Dumbarton Pier

            The pier sits adjacent to and almost under the Dumbarton Bridge

This pier in Newark was a virtual copy of the Ravenswood Pier, its sister pier to the west.  However, it is still open while the Ravenswood Pier is history. The similarity was to be expected since this pier, for the most part, is the east end of the old Dumbarton Bridge while the Ravenswood Pier was the west end of that bridge. It does, however, offer additional resources that were never available at the Ravenswood Pier: the Visitor’s Center and the headquarters of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge are located on the way to the pier. It is a good place to stop and get an understanding of the complex environmental factors that play a part in both the health of the bay and the fishery that depends on that health.

The platform at the end where the water is deeper and most of the  bigger fish are caught (Photo courtesy “Walking The Bay”)

Environment. Because of the environment found here, this pier often only offers fair fishing along much of its length. The bottom is mud and inshore waters are shallow; during really low tides the angler can be staring out at a mud flat, a fact that usually isn’t too conducive to fishing. In addition, salinity levels of the water can be higher than in more northern reaches of the bay. The result is that at certain times of the year there are simply less fish here than in some other areas of the bay. When there are less fish, less fish will be caught. Winter and spring see a more normal mix of water and usually more of a variety of fish.

Perch and flounder can be caught in the shallower waters, as can some striped bass and bat rays, but most of the bass, sharks, rays, and especially the sturgeon, will be landed out at the end of the pier in the deepest water.

Anglers fishing the end in 1991

It is during the winter and early spring months that you’ll have the best luck for perch, jacksmelt and starry flounder. Winter and spring are also the times when most of the white sturgeon are caught, and several have been landed at the pier that exceeded 100 pounds in size. Action in the summer and fall centers on striped bass, sharks and bat rays with an occasional school of kingfish or perch moving through and offering a diversion to the big-game hunters.

Several different varieties of shark are landed here but, as usual at South Bay piers, the vast majority of the sharks are small sand sharks (brown smoothhounds). Second in number will be the more highly esteemed leopard sharks, a fish that reaches good size, fights well, and is delicious on the dinner table. Most years will also see quite a few sevengill sharks caught. Although most of these sevengill sharks will be far less than their maximum nine-foot size, they often approach or exceed four feet in length, a good size for a pier-caught fish (although the spring can see many small 18” pups showing up). The vast majority of sharks are caught in the late summer and fall but almost every month will see some sharks landed. Completing the sharay mix are, as expected in SF Bay, quite a few bat rays and an occasional skate, usually a big skate. In the summer of ’04 a 44” shovelnose shark (guitarfish) was an unusual prize at the pier while September 2005 saw a 38” shovelnose. What the normally SoCal residents were doing this far north is anyone’s guess although there have been increasing numbers reported during the past decade.

Welcome to the Pier

If an angler has luck on his or her side, a striped bass will be the prize. Best bet for these will be in September or October and live or dead bullheads (as long as they still have their slime) are usually the preferred bait.

 Some of the fish that can be caught at the pier

Fishing Tips. Fish this pier in the winter and spring for a variety of perch: pileperch, black seaperch, redtail surfperch, and white seaperch. Use small hooks, size 6 or 4 and either pile worms, small pieces of shrimp, or clams for bait. Be sure to keep the bait near the bottom. During the fall try for silver or walleye surfperch using pieces of anchovy while fishing the mid-depth areas under the pier. During the summer to early fall try cut anchovies on the bottom using a high/low leader for kingfish (white croaker) and an occasional flatfish. Pray to the gods to keep the bullheads, a.k.a. the “little pests” and “dumb #**@~!!s”  away from your bait.

Barred surfperch from the pier in 2006

During winter and spring you might encounter a starry flounder on the bottom in shallow waters or out to the end (although they seem to decrease in number each year). They prefer pile worms or bloodworms but will also take cut anchovies, grass shrimp, or pieces of clam. Use a fish finder/ Carolina-type rigging for them with just enough weight to hold bottom.

Starry flounder — 2008

The issue of sinkers and weight is even more important when you move out to the end. Currents can be strong here and sometimes even a 6-8 ounce sinker will fail to hold bottom. Be sure to use a pyramid, dollar or spider sinker and the latter, which has copper legs that bite into the mud is probably the best when currents are really strong

Winter to spring are also the prime months for sturgeon, primarily white sturgeon, and they are the trophy fish at the pier. As mentioned sturgeon exceeding a hundred pounds in weight have been landed here (although such a fish would need to be released today given the maximum length restrictions).  Prime baits for the sturgeon are ghost shrimp, mud shrimp or grass shrimp although they’re bottom slurpers and have been known to almost anything they could suck up into their mouth. Be sure to keep the bait near the bottom using a fish-finder rigging and be ready for the slightest nod of the rod. Their light bite is somewhat amazing given their size. Be read!

White sturgeon — in 2012

The summer to fall months are the  best time for sharks although some will be caught year round. Use cut bait—oily anchovies or sardines, bloody mackerel, or squid. Better yet for the larger sharks is live bait—shinerperch, midshipmen, mudsucker (longjaw goby) or bullhead (staghorn sculpin). Unfortunately, the pier is not open at night, which is the best time to catch sharks.

Leopard shark — 2004

The same location and times are best for the bat rays and skates (with about a hundred bat rays to every skate). Use the same fish-finer rigging or a high/low rigging for the rays but switch to squid as the best bait (although they too will hit a variety of baits).

Spring to Fall but especially September and October offer the best shots for striped bass (and some big ‘uns have been landed here). Try on the bottom using pile worms, ghost shrimp, anchovies, sardines and live baits—bullheads or mudsuckers. Also, don’t be afraid to try artificials for the bass although traditionally few have been caught on lures at the pier; although it may be due more to the lack of effort on the part of anglers rather than artificials not working.

Striped bass caught by Thomas Orosco in 2005

Remember to bring a net for the stripers and small leopard sharks and a snare for the sturgeoin Use a treblehook-gaff if you must for the large sharks, bat rays, and big skates but ONLY if you intend to keep them.

 Sevengill shark — 2006

Note. There was a time when the road to the pier was closed from April 1 to August 31, a fact that made fishing just a little iffy. One day I stopped by to ask why. “Da Birds Made Us Do It!” That seemed to be the answer given by the pert and friendly young lady at the reception desk at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. Seems that the western snowy plover, an endangered species, nests and lays eggs near the road leading to the pier. Shortly thereafter, the newly-hatched youngsters begin to wander onto the road surface, where their gray and white feathers blend into the asphalt, making it difficult to spot them from a car. Since scrambled snowy plover eggs (as well as flattened chicks) are a definite no no, anglers were restricted in their ability to use the pier during those five months of the year. The closures during the prime July-August times for sharks made more than a few anglers unhappy but it made sense if it was needed for “da birds.” That’s life in the New Millennium.

White sturgeon — 57 inches, 50 pounds — 2000

Some Selected Messages From the Archives of “Pier Fishing In California” — The Early Years — And Some Great Advice

Date: February 28, 1998; To: Ken Jones; From: Cary G; Subject: Dumbarton Pier

Hey Ken! FILTH FLARN FILTH, I’ve been skunked at Dumbarton Pier!  On a brighter note, the regular pier rats reported last week and the week before that sturgeon and striped bass were biting like crazy. Well you and I both know how a pier rat can stretch a tale or two (no pun intended). Well, I was talking with the game warden, and he showed me pictures of these beasts that were caught out there a week ago and before that. WOW, the pier rats are not lying! Huge sturgeon, striped bass, and even a gigantic leopard shark. This place is hot!

Date: September 10, 1999; To: PFIC Message Board; From: carlos; Subject: Dumbarton Pier

I’ve been going to Dumbarton Pier the past couple of days and the sturgeon bite has been fair. I saw a guy hook a sturgeon and with one jump snap the line. A lot of big leopard sharks have been caught on herring, anchovies and squid. I saw a big sevengill shark caught on a whole squid and a couple of stripers have been caught. In about 1 to 2 weeks they (stripers) will be in and when the rain comes the sturgeon bite will take off. Use herring for the sturgeon, use squid and anchovies for stingrays and sharks, and use pieces of anchovies and shrimp for the stripers,

Posted by vee

I’ve fished this pier for over 10 years. The end is best for shark and sturgeon. Closer to shore is good for perch, stripers, and stingrays. I fished at the end today

Date: September 12, 1999; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Vee; Subject: (In reply to: Dumbarton stripers? posted by Hung on Sep-10-99)  

Stripers do go all the way down to Dumbarton, but they are a rare catch there. Best month here is mid-October. The pier covers a lot of water, and I’ve seen and caught stripers near shore, in the middle, and a few on the end. Most stripers are caught from shore to midway out. Use grass shrimp or anchovies. Bullheads work okay too. It isn’t crazy like Pacifica at all and the Fish and Game frequent here a lot since it’s easy for them to drive their truck on the pier. I’ve seen a lot of people busted here (they actually sit on Dumbarton Bridge with binoculars on their atv’s.) DO NOT FISH WITH MORE THAN 2 POLES OR KEEP UNDERSIZED FISH. All the stripers I caught here have been on the bottom. Use a slider or a high low rig but they hit the bottom hook 90% of the time. I fish here a lot because I live really close by, but I wouldn’t recommend this pier to some who live far away. Some days can be VERY SLOW and all you catch are baby sharks.

 Striped bass — 2004

Date: October 24, 1999; To: PFIC Message Board; From: carlos; Subject: Dumbarton sturgeon

I went fishing at Dumbarton yesterday, Saturday 10/23. Got there around seven thirty, fished at the end of the pier with my friends. We were casting into the channel. We caught a spiny dogfish shark then an Asian man came and fished in our spot. His pole tapped then wham he sat the hook on a 64-inch sturgeon. It was jumping all over the place. It was a good sight then about a half hour later he hooked another. It was a monster. His pole was almost going to snap then it started pulling him; he got pulled so hard it pulled him into the railing. I thought it was going to pull him into the water. He was fighting for about a minute when it snapped. He was using one hundred pound test. Then another Asian man, a regular to the pier, hooked a sturgeon 55 inches. A little one but that one did not want to be caught. He kept taking runs until the guy brought it up and snared it. After that the action calmed down. They were still hitting but they were not setting the hook. It was a great day for sturgeon at Dumbarton. Tight lines carlos

Date: December 20, 1999; To: Ken Jones; From: Officer Barry Tarbet, Don Edwards NWR; Subject: Pier Fishing

Ken, I read your report of the [Dumbarton] pier and I find that it is well written and above all factual.  I have been checking the pier for 14 years. The Ravenswood Pier was closed because of its costly maintenance and criminal activity in the parking lot and on the pier.  I would ask that the angler’s remember to pick up after themselves so that we do not over burden the maintenance staff. Especially those that eat peanuts or sunflower seeds and discard the shells on the pier. These are really hard to clean up and consume a lot of the maintenance person’s time. As far as the aluminum cans, “crush them” and place them near the trash can, so that collectors can retrieve them and not run the risk of HEALTH PROBLEMS associated in reaching into garbage cans. I have found that the anglers have been a stand up group and I have been grateful to be of service

Date: December 24, 1999; To: PFIC Message Board; From: stan; Subject: Lost Dumbarton sturgeon

Went fishing at Dumbarton Pier on 12-23 between 9:am to 4:pm, I hooked up a 50-55-inch white sturgeon but could not get it up to the pier since no one had a proper snare. Tried using clothesline-style, as a snare but the loop did not hold up. I will go back next week with a snare. Never depend on others with landing equipment. This was my only second day of sturgeon fishing and would have been my first sturgeon. It took ghost shrimp.


White sturgeon — 2012

Date: January 11, 2000; To: PFIC Message Board; From: mud line; Subject: (In reply to: Where to sturgeon fish? posted by yogi on Jan-10-00) 

I know some good spots for sturgeon off piers and off the bank. Dumbarton pier is one of them. Sturgeon however are not easy to take off this pier; if you happen to have one suck up your baits this is just the beginning. The pier is the hardest place to land the mighty sturgeon, if you do not fight right you will lose it. Then after you fight and he’s tired the next part of the battle begins, getting the snare around him and pulling it up the pier, this is the fun part. I’ve seen many people lose them right at the pier due to the snare job. Horrible thing to see once you’ve gotten this far. The pier is very crowded at this time of the year especially since San Mateo is closed. They list directions on this website. You want to chat about sturgeon, get back to me. This is mainly all I do is chase these guys through the bays and Delta.

Date: May 23, 2000; To: PFIC Message Board; From: vee; Subject: (In reply to: STURGEON FISHING posted by CARLOS on May-22-00)

I have fished at Dumbarton Pier for about 14 years now and I have noticed the fellows with 13 to 15-foot rods with a good Penn spinning reel that will hold about 300 yrds of 25-30lb test have done quite well. There is a channel pretty far off and if your rod isn’t long enough you won’t hit it.

Date: June 15, 2000; To: PFIC Message Board; From: alvin; Subject: DUMBARTON PIER

During the striper season the best places to fish on that pier is the very beginning to the middle.

Date: January 11, 2001; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Dave Mush; Subject: Dumbarton (First Sturgeon)

Woke up and saw that it was cold rainy day so I decided it was not a good day to go to work so I packed up the truck and decided to go see if I can land one these sturgeon everybody was talking about. I first headed to the Lion supermarket to see if they had any grass shrimp but had no luck so I went out the pier hoping my grass shrimp was going to produce for me. I strung up my reel with new 25 lb. test while I soaked my trap hoping for some bait. After I got every thing squared away I pulled up my trap and baited up my first hook. I got a bite 10 minutes later but it looked like a small shark or kingfish. I let the bait sit for about 15 minutes more and decided to check it out; (nada) got me for my bait. I baited up again and threw back out. This time I let it sit, the current and wind had my rod tip bouncing and moving around so it was going to be hard to tell if anything did bite. After 30-45 minutes I got a real hard pump and my line went slack I picked up my rod and then I felt a second pump that just kept going so I pulled the trigger. It felt heavy and right away I knew it was sturgeon. Being that this was my first sturgeon trip and first sturgeon I just wanted to have a look at her so I can say I hooked into to sturgeon fought her for about 15-20 minutes and for a minute their I thought their was no getting her back from under the pier. But she cooperated and came to the top in exhausting defeat. After the guy next to me netted her we quickly got the tape measurer out and put the tape down, she came up short by 1 inch (45 inches). I took one more look at her at set her free to swim another day in the cold brown waters of the south bay. Anyways sorry to bore you guys with a long boring story but she was my first so I thought I’d give you guys a little bit of the story. -Dave

Rig- 4/0 40 lb. steel sturgeon leader; Bait-Live grass shrimp; Weight-8 oz. pyramid; Out going tide

 White sturgeon — 2004

Date: February 21, 2001; To: PFIC Message Board; From: jason chin; Subject: Re: Rare sightings in the South Bay…

Fished down at the Dumbarton on Sunday 2/18, the best day of the three. Got out about 5:15am, water was extremely calm with lots of gloomy cloud cover. There are 2 whales that seemed to have found there way down to the bridge. I believe they are grey whales but I am not sure. They’ve been down there now for three weeks. They put on a little show for us blowing air and flopping their tales, kinda neat if you’re into that kinda stuff. Anyways we bagged a 4” sturgeon on the top of the incoming on mud shrimp. Thing looked like it had been through a war, sore on the side and all bruised up. Then all of a sudden my partners pole goes off, and then a nice starry flounder about 14” long. I have never seen or caught a starry flounder this far down in the south bay, surprised me. Although two years ago a keeper halibut was caught in the flats off the Dumbarton Pier. Strange weather and strange happenings. My friend was fishing on the pier that day and we kept in touch on the cell phones. He managed to hoist up a 58” sturgeon up onto the pier on the outgo. Fish are out there go get em’… I seem to always do good around the new moon. Get wet and get a fish-since it doesn’t look like it’s going to let up till the weekend.  Jason “bayrunner”

Date: September 4, 2001; To: PFIC Message Board; From: gyozadude; Subject: Dumbarton Pier — a Saga of Fate and Stupidity

I thought I’d head out to Dumbarton Pier today for an hour after work to catch the outgoing tide. When I got there, it was a bit breezy and chilly at 6:30pm, nothing at all like the warm air in the neighborhood at 5pm. It was my first time to Dumbarton Pier, so I casually walked with my gear, reading the posted signs. I stopped near the gate to read the regs. on fishing pier vs. shore. Two rods okay on the pier, no license. One rod from shore, need license… duh… what loser would chose the 2nd option? I wondered. There were a bunch of low swarming gnats near the shoreline. I tried to identify them and observe if baitfish were jumping to eat them. Nothing. The water was choppy.

I went to the end of the pier, a solid 7-minute walk and set up to fish the lower deck pier at the bottom of the stairs. Fished two rods, one with (human edible) shrimp on hi-lo-rig, the other with Sabiki tipped with scallops. (Couldn’t buy any squid at the local Safeway after work, didn’t know any local bait shops, and didn’t want to fight traffic searching for one). I was waiting for a buddy with frozen grass shrimp from some bait shop he claims he knows in the area.

The pier was deserted. Not a soul. I was trying to recall a story of a murdered Vietnamese kid who was killed out here years ago… and whether this was the pier… That, together with the cool wind was giving me goose bumps.

Started out with a 2-oz pyramid sinker 15-lb test. Wind was blowing south, so I cast that way. Maybe got about 50 yards on the cast. I tried going farther, but the bait kept flying off. Funny thing, but the current was pretty strong and swept anything that landed in the water north. I couldn’t get the bait to stay put, so I went to 3-oz, and the bait tumbled a bit before digging in. I finally settled on a 4 oz. pyramid sinker on 20-lb test. Nothing hitting for 20 minutes. No surprise, the undertow current below the surface must have been at least 5 knots. It was twisting my hi-lo rig silly while submerged, so I switched to egg sinkers (2 x 3 oz.) and a single hook. Swoosh… north they went. Couldn’t hold bottom as effectively as the pyramid sinkers. I figured at that point, that the undertow current must’ve been at least 8 knots or more.

Under these conditions, fish wouldn’t be in that current. They’d be looking for respite in the wake of some object like the bridge support piling. So I cast north in front of the Dumbarton Bridge support pillar/caisson. These are about every 100 feet, and are about 30 feet wide, 15 feet in profile, and 100 feet tall. I had two juicy 21-25 prawns on the hooks and put the rod to rest against the railing. I attached a bell, and prepared to check the bait and re-position the other rod still down below on the lower-level dock.

I walked down the steps. Had the other rod in my hands, then my bell rang. I looked up. The rod tip bent down really hard and jerked back up. The bell went nuts for a second. Then nothing… I ran up stairs and held the rod for a minute. Nothing, so I reeled in, and the shrimp on top was gone. I re-baited and re-cast to the same position. This time I loosened the drag on the rod, just in case something big hauled the rod over the edge.

I went back downstairs and quickly reeled in the other line, re-baited, and jogged upstairs and walked along the pier and cast toward a second caisson. As I lay the second rod down, my cell phone rang. It was my friend. Says he’ll be there in 5 minutes. I tried to warn him about the first speed bump on the road and to not go over 35. I was going around 45 mph and man… caught some air and come down hard. Definitely not good for the suspension on my truck. I was asking about whether he had brought his rod and just chatting, when the bell on the first rod goes off again.

“Hey, I gotta go…” I told him. “Why’s that?” he asked. “I gotta reel this in or I’ll lose my rig,” I told him. “What, you gotta fish?” he asked again. “I gotta go now…BYE!” I shouted and hung up.

I rushed to the rod, picked it up, and with a lot of power, whipped the rod back over my shoulder…. whizzzzzzzz….. DoH! The drag spun. I had forgotten that I loosened the drag on the reel before. I quickly tightened the drag and reeled the slack in and tried to set it again. But whatever hit swam out into the current and around the caisson. I ran to my right about 50 feet to get a better angle on the line and to maintain tension. I lifted the rod in a doubled-over position for about 5 seconds and then, snap! It was gone… I reeled in the main line and there was nothing. No sinker. No hooks. Just the line, somewhat abraided by the sharp barnacles on the caisson.

My friend showed up about 10 minutes later. He jogged all the way down the pier. Just t-shirt and shorts. No rod. No reel. No grass shrimp. I had just finished rigging up again and was preparing to cast again. I tossed the bait back against the caisson. We waited for some time, but there was no more action. I don’t know whether my buddy cursed the fishing by his presence or the one that got away warned every other fish, but the bites just stopped. I’ll never know what it was. We ended up fishing another 20 minutes, until 7:30pm and had to pack up and leave before the gate closure at 8pm.

That was my first outing to Dumbarton. Now I see why people like it. I’ll need to head back soon. But this time, with less distractions. – Gyozadude,  “Yes – I can roll my own potsticker skins”

Sharks and a ray — 2004

Posted by readership

Good stuff. I think 8-oz. weights are the average sinkers used out there to hold bottom. I use “sputnik”-type sinkers nowadays. Since I started using them, nothing but positive performance. Kind of pricey, but I think they’re worth it and definitely recommend for others to check ‘em out. Pretty long post to read at 4 in the morning, but cool story.

Posted by jason chin

Gyozadude — Great story seems like you had fun. Next time eh? The surf rods you were talking about in the past that you wondered if you would have use of, rig em up. They will hold an 8-oz. well. Use a slider for no tangles. If the current is going out (north towards San Mateo) and you are having a problem with staying down fish the top section of the pier casting north (usually into the wind) and your line will stay straight. Same goes for the incoming on the bottom section of the pier. When the pier gets busy you practically have to fish an 8-oz. or you will get some dirty looks as your line drifts over everyone else’s. If everyone uses an 8-oz. pyramid all the lines will fall into place. Ghost, grass shrimp, and herring are my preferred baits that generate a lot of action on the sharks, rays, and sturgeon. You think that current was bad? That wasn’t nothing, wait until a minus tide to a 6 footer. Sturgeon seem to like those tides though. All the fish mentioned above will feed in the middle of that current; they will be swimming with that tide and chewing your bait along the way. Hope this helps you for your next trip. And for safety, I’ve fished there I don’t know how many times by myself and not had any problems. Not that it can’t occur but hopefully this will help ease your worries.  Jason “Bayrunner”

Posted by nufo

Jason is right on the money. Luckily I listened to his and Carlo’s suggestions before the first time I went out there or I would never have held bottom. Dumbarton is definitely a nice pier with plenty of different fish to catch. Nufo

Posted by gyozadude

Will bring heavier equipment. I’m jazzed about Dumbarton. There’s plenty of structure for fish to congregate around. I’m planning to hit that more often. I was using a 9′ Daiwa, el cheapo Eliminator yesterday. The 15 footer is still in the garage rafters. I might haul that out too. I have a spare Daiwa Jupiter Z 6000 reel that I’ve never used but got as a gift. How far do you guys cast out there and what pound test? I was using #2 hooks on my rig. The acceleration of trying to cast farther than say 50 yards knocks the bait off. And if I don’t worry about the bait and practice casting, the weight really stresses the line a bit. I’m fairly certain I need a 50-lb shock leader of sorts. I’m hoping smaller grass shrimp hang on better than the shrimp I used, or that I don’t need to cast that far. If the fish are closer to the pier, I’d prefer to bring a 6’4″ boat rod with a conventional reel and just toss the bait around 30 or 40 ft. – Gyozadude,  “Yes – I can roll my own potsticker skins”

Striped bass — 2006

Posted by nufo

It appears that the farther into the channel you cast the better. Try a nice smooth fluid cast. Any type of jerking action and you will lose your bait. Also try Spider thread to tie on your bait. If you’re not familiar with it, it is an elastic thread that works 100 times better than magic thread. A shock leader is defiantly a good Idea. Try 50-lb mono or even heavier braid. As for main line I use 20-lb big game. I noticed a lot of guys out there using very heavy braided line. Connect your leader to your main line with an Albright knot. I have found that if you are not getting in or near the channel you will mostly catch little leopards and sand sharks. But then again it depends which direction you are casting too. I’m sure Jason and Carlos can tell you more about where to cast. Nufo

Posted by ben

Try using some Magic String to keep the bait on the hook… also, most of the sturgeon guys on the pier use a superline. When the current is really strong they use 10-oz pyramids… hope I see some of you out there.

Posted by jason chin

The grass is always greener out farther right? hehe. As far as where to cast — on the upper platform, facing San Mateo. I throw one directly in the middle of the auto bridge pillars as far out as I can. The 2nd rod gets tossed as far as I can toss it on the farthest auto bridge pillar close to it, (I believe the spot you said you threw it when you got a hit?) on the bottom corner one straight out and one angled a little towards the silver house on the train trestle east of the swing section. Line you could go a couple ways, mono 25-30 or braided 50-100-lb. if you like. I go with the braid more there just because when it gets busy a lot of people are using that and if you tangle up with your mono it’ll cut right through it. Power Pro is probably my brand of choice along with P-Line CXXtra for the mono. Use some Magic String and your bait shouldn’t fling off. For hooks I go 8/0 octopus for everything with no problem even the small sharks will inhale that hook. That’s dramatically bigger than you have now and some might say it’s too big but there are many reasons I use that big of a hook. Good luck. All this talk I’m leaving work and going to the pier right now. Maybe some stripers hanging around there too. Don’t forget about them too, I’ve gotten a lot off the pier around these months through the fall. Jason “bayrunner”

Leopard shark — 2004

Date: September 5, 2001; To: PFIC Message Board; From: gyozadude; Subject: Undertow mechanics

From my brief experience with the Dumbarton pier, I fished just the crest of the tide slightly going out. This generated tremendous currents. I believe that the wind is a major contributor. Because the liquid of the bay is contained within a fixed geological volume, any kinetic energy imparted on the surface is going to generate some circulation. If the water is too shallow, the wind just whips the surface which results in splatter and foam formation.

If the water is deep enough, however, like 10 feet or more. Then the wind can generate a tremendous undertow at the bottom by driving large-scale circulation in the bay. And because the depth isn’t too great (like 500 feet), the circulation builds up in just minutes and not hours or days. It’s great for rapidly flushing out the bay and redistributing microbes and baitfish. But it can be deadly when coupled by an outgoing tide for someone in a float tube.

Although Jason states that they catch fish in fast moving current at Dumbarton on bottom rigs, I’m fairly certain that there must be a number of conditions being met. The bait must be residing in a position where there is a path of low flow resistance. This may mean structure (like a bridge caisson), or that the bait is in a small dip or channel on the bay floor, which we can’t see. If there is a shelf, there will be a pocket of relatively still water right at the drop off.

The other option is to suspend in the shear layer, which should be slightly above mid-depth in the water on outgoing, and slightly below mid-depth on incoming tides assuming symmetric circulation. This may be a reason why you can see sturgeon jumping off the surface. Could this coincide with tidal and wind driven flows?

A large fish with that much surface area, even facing into the current, would have to expend tremendous power to hold position near the bottom. It is however, possible to stay -very- close in the boundary layer at the very bottom. But that layer is just a few inches thick. A big sturgeon’s back plates would have some drag in that case. Same with sharks. The only ones who could hold bottom would be the rays and skates. For all other fin fish, it’d be much easier swimming in the shear layer near mid-depth. Then you’d be attacking bait from above and not below, which would explain why a hi-lo rig works on species who wouldn’t otherwise hit a bait located above.

Something else, I couldn’t figure out. I was running a long leader initially when I got my bites. About 7 feet long. Two hooks high up. I got two hits. It was after losing the fish, I tied on a shorter leader…and hits stopped. hmmm… makes me wonder.

I know I have practically zero fishing experience at Dumbarton. But I can’t deny physics. No animal would want to withstand the current without assistance of structure or by leveraging the isoclines where the relative motion of water is slower. Has anyone tried this?

Posted by jason chin

Maybe this short summary makes a little more sense. A boater’s approach to getting sturgeon. I come down searching an area Dumbarton pier for example right where your line is cast. It is the incoming tide the middle current is really strong. I see some fish hugging the side of the channel on the fishfinder. Instead of stopping and anchoring where I see the marks I’ll go past it with a tide an estimated distance to where I can anchor prepare my baits and get them in hopefully by the time the sturgeon travel through. I guess to sum it up, the bottom line is they are always moving in the direction of the tide.  Jason “bayrunner”

Posted by stinkyfingers

One thing about it — the mouth [of a sturgeon] is not designed to feed in suspension. The vacuum tube is on the bottom, definitely making this creature pick stuff up from the floor of the bay. I just can’t even picture a sturgeon picking something up that’s even 2 feet off the bottom… Also, these giants cruise with minimal effort, sort of like a big whale when it’s just cruising. Damn they have power though and you feel it when you hook one. I’ve never had any fish come close since that day.

Posted by gyozadude

Jason: Don’t worry about the wording. I understood just fine. What you’re saying is that the sturgeon are constantly on the move with the tide and never hit suspended and Stinky says it’s because of mouth geometry. According to DFG, sturgeon do hit floating food, and they found sturgeon feasting on a float sack of onions in the delta!

Energy-wise, moving with the tide makes lots of sense, but that means the window for foraging is relatively small and coincides with the transition from strong tide to slack tides.

One thing I don’t understand is -when- they eat at Dumbarton. If they are eating these small bottom crustaceans, then feeding time must coincide with the emergence of critters in the Bay flats. The small shrimp must be burrowed during dry times (extremely low tides) and during torrents when there is large undertow (i.e. during outgoing tides with southerly winds). The little guys come back out to feed on the bottom at the beginning of a slack tide and that’s when the sturgeon must come through.

But what about the times when the tides are unfavorable? A big sturgeon needs to eat a lot of food to maintain energy to swim in these waters. Can we catch them during the “off times” or do they not even bite during those times?

Here’s my guess. Assume that a 20-lb sturgeon (and growing) needs to eat at least 1 lb per day of shrimp or other food. That’s about 100 morsels per day for these small ones. If a sturgeon can find a morsel every 10 sq. ft of bottom area, to get 100 morsels means covering a 1000 sq. ft of area for each sturgeon. That’s not that big, just a 33 x 30 patch of water per sturgeon. That can be covered in less than 15 minutes…

Okay, so the numbers do compute sort of. This is a waiting game. The sturgeon can eat enough just in foraging during transitional tides to survive. Even if food is more scarce they can still forage during the transitional tides and eat enough to get fat. This means that the best way is to use a multi-hook rig with lots of tasty morsels on the bottom. Do you guys ever use weighted hooks to keep the bait on the bottom?  Gyozadude

Date: September 19, 2001; To; PFIC Message Board; From: Jason chin; Subject: Dumbarton

I tell you man keep going to Dumbarton. That pier will pay off. It is one of the best piers anywhere around here for sturgeon. Put in those few hours there would be your best bet. I only went to that pier for I’d say about two years rarely fishing any other spots before I had a boat. I’ve landed more sturgeon consistently there than any other spot from shore or pier. Jason “bayrunner”

Leopard shark caught by Thomos Orosco in 2006

Date: September 24, 2001; To: PFIC Message Board; From: gyozadude; Subject: Leopards at Dumbarton

Dumbarton pier seems to produce some consistent catches of leopards. Every time I’ve gone, I’ve seen someone hauling up a leopard or two or three, usually near the end of the pier. A legal keeper might be few and far between, but there are quite a few caught and quite a few keepers as well. Live grass shrimp, fresh grass shrimp, squid, cut mackerel or anchovy are all good baits if you can find them. Getting enough bait on a big 7/0 hook is one thing. Another is to cast it as far off the end as you can “into the channel” everyone talks about. Another thing is timing. The best times seem to be in the hour just before or after the top or bottom of a high or low tide.

Date: November 13, 2001; To: PFIC Message Board; From: aarondaar; Subject: Dumbarton: Sun 11/11 (late report)

Arrived at my usual time of high noon. Blustery day, threatening clouds, but stayed dry! There was a wide-open bite of 7-gill in the morning, according to some others. Saw 8 of them walk off the pier with their proud owners. Didn’t measure them myself, but they seemed to be up to 3 feet in length. Saw a just-undersized leopard shark caught. The outgoing tide was creating a very strong current, flood tide… Most people were using ghost shrimp, but a few were using mackerel chunks and squid. Not sure what caught the 7-gills…

Myself? I was totally prepared for “the skunk.” It seems that most of the decent fish are caught in the mornings at Dumbarton… I lost one of my wire sturgeon rigs to a snag. Used my last rig with some ghost shrimp. After about half-hour, I decided to check bait and noticed slack. As I reeled in, the line stopped and rod started to bend. I assumed that I snagged so just kept reeling. Then line started peeling out with my pole bent hard. Fish was about 40 feet out and started to circle…. Everyone around me started giving conflicting advice. “Sturgeon!” “Let it run.” “Bring it in!”.. I didn’t think it was a sturgie, because it was circling instead of just swimming straight out.

Anyway, after a 10 minute battle, it turned out to be a large bat ray. The current was so strong that even though I had him at the surface and unable to swim, the pole was bent hard! Whew!!!! Unfortunately, I left the crab net in the car assuming someone else had one…sigh… Another pier rat had a rope with a hook on it and managed to snag my wire leader… About a 33” wingspan. Weighed it at home and it came to about 25 lbs. Is this about right? I was using a postage meter and it was very difficult to get an accurate reading. Fried some up… Wonderful texture, but the taste was a bit ‘fishy’. I’ll read the archives for some tips on cooking… I did bleed it and ice it right away, though… For the record, that’s the last bat ray I intend to keep. They are just such a beautiful creature, I was feeling bad later…especially when I found out they don’t taste like halibut!!! :) Cheers, Aaron

Bat ray caught by Thomas Tran in 2004

 Posted by Songslinger

Nice Report Yes, the 33″ and 25# are on the mark. Bat rays are amazing. I’m constantly surprised when I reel in a monster after a good fight: it’s usually smaller than I’d fantasized. Currents really can step up the action and the challenge. I’ve experienced rays that rested while riding the current. I’m still fighting and they’re taking a break. At Fort Baker, three of those in a row will have you thinking about calling it a day. Seems like Dumbarton is the place to be for a good battle these days. Ah, that south bay mud!

Date: December 9, 2001; To: PFIC Message Board; From: jason chin; Subject: 2 tricks

Landing sturgeon from a pier/platform. The pier is by far the hardest place to land large sturgeon. Barnacle covered pilings, weaving in and out of lines, and a strong current on top of everything else. Couple of things I noticed: The braided lines in this situation I believe prevail over mono. Heavy braid 65 and up is great in this situation because at the last minute you can really put a stop to that fish from going under. I save the light tackle for the boat. You just can’t stop em’ sometimes from going under but this will help.

Snaring fish. The only way I’ll try to get any sturgeon 46” on up off a pier is with a snare on a rope. Like striperkiller is describing, mine consists of a lasso made from a bike lock-up cable. One end goes through a loop so if you pull it cinches down. A heavy-duty paper-clip attached keeps the loop open while I drop it down before I’m ready to set it. So know sturgy is laying down at the edge of the pier looking like he/she is ready to be hoisted up. Too many times have I seen the snare go down and the instant it hits the fishes nose disaster, the fish thrashes a little more and now you have a tangled line crossed around a snare that you have to fix while your chances look slimmer and slimmer. I drop it down first before I lace it around the pole and get that shock out of em’ let them do there thing and then it’s time. Slide it around the butt of your rod and just like Joe said once it’s pass the first fins set it. Loosen your drag so in case it slips out on the way up you still have a chance. Which has happened to me with my drag locked down and oops SNAP. One time we had one around 65” off Dumbarton and the first snare went down but the fish moved and it was too late it was snared around the tail. This is not a good way to hoist em’ up because the weight of the belly hanging down could make ‘em slip out. Not to worry we dropped another one down and got that one around the head and pulled ‘em up with two snares.

Date: January 4, 2002; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Nufo; Subject: Dumbarton Pier 1/04/02

Fished Dumbarton from 1pm till 5:40pm. Catch: 1 skate on Pile Shrimp. Other anglers catch: two skates, one 54” Sturgeon on squid which I landed with my new sturgeon snare (home made at OSH). Heard of two other sturgeon caught the day before on squid as well (both shakers) along with the sturgeon caught on squid next to me on Christmas Eve. Must be a big school of squid in for some reason it seems to be the hot bait out there. Slider rig with sturgeon leader. Not sure if it was whole are partial squid. I have been making my own sturgeon/shark leaders for some time now and it’s much cheaper and stronger than any other store bought rig. Not to mention it’s very easy. Nufo

Date: January 15, 2002; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Nufo; Subject: Dumbarton 

An average of one stugeon a day for the entire pier. Best bait has been squid but don’t count out herring or shrimp. Sharking has been slow with a few skates still being caught. I believe Dumbarton is a good bet right now and fishing off the end and casting towards the channel seems to be the best. Make sure you bring a sturgeon snare. Nufo

Date: May 18, 2003; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Nufo; Subject: Dumbarton Pier 5/17/03

Caught the shuttle at 12:30pm. Me and my Nephew got to the end of the pier to find we had the pier all to ourselves. Baited up my two big rods with whole herring and 12/0 circle hooks and cast them out to the middle of the channel. Let my nephew fish my steelhead rod with a hi/low and squid strips. With in minutes my nephew nails a nice 30” leopard shark. 20 minutes later my nephew’s rod doubles over again. Another leopard this time about 26”s. Then he goes on to nail two bat rays around 10-15 lbs and two seven gills around 14”. I ended up catching a 35” seven gill and then another one around 12”. Both on squid and 12/0 circle hooks. I also lost a nice leopard at the pier after which I sharpened my circle hooks and caught the two seven gills. It was a great day in the sun despite the wind. We had the pier to ourselves and the only person we came across out there was Barry the ranger who was very friendly, as he made sure my nephew was handling his own rod. Nothings better than seeing the eyes of a 7 year old light up as his rod doubles over. I don’t even mind the fact that he out fished me 3 to 1. It just goes to show my teaching skills. Nufo

Shovelnose shark (guitarfish) in 2009

Date: September 12, 2003; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Rock Hopper; Subject: Dumbarton Pier 9-11

Fished the pier yesterday afternoon from about 3:00PM ’til 5:00PM. Weather was beautiful, with very little wind. I wished I wore shorts! Fished about 20 yards from the platform on the south side of the pier. Squid on sliding sinkers yielded two nice bites, but no hook ups. Saw 5 or 6 little leopards landed from the platform, and one little one landed by a gentleman fishing the very beginning of the pier on the north side. The cats down on the platform said they had caught a 3’ 7-gill and 3 or 4 little ones… the most 7-gills they had seen in one day, and you could tell these dudes were regulars. They released the 7-gill in hopes that the fish gods would reward them with a sturgee this year…. which by the way we all saw a HUGE one jump out in the middle of the channel. Fished the platform for about twenty minutes, but the tide was rippin’ out of there and I had to use two 4-oz banana sinkers to barely hold bottom. Next time I’ll bring some 6-oz pyramids.  RöćK HòppéR – Thë Jẽ††Ỹ Jùnký

Date: January 27, 2004; To: PFIC Message Board; From: jason chin; Subject: More sturgeon fun!

Hey guys…Checking in. Here’s some more stuff that might help.

1) Keep it simple. I use a slider/bead/swivel and attach a 14” leader of 50-lb. mono w/two stationary hooks. Simple. No egg weights, no colored bead art project, no extra crap. Nothing. Keep it simple.

2) Good bait you change often. Get your bait and spend the money for the good stuff. If you don’t have the money don’t fish and expect to be successful. CHANGE OFTEN. Check your line, don’t get lazy. If there are crabs, around every 5 minutes I change it. 3 or 4 oz. shrimp or 1 lb. just for myself is not unheard of when crabs or junkfish are thick.

3) Put your time in. Yup I’m sure you heard it before. You know how much I’ve sacrificed to do what I do. Lost quite a few girlfriends, quite a few dollars, but that’s what I do, and what I choose to do. You won’t catch me putting them back at the bar (like most of my other buddies) till 2AM, most likely I’ll be leaving w/rod and reel at 2AM. Sacrifice… this isn’t an easy thing. And yes I did this employed, but fishing before and after work with no sleep was a normal thing. Fishing is WORK if you want to be successful. If you don’t have time sturgeon fishing is not recommended. Trout fishing can be exciting;)

4) The big hint. You guys want a sturgeon? Go to Dumbarton Pier. It’s loaded w/sturgeon right now. I’m catching fish this past week out of that same side of the channel that runs right by the pier. THE SAME TRAVELLING LANE. and have been for the past 4 weeks now and know that region well enough to know they’re coming by the pier. If you’re not seeing any caught you guys are not fishing it correctly. Don’t want to use Crew and crew (U know I love all you guys, constructive criticism) as an example but check it. “Fished Dumbarton too many people in the corner of lower platform so had to fish 20 feet back” Not OK there’s two spots to catch sturgeon there and you need to get up EARLY and go get em if you want a fish. Even if the tide isn’t good until noon you need to claim the spots so you’re in position for the right time. Can’t emphasize how crucial this really is. You guys only fished 3 hours, not long enough in my book. Right after you left someone could’ve grabbed one. That outgo has been very productive. I’ve posted about the “EXACT” spot you should be casting. GDude even drew a detailed map that’s in the archives for both spots the top (which I actually prefer) and the bottom corner. Those are the two spots that give up sturgeon and if you see a sturgeon caught anywhere but those two spots. Blind luck, trust me but I’ve seen it happen. BTW fillet of herring/grass shrimp combo has been doing it for me. Don’t waste a rod using anchovies if you’re “targeting” sturgeon. There are fish at this pier year round and am surprised you guys are so turned off by it. I believe one of the most consistent producers in all the bay area. I learned the whole game at this pier, I suggest some of you struggling if you really want to learn do the same.

If you don’t have the time or the effort sturgeon fishing isn’t for you. Honestly. Hours upon hours like I said sacrifice. If you really want it bad, you make time. And for those of you that think it’s silly or extreme I give up all this stuff just for fishing. Don’t expect to be successful.

I say again I’m not on anyone’s side or picking on anyone. I love you all. Put’ em in and get one. Hope this helps. Can’t fish today so I guess I gotta talk about it. See what I mean?  Jason “bayrunner”

Striped Bass — 2005

Date: February 29, 2004; To: PFIC Message Board; From: ben; Subject: (In reply to: Newbie Needs Advice – Dumbarton Pier posted by peilien on Feb-29-04)

I used to fish Dumbarton almost 3 to 4 days a week in 2001… the regulars there use mostly braided line.. 80 to 100 lb..main line and 100-150 leader. We mostly used the Kahle hooks in a 4/0 5/0 variety but i stuck with Gamakatsu 8/0 octopus. 2-3 foot leader and 8-10 oz pyramids. I used to go to San Jose and buy at least a dozen ghost shrimp (wrap with magic string) and a tray of quality herring (when putting the herring on we would mostly fillet it then thread it on the hook and hold it down with magic string). I used a 13-foot Kencor with a Stella 16000 (first series) loaded with 100-lb Berkeley whiplash and a 11-foot Kencor with a Fin Nor Ahab 20 loaded with 65-lb braid… the 65-lb held better with 8-oz more than the 100-lb with 10 oz. when the current rips through there is one of the best times to fish it but I have seen them catch when there is little or no movement. I caught my first sturgie there after a year of trying… so be patient… hope it helps

Posted by gyozadude

Good advice, here too, but…I’d probably go with a beefy 7 ft. rod to start with. Pilings aren’t as big a problem at Dumbarton as is the current. More leverage to fight the fish is well worth the extra 3 ft. of rod tip length to try to feebly keep it away from the pilings. The trick is to play out the fish before letting come close. I’ve seen pros like ‘Slinger and Eelmaster lose fish at the MMD with longer rods. I wouldn’t take the long rod advice to heart.

Carry 8-oz spider or pyramid weights with you, 6/0 hooks for rays, sharks, sturgeon. The smaller hooks let you keep smallish sharks.

Check UPSAC pier survey URL for bait/species list. Ken’s pier archive has a more definitive list as does his book. I stopped bringing anchovies to Dumbarton.

Again, check out the UPSAC Pier Survey form for Dumbarton, It lists Bob’s Liquor as the closest. You can call Bob ahead of time to check his bait availability. It’s about 1 hour closer during commute hours on I-880.

Dumbarton is concrete with wood railings, even the lower end section. See photo. BTW, you don’t need to fish that section only, just near the end. Again, if folks can check the msgboard archives, this will provide more accurate information on Dumbarton.

I’d like to emphasize that information may be plenty and folks may want to be helpful, but it doesn’t serve the self-reliant angler much to get information of a debatable nature when only you know what you may or may not like. I assume you intend to actually catch fish at Dumbarton :-) . Otherwise, apologies for getting you to read all this.

Brown smoothhound shark caught by Thomos Orosco in 2005

Posted by Dude Wheres My Fish

Welcome to the Board—1. Any Surf Rod that is 10ft and above gives you an advantage when fishing piers because you have more leverage over the fish when the fish gets near the piling. Boat rods rated over 50lbs is not a good choice. Freshwater rods will work if you target smaller fish. You should start out with a spinning reel, and put some mono line on there, the cheapest you can find, I recommend you don’t buy line that is rated over 30lbs. The spinning reel should at least have 75 yards of line on it.

2. Dumbarton has swift moving currents so you want weights over 5oz and you can get sinkers with tail ends that you can bend so the weight will stay on the bottom longer. For hooks 3/0 is a standard size and will accommodate almost all pier species, eagle claw snelled hooks are best when you don’t want to tie your own hooks.

3. A two ring hoop net around 36inches in diameter with at least 25ft of rope is best for hauling up fish that are too big to pull up by hand.

4. A small towel to wipe your hands with, bar of soup to remove bait smell, and a tackle box and fill it with extra hooks, terminal tackle like swivels and a spool of extra line.

5. Anchovy is the universal bait, almost anything will bite anchovy. Frozen anchovy you can cut into chunks and stick them on your hook.

6. Walmart is an excellent place to buy gear, they have quality gear at excellent prices. If you can find what your looking for you can either shop online or go to discount tackle shops in your area, the cheapest place I know in the bay area is Fishery Supply in San Jose on Story Rd.

7. If you’re located near Dumbarton TNT in Hayward has a wide selection of frozen and live baits, if your old enough to drive a trip to Fishery Supply is well worth it.

8. Dumbarton is a very long pier so you shouldn’t have any problems getting a spot to fish from. The wooden section at the end of the pier is crowded on weekends so if you want a place at the wooden section come early or fish weekdays when people usually have to work.

Leopard shark — 2006

Posted by pescare

Good advice here. I would suggest one change though, regarding the line. When looking at the money you’ll spend for everything you need, saving just a few dollars on line is not worth it. Get some decent stuff and give yourself some peace of mind. When you can get something like Berkeley Big Game for about $6 or less, it doesn’t make much of a dent in your budget over some crappy $2.99 stuff.  Ed

Date: October 7, 2004; To: PFIC Message Board; From: FakeFisherman; Subject: Dumbarton pier shark fishing

Fished the Dumbarton pier this morning (10/7) for a few hours. Not much action for about an hour, then I caught and released a small sevengill. 30 mins later, about an hour and a half before high tide, BOOM, my pole bends. I had the drag set tighter than normal and I could’ve sworn it was a bat ray taking off since there was no bite at all before the hook up. Well I’m reeling this thing in as it’s working my drag, still thinking it’s a big ray, but when I get it close to the pier it’s a big leopard! It tried to run under the pier and I was praying it wouldn’t wrap around a piling but I was able to get it back in front of me. Got it up with my crab net (I always bring it “just in case” I hook into that big one). Measured it at 46”, weighed it at just over 14# on my digital scale and took some pics. I was gonna release it but I asked the other guy who was there if he wanted it and he did. I’ve seen him keep leopards before and he doesn’t even bleed them, but says they still taste good on the bbq. Hmmm.

Caught and released only one more small sevengill but that big leopard made my day. My biggest one yet! I was using my cheap 9′ Alpha rod (those $19 ones), 50# braided line, a 6/0 sturgeon rig and big chunks of mackerel. Some other guys who showed up only caught a couple small sevengills. All in all it was a fun day.

Date: January 16, 2005; To: PFIC Message Board; From: tranbaby2; Subject: Dumbarton pier perching

Headed out to Dumbarton after work today. Headed to the end platform to try for some pile and grass shrimp. Hardly a handful for the hour and a half I tried and nobody was catching fish. Got a call from FakeFisherman saying he’s at the base of the pier and waiting for me. Met him there and cast out hi/lo’s w/shrimp pieces. Had a few hard bites but none stuck. A few guys already had 2-3 on stringers. One guy next to us gets a bat ray type of pull and his rod is shaking. Pulls it up and it’s a nice 12” barred perch. Fakefisherman got the next one, a good looking barred as well. Nothing for a while and then I get a nice big hit, turns out to be an 10 3/4 inch barred. Kinda chubby too. After a while of on and off bites w/ no hook-sets, I get another nice hard hit. This one is nice also, 10 ¼” and looks real shiny. Wanted to get a 3rd before I left but only managed another nibble. Left at 5 pm. Nice weather and sunset to go along with the day.

Sevengill shark — 2004

Date: October 8, 2006; To: PFIC Message Board; From: vnny; Subject: Dumbarton Pier

Fished on Saturday from 7:40 AM to 6:00 PM. Tide was extremely low when we arrived, but there was water near the end of the pier. A large fishing event took place from 7 to 12 but of the near 80 people on the pier, not a single fish was caught. As tides started to rise, currents began to pick up. We swapped our 2 oz sinkers to 5 oz pyramids, but couldn’t keep the lines out (we fished parallel to the pier due to the crowding) The current combined with the massive flow of seaweed made fishing with hi-lo rigs near impossible and was sure to give the learners trouble as well. By noon the pier was nearly deserted, and we claimed the turret near the end of the pier. Using shrimp on a sliding rig we caught a 14-in striper (released of course) and four undersized leopards. Also fished a Bucktail/Kastmaster with steady retrieve across the pier near the pilings. I could see striper chase it to the surface then dash downwards as it neared the top–yeah there are striperw here alright. A couple anglers around us caught rays and smoothounds on cut anchovies; one guy landed a large smelt further up the pier. Lost a jig + some sinkers and came home empty-handed … but we’ll be ready next time.

Some tips:

- 2 rods per person

- There are pre-drilled rodholder holes on the sides near the end of the pier and on the turret extension of the pier

- Overhead casting OK

- Forget Sabikis, flapper rigs, boom extension rigs

- You will need a landing net if using semi-light tackle (our rods are 6″-7″ spooled with 10# line)

- Most people’s lines will be moved to face outwards from the pier when the current is strong

- Not many perch/staghorn to use as live bait, but if you throw a fine mesh net under the pier during the current you’ll find shrimp

- Careful to keep the jig off the ground when jigging near the pilings–the bottom is muddy but there’s stuff there

- Bring a sweater

The final visit of the year for red fish

Date: January 1, 2008; To: PFIC Message Board; From: red fish; Subject: Dumbarton Pier

Went to Dumbarton Pier yesterday as a ‘last-ditch-effort’ for sturgeon of 2007 before the New Year…. Sturgeon has been a difficult proposition from shore this last year. It has been more difficult than I have ever experienced since I started fishing in the winter and not just hanging up my pole in the cold as I used to do about (10) years ago around this time until spring begun. I have been hitting a (few) areas over the months since the sturgeon punch-card was put into effect this past March, and I have really one hooked and one measured 42′ for my release box. I had one shaker to start off ’07 before the card came about, and the one good one of 64.5 last Dec. 3… So, on the bright-side, fellas, I have been doing my share to preserve the fishery, LOL ;-) I was going to fish in San Pablo Bay at Pt. Pinole or at Eckley’s, but something told me to get up off my bass, and make the trip to Dumbarton where the boaters have been gettin’ ‘em (a few) nearby at the train-bridge and the power-lines. I had a nice drive and a late afternoon of serenity. A couple anglers were leaving (skunked) upon my arrival at around 2:30p to get an early start on New Year’s Eve. I get to the end of the pier (the only place there was water at that time) to see a couple guys fishing. I was joined by another guy that arrived maybe 20 seconds behind me that I shared the lower right hand deck of the pier with. We all fished hard with whatever baits you can think of for sturgeon (minus herring) and traditional rigs, cast far, the whole-ball-of-wax, with a couple nibbles and a big slice of skunk for all…. I was the last to walk off before the gate closed at 6pm. Matty, I think I will try for my 7-Gill which (seems like it has got to be a whole lot easier than sturgeon at this moment). I have decided that, or 1.) take up fresh-water fishing 2.) sell my gear and take up golf ;-)

Date: March 14, 2008; To: PFIC Message Board; From: pierrat80; Subject: Dumbarton Pier

I fished from 6:30am to about 3:00pm with ghost shrimp for one small Leo @ 24″ or so. I had a couple more bites through out the day, most likely sharks. People been telling me that at least a sturgeon a day has been caught out there for the last few weeks, but I have yet to hook in to one. Bad luck or something. Oh, about 9:00am I looked over the railing of the pier, and there were millions of red things swimming in the water; I figured it was some type of shrimp. I dropped my net down to see what they were and it was a swarm of small bloodworms.  Bloodworms for sure ‘cuz one of the little buggers bit me. It was crazy, never seen or heard of anything like it. Riding the current in little bait ball style. Well it lasted for about an hour. I just have to say, the pier in the morning is great. Everybody out there is very respectful, and polite. No one really crowds you or fishes on top of you. Afternoons… a whole different story.

San Mateo Bridge

History Note. This area has an interesting history. The name Dumbarton Point itself apparently dates to 1876 when it was named after Dumbarton, Scotland. About the same time, Origin Mowry established a successful landing on the deep slough just south of Dumbarton Point.

Railroads also played a part in the growth of the area when the narrow-gauge Santa Clara Valley Railroad was bought by James Fair, James Flood and Alfred “Hog” Davis. They renamed the line the South Pacific Coast Railroad, extended the railroad from Dumbarton Point to Santa Cruz, and eventually offered daily commute service north to the Alameda Pier. In addition, people could catch the railroad’s ferry Newark, which ran daily trips from Dumbarton Point to San Francisco. Eventually that railroad was bought by Southern Pacific and this area became one of the busiest freight junctions in California.

The original “Dumbarton Bridge” was the Dumbarton Cutoff Railroad Trestle Bridge. The train bridge was constructed between 1908 and 1909 at the shallow part of the bay between Dumbarton Point and the Palo Alto area. It was the first bridge across the bay and carried six to eight freight trains daily between 1910 and 1982.

However, the real “Dumbarton Bridge,” the one that served as the precursor to today’s Dumbarton Bridge—and this pier—was an iconic bridge that opened on January 15, 1927. It was the first bridge to allow automobiles to cross San Francisco Bay and was, until 1929 when the San Mateo Bridge opened, the longest highway bridge in the world. Unfortunately, the bridge was only two lanes wide, was built close to the water, and was a drawbridge. As with most drawbridges, long backups in traffic could occur when a boat decided to travel under the bridge. It was also a toll bridge with users paying the grand sum 40¢ each way.

Built by private funds (the Dumbarton Bridge Company), the bridge was partially rebuilt in the 1940s to deal with increased traffic. In 1951 the state bought the bridge for $2.26 million dollars.

By the ‘60s, it was obvious that the old bridge needing either an expansion or needed to be rebuilt as a larger bridge. The latter option proved more feasible and in the ‘70s the state began planning a new bridge.

In December 1984 a new Dumbarton Bridge opened (at a cost of 74 million dollars), one that was four lanes wide and high off the water. The bottlenecks seemed at an end. Users now paid a toll 75¢ to help defray the costs of the bridge.

In 1989, as a result of the temporary closing of the San Francisco—Oakland Bay Bridge (due to the Loma Prieta earthquake), the bridge was restriped to accommodate six lanes of traffic. Unfortunately the widening of the approaches wasn’t completed until July 2003 (at a cost of $200 million); one result was new traffic congestion, especially during rush hours. The toll, westbound only, as of 2010 was $5.

Although the middle section of the old bridge was blown up in 1984, farsighted individuals had seen a use for both end sections. The eastern end of the bridge became the Dumbarton Fishing Pier, the western end became the Ravenswood Fishing Pier.

Looking back, many wharves and piers dotted the South Bay during the second half of the 19th Century. One was near the mouth of Alameda Creek where, in 1850, John Horner bought land and built several piers and warehouses; eventually the area became Union City.

                                                Dumbarton Pier Facts

Hours: Open daily from 6 A.M. to 8:30 P.M. except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.  [The road to the pier is closed from April 1 to August 31 but a free shuttle runs from the Visitor Center to the pier at 9 A.M. and 12:30 P.M. The shuttle picks up returning anglers at 12:45 and 5:15— checking on this, not sure if still true] Reservations for the shuttle are advised (510-792-4275).

Facilities: Free parking is located at the foot of the pier. Portable toilets will be found at several spots on the pier. Fish cleaning stations, benches and windbreaks are found on the pier. There are no facilities for bait and tackle or food.

Handicapped Facilities: None specifically although the pier’s surface is blacktop and easily used by wheelchair. The railing is approximately 42 inches high.

How To Get There: From I880 take Highway 84 west to the Paseo Padre Parkway exit; follow the exit and road south back under the highway, the road will turn into Thornton Avenue; follow it till you see the signs on your right indicating both the visitor center for the wildlife refuge and the pier; after entering the refuge, follow the road three miles to the pier.

Management: U.S. Department of the Interior/Fish and Wildlife Service.


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5 Responses to Dumbarton Pier

  1. Martin says:

    Is this pier open for fishing?

  2. Ben Logan says:

    I tried it for the first time last night, arriving 45 minutes before sundown. It’s a long walk out there so bring something with wheels. There were probably 15 rods in the water when I got down there, so plenty of room to fish. Just trying frozen Mackerel on two rods, I pulled up a leopard shark within 25 minutes. It was about 2 feet long. While I was there, two other were reeled up, slightly smaller Grass shrimp, some small crabs and some bullhead were being pulled up on-the-reg with shrimp nets using quartered raw chicken. Tide was very low and outgoing. The pier closes at sundown, but I guess you don’t get kicked off until 11. The lanterns were being fired up as we walked off 20 minutes after sundown. The water looks pretty polluted, with plenty of floating trash. But the sunset was pretty. I was surprised to see sea lions so deep in the bay. No running water but portopotties at the end.(didn’t even peek into them) Wind is always strong there in the afternoon, but mellowed when the sun set.

  3. Twintert says:

    Today people are catching smelt, rays, strippers and sharks

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