Visitor Comments and Letters - October '97

These messages have been edited. Although I feel the content is of interest, Iwant to provide as much privacy as possible to the various people who have takentime to comment. Let me know if you feel this is an interesting page. KJ

Date: October 1, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Boyd Grant
Subject: "The good old days"

Ken -

Thought you might be interested in this ... I copied it from the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation's web site:

Here's the text:

A local fisherman poses behind a single night's catch of sharks at Santa Cruz Fisherman's wharf late summer 1946. It isn't like it used to be. The catch includes a 900 lb. white shark several thresher sharks and three soupfins. The sharks were caught on long lines baited with mackerel and sardines. According to the old school fisherman there were more and bigger everything back in the days. Basking sharks were all over the place and 1000 lb mola-molas were common.

Still looking for the reference on the black seabass caught at Sterns Wharf.


Looks interesting, I'll put it on the next Games 'n Things page.

Date: October 8, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Mike Katz
Subject: Fish

Yesterday afternoon a young fellow came out to Stearns Wharf with a light rod and reel. He purchased a bag of salted anchovies from me and went out toward the end of the wharf. About one hour later someone came into the shop and said that they needed my landing net out there. I grabbed
the net and took off to see what was up.

32", 14 lb. Halibut was what was up! Six pound test line, two little split shots and a number 4 hook at the end with a salted anchovy on it.

The fellow said that he was used to fishing in lakes and streams in the mountains and had never fished the ocean before.



Thanks for the info., I'll put it into the next report.


Date: October 9, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Ben Szu
Subject: Hello

Ken, I was very surprised to see my name and reports in your reports section this month. I didn't think you would actually put my info on there. It felt weird to see my name there. Anyways, I went to Crystal pier last week and forgot to e-mail you. I went late afternoon and landed some undersized bass again, lots of smelt around, and some croaker, most relatively small. I saw a lot of white sea bass, 2-3 of them. The biggest I saw was about 20 inches. But what was really exciting was someone hooking a very good size shovelnose shark, I'd say 3.5-4 feet. He was using medium size pieces of mackerel. It put up a really good fight, and when it got to the surface, the whole pier was there watching, but the line snapped, what a shame. I didn't go this week but today I went deep sea fishing of Point Loma in the morning 1/2 day trip. Caught 1 bonito and 2 yellowtails. Man do they put up a good fight. But I'll probably go pier fishing next week, maybe Shelter Island. I'll let you know how it goes.



Thanks for the report. I'm still hoping you get that big halibut.


Date: October 9, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: "Lee, Jeannie"
Subject: fishing help


My name's Jeannie and my friend and I want to take up fishing as our new hobby. I was wondering if you could help us get started. We think we want to go clear-water fishing (Is that what it's called?) because it's easier than salt water fishing. We hope to gradually graduate to salt-water fishing, but that's later. Anyways, I was wondering if you knew of any places where we could fish in Southern California. San Diego is kinda too far south, so do you know of any places that are north of San Diego and not too far from Ontario or Los Angeles, California? I heard of some place called Anaheim Lake, but just by word of mouth-- I don't know where it is. Have you heard of this place? Anyways, I'd appreciate any suggestions that you can give. Thank you for your time. --Jeannie

P.S. Great web site!

Hi Jeannie,

I wish I could help you but I really can't; I'm strictly a saltwater fisherman. However, several of the newspapers down there run fish reports once or twice a week where they discuss fishing at the local lakes. You might also check out the Hunting and Fishing News magazine or similar magazines. They tell what's biting and often have maps showing where the various lakes are located.

But before you go to the lakes, check out a pier. Pier fishing is one of the simplest forms of fishing, doesn't require any fancy gear and doesn't even require a license. There are many, many piers in Southern California and just as many "regulars" out on the piers who would be happy to give you tips on how to get started. The thing to do is start with a pier and then graduate up to party boat fishing -- although you might just become a "pier rat" and forsake the "big time" angling.

Best wishes and sorry I can't help you out.

Ken Jones, The Pier Fisherman

Dear Ken,

Thanks for the reply. Perhaps I'll take your advice and try pier fishing!
-- Jeannie

Date: October 10, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Mike Mutze
Subject: Fishing

I'm heading over to Disneyland early next year & I'd like to do a spot of fishing while I'm over there. Could you direct me to some web sites or information on charter boats. I like light tackle game fishing - anything with a good pull & a few beers.

If you can help I'd be most grateful - its my first trip to the US & don't know the local layout that well - so any tips on where to pull in a few big ones would be great.


Mike Mutze, Toowoomba : Queensland : Australia


What I would suggest is that you check out the action at Newport Beach. It's just a short drive down a major freeway (highway) and offers several different options.

Best bet would be to try a trip on a partyboat out of Davey's Locker. They have good boats and crews and have had good success this year (although it is seasonal). It's hard to tell what's going to happen with El Nino taking place but their boats are still catching some good tuna.

They also have charter boats, and skiff rentals if you'd like to try some fishing in the bay (and the bay fishing in Newport Bay can be excellent -- although on mostly small species. They're a good operation, one I have tried several times, and one I would recommend.

You can check them out at their website:

Of course there are also a lot of piers available within a short distance of Disneyland (including two at Newport Beach) but you're not likely to catch anything all that big.

Hope this helps a little bit!

You might also check out some of the sites on my links page -- especially the fish reports and Johnny's Fish Report.

Best wishes and hope you have a GREAT time.

Ken Jones, The Pier Fisherman

Date: October 13, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Kevin Cheung
Subject: Tackle

Hi Ken,

Thanks for your e-mail! Once again, I really enjoy your web site. I have a question about your book. Does your book teach how to tie knots and hooks? Does it show different tackle for different fishes? Also, what's the difference between spincast, spinning and casting reels?

Kevin Cheung

Hi Kevin,

Yes, my book has a section which shows how to tie a number of different knots.

As for tackle! There are hundreds of different reels on the market and most are fairly good quality, especially if you buy from a quality line of reels such as Penn, Shimano, Daiwa, etc.

I never use spincast reels; I used them a couple of times when I was very young and found them to be unreliable. There are some better brands, but even those I don't recommend. I think most spincasting reels are designed for the beginning fisherman and that all are really designed with fresh water fishing in mind, not salt water.

Spinning reels are probably the most common reels for light and medium tackle fishing in salt water. There are many good brands and are designed to handle both lures and weights up to 5-6 ounces (the heavier reels). They are fine for almost any type of pier fishing.

Casting reels are especially good for situations where you are using heavy sinkers and/or are fishing for large fish. Most boat fisherman who are fishing on the bottom with a weight will use a casting reel. Although it takes more practice to learn, casting reels can also cast as well, if not better, than a spinning reel. But again, it takes a lot of practice and the back lashes (snarls) scare away many anglers before they have mastered the art of casting with a casting reel.

The key to all of this is to buy a good quality reel and then practice and practice casting until you're good at it. As for myself, I typically use two outfits when I visit a pier. One is a light tackle spinning outfit, the other is a medium tackle spinning outfit. Both reels are Penn reels that are metal and will take a lot of wear and abuse (although I take good care of my reels). When I target bigger fish like sharks and sturgeon, or am fishing where I need a lot of weight, I use a casting reel.

The best thing you should do is find a good bait and tackle shop and ask questions until you feel comfortable with your tackle - and then continue to give that shop your business. It's amazing how much you can learn from the experts at a good shop.

Best wishes and hoped this helped, Ken

Date: October 16, 1997
From: Ken Jones
Subject: Pier Fishing

Anyone out there been doing any pier fishing? Been having a hard time getting reports for the various S.F. Bay piers. If you have any information please send me a message.

Ken Jones, The Pier Fisherman



Date: October 17, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Harry Swanson /Matagorda County Economic Development Corp.
Subject: Fishing Piers as an Economic Development Tool

I am working with the local chamber of commerce on the cost/benefit and feasibility analysis of a fishing pier on the Texas Coast. Found your web page and looks like you are a knowledgeable person about fishing piers. I would appreciate any assistance that you could provide on the construction cost, and the economic return of fishing piers. Liked your web page.

Mr. Swanson,

I wish I could answer your questions and give you some hard data but most of my information is anecdotal in nature and may, or may not, be of use. But, I'll try to give you a little information.

  1. The economic impact of piers depends on a number of factors and thus can vary from town to town. As a general rule, piers offer aesthetic, recreational, and economic benefits to most communities. Fishing piers. designed mainly for recreation, are used by a plethora of groups, many with little interest in fishing. They're great for a stroll, a place to clear the mind, or a meeting place for romantic liaisons -- you name it. As for the fishing, the public piers in California are populated primarily by the young, the elderly, the poor, minorities, and increasingly, the handicapped. In my eyes, piers serve as a democratizing force among our diverse society.

    Of course that scares some people and there have been a few towns where the "town fathers" were bothered by the antics of the "common" fishermen. A prime example is Newport Beach, California where there was a somewhat nasty attempt to limit the rights of fishermen to use the local (and famous) pier. The fishermen were seen as dirty and messy -- and fish guts and blood can disturb some people. Of interest to your specific question however would be the fact that no one wanted to get rid of the pier, all agreed it was an important asset for the community, with or without fishermen.

    Almost all towns agree that piers, especially the larger piers, provide an economic stimulus to the area and the city. Bait and tackle shops, restaurants, and other businesses seem to spring up around most piers -- but not all. Much of this depends on the size of the pier. Small piers, built solely for angling, offer the esthetics and recreation, but may have a minimal impact on other aspects of the community. California has over 100 public piers and each offers its own unique answer to your question.

  2. I do not have construction costs but I can offer a source of assistance. In California, two agencies are primarily responsible for pier building and repair. The Wildlife Conservation Board, part of the California Department of Fish and Game, was for many years the prime shaker and mover in this area. In simple terms, they would agree to fund 50% of a pier project when cities and towns proposed and could come up with the money for a pier. In exchange, the city had to agree to make the pier a Public Pier where anglers could have free access (and no fishing license is required). In some cases this was done for new pier projects; in many instances money was used to rebuild or repair piers damaged by winter storms. The program continues to today although the board's role has decreased somewhat.

    In the last few years, the California State Coastal Conservancy has taken an increasingly active role in pier preservation and building. This organization today oversees many of the pier projects and acts as sort of a coordinator between the various groups. For instance, they will try to find funding for a town that is proposing a pier project, and then work to convince the WCB to go along with the project. Thus, their job is a little different than that of the WCB. Whatever the case, the two organizations have done a pretty impressive job during the past ten years -- a time of tight money for almost every government agency.
    I'm sure both agencies would be of tremendous help if you contacted them. The addresses are:

Wildlife Conservation Board
P.O. Box 944209
Sacramento, Ca 94244-2090

State Coastal Conservancy
Urban Waterfronts Program
1330 Broadway, Suite 1100
Oakland, Ca 94612

I'm could go on for hours but I'm sure you can feel my attachment to the piers. I think they are an important source of recreation and one of the best values for government funding of recreational projects.

Best wishes and continued success with your project,

Ken Jones, The Pier Fisherman

Date: October 20, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Boyd Grant
Subject: October Report


Well I guess the summer is officially over and things are slowing down a bit at the piers -- at least at Gaviota and Goleta. Visited both this week several times during the high tides and the best I could do was only a couple of shorts (a 15" and a 12" halibut at Gaviota - still a lot of bait in the water tho - small smelts) and 20 mackerel and 10 jacksmelt at Goleta. The week before I caught a 21" halibut at Goleta. But the number of strikes have diminished considerably.

I heard rumors at Goleta on Sunday of a 37" halibut and several legal white sea bass but was unable to confirm either - I think they must have been referring to some of the catches I mentioned in my last report.

Recently I have been puzzled why even mackerel wouldn't take some of the frozen anchovy I had been using until I smelled it - it had obviously been dethawed and refrozen - it reeked of a varnish smell and the bait was discolored. When I switched to another bag I immediately began to catch mackerel again. Which brings up another point - why is bait not date stamped? I even got some bait which was so old or mistreated that the heads wouldn't stay on during even an underhand cast. When I mentioned it to the bait shop owner he vehemently denied any problem. Do your readers have any tips as to how to eyeball bait in the bag before buying it - fresh bait makes all the difference.

Looking forward to your November updates - Boyd


Thanks for another excellent report!

Best wishes, Ken

Date: October 24, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Mike Katz
Subject: Fish on


Bonito are finally showing up at Stearns Wharf. This morning - first cast - 2 lb. Mackerel. 2nd cast with 1/2 oz. Silver Kastmaster - 4 lb. Bonito.


Let me know if it is a run of fish?


Yes. It looks good. The water temperature has gone back up to seventy-two degrees. Last week it was back down to sixty-two. Naturally we are catching many more two to two and one half pound mackerel but the bonito are in amongst them and it looks as if "El Nino" is here. Reports I have had from San Diego, Long Beach and Catalina all say the same. Dorado and Yellowtail! I don't know what is keeping the big tuna in Mexican waters. The "El Nino" of '82 brought them here in full force. We were being hit by Blue-Fins 1/2 mile off shore. 50 pounders! I don't know why but the Yellow-fins stayed out at the islands. That year we were hauling yellow-tail one after the other off the wharf. I can hardly wait!


Date: October 25, 1997
To: Charlie Hills
From: Ken Jones
Subject: Fish

Hi Charlie,

Just wondered how your fishing was this past summer? Hope things have gone well and your still catching the fluke, bluefish, stripers and other fish.

Best wishes, Ken Jones, the Pier Fisherman

Hi Ken,

Nice to hear from you. I put in a little time this season, but not as much as last year. Caught a few blues. Mainly I showed up when people were saying, "You shoulda been here yesterday. Man, I got..." So it goes.

I found out something I didn't know though. Freshwater catfish will go for freshly cut bait, and people around here use saltwater tackle for carp in the Charles River.

Do people on the West Coast use bucktail jigs? That's what I caught my blues on.

Thanks for keeping me on your list. Hope you're having a great season. Will you be able to fish most of those piers year-round?


Most of the pier fishing out here is a year round proposition -- although wintertime action can be kind of slow depending upon the section of California in which you reside. Up here in Mendocino County, (a.k.a. the far northern section of California), fishing is good at the local pier unless a storm is brewing. When the rain is pelting and the wind is howling it is best to simply check out the new year's sure-fire, can't-miss, amazing, eye opening lures and tackle. Then, when the weather is good, I go back down to the pier and drop in my two hooks and sinker and haul in some fish. As a rule I am a strong proponent of the KISS approach -- Keep It Simple Stupid. However, I know that is sort of a blasphemous approach in regards to tackle companies.

As for bucktails, yes they are commonly used for striped bass in the Bay Area and sometimes for bonito in southern California.

Best wishes, Ken

Date: October 26, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Ben Szu
Subject: Crabs

Hi Ken,

I went to Crystal pier last Thursday. It seems to be the same every time I go there. I always see some undersized bass. There's usually some smelt around, and a good amount of baby yellowfin croaker. So not much worthy action. I had a question about crabs. One of my friends brought down her crab net and I wanted to use it. Are there crabs around Crystal Pier, and if so, are there any particularly good spots and what type of bait should I use? Thanks, Ben

Hi Ben,

I've never known the pier to be good for crabs although it can be fairly decent at times for lobsters (which just came into season). The Ocean Beach pier might be a little better for crabs (and lobsters) but crabbing is not really that productive in your area.

Sorry, Ken

Date: October 29, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Judy Andréson
Subject: Wharf #2 Monterey

I'm in the process of writing a guidebook on the Monterey Peninsula. Right now I'm working on the "In and Around the Water" chapter. I'm wondering if you know what kinds of fish can be caught in Monterey Bay and from Monterey Wharf # 2 and have a description of them. If you can help, email me or call .


Dear Judy,

The information below is from the second edition of my book, Pier Fishing in California. It should answer your questions as to fish that are caught from the wharf. Feel free to use the information but if you quote from the book please credit the book.

Best wishes and hope your guidebook turns out to be wonderful!

Ken Jones, The Pier Fisherman

Monterey Wharf #2

Environment. Most visitors to Monterey seems to wind up down at the wharf during their visit. Many, however, do not realize there are two wharfs. The more famous is Fisherman's Wharf, built in 1870 on the site of California's first large wharf and today home to fine restaurants, tourist shops, and several sportfishing landings. Adjacent, to the east, is a newer wharf which was constructed in 1926 (and repaired in 1983). Here, the commercial fisherman unload their catch and sport fisherman try to make a catch. Fisherman's Wharf deserves its praise, it is a fun place to visit, and it has a certain charm when the sea lions are barking and the sea otters are drifting on top of the bay. However, for the pier fisherman Wharf #2 is the place to go.

Wharf #2 is fairly long at 1,636 feet, and fairly wide at 86 feet, but the end of the wharf is primarily a working area; sportfishing is done from near the surfline (which is generally mild) to midway out on the east side of the wharf. Inshore, the bottom is sand, the water is shallow, and sand-frequenting species such as surfperch will tend to dominate the catch. Further out on the pier, water depth ranges from moderate to fairly deep and this a good area for pelagic species to be encountered when they are present. When mackerel are around, expect the pier to be lined with anglers. Most people will catch fish but do be careful of tangles and use simple courtesy since space will be at a premium. The mid-pier action also often centers around the piling areas which can be fairly heavily covered by mussels and, in summer, covered by buildups of kelp. As a result, schools of small perch, a few rockfish, and, during some years, pesky senorita hang under and around the pilings. Of course, like most piers along this section of the California coast, there can be tremendous variation from year to year (again, the yin and the yang).

Fishing Tips. Jack Mackerel (Spanish mackerel), Pacific mackerel (blue mackerel), jacksmelt and surf perch are numerically the most common fish at the pier. However, catches of these depend on your timing. Be present when the schools move in and you can fill a bucket with fish. If the schools are absent you may go fishless.

As a general rule, try winter to spring for the large barred and calico surfperch. Use pile worms, sand crabs, fresh mussels, or plastic grubs and fish in the shallow water near the beach end of the pier. Winter to spring is also the best time for starry flounder but for these flatfish fish on the bottom using cut anchovy or pile worms and fish further out on the pier in a little deeper water. The same spots, bait and riggings will yield up some tasty sand sole from spring to summer.
Late spring to early fall will generally see a few California halibut. For these, the best bet is almost always a live bait such as an anchovy, small shinerperch, or smelt -- if you can get them. I have also heard a few reports of the larger flatties hitting on Scrounger type lures so don't be afraid to give artificials a try.

Mid-pier to the end is the best area for the smaller surfperch, jacksmelt, and mackerel. For walleye and silver surfperch, a small piece of anchovy seems to work best when fished mid-depth using a size 6 hook. Jacksmelt like pile worms, and a leader made up of four to six size 8 hooks works best. Attach the hooks nine inches apart, bait each with a small piece of worm, and fish the rig under a heavy bobber or float. The result is often several fish at a time. Recent years have seen schools of either Pacific mackerel, jack mackerel, sardines, or all three. Best bet for all of these is a multi-hook Lucky Lura leader with size 6 or 4 hooks. Simply cast out and retrieve the leader or slowly work the leader up and down in the water after you have reached a mid-depth area. All three species (along with jacksmelt) seem to hit best at dawn and dusk with the midday action often being slow, Summer and fall is the best time for small rockfish, and here the most common are small blue rockfish, brown rockfish, gopher rockfish, and kelp rockfish. Fish for these under and around the pilings using pile worms and small hooks. Unfortunately, a number of other, less useful fish, can often infest these piling areas. Most common are the pesky senorita which can drive you crazy while stripping your hooks of bait (although you'll catch an occasional careless fish). At times, if the water is warm, you may encounter southern species like blacksmith and garibaldi but they are really not common. Too common, if you let a line rigged with small hooks fall to the bottom, are small sanddabs, generally speckled sanddabs, which are big enough to grab your bait but too small to eat. Most days would probably yield hundreds of these small fish to anglers if they tried for them but were talking tiny sanddabs here, each 3-5 inches long and useful only as an attractant for larger fish.

Fishing around the pilings, using pile worms, is also the best technique for the large pileperch, rubberlip seaperch, and blackperch. Each of these large perch is most prevalent during the winter to spring months but will show up throughout the year. Large rubberlip seaperch will also fall for plastic grubs jigged up and down near the pilings; regulars say the root beer colored and oil colored grubs work best.

Another perch caught here is the sharpnose surfperch, a perch common only to Monterey Bay. These perch are present in some number almost every year, but occasionally the pier will see large runs of the fish -- most often in June and July. Although numerous, they can be difficult to catch. Regulars tend to use a rigging which consists of a size 6 or 8 hook at the end of the light line, a splitshot sinker about two to three feet up from the hook, and a tiny bobber which keeps the hook only a few feet beneath the surface of the water. The line is watched closely and, when the bobber is submerged, a quick jerk is made to hopefully hook the perch. Although the perch move around, the best spot seems to be on the left side, just past a small fishing dock. The area between this fishing dock and the next series of pilings seems to produce a lot of fish.

Two other fish, both prized as sportfish, also visit the pier. Most years will see some decent fishing for king salmon during the mid-summer to fall months. The majority of the kings will fall to lures (especially Krocodile lures with a blue stripe) while a lesser number will be landed on whole frozen anchovies fished under a bobber. Regulars report that the salmon prefer the early evening hours. In addition, some years will see a few striped bass taken from the wharf, again during the summer months. Most of the stripers are taken using either lures or while fishing on the bottom with live shiners or cut bait.
Although the pier is really not noted as a good pier for sharks, it is fairly good for bat rays. Most of these large rays are taken at night while using squid as bait. Be sure to bring a stout rope and a good sized net if you're after these powerful fighters.

Late winter will often see casters trying for small steelhead along the inshore section of the wharf. Various jigs and spoons seem to be the preferred method for the 16-22 inch fish, but I would think worms might also work.

Another visitor, although not as frequent now as in years past, is squid. When squid were schooling in the Monterey Bay area, anglers would flock to the pier at night and land buckets of the tasty little "calamari." Generally this occurred mid-May to June, but few seem to have been caught off the pier in recent years.

Ken -

Thanks a bunch for the information on fish caught from Wharf #2. It's just what I was looking for!

Thanks for your support,

Judy Andréson