|I wrote this up a couple of years ago when Boyd and I were thinking of visiting the island(s). It has not been updated nor does it reflect the latest MLPA resrictions (although I do not think any new areas have opened up).
The piers of the western Channel Islands — Anacapa Island, Santa Cruz Island, Santa Rosa Island, and San Miguel Island
Each of the islands that front Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties are part of Channel Islands National Park and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Most of these islands had piers or wharves built upon them at one time. Although these piers/wharves were primarily used to facilitate the landing of materials and people to the island, it can be assumed that the piers were also used for fishing. Only one today is open to angling by the public.
782-acre Anacapa Island is one of the smaller Channel Islands and is the closest island to the mainland, just, 12 miles from the Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard. It’s 32 nautical miles from Santa Barbara.
Anacapa is comprised of three small islets, East, Middle and West. Exploration is permitted on the East islet accessed by the Landing Cove, and a small beach on the West islet called Frenchy’s Cove. The middle islet and most of the western islet remain a wilderness area set aside for nesting seabirds like the endangered California brown pelican. The island is noted among anglers as one of the most favored haunts of the giant (black) sea bass, a leviathan fish once hunted to extinction but now beginning to show a return in numbers.
The East Anacapa Landing Cove and pier is the normal entry point to the island. Visitors depart the boat by stepping onto a ladder at the cove where they climb several rungs to a wooden dock. From the dock there is a winding stair and roughly 150 steps that takes visitors to the island plateau about 200 feet above sea level.
The only access to the water is from the Landing Cove where a ladder leads to water about 20 feet deep. However, fishing from the Landing Cove is not permitted since it is within the Anacapa Island Marine Reserve (State Marine Reserves prohibit all take of living, geological, or cultural resources).
If you just want to visit and see the island, you will find a small visitor center with a picnic area and outhouse-style restrooms. A historic lighthouse still operates on the island, and the buildings once used to house Coast Guard personnel have been converted into facilities for the National Park Service. There are no shade trees on east Anacapa Island though the building that houses the visitor’s center provides some shade. There is no potable or running water on the island so visitors whether staying for the day or camping need to bring an ample supply of water.
Santa Cruz Island
61,764-acre Santa Cruz Island is the largest of the Channel Islands as well as the largest island in California. It sits 22 just nautical miles from Santa Barbara.
The Scorpion Anchorage on the east end of the island is the most common entry point to the island. There is a small pier at Scorpion Anchorage where visitors step from the boat onto a ladder and climb a few rungs to the pier.
The current 320-foot-long pier was built in the 1940s and, like most piers that have survived for over a half-century, has seen damage over the years from wind and wave. Built of timber decking and timber piles, the pier is scheduled to be reconstructed once plans and monies are available.
The beach is a mix of sand and cobble and slopes gently to about 30 feet deep inside the cove. There is a small, shallow-water kelp forest near the pier but pier anglers should not get excited. Fishing from the pier or shore within Scorpion Anchorage is not permitted because it is within the Scorpion State Marine Reserve. Fishing outside of the marine protected area is accessible by kayak or by hiking 4 miles to Smugglers Cove.
Facilities include picnic tables both on the beach or in the tree shaded area near the historic Scorpion Ranch buildings. There are outhouse style restroom facilities near the picnic areas.
Camping is available on the island about 1⁄2 mile up a dirt road from the pier. A picnic table and small storage box is included in each campsite. Visitors must contain and pack out all trash and should be prepared to secure food and trash from island animals. Several outhouse style restrooms are located adjacent to the campsites. No fires are allowed in the campground or anywhere on the island, however propane/gas camp stoves are permitted.
Santa Rosa Island
53,195-acre Santa Rosa Island is the second largest of the western (or northern) Channel Islands and is located 28 nautical miles off the coast of Santa Barbara.
The most common entry point to the island is the old pier at Bechers Bay. The pier, built in the 1870s, and long used by the historic Vail-Vickers ranch complex, has been rebuilt several times. Major repairs occurred in 1913 and 1945 and the National Park Service repaired and strengthened the structure in 1987. Additional repairs were made in 2002, 2003, and 2004. However, a major rebuild is needed and plans to rehabilitate the failing pier have been proposed. The pier serves visitors and park operations and failure to fix the pier could stop boat access to Santa Rosa Island.
There is access to the water from several locations along Bechers Bay. The beaches are primarily sand and sand dunes with a gentle slope out to 30-40 feet deep inside the bay. There is a small rocky intertidal habitat just south of the pier that can be explored during periods of low tide. During minus tides one can walk from the pier along more than 2 miles of white sand beach.
This is the only pier that allows fishing in the western Channel Islands—at least on the south side of the pier. Fishing from the pier, the beaches, or by kayak, on the south side of the pier is outside of the marine protected area. Fishing north of the pier is not permitted because it is within the Carrington Point State Marine Reserve.
Due to difficult weather, rugged terrain and off-trail hiking, backcountry beach camping should be undertaken only be the experienced, well equipped and physically fit.
San Miguel Island
9,325-acre San Miguel Island is the westernmost and sixth largest of the Channel Islands and is 38 nautical miles from Santa Barbara.
Typically less than 200 people a year visit San Miguel Island opting instead to journey to one of the closer, more visitor friendly islands. The voyage to San Miguel Island is longer, sea conditions are often rough (eight-foot seas are common between Santa Rosa Island and San Miguel Island), the landing itself is tricky, and there are minimal facilities on the island.
There is no pier on San Miguel Island so visitors are carried by skiff onto the beach at Cuyler Harbor. The shore landing can be fairy uneventful during calm conditions, or dangerous when the swell is high; the surf can swamp the landing boat. Luckily, the site is fairly well protected from the strong northwest ocean swell. During ideal weather visitors are put ashore directly in front of the main trail that leads into the interior of the island. When the swell is high, visitors are sometimes placed on the beach to the east or west depending upon conditions.
Weather can be problematic since the island does not receive the same protection from the open ocean as the other Channel Islands. Generally a strong, 25 mph or more, northwest wind blows across the island. Heavy fog is also common on the island; when present the temperature will rarely exceed 55°F.
Visitors to the island are restricted to ocean access at Cuyler Harbor. Fishing is not permitted in this area since the Harris Point State Marine Reserve encloses the area around the harbor. In addition, sea kayaking is not recommended unless skilled; high winds can develop without notice. The harbor has a sandy beach and during low tides offers a tide pool area at the east end of the beach.
There is no potable water, and no shade trees on this island, so visitors should bring ample drinking water, a hat and sunscreen. Lunch, snacks, and water should be carried in a backpack or similar style bag since hiking trails are steep and narrow in some places. The island includes a campground with 10 sites. Each campsite includes a picnic table, windbreak and an animal-proof box. The campground includes one pit toilet. Fires are prohibited due to the high winds and sturdy tents are recommended since the wind can exceed 50 mph, even during the summer. With the exception of the trail leading to the campground and ranger station, hiking is restricted to ranger-led outings.
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