tales told by masters of literature. Only two possibilities present themselves as explanations as to where mild-mannered Ken Jones acquired such a superfund of information. Either he truly is California¹s Number One Pier Rat, as he claims, or he is considerably older than he looks. He claims to have over 40 years of records, compiled by himself, of fishing the piers he writes about, and the proof is in the putting of this data into the introduction. You¹ll see why he confesses that the Pacifica Pier is probably the best in the state. ³No other pier in the state  yields the number of fish, nor the quality of fish, that Pacifica sees most years, he declares.

            You want to argue with him? Visit Ken¹s website at and join the ongoing discussions. Make the case for your own favorite pier, or ask a newbie question for a speedy answer from a pro or two. Buy this book at the website, or ask for it at your local bookstore.

            And I¹ll look for you on the pier this time. With any luck at all, I¹ll still be on the top side.”

 —Kathie Morgan, Fish Sniffer Magazine


The Pier Rats Speak  — From

 “The second edition of Pier Fishing in California has been eagerly anticipated for a long time. It was worth the wait. This new book is more than an update, it surpasses the original. Ken Jones has reestablished himself not only as the authority on piers but as an important California writer who is expertly versed on saltwater fishing from coast to bay to estuary. Pier Fishing in California is superbly crafted and executed. It is well organized, easy to use and wonderful to read. Piers and their environment are rendered into living histories that capture the imagination as well as edify the fisherman. If there is any bias it is the man’s love for his state and its magnificent shoreline. He warms to his subject and passes on that glow to his readers. I know of no other single source for species identification and angling strategy: this alone would be worth owning the book. It is an operating manual, tour book, field guide, encyclopedia, and history, wrapped all into one. Whether veteran or neophyte, this book will make a better angler out of anyone.”

Glen Gustavson-Falck (Songslinger)

 “Ken Jones has outdone himself. He has created the California “Bible” of pier fishing, in the form of the 2nd edition of his “Pier Fishing in California.” And although he covers the specifics of fishing the piers in California, much of it can be applied to pier fishing in any geographic region. Whether you are a beginning fisherman or a seasoned “Pier Rat,” there is a wealth of information for you here. As in the first edition, Ken covers the complete range of California coastal and bay piers, and this time ventures up into the West Delta and Carquinez Strait piers as well. Along with an expanded tackle section, there are extensive chapters on the history of California’s piers, the social and ethical concerns associated with fishing, and even recipes for a “toxic world.” I especially enjoyed reading some of the historical background of some of the fishing piers in California. There is also input from some of the local “Pier Rats” who regularly frequent some of California’s fishing piers. At 516 pages, it will be quite some time before I read it cover-to-cover (if ever), but rather I find myself jumping around to sections that interest me or to read about a certain pier I will fish. Ken, thanks for writing the definitive book on pier fishing, a must-have for any California angler.

 Jeff Ishikawa  (fishing enthusiast)

 “If you fish from any pier, beach, breakwater, jetty or rocks on the California coast, you must have this book! Questions about pier and area history, what can be, and what has been caught, and how to catch it, are answered here. You will find what bait, tackle, and rigs to use to increase your chances before you get there. Read stories and posts from by some of the legends and regular Pier Rats of the pier fishing community. The love of the sport, and the expertise Ken Jones has acquired from the many years at the railing, is passed on to the reader.”

 Harry A Goodell (Graybeard)

“Volume 2 is Awesome! I’ve had my copy of volume 2 for two days now, and it is incredible! I can still remember how volume 1 changed fishing for me. I think volume 2 has the potential to change a lot of people’s lives. The first volume turned me on to the wonderful and unique resource that our piers are for recreation. I learned about pier carts, hoop nets, hi-lo’s, dip nets, bucket aerators, etc. Volume 2 does all that, but goes one better. This book truly catches the joy and excitement of our style of fishing. Ken has included tons of e-mails and postings from the archives here. The enthusiasm and joy of our fellow pier rats is evident throughout. I truly believe that our ranks are going to grow, thanks to Ken’s efforts. Let’s all give him our support in his new endeavor. GET YOUR COPY OF THE BOOK AS SOON AS YOU CAN! You won’t regret it. I think I have to get a second copy, so I can keep one in pristine condition. Tell all your friends about it.  And then…. get ready to make some room on the piers. I think there are going to be a lot more folks out there fishing in the years to come. Gordo Grande”

Ross Kestin (Gordo Grande

Volume two [Pier Fishing in California] is the canonical authority on pier fishing in the known universe. Volume one remains an unparalleled resource, suitable for keeping in one’s tackle box.  So while Volume one is like a field journal, Volume two is a reference journal. Each has its valuable place in the life of every pier and shore angler.

Ben Acker (Dompha Ben —”DOMPFA: Dominating Positive Fishing Attitude!”)

[It] Looks like an exam preparation book…You might as well have test questions at the end of each chapter. Actually, it is a very unusual book as far fishing is concerned. Parts read like diary entries. Maybe it should be titled: “PFIC: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Fishing but Were Afraid to Ask.” LOL Nice thoughtful writing Ken and localized too!

Robert Gardner (Redfish)

VOLUME 2 IS AWESOME! Even though it’s a big book, I’ve been carrying it around with me everywhere I go. A great read for sure!



 Amazon.Com — Customer Reviews — Pier Fishing in California: The Complete Coast and Bay Guide, 2nd Edition

Filled with facts and tips for novice and experts, August 17, 2004 ★★★★★  Reviewer:  James Liu (Sunnyvale, CA)

Public Piers are great places for families and visitors to fish because they are the only places in California where anglers over 16 don’t need a license. I’ve been fishing for 26 years now and build my own rods. I’ve traveled a lot and fished international and this book is unique in the focus it brings to fishing in my home state of California. Much thicker than the first edition and filled with tips and facts that have made my trips more productive. I have other books, like Tom Steinstra’s well thumbed guide to California fishing spots, but, those are just a general guide without much depth. Ken Jones gives a detailed review of all the Public Piers in CA. I’d recommend it as required reading for those who are truly interested in catching fish off any California Pier. I’ve used the book and found it invaluable as a desk side reference in looking up and planning fishing trips and answering questions authoratively on Ken’s website.

The best source for Pier Fishing In California, August 18, 2004 ★★★★★ Reviewer:  “fishnchips “J” (California)

The new edition is larger, but is chalked full of useful info for any angler. It has great rigging techniques, and a huge amount of info on all of California’s piers. Ken Jones knows his stuff, and the book shows it. I own both editions and they are permanent items on my coffee table at home. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone interested in fishing… these books have it all.

Pier Fishing in CA, June 30, 2006 ★★★★★ Reviewer: B. Bishop “sand crust” from Santa Cruz, CA 

Lots of info and history, easy to read and use.

Ken Jones’ Masterpiece, July 15, 2006 ★★★★★ Reviewer: #72 from California

If you fish piers in California, you need to buy this book.

Great for newbies, salty dogs and historians alike, February 12, 2007  ★★★★★ Reviewer: Erik Cline “hobo cline” from Alameda, CA  

“My title says it all. If you’re looking to start a new hobby, get better at your current one, or want some leisurely California history reading, this book can’t be beat. I can’t wait to hit the piers…”

A must-have for shore fishermen!, August 16, 2008 ★★★★★ Reviewer: P. Rabbitt (Silicon Valley, CA)

I have two copies of this book – one I purchased through Amazon, and a personally autographed copy I won on the PFIC Internet site. I gifted one to my friend, who I “hooked” into fishing a couple of years ago. The book is filled with useful fishing information for both the novice and more experienced angler, and the intel on California piers stands alone. If you’re looking for a book on shore or pier fishing in the Golden State, you can’t do any better than Ken’s book!

Pier Facts Good, March 28, 2009 ★★★★★ Reviewer: M. Cochrane “vrede” (Calif)

This is a very useful tool for evaluating pier fishing on the California Coast. Since I grew up in So. Cal. and migrated to NorCal, this book was especially useful in describing the changes in techniques required to catch fish in the North. It was also comprehensive in that it covered every pier in California, which also included spots in the Delta. I highly recommend this as a “starting tool.” However, there is nothing more valuable then chatting with the local pier gurus; that is if they’re in a talkative mode. I gifted this to a friend who intended to start pier fishing but he was from the East Coast and didn’t know where or how to start. He reports that the book was a lifesaver for him. So that he at could least formulate the right questions when fishing off his local pier in Pacific. Very helpful document.

SoCal Pier Bible, December 16, 2009 ★★★★★ Reviewer: Michael P. Kisselburg 

There is no better book for pier fishing in southern California. If you are a fisherman, and do not own this book… well you should.

Not Just for Californians, June 28, 2010 ★★★★★ Reviewer:Ahnko Honu “Beach Boy” (Kailua, Hawai’i)

Island boy from Hawai’i but have siblings living in the Bay area so to prepare for fishing the piers there several years ago I bought this book. The tips, and techniques in this book are very detailed with even a pier-by-pier description of all fishing piers along the California coast. The techniques described are very informative and can be used by pier fishermen not only in California but the whole West Coast, East Coast, and Gulf Coast. They even came in handy fishing the piers here in Hawai’i. I highly recommend this book, and the newer additions too. Mahalo again Ken!

Everything About California Pier Fishing! June 30, 2011 ★★★★★ Reviewer: Bacardi79

This book has everything you need to know about California pier fishing. The ratings system for each pier is just brilliant. There are tips for what to use on each pier and what you can expect to catch. I also love the stories about people’s experiences on the piers. Lots of people don’t fish off of piers they simply walk out and take pictures or just enjoy the view.

Very In-Depth, April 2, 2012 ★★★★★ Reviewer: Mako

This book is basically 40 years of pier fishing up and down the California Coast. The photos and illustrations are excellent and leaves the reader with a well rounded education of the “pier rats” and why people love to fish piers.

Great book! December 15, 2012 ★★★★★ Reviewer: The Zissou

Great book… has all of the obvious spots, tells you what bait to use, how to rig it, and what you should be catching.

Great Book, January 19, 2013 ★★★★★ Reviewer: Jon Banks “Reggae Lover”,  (Fairfax, VA United States) 

This book is a work of art. The author put so much into it and we all benefit. I have fished several of these piers because of this book, and even when I didn’t catch anything I had fun. The pier guys and ladies are generally a great bunch very friendly and willing to swap advice. The book is arranged is sections and each pier is listed geographically. Details such as hours open, best catch and other features are given. For the price, this book is nice to have just as an addition to your travel library. All the more if you actually fish. If you live in CA or plan to visit, this book is a great way to find great fishing piers. As an added bonus, most piers are located in or near great locations so aside from getting great fishing spots, you’ll be near good tourist sites.

 WOW!!!, June 14, 2013 ★★★★★ Reviewer: satoshi saneto 

Lots of great info plus an entertaining read. You get stories, history, nostalgia, mixed in with all the great fishing tips. [It] has inspired me to road trip the coast… and I’m confident I’ll be well prepared.










Onespot Fringehead —


Onespot Fringehead — Goleta Pier

Species: Neoclinus uninotatus (Hubbs, 1953); from the Greek words neos (young) and clin (recline), and (uninotatus) meaning one mark for the single spot.

Alternate Names: Fringehead or onespot. Called tubícola mancha singular or blenia in Mexico.

Identification: Typical slender blenny-shape, but with a large head and a very large mouth. Their long dorsal fin extends from the rear of the head almost to the rounded caudal fin (tail). Their coloring is usually brown with black specks tinged with red. Unlike the sarcastic fringehead that has two eyespots, onespots only have (surprise, surprise!) one spot (ocellus) that is located between the 1st and 2nd spines in the dorsal fin. Their name comes from the fringe-like appendages called cirri over their eyes.

Size: To 9 ¾ inches. Most caught from piers are 5-7 inches long.

Range: Isla San Martin, northern Baja California, to Bodega Bay.

Onespot Fringehead — Monterey Wharf #2

Habitat: Onespot fringehead (which one source said looked a lot like google-eyed actor Marty Feldman) inhabit fairly barren bottoms of bays and shallow coastline waters (sand or mud, 10-90 feet in depth) where they take up residence in whatever homeless shelter they can find—empty shells, bottles, cans, tires, pipe, shoes, etc. CA F&G Fish Bulletin 160 reported that no “homeless” fringehead were found in the vicinity of piers in San Diego Bay. Oftentimes the fringehead sit at rest with just the heads protruding from their home. Like sarcastic fringehead, they are very territorial often charging at intruders. Primarily feeds on benthic crustaceans like small shrimp and crabs.

Piers: Rarely common, but occasionally seen at piers. Best bets: Embarcadero Marina Park Pier, Shelter Island Pier, Oceanside Harbor Pier, Redondo Sportfishing Pier, Stearns Wharf, Goleta Pier, Gaviota Pier, Port San Luis, Morro Bay North T-Pier, Morro Bay South T-Pier, Fort Point Pier, Elephant Rock Pier, Sausalito Pier, and Fort Baker Pier.

Shoreline: Occasionally taken by shore anglers, especially in San Francisco Bay.

Boats: An inshore species rarely take from boats.

Bait and Tackle: Taken incidentally when using small hooks and fishing on the bottom.

Food Value: Too small to be table fare.

Onespot Fringehead — North T-Pier Morro Bay

Comments: 2013 saw a plethora of onespots showing up along the coast, especially between Santa Barbara and Morrow Bay. One mini-trip in July saw me visit four piers in three days and catch eight onespot fringehead—two at Stearns Wharf (Santa Barbara), one at Goleta Pier, two at Gaviota Pier and three at Port San Luis. A few weeks later saw me catch one at the Avila Pier, two at the Morro Bay North T-Pier and one at the Morro Bay South T-Pier. Unfortunately they can be a pain to remove from the hook. Typically as soon as you get your finger near their mouth they will latch on to it and hold on in a death grip. The tiny teeth really don’t hurt but it’s hard to get them to open their mouth enough to allow removal of the hook. They just don’t seem to understand that you’re trying to help them out.

Onespot Fringehead — North T-Pier Morro Bay 

For some reason there is/was an “Alternative/ Emo/Punk” band from Baltimore called the Onespot Fringehead (even though there are no onespot fringehead fish in Baltimore unless they are in the National Aquarium). Apparently their records were distributed by Vermin Scum Records; isn’t that neat?


Daniel and a prize-winning California scorpionfish —

Daniel and Ed Roberts

One of my favorite people at the California Fish and Wildlife Department is Ed Roberts. When I first met up with him he was in the Long Beach area and I think that it may have been the time I donated a cusk-eel and yellow snake eel to the department for their biology lab. Since then I’ve had the chance to see him many times and even been able to use him as an advisor to on fishing regulations. Today he’s stationed in the Eureka area and about the only time I get to see him is if I head up to the North Coast for a little fishing from the piers in the Eureka-Trinidad-Crescent City area. Back in 2003, Ed and his young son Daniel were at the Los Tiburones Fishing Tournament at the Belmont Pier. Young Daniel won a 3rd place trophy for the most unusual fish of the day — a California scorpionfish. Good father that he is, Ed made sure to hold up the fish so that Daniel did not get stung by one of the poisonous spines. Both are just a little older, and perhaps a little bigger, today.


Endangered species — The disappearance of youth from the wilderness

A good article even if a few years old.

By GT Jones, Ventura County Reporter, 05/29/2008

Tom and son, Venice Pier

Over the past 20 years our children have become increasingly alienated from the natural world. They have abandoned our open spaces and wilderness where unstructured imaginative play has existed for as  long as the human species. Youthful expeditions that discovered shortcuts to school and secret hiding places are being eradicated by societal fears and impending litigation. Days spent building forts in the woods and swimming in ponds are quickly fading from our social history. At best, the constricting  radius children are allowed to travel around their homes limits them to the trusted patches of grass and  concrete in the front yard.

The effects of this nature deficit on the physical, emotional and spiritual health of our youth are popular topics in the social laboratory. Sacramento State University offers a course solely examining the effects of television on our youth. It is considered a likely contributor to childhood obesity, aggressive behaviors and Attention Deficit Disorder.

It is a curious abandonment from a parenting philosophy that once produced some of the best lessons of childhood. Kevin Smith remembers growing up in Camarillo.

“As kids my brother and I, along with several neighborhood friends, would spend hours playing in a large wheat field at the end of our street,” Smith says. “We would dig holes and build ‘forts’ with whatever we had laying around the house. Sometimes our parents would let us camp out overnight. This would all disappear twice a year when the land owner plowed the field so he could replant wheat for his cattle.”

Natasha Morisawa, a bioterrorism and emergency preparedness analyst, remembers walking her dogs  for hours with her sister. They toured local parks, learning the neighborhood along the way.

“Not just our street or block, but details about the blocks between our house and the park; details that we would never know if we rode in the car,” Morisawa says.

South Morro Bay T-Pier


What is blamed for the disconnect? The ever-rising popularity of video games, television and computers are obvious targets. For the first time in history, early life experiences are formed more by LCD pixels and cartoon characters than insect collections and tree  houses. A study conducted by Kaiser Family Foundation found that U.S. youth now spend an average of five hours a day — 40 percent of their awake hours — in front of electronic devices. And the behavior starts young. Children younger than 2 years old will spend more than two hours daily in front of a media screen.

In 1997, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) focused their studies on the potential health risks that television, movies, music videos and video games present to our youth. Since then, it has been linked to a number of conditions. It is generally accepted as a contributor to childhood obesity and hypertension by encouraging inactivity. Compounding the problem, the most commonly advertised foods during children’s programming are high in fat, sugar and salt. Academically, there is a relationship between excessive television viewing and a decline in reading and comprehension skills. Emotionally, media overexposure can contribute to aggressive behaviors and desensitization to violence. As children grow into young adults, conditions with body image, sexuality and self-concept may also develop from the portrayal of unrealistic scenarios.

But researchers aren’t ready to say that digital and media entertainment are completely to blame. They may only be symptoms of greater challenges; something to fill a child’s time due to lost options.

South Morro Bay T-Pier


In today’s communities, money has become a powerful source of retribution. Mental anguish, embarrassment and disrespect all have a price. We sue over ruined pants and a neighbor’s blowing leaves. Playtime is not exempt from this system. The fear of litigation from a child falling from a tree or tripping at a creek crossing is too great. Nervous homeowners dissolved any play in their yards, fearful that a slip on wet grass could lead to losing their home, their retirement, or their own child’s college fund.

A powerful influence in the criminalization of play comes from a growing form of private government. Homeowner’s associations have flourished in new communities. Membership is required. As it appears in their mission statements, their purpose is “to promote the general welfare and support the common good of its members as well as to maintain property values.” To accomplish this goal they use regulations. Lots of regulations. Outlawing dumping trash in the street, for instance. But it doesn’t end there. Latently, HOA regulations impose limitations on expression and lifestyle. Houses must be painted one of three shades of tan. Clothes may not be line-dried in backyards. Commercial work vehicles are banned from driveways and streets overnight. There shall be no more than two pets in any household. Neighbors no longer need to tolerate the differences between one another. They can homogenize the nonconformist with regulations.

When asked how he liked children W.C. Fields responded, “Parboiled.” W.C. Fields is an active resident in many of today’s communities. Whether it’s over noise complaints or vandalism worries, there is someone waiting to disassemble any unauthorized gatherings of children. And Homeowners associations provide a fantastic soapbox for their complaints. Members of Oakridge Estates Community Association in Newbury Park have used this system effectively.

Vocal fears of arson and teenage parties have successfully barred access to the publicly owned open space behind their homes. Posted with “no trespassing” signs, their trailheads are now blocked by locked gates and chain-link fencing. Using justifications peppered with the keyword “liability” they have effectively sanitized play into an orderly, unthreatening experience without Frisbees that can sail into the street and basketball hoops that must be hidden in the garage.

As youth are increasingly locked out of undeveloped lands, park and recreation departments scramble to create equitable outdoor experiences. A replica of the lost opportunities. They erect plastic molded climbing walls, cushioned groundcover, skate parks and water slides. Still, the same concerns about liability remain. They must be aware not only of obvious dangers, but of every pogo wrong, freak accident or not. It has to be foolproof. Fingers remain crossed.

Shelter Island Pier — San Diego


Public education once took an interest in getting children outdoors. Now only one-third of children in the U.S. have daily physical education in school. With budget cuts and our narrowed focus on specific subject criteria, teacher shortages and overcrowding, academic courses are forced to abandon the wilderness as a classroom. The purpose of the field trip has degraded to a distraction. Nature once offered inspiration for literature and poetry. It provided practical illustration of physics experiments. It was a laboratory for biology. Now, field trips have become increasingly counterproductive.

Outdoor education returns to the parent. Parents play a significant role in how their children connect to the outdoors. Well before the beginning of formal education, parents teach lessons that build self-esteem and confidence. They introduce the life skills of safety and awareness. They show how to interact with their surroundings. Yet sometimes modern day realities dilute these lessons.

Expanding work schedules can leave little daylight for shared exploration. In its place, a growing unfamiliarity with nature now breeds modern-day neuroses; fear of insects, of the sun, of dirty water, of snakes, of coyotes, murderers and rapists all lurking just beyond the front yard.

 Goleta Pier


In 1980 Turner Broadcasting launched CNN, introducing America to a new news format. A  24-hours-a-day endlessly looping news format. Not far behind, cable television multiplied our channel count from five to hundreds. How to fill all those channels, all those hours? Repetition. Hour after hour, network upon network. Repeat daily.

In 1989, the World Wide Web was born. The Internet provided a platform for accelerating information around the globe. Once connected, the public no longer had to wait for delivery of news through television and print media — they could hunt for it. An avenue to know practically anything we wanted at any time, ad nauseum. Our hunter gatherer nature was aroused. It has been a spectacular renaissance in many ways.

Parents embraced the new format, collecting information that would keep themselves and their children safer; a parent’s ultimate responsibility. But what do they ultimately find?

A 20-second Internet search presents these results:  A non-family member abduction occurs every nine minutes in the United States.

There are 4 million pet dog attacks in the U.S., mostly on children.

As many as 1 in 20 adults has active pedophile thoughts or tendencies. (Global Children’s Fund)

About 1,000 children die from drowning.

Every year approximately 250,000 children are brought to the emergency room due to a bicycle injury.

Heather Quaal, a mother of two and the former president of the MOMS Club of Ventura addresses the concerns she’s heard. “I hear about mountain lion sightings at the school down the road … I have heard of men trying to walk off with children at Arroyo Verde into the hill,” Quaal says. We know where every sex offender and violent felon lives in our neighborhood.

Then the newspaper arrives and headlines reinforce the threats. “Oxnard Man Shot to Death,” “Bird Tests Positive for West Nile Virus,” “Mountain Lion Sighted on Ventura Rooftop.” Television carries us further from home.

“A Chino Hills Park is closed after a coyote attack on a 2-year-old … ”

“Police are searching for a 14-year-old girl that went missing from her Bel Air home early Tuesday … ” With information like this appearing by the strike of a keyboard or the push of a remote control, it is understandable why parents are fearful. There are a world of threats leaned up against our front door.

Enter the Free Range Kid.

 Avila Pier


Last month Lenore Skenazy of New York City was labeled the “Worst Mother in the World” by public critics across the country. What does a mother need to do to garner such virulent disapproval across America? She dropped her 9-year-old son off at a department store in New York, and challenged him to return home safely.

At his pleading, Skenezy left her son inside a New York City Bloomingdale’s. He wanted the challenge of finding his way back, alone, one subway ride and a bus connection from their home. Mom gave him a subway map, a Metro card, a 20 dollar bill and some change for a phone call. She told him what to do if he got lost. Then she returned to their home and waited. He found his way back without incident, mother and child both thrilled by his accomplishment.

When Skenazy mentioned the event to friends and acquaintances she was met with unrestrained condemnation. She was reminded of a recent abduction of a young girl in Florida.

Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara

“How would you have felt if he didn’t come home?”

“I don’t want to be the one on TV explaining my daughter’s disappearance.” And that was before Skenazy put it in writing. As an opinion columnist with a typically humorous slant, she hardly expected the massive reaction that was coming when she documented it in her weekly New York Sun column.

As the controversy grew, Skenazy started a blog and message board where opponents and supporters gathered to debate. (  Some visitors embrace her parenting decision completely, some agree philosophically but are unable to engage in the practice, and others outright condemn the experience as criminal.

The debate spawned a new parenting approach, or rather, a return to an old one. The Free Range Kid Movement was born. Despite accusations to the contrary, Free Range Parents don’t discourage bicycle helmets, car seats or airbags. They don’t encourage running with scissors. They want a return to the lifestyle that existed before the information age — including the risks that come with it. They believe it is essential to training children’s independence and decision-making abilities. Free Range Parents allow their pre-teen children to walk to school alone. To ride their bicycles to the library. To play in the woods unsupervised.

Free Range Parents also come armed with their own counter-statistics. That a child is 40 times more likely to die in a car accident than be abducted. That, contrary to statistics broadcast on the Today Show, the U.S. Justice Department shows a decline in child abductions since 1988. And since 1980, death rates dropped by about half for children between the ages of 5 and 14.

Ventura County is home to two of the safest communities in America, Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley, though you wouldn’t always know it. Even for parents who agree with the philosophy of the movement, they don’t find it quite so simple to practice.

“I think there is a generalized feeling that the open spaces are wonderful in a supervised situation, but that unsupervised there is too much potential for a predator to be lying in wait, whether it be one of the human or animal,” says Heather Quaal.

Natasha Morisawa agrees: “I think I would like to be more of a ‘free range parent.’… But for now, I will acknowledge my vulnerability and do what I can so that I can raise these boys in the best world I know.”

One side will argue the reason the numbers are down is because their children are better protected from the threats. The other side will argue that the threats never existed in the first place. With many parents,  the risk is too great or too frivolous. Some make little distinction between free range parenting and the criminally negligent.

Avila Pier


What is generally agreed by both sides is the effect this nature deficit is having on our youth. The responsibility to nurture healthy, confident and curious children hasn’t changed. Childhood obesity, caused by the body taking in more calories than it burns, has tripled since 1960. In addition, Type 2 diabetes, mellitus, hypertension and obstructive sleep apnea are all conditions that can carry directly into adulthood. Nature experiences have been increasingly abandoned as one of the most effective cures to these conditions.

In his book Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv acknowledges the challenge. “Parents already feel besieged by the difficulty of balancing work and family life. Understandably, they may resist the idea of adding any to-dos to their long list of chores. So here is another way of viewing the challenge: Nature as an antidote. Stress reduction, greater physical health, a deeper sense of spirit, more creativity, a sense of play, even a safer life — these are the rewards that await a family when it invites more nature into children’s lives.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees. It believes increasing physical activity and shifting to a healthy diet can reverse many of the recent childhood illness trends. Psychologically, it finds that outdoor physical activity increases self-esteem and self-concept, just as it decreases anxiety and depression.

The debate between cause and symptom will continue, but is ultimately irrelevant to the child sitting passively in their living room today. As children fall further out of sync with nature, they miss the lessons nature has provided for youth during all of human existence. By keeping our youth indoors, we risk confining them to a very small, often paranoid world. Parents may need to reinforce in themselves that muddy hands and an occasional skinned knee are part of growing up. Through this, their children will learn about a world of mysticism and surprise, amusement and challenge that exists beyond their  electronic world. A world that is waiting for them on the other side of the screen door.

Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara

Ventura County Reporter – Endangered species