|Feel free to offer advice if you feel there are things that should be added or deleted from the article.
Back in 1769, soldiers of the Portola Expedition shot a seagull at this windy spot and then named their campsite “La Gaviota” (Spanish for seagull). Today, there is still a lot of wind, a lot of sea gulls, many, many campsites and this popular small pier.
A mid-summer visit in 1990 was one of my most interesting sojourns to this pier. Like most anglers, I had started fishing in an area just outside the breakers and was hoping for a halibut (yes, I was fishing for the halibut). I had two poles and the heavier one was my halibut pole. The light pole was my potpourri pole; it was baited with small hooks and small baits. I had caught nothing on my heavier outfit. I had caught a small kelp rockfish and an under-sized kelp bass on the light pole. Since nothing much seemed to be biting in the areas I was fishing, I decided to move out to the mid-pier area.
It was obvious why no one was fishing this area. Mid-pier to the end of the pier the water was virtually covered with kelp. In fact, it looked like a pier had been plopped down in the middle of a kelp forest. I decided to try my light outfit among the leaves and stalks of the giant kelp and hoped that if I hooked a large fish I would be able to keep it out of the kelp. Soon, I had a hard hit and after a short struggle, I hauled in a giant kelpfish nearly 20 inches long (they grow to 24 inches). It was the only kelpfish I was to catch that trip. Unfortunately, I had used the last of the mussel bait and was unable to get the fish to strike any other bait.
But the fish were there. A small school of tiny pinhead anchovies lazily swam around the kelp; whenever they neared a leaf a kelpfish would dart out and attack the school. Some of the kelpfish were bright red, some purple, some a bright green. Watching closely I could see the fish dart in and out, then retreat quickly to the protection of the kelp. I could also see bright red crabs on the stalks and every so often a larger perch or bass would dash in among the kelpfish. I'm convinced that if I would have had proper bait—fresh mussels, bloodworms, or small crabs, I could have caught a good “mess” of fish. Unfortunately, I had neither proper bait nor the time to get any; I had to move on.
Environment. The pier is the last of the warm-water southern California piers and is part of the 2,775-acre Gaviota State Park, a park that stretches along five miles of shoreline and receives on average 55,000 visitors per year (so it’s not too crowded). The park is roughly 33 miles and 45 minutes west of Santa Barbara, and presents most days a glimpse of the nearby Channel Islands off to the south—San Miguel (the closest), Santa Rosa, and sometimes Santa Cruz. A short distance west of the park HY101 turns inland as you pass through the Gaviota Tunnel and you lose your seaside view until you reach Pismo Beach. (The Tunnel by the way is perhaps most famous from the scene in the movie The Graduate when Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) drives his beautiful new Alfa Romeo through the mist and into the Gaviota Tunnel.)
Approximately 15 miles away sits Point Conception (called by early day sailors the Cape Horn of the Pacific due to the treacherous northwest gales that sweep around the headland), the traditional dividing line between the subtropical warm water south and the temperate cold-water north. The “Point” is also where the coastline begins a north-south orientation instead of the east-west direction common for much of southern California's coastal areas. The Gaviota Pier itself faces due south.
The shoreline is edged on the west by Monterey shale that emerges somewhat jaggedly out of the ocean’s floor to form interesting patterns both on the beach itself and the cliffs above. Photographers (and anglers) are presented beautiful colors and great photo ops during the late afternoon and sunset hours. (Instead of the “white cliffs” of Dover you’re presented the “golden cliffs” of Gaviota)
To the east of the pier is the sandy-beach surf area framed by the high Southern Pacific railroad trestle (aka the “ghost bridge”). The trestle bridges Cañada de la Gaviota and Gaviota Creek, a seemingly unassuming creek that is usually dry by summer. However, as witnessed by the devastation caused to the park in 1998, the creek can play a Jekyll and Hyde role during winter storms.
As for the ocean environment, most of the bottom around the pier is sand with few rocks to grab onto sinkers—or to attract fish. Inshore the water is shallow but at the end of the pier the depth is approximately 20 feet deep. Pilings are usually covered by mussels and some years will see a dense growth of kelp surrounding much of the pier; other years may see little or no kelp.
The surf area produces good catches of barred surfperch, rays and sharks. Just outside the surf area, where water is free of kelp, is the spot most often fished for halibut and quite a few are landed every year. In the same area, but especially around kelp and the pilings, anglers will land perch, small rockfish, bass, and an occasional sculpin (scorpionfish). The far end yields more pelagics: mackerel, jacksmelt, sardines and (some years) bonito. The deeper water is also the home of sharks, large and small, with a variety being caught. The specialty though is thresher sharks and it may be the best pier in the state for these.
Mid-way out on the pier sits a hoist for boats and a small landing that is heavily used by surfers and skin divers in search of the perfect wave or dive; be warned that you will be asked to move your equipment if you are in the way of their trucks and boats.
Two annoyances at the pier are small and too plentiful. The first is yellow jackets and this is one of the worst piers for the critters. If you are cutting bait on the railings the hovering pests will visit you. Ditto if you have food. Keep bait, food, and fish you catch in a cooler to avoid the insects. The second nuisance is shinerperch that almost always seem to saturate the waters of the pier from mid-pier to the end. No matter the fishing, good or bad, the shinerperch will be present and eager to grab any bait that is small enough for them to mouth. Problem is they will grab the baits intended for larger perch much like senorita will do at some piers. You can’t avoid them without using large hooks but you need small hooks for the perch. Their presence should attract larger fish and that seems their only redeeming virtue.
Fishing Tips. Inshore, the surf area will produce barred surfperch for anglers using sand crabs, pile worms or bloodworms, fresh mussels or clams. The same area and baits will also yield some black seaperch, rubberlip seaperch, kelp rockfish, grass rockfish, brown rockfish, and a few kelp bass. Although the bottom is sandy, the kelp works to attract rock-frequenting species. The same fish, as well as pileperch, can be caught around the pilings themselves by using a high/low leader and size 6 or 4 hooks baited with mussel. Bait rigs will also work here, but the most common fish will be shinerperch, kelp seaperch, small walleye surfperch, and jacksmelt.
Just outside the surf area is the spot for halibut. Although most anglers will use a whole or cut anchovy on the bottom, live bait (small smelt, sardine, tom cod or shinerperch) is often more productive. Another technique is to troll your bait along the bottom if the pier isn't too crowded. Simply keep your line taut and walk along the edge of the pier. The halibut like to lie near the pier, especially in the depressions between the pilings. Be careful not to tangle your line in the pilings and be ever so alert for the soft mouthing of a halibut. Generally they like to take the bait and move it around a bit in their mouth before they really strike. Be prepared! The same technique can be used quite effectively with a Scrounger-type lure.
Further out on the pier, areas in the water are sometimes covered with kelp. When this happens, it takes care and patience to fish the spots between the fronds of kelp. Use a small size 6-8 hook, mussels or seaworms for bait, and fish right around the kelp. Seaperch, kelp bass, opaleye, halfmoon, and more exotic species like kelpfish and senorita will often bite.
The far end will often yield pelagics — Pacific mackerel, jacksmelt and sardines. The most common rig for these is a multi-hook bait rig like a Lucky Joe, Lucky Lura, or Sabiki Rig. Myself? I prefer just throwing a couple of size 4-2 hooks onto a line high/low style with a one-ounce shiny torpedo sinker at the bottom. It catches fish and why risk losing an expensive bait rig if the mackerel begin one of their patented “mac attacks.” Bonito will be caught some years and when they show up break out the feathers with cast-a-bubbles, golf-ball rigs or spoons and lures like Mega Baits. Kelp bass can also be taken on lures and surprisingly some years will see quite a few lizardfish hitting the artificials. I have experienced some absolutely unbelievable catches of mackerel off the far right corner (generally early in the morning) but almost anywhere at the end can be good when the macs are running (as well as jack mackerel and sardines).
Lastly, more and more families staying in the campground are becoming nighttime shark anglers. They will fish to the early hours of the morning and then simply walk the short distance to their tents or campers when ready for bed. The pier has turned out to be a better-than-average producer of sharks and rays. Included are such species as thornback rays, bat rays, skates (a few), guitarfish (shovelnose shark), leopard sharks, spiny dogfish, angel sharks and horn sharks. Large soupfin sharks are less common but, as mentioned, good-sized thresher sharks are a regular summertime visitor.
If seeking out the threshers come prepared with moderately heavy tackle and a way to get them up onto the pier. Most regulars slide a live mackerel down a slider rig for the long-tailed beauties; some will use a balloon or float to drift their bait out into deeper water. Threshers by the way seem to bite better during the day than at night and seem to prefer a chop to the water. Given the winds at Gaviota, conditions are just about perfect for the threshers by most afternoons (at least during the summer).
The nighttime angling is often a special treat. Entire families will be out on the end of the pier. A few lanterns may be present (although there are some lights on the pier), and there will inevitably be a radio playing. (Hopefully, it will be playing some reasonable music or be tuned to a ballgame). Off in the distance will be the lights from the offshore oil wells and circling around the pier will be the birds that gave the area its name. Every so often an angler will hook a shark or ray; those present run to the railing, shine their flashlights down into the dark water, and then shriek out an identity as the fish comes into view. If in luck, the angler will be able to land the fish and then the story of “Jaws” and comparisons with past “monsters” begin.
(Shark fishing, by the way, isn't new here. An old newspaper story, dated September 1876, reports a shark being shot near Gaviota that measured over 10 feet in length. More recently there were reports of a large great white shark, estimated at nine feet in length that was chasing schools of baitfish—mackerel and jacksmelt—around the pier. No one hooked the giant fish but several gave it a try. Hard to say how they would have landed it if they had hooked it).
One of the most unusual reports to the Pier Fishing in California Message Board, at least in regard to sharks, concerned a trip to this pier in August of 2000. Zorro, a long time reporter, reported that anglers using Lucky Lura bait rigs had taken two nearly-5-foot-long angel sharks. Both anglers were using chrome sinkers with hooks to weight the leaders and both sharks apparently hit the chrome sinkers. Angel sharks hitting chrome sinkers on the bottom of bait rigs? Two on the same day? Very, very rare indeed.
Gaviota Creek, just down the shoreline from the pier, does see steelhead trout some years and sometimes they will be in the inshore waters by the pier prior to winter rains opening the mouth of the creek. When conditions are right a fish will occasionally be caught from the pier. So, be sure to check current regulation if you land what appears to be a steelhead trout.
This is also another southland pier that sees some good-sized spider crabs taken by anglers. Although not as productive as Stearns Wharf, I've gotten quite a few reports of the big ugly crabs being landed here. On the other hand, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of a lobster being taken from the pier.
Date: June 19, 1998
To: Ken Jones
Subject: Gaviota is open again.... sort of
Made Fishing trip on 18 June... There were no diving birds and the ocean had three zones visible, green, aquamarine blue, and at the end of the pier and out of reach very deep blue. The right side of the pier produced nothing. The left side provided a mackerel swarm on Lucky Laura rigs. Then the bite changed to Big Sardines to about a foot. You could catch them at will; some anglers were getting them six at a time. I left way before the bite ended. From exhaustion. Bigger fish and birds were notably absent.
Date: June 27, 1998
To: Ken Jones
Subject: Gaviota, June 21 and 22
Fished Gaviota in the afternoon to take advantage of the high new moon tides. Fishing was good; used Sabiki Rigs at the end with Krocodile 2 1/4 oz. spoon for weight. Caught a big mix of fish. Big sardines, smelt and mackerel were predominate.
There were also swarms of juvenile lingcod here, most about 4-inches-long. If you got your rig into them they hit every hook, and looked a lot like little eels. Caught a couple of small stingrays too. All fish were caught on the left side of the pier. Inshore, other fishers were catching BIG perch and small bat rays, 5 to 10 pounds, on mussels on the right side of the pier towards the rocks.
Also, a fishing boat was smashed on the cliffs off the left side of the pier on the 21st. By the next day it had broken in half; might get a new reef there.
Date: August 30, 1998
To: Ken Jones
I was only able Fish Gaviota on the third of August. Fishing was fair with a little of everything except Halibut. The only excitement was a guy who hooked a BIG bonito. The fish went out to sea like a rocket and went airborne twice. Just when it looked like the guy would land it, it did an about face and went under the pier and cut him off.
If he had a fast retrieve reel, and no stretch line he might have been able to take up the slack fast enough to land it. That is why I use spinning reels and spider wire, the nasty under the pier maneuver.
All I caught was 3 mackerel and 4 smelt, the halibut line drew a zero.
The pier is still only half open.
Any Threshers reported this month? There was a 100 Pounder out at Morro bay last month but I did not catch it. I have not caught one this year.
I guess I need to target them specifically I might go down to Pismo tonight and give it a dedicated try.
Date: October 29, 1998
To: Ken Jones
Subject: Gaviota Report
I fished Gaviota Twice this month on the 12th and 18th.
12 October. In summary, it was a great day to fish! It was hard not to catch fish on the 12th. Sardines on the left side of the pier and jacksmelt and mackerel on the right side of the pier. I used a Lucky Lura rig with a Chrome Torpedo sinker with a treble hook. The mackerel were so aggressive that 6 inchers were hitting the 4 ounce chrome sinker instead of the Lucky Lura! The Mackerel were the usual mix of minnows to pound and a half, sardines were 4 to 10 inches, but the jacksmelt were large -- two 16 Inches and one 18! There were also numerous average size jacksmelt too. No surfperch of any kind were caught or seen caught. Also many of the smelt were up close to the rocks. I do not remember anything about smelt being a rock fish.
18 October. In summary, an OK day. Lots of small fish many mini mackerel, smelt, and a few sardines. Almost all the fish were small, the only exception were two good jacksmelt I caught. General things at Gaviota: lures are beating bait by a BIG margin, bottom fish are gone, and chumming with cat food and bread works.
Zoy Hann, Lompoc CA
Date: July 14, 2003
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: Gaviota Pier
I had a total blast at the Goleta Get Together and will comment further as threads develop today. Sunday morning I got up around 6am, pretty late, and got moving to meet Ken Jones at Gaviota. Fantastic morning cruise from Lake Cachuma with lots of deer around. I talked with him at the pier, in between all the fish he was bringing up, then I walked along the beach.
Place said Halibut, all that sand and nice troughs, so that's what I worked for. First, it was catch sand crabs the way Andy showed me, then back up to the pier to get some bait. Got a shiner, Ken gave me another, and two lines were in the water for the big wait. It occurred to me that I was going about this the wrong way. SF Bay methods do not apply. Nor do shoreline surf strategies from NorCal. The water is deeper and clearer, for two conspicuous examples, and the bait (as Ken pointed out right away) was holding about midway down. So all the fixed bait rig was accomplishing was shiner refuge, keeping the fish quite safe, out of harm's way. Float rigs are out because of water motion and kelp;
Suddenly the light goes on in Slinger's dim bulb. I got a fresh shiner and brought out a rig that Phishinpat gave me on Berkeley Pier a couple weeks ago, a two hook “stinger” line with snelled hook followed by palomar knot hook. Snelled hook went into the shiner's dorsal section—not the nostrils—and the rig was fastened by safety snap to my line which was already in the water. That's right, a trolley rig, weighed just enough to sink slowly.
“Bingo!” as Predator would say. Tip slams down and the fish is on! Sure enough it heads straight into the kelp and gets stuck. I know it's a hallie and have a hope it's actually a legal size. These are harder to get in SoCal for some reason. A few splendid runs and I got the fish to yawn at Ken Jones (salute from the fish to the skipper!) and then a helpful regular lowered his crab ring and we got the fish up to the pier. 22 inches on the dot. I think Ken got a picture, I admired the fish, and back into the water it went. Yay. My first legal halibut from SoCal.
The wind came up and I had a trip back home to get moving on, and Ken had more fishing ahead, so we left. By the way, he got some cool fish, including one that was so huge I recognized it when I was on the surf more than 50 yards away. But that is his tale to tell.
Another treat for me, more dolphins circulating past Gaviota. Wonderful
Author's Note No. 1. An epiphany is defined as a manifestation or revelation and it has become a too-often-used New Age term. Nevertheless, it sort of describes the feeling that I had one day while driving my trusty pickup to the pier (in Japan they would say this was a moment of satori—when all things became clear). The Octopus, a local radio station, was playing the Eagles' “Hotel California” on my radio, and I had just passed Rufugio State Beach. I noticed my mileage gauge read 101 miles on HY 101 and then I saw a beautiful hawk sitting on the electrical lines that paralleled the highway. It was a perfect California morning and as I looked out toward the Pacific, and headed down the road to the pier, I reflected on the tranquility and beauty provided by my pier fishing trips along the coast—my personal Xanadu. What better way to see and understand the changes taking place in California, and to experience the joy while it still exists! I've often said pier fishing is more than just the fishing and that morning's thoughts confirmed those feelings.
Author's Note No. 2. I absolutely love it when I hear that a fellow teacher has taken students fishing so you know my reaction when I read the following.
Date: October 7, 2005
To: PFIC Messsage Board
Subject: Gaviota: First post Jr. Pier Rats
Arrived at Gaviota Pier at 1 P.M., and after taking the Pier Rat oath from Ken's book, eight young new anglers from my middle school took to the pier. We fished until 4 P.M. An amazingly progressive-thinking director actually OK'd my request to teach a pier-fishing elective! These kids meet in the classroom Mon.-Thurs. for 50 mins. learning to tie knots, rig for certain fish, casting, rod and reel maintenance, fishing regulations and etiquette, etc. Then on Friday afternoon, they put their knowledge to work. Here is their first post (combined numbers from two Fridays):
Short report: 31 mackeral, 33 smelt, 16 sand bass, 6 sand dabbers, 3 sculpin, 2 SBRF, 2 walleyed surfperch, 1 lingcod, 1 cabezon, 1 thornback ray. All fish were C&R except for 1 perch and 6 mackeral that were promptly cleaned, then taken home for dinner. The favorite quote from each angler is something that I overheard them say, and I added it to their report. --- Donna
Long report: Angler: Fluffy (age 11): 3 Pacific mackeral, on Sabiki, using shrimp. Favorite quote: “cursed decisions!” (when trying to decide whether to use shrimp or squid as bait)
Angler: OneAfterAnother (age 12): 11 Pacific mackeral, 17 jacksmelt all on Sabiki with and without shrimp. Favorite quote: “I just saw the fish following the other guy's Sabiki, so I cast mine out right behind his.”
Angler: KillerShark (age 11): 16 Sand bass, 2 mackerals, 10 jacksmelt. Favorite quote: “I think I caught this fish before.”
Angler: Hobbit (age 13): 2 Walleyed perch, shrimp on #6 hook, Carolina rigged, 2 mackeral, 1 smelt and 1 baby lingcod, all on unbaited Sabiki. Favorite quote: “And that old guy thought I couldn't fish.”
Angler: Bubbles (age 12): 5 Mackeral, 2 small brown rockfish on #8 hooks baited with squid, Carolina rigged, 1 sand dabber on Sabiki. Favorite quote: “Are we going to use our bikini's to catch fish?”
Angler: LureGuy (age 12): 3 Mackeral on Sabiki with squid, 2 Pacific mackeral on #6 hooks with squid, high low leader. Favorite quote: “Look at them following my lure... bite it! Bite it!”
Angler: Swordfish7 (age 12): 2 sculpin, 1 sand dabber on #6 hook with squid, Carolina rigged, 1 cabezon (8 1/2 in) on high low leader with squid. Favorite quote: “Fishing is just the best, period.”
Angler: Redneck (age 13): 3 Pacific mackeral, 5 smelt on Sabiki, 1 sculpin and 4 sand dabbers on #8 hooks with squid, Carolina rigged, 1 thornback ray on high low leader with squid on #2 circle hook. Favorite quote: “this sure beats bein' at school!”
Posted by HoodCanal
Wish there were teachers like you at my school when I was their age. Great work. Are you the “old man” that thought Hobbit couldn't fish? Haha
Posted by Corki
I think that’s awesome. I wish we had something like that down in Sc. Keep it up; p
Posted by Ken Jones
I love it! Great work! We need more teachers out there taking their kids fishing. It helps establish a bond that will last a long, long time.
Posted by pierhead
16 sand bass? Wow—haven't seen any at Gaviota for some time ... where were they caught and what bait(s)?
Posted by pierhead
Got the answer already... met up with Marsfan (Donna) and her student KillerShark (Ryne) at Santa's Guadalupe Perch Derby (more later) ... those were sand bass he was catching. Said they were on the small side (8"-10") though. Caught them straight down off the pilings at the end I think using a Sabiki rig. Makes me wonder if I shouldn't be casting back under the pier... I mean it is the most obvious structure around.
Author's Note No. 3. Several times over the years gray whales have become stuck between the pilings of the pier. The latest was in the winter of '99 when a 40-foot-long adult apparently became wedged between the pilings as it was feeding on the bottom. Seems the whale could go forward but couldn't go in reverse. Local reports said “mothers and their calves often pass close to the park to feed on the sandy bottom, sucking up sand crabs and other shellfish.”
The tale of the whale really isn't a funny story but it reminds me of a clipping which I cut out of a newspaper one day. The article's headline said, “Fisherman catches Norwegian submarine.” Oslo, Norway—Skipper Ketil Tetlie thought he'd made the catch of a lifetime when something big—really big—started pulling his trawler backward off Norway's northwestern coast.
“At first we thought it was a whale, but no whale could have pulled up backwards that fast,” Tetlie, said from his boat, the Ke-To, off northwestern Norway's Lofoten Islands.
Then his prize—a Royal Norwegian navy submarine—broke water.
The 35-foot, 20-ton Ke-To was pulled backwards for about 1,000 yards by the 148-foot sub, the Svenner, which weighs about 500 tons. Neither vessel was damaged during Wednesday's mis-hook, which occurred about 125 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
“We threw it back,” joked Tetlie. “The price of steel just isn't good enough to make it worth keeping.”—Contra Costa Times, May 15, 1998.
Author's Note No. 4. Source books give the geographic range of the lavender sculpin (Leiocottus hirundo) as being from Gaviota Pier in the north to northern Baja in the south (which is a pretty short range if I'm interpreting the information correctly). I assume this means that one (or more) of Gaviota's pier anglers have caught one of the sculpins, a small fish that reaches about 10 inches in length. Another unusual catch at the pier was a steelhead taken in the summer of '99. It's hard to say what the iron headed trout was doing at the pier although a small creek does run through the campground.
Author's Note No. 5. California Fish Bulletin #96 from 1953 says, “One mile west of Gaviota, at the mouth of Nojoqui Creek, is the Gaviota Beach County Park. Here a new sport fishing pier, with light hoist, has been erected. Access to the pier is through the park. Four miles east of Gaviota there is a railway siding called Linto. There is no town, but one fisherman lives nearby and records his landings as Linto. He lands a few pounds of lobster, smelt and rockfish.
There is an oil company pier at this point [Gaviota] at which moderate quantities of fish have been landed for many years past but most of the poundage was credited to Santa Barbara... Before World War II, two boats made this point headquarters and delivered lobsters and some white seabass that was caught by trammel nets. At present two fishing boats land their catches at the pier, chiefly lobster... Sport fishing at the pier is minor.”
Author's Note No. 6. “In John Milius’ Big Wednesday, Gaviota State Park’s pier is home to the fabled Malibu Workshop of surfboard maker “Bear” (Sam Melville). In Sideways, Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church reflect on life’s failures under Gaviota’s railroad trestle.”
—Harry Medved with Bruce Akiyama, Hollywood Escapes, 2006
History Note. Santa Barbara is distant from Sacramento, the capital of the state by 369 miles, and from San Francisco 300 miles, by the Pacific Coast Company’s steamships. The time is about thirty hours and the fare is $10. Those who dislike a sea-voyage can take the Southern Pacific Railroad as far as Templeton, in San Luis Obispo County, the present terminus... There is no lack of facilities for communication by sea, there being eight wharves already in the county, namely: Point Sal, for Guadalupe and the Santa Maria Valley; Point Purisma, for Lompoc; Gaviota, for the Santa Ynez Valley, San Julian, etc.; More’s Landing, for La Patera and vicinity; Stearns’ wharf at Santa Barbara, and Smith’s wharf at Carpenteria.
California As It Is, 1888
History Note. In 1874 a 1,000-foot-long wharf was built on this site for Colonel William Hollister and the Dibblee brothers (who had also loaned money and influence for the construction of Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara). Their pier reached water that was 25 feet deep at the end of the wharf and it was considered one of the safest local shipping ports. Because of its safety record, the Gaviota Landing became a weekly destination for the coastal San Francisco steamers. The area around the wharf also became an important area with early records recording a considerable business, primarily in livestock, wool, farm produce and lumber. That wharf was destroyed by a storm in 1912. Of interest are early records (1883) that report, “a peculiarity of this wharf, or rather this location, is a strong off-shore wind, a cold blast always coming down the pass; consequently no vessel is thrown against the shore.” Yes, it was windy even then.
Apparently a second name for the original pier was Port Orford and it’s still listed on the populated place index for Santa Barbara County. According to Durham’s Place Names of California’s Central Coast: “Port Orford [Santa Barbara]: locality 0.5 mile west of Gaviota along the coast at the mouth of Cañada de la Gaviota 9lat.34-28-15 N. Long. 120-12-40 W). Site named on Gaviota (1953) 7.5’ quadrangle. Farmers shipped their products from Gaviota Wharf, a 1,000-foot-long pier at the place, from 1875 through the 1890’s (Rife, p.104).”
The current pier was originally built as a crash boat pier by the Navy in 1943. Records show that it was 420-foot-long but newspaper accounts, dated 1953, reported a proposal to lengthen it by 210 feet so that it would reach out into deeper water. It was evidently remodeled in 1953 and repaired again in 1987. Damage to the pier and parking lot from the El Niño storms in the winter of 1998 necessitated closing the park for a period of time. When it finally was reopened, only the front half of the pier was available to anglers. The pier did not open to its full length until May of 2000. Today the pier is owned and operated by the state and the listed length is 529 feet.
Gaviota Pier Facts
Hours: Day use is 6 A.M. to 10 P.M. People staying in the campground can fish all night.
Facilities: The pier has a few lights, fish-cleaning facilities, and a boat launch. Just down the hill from the pier are restrooms, parking, and a general store that has snacks as well as some and bait and tackle. Adjacent are the park’s 52 campsites. The pier is in Gaviota State Park; the day-use fee is $8.
Handicapped Facilities: Handicapped parking and restrooms. The pier surface is wood and the rail height is 42 inches. Posted for handicapped.
Location: 34.4694152299196 N. Latitude, 120.22871017456055 W. Longitude
How To Get There: From Highway 101 simply take the Gaviota State Park Turnoff.
Management: California Department of Parks and Recreation.
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Last edited by Ken Jones on Sat Mar 21, 2009 10:31 pm; edited 1 time in total