A short visit to Montery Bay — and some piers

With the thermometer reaching 100 degrees for day after day, I decided it was time to leave Fresno and visit the coast. Given the recent reports of mackerel, I decided to head northwest to Monterey. The  area from Monterey to Santa Cruz is what I call the “north” Central Coast. In contrast, is the Pismo Beach to San Simeon area that I consider the “south” Central Coast (aka Bakersfield Riviera). The short two-day visit would see a three-hour drive to the coast, a visit to four piers, the capture of a plethora of different species of fish (including many mackerel), and a three-hour drive back. The only question after the trip was why I limited it to two days.

Day 1, August 19, 2015 — Monterey — I was greeted by beautiful, mid-70-degree weather, a slight breeze, and clear sun (enough to insure a sun burn). My initial visit was to the Coast Guard Pier, what is actually a jetty with a roadway built above it, a roadway which allows for fishing.

Monterey Coast Guard Pier

The Coast Guard Pier with the famous Cannery Row in the background

I would be joined in my time at the pier by a lot of lookie loos, some resident sea lions, kayakers, and the inevitable divers (since this is one of the favorite dive spots on the west coat and where more divers are hooked each month by anglers than any other spot).

Look at the sea lion!

The jetty is not a good place to be if a tsunami (tidal wave) hits

Results — Monterey Coast Guard Pier — 11 AM – 2 PM — The fishing was not that fast but did produce a mix of 11 small blue rockfish, 1 kelp rockfish, 2 black & yellow rockfish, 1 painted greenling, and one still unidentified sculpin.

Kelp Rockfish


The sea, kelp, and kayakers

The tourists all like the sea lions aka sea dogs

The kayakers are seemingly oblivious to the angler lines extending from the jetty

Kelp and a sea star

A Black & Yellow Rockfish

Another, slightly different colored Black & Yellow Rockfish

An unidentified Sculpin

The end of the pier is populated by sea lions and cormorants

Signs discuss the sea lions and cormorants that cover the end of the jetty

The jetty is the best place in the state, in my opinion, to catch painted greenling. I average 2.3 of the small greenling, also called convict fish, per visit to the pier.

The pier always seems to have a few anglers

Monterey Bay was filled with a variety of boats

Monterey Wharf #2

I decided next to visit Monterey’s Wharf #2 where the mackerel were supposed to be biting. However, I decided to take a brief respite and headed up to the Old Presidio to take a few pictures of the bay and its piers.

Looking down on the bay and wharves. Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf is the wharf in the foregound while Wharf #2 (where I would be fishing) sits in the background. You can fish on the wharf until just about the buildings on the end.

Looking down to Breakwater Cove and the Coast Guard Pier (jetty) that protects it and provides fishermen a place to fish.

The end section of Wharf #2

The mid-section of Wharf #2

The inner section of the wharf

This monument sits in the Old Presido

Sloat Monument and its American Eagle (known to locals as “Big Bird”) sits on a hill above the Presidio’s museum office. It’s a monument to Commodore John Drake Sloat, and commemorates the capture of Monterey on July7, 1846, during the war with Mexico.


Father Sierra

A simple cross marks where Alexis Nino, an early pioneer in Monterey, is buried

It was now time to visit Wharf #2.

The wharf was still relatively uncrowded when I arrived at 4 PM. Mackerel bite best at sunup and sundown and it would become more crowded as nighttime approached, and anglers attracted by the mackerel would arrive.

Monterey Bay was calm like a lake

The first couple of hours were slow with no mackerel and only an occasional fish on the bottom. Unfortunately all were small—lizardfish, juvenile rockfish, and a lone senorita aka “world’s best bait stealer.” Things would approve as dusk, and the mackerel (BIG Pacific mackerel), arrived. However, the mackerel bite was never the “mac attack” mode that is sometimes seen. The mackerel would come and go. Brief flurries of action would see seemingly everyone hooked up followed by dead periods when no one was hooked up. Or, anglers in one spot would catch the macs while those a short distance away went fishless. People would rush over to where the fish were hitting but usually by the time the anglers had arrived the fish had moved on to a new spot. I caught enough to sate my appetite for mackerel and was ready to head to the hotel at 8:15.

A small, juvenile copper rockfish

Results — Monterey Wharf #2 — 4:15-8:15 PM — 15 California Lizardfish, 9 Pacific Mackerel (Blue Mackerel), 2 Jack Mackerel (Spanish Mackerel), 1 Senorita, 1 Blue Rockfish, and 1 Copper Rockfish (juvenile)

Capitola Wharf

A good night’s sleep was followed by a decision to head north to Capitola  to try a new pier. It would prove to be a wise decision. Parking spaces were available (something that can be a problem later in the day) and the pier was uncrowded. But the first cast produced a fish and I would see a steady mix of fish—mackerel, lizardfish, white croaker and extra large jacksmelt.

Capitola Wharf

The sea again was calm — but full of fish

Results — Capitola Wharf — 7:35-11:05 AM — 31 Pacific Mackerel, 12 California Lizardfish, 8 White Croaker, 4 Jacksmelt (LARGE), 4 Staghorn Sculpin, 2 Walleye Surfperch, and 1 Shinerperch.

A look under the Capitola Wharf

The wharf and old piling from an earlier wharf

Seacliff Pier

Wanting to get back to Fresno at a relatively early time, I decided I had time for just one more short visit, this time to the Seacliff Pier. It would be mid-day, and the fishing might be a little slower, but my need for fish had already pretty much been met.

The Seacliff Pier and its “Concrete Ship,” a relic from World War I. (Picture from an earlier less crowded visit).

The pier was crowded and apparently the mackerel had been biting — in the morning. The bite had stopped.

A plaque shows local fish

Several crabs decided to join in the fun on the pier

Although the fishing was slow, it was still an interesting visit. Adding spice were a good number of dolphins that decided to chase fish next to the pier.

Results — Seacliff Pier —12:10-1:40 PM — 1 Pacific Mackerel, 1 White Seaperch, 1 California Lizardfish, 1 Shinerperch (the largest I have ever caught or seen), and 1 Staghorn Sculpin.

I decided it was time to bid adieu to the pier and the coast’s beautiful weather. Arrival in Fresno saw a mild 96-degree day. I think I am ready to return to the coast!

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2 Responses to A short visit to Montery Bay — and some piers

  1. scisports says:

    Thanks for all your work in reporting on California’s great piers! What bait/techniques were you using. Very impressive trip!

    • kenjones says:

      While fishing the Coast Guard Pier I was using a single size 6 hook above a small torpedo sinker. Most of the fish were caught on blood worms although a couple were caught on pieces of market shrimp. When fishing from the other piers I used a high/low rigging, two size 6 hooks and a one-ounce torpedo sinker. Most of the perch, croakers and lizardfish were caught on the worms but the mackerel for the most part were caught on pieces of mackerel. I did cast out a Sabiki for the mackerel at Wharf #2 but the mackerel were large and one cast resulted in three mackerel that managed to leave the Sabiki a tangled mess. I don’t usually like Sabikis for that reason but everyone seemed to be using them so I thought — why not? All of the mackerel caught the next day were caught on the high/low set up with cut mackerel. I was using a light rod and catching one to two mackerel at a time was plenty. The high/low rigging is very simple and I catch 90% of my fish on that rig. Blood worms, by the way, are generally available at the small liquor/bait store at the south end of Moss Landing. They’re expensive but still one of the best baits for some species.

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