On one visit to this pier, I casually mentioned to a fellow angler that I considered this one of the best piers in California. He nodded in agreement, said he had recently moved from the Los Angeles area, and mentioned that he had never seen the consistent action he had gotten at Goleta. Usually something is biting at this pier and, more often than not, there is an opportunity to catch good quality fish such as halibut, corbina, bass and rockfish not to mention some large sharks and rays. When combined with easy access and good facilities, there is every reason to include Goleta in a list of the state's best piers.
Environment. This 1,450-foot-long pier sits on a wide, sandy beach (although it’s getting narrower) and is part of the Goleta Beach County Park. Just east is the outlet from Atascadero Creek and Goleta Slough, a major coastal estuary. Many days you can see surf anglers wading out from the outlet in pursuit of bass and halibut. Look to the west, and you'll see the nearby buildings of the University of California-Santa Barbara as well as Goleta Point. The bottom here is mostly sand but the pier's pilings are heavily encrusted with mussels and the sea stars that feed upon them—ochre stars. The mussels also attract perch and a diverse assemblage of smaller species (which in turn attract larger species). The pilings act as an artificial reef—reef #1.
In addition, a pipeline runs parallel to the pier on the right, or west side. It provides habitat for fish as well as a strong base upon which kelp can attach. This pipeline also acts as an artificial reef—reef #2, and is called by some the pipeline reef. It is usually covered by kelp although the amounts vary year to year depending upon water temperature. The kelp itself serves as an additional home and attractant for fish. Although Goleta Bay itself was once home to a lush and large kelp forest, much of that disappeared in the early 1980’s, primarily due to the El Niño storms of 1982-83. If it ever regains its former size it will only improve the fishing.
Inshore, the pier is often good for barred surfperch, guitarfish, thornback rays, and halibut, as well as good-sized corbina. It's the only pier where I've heard of a black (giant) sea bass being taken in the shallow surf area. The unusual catch, a small, 12-pound juvenile bass was taken in June 2002 (and many, many more of the protected fish have since been taken from deeper waters of the pier). Further out on the pier, especially on the east or non-reef side where sand is the predominant feature, halibut are again a main quarry but there is also often a steady catch of white croakers, jacksmelt, small perch and, depending on the season, pelagics including mackerel, bonito, and barracuda. Some years will even see a smattering of yellowtail or wayward salmon.
The reef area created by the pipeline is most heavily populated by sbr (the local term for small brown rockfish) and SBR (yes, the larger, small brown rockfish) but is also frequently home to hungry calico bass (kelp bass), grass rockfish and kelp rockfish. Unfortunately, a lot of the bigger fish are lost as they wrap the angler's lines around the kelp.
As usual, the regulars are the ones who best know the proper techniques and baits, and they tend to catch most of the big fish. However, this is one pier where both expert and novice can usually catch some fish.
Recent unusual fish have included a banded guitarfish (Zapteryx exasperata) taken in April of 2003, a 30-inch sheephead taken in June of ’04, and a small great white shark taken in September of 2000. The young shark, only 5-foot-long, was hauled up onto the pier by way of two crab nets and four strong anglers, and then returned to the water after the hook was removed. Since it is now illegal to capture a great white, it was a wise move.
Fishing Tips. Bring two poles here; use the light one to catch small live bait and a larger pole to catch your dinner. Most regulars here try to catch brown bait, a small queenfish or white croaker, and then fish these as bait on the bottom for halibut and shovelnose sharks (guitarfish). If brown bait isn't available, the regulars will switch to small shinerperch or smelt. Use a slider leader or a sliding sinker with a three-foot leader and bait attached to the end of the line.
To catch brown bait, or if you simply wish to catch a few small fish, do the following. For queenfish, use a Sabiki or Lucky Lura-type bait rig and simply jig, with a slow up-and-down motion, straight down from the pier, being careful not to tangle in the pilings. Generally, the best area for the queenfish is between the shallow surfline and the mid-pier area. For white croaker (tom cod), use a high/low leader baited with number 6 hooks and a small piece of anchovy. Cast the bait out and start to reel in as soon as the sinker hits bottom. The small croakers will usually hit just as the bait nears the bottom or on the retrieve. Of course, you may latch on to a larger fish with this light outfit but if you do, that's a bonus. The majority of halibut are also taken in this fairly shallow area, because of the queenfish, shiners and other morsels of food they see inhabiting their territory. Since the advent of the pipeline it seems most halibut are taken on the east side of the pier but some halibut will be landed from almost every section of the pier each year.
For large barred surfperch and some really large corbina, fish the surf area on the bottom using live sand crabs, fresh mussels, or bloodworms. Quite often the fish will be in the shallowest water imaginable but you've got to put your bait where the fish are holding. Unfortunately, this pier has a population of (dumb) snaggers that matches that of the corbina and the snaggers will often disrupt the actions of more honorable anglers. Some locals have called for Fish and Game action against the snaggers (since they often illegally sell the fish) but to date there has been little or no action taken.
For some decent-sized calico bass (kelp bass) try by the pipeline on the right side. It sits about sixty feet out from the pier and is usually covered by kelp. Regulars tell me that there are a lot of bass by the pipeline and that they will often hit the bait just as soon as it begins to drop through the kelp canopy (which can often mean a quickly tangled line around the kelp). In addition to the kelp bass (sometimes called checkerboard bass at this pier), anglers will pull in a sizable number of kelp rockfish together with brown rockfish, grass rockfish, gopher rockfish, and a few sand bass, California scorpionfish, and even an occasional cabezon and lingcod. I've also seen good size schools of sardines hold between the pipeline kelp and the pier as well as thick schools of lazy little lizardfish that seemed to cover the bottom. Also, don't be surprised if you see anglers fishing in inner tubes or kayaks on the other side of the kelp, it's become a favorite area for anglers casting plastics for bass along the edge of the kelp. Divers report good numbers of sheephead on the reef but to date few have actually been landed by pier anglers.
Two spots favored by locals are (1) mid-pier, across from the restrooms and (2) at the three-quarter point just past the light. Both of these primarily sandy-bottom areas seem to offer good sport for guitarfish. Another spot, near the crane, is reported to be good for large perch (pileperch and rubberlip perch). Fish straight down around the pilings and do not be afraid to let your bait drift under the kelp even if it means an occasional loss of leader.
The end area, just like on most piers, is generally the home of the pelagics and seems to receive the heaviest pressure from anglers. Most common are Pacific mackerel and when they are running almost any bait and rigging will work. Many people use Sabiki or Lucky Lura-type bait rigs but it’s a good way to see an expensive rigging twisted into a useless mess. Better to simply put a couple of size 4 or 2 hooks on your line and bait with a small piece of mackerel. If the fish are touchy, use a small piece of tapered squid on a size 4 hook at the end of your line with a splitshot sinker up above (if it isn’t too windy). Bonito have made a comeback these past few years and for the boneheads the best rigging seems to be a Cast-a-Bubble or golf ball followed by a splasher feather. Live bait (especially a small Pacific mackerel or jack mackerel) fished on a sliding leader, works best for the visiting yellowtail (September-October in some years). Barracuda, when they're around, are often caught on cut anchovies or cut squid but Kastmasters or Krocodile lures can be very good, especially at night.
Many regulars will be out each night to fish for sharks and the end area is generally the hot spot. Fresh mackerel and sardine seems the most common bait for the sharks, but squid is usually better for the large bat rays and occasional big skate that show up. Most of the sharks that are caught are smoothhounds, leopard sharks, or spiny dogfish but you'll also see an occasional swell shark (often mistakenly called leopard sharks by locals) or a horn shark. Once in a blue moon someone will latch on to one of the larger thresher sharks, a blue shark (a 48" blue was taken in June of 2002), or even a great white (as mentioned above). Both shovelnose guitarfish and bat rays are common and batties over a hundred pounds are seen each year.
Do not, repeat, do not, simply cast out your line and let the bait sit on the bottom. Not only is this not the best way to catch fish, but this is also a pier that sometimes sees heavy infestations of starfish (oops, sea stars). The interesting creatures (and here they're typically the small purple colored sea stars) like to grab hold of baits sitting on the bottom. Check your bait often and make sure the probing, gnarly, purple foot of a sea star doesn’t encircle your hook. Don't be surprised if you occasionally see an even gnarlier looking creature—an ugly old spider crab. Although not as common as at Port Hueneme or Stearns Wharf, their catch is a regular occurrence. Also don’t be surprised if you bring up a lobster; they’re common around the pier.
Lastly, be sure to follow the rules! The following story is taken from the web sites July 1997 Report Page: “A Fish and Game officer, in plain clothes, apparently did a little sting operation at Goleta last week. First he watched the fishing action for a while. Then he put his badge on the front of his shirt and approached an angler. How had he done? No fish was the reply. The officer then asked to see inside the man's backpack and lo and behold there were three undersized calico bass (kelp bass) and one undersized halibut. The officer wrote out a ticket, which the man then proceeded to rip up and throw into the water. He followed that up with a few choice words that cannot be printed in this G-rated site. Ten seconds later the man was handcuffed to a pole, the sheriff was called, and shortly thereafter the man was issued tickets for four illegal fish, polluting the water, and resisting arrest. DUMB, TRULY DUMB!” By the way, although sting operations were once fairly common at both Goleta and Stearns Wharf, today they’re much less common..
Date: September 20, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Boyd Grant
Ken, good news! The halibut are finally biting at Goleta and Gaviota. I've caught 15 since mid-August ... landed a 4-pounder at Goleta last Tues. evening (after losing a 10 lb+ at Santa Barbara on Sunday because I didn't bring my net). The biggest one caught at Goleta (two weeks ago—not by me, unfortunately) was 28” and there were unverified rumors of another over 20 lbs! All are caught mid-pier. One of the rangers at Gaviota told me that Ron (another staff member?) landed a 34” halibut fishing from the end of the pier using a whole (8-10") live mackerel two Sundays ago.
I've had great success dragging the bottom less than 20' from the piers—I use frozen anchovies snout-hooked to a 2/0 live bait hook tied to the end of 20# test and weighted down with a small split-shot (1/4"—how do you measure split-shot?). I cast to either side and let the bait settle to the bottom... then I bring it up several times and let it settle back down before finally dragging it very slowly (4-6" per second). I hold the pole balanced in my hand and have to be extremely alert to when the bait is picked up—if it meets with some resistance I stop dragging and wait for the line to start pulling away before I set the hook. Works like a charm! But it is such an intensive effort that I usually only fish the hour before and after the tidal high. The advantage here is that (unlike still fishing with dead bait where, if you catch one at all, they swallow it all the way down making it somewhat difficult to extract from a short without severely injuring the fish) it generally produces a fish hooked through the side of the mouth which can be released without hardly any damage at all.
But the biggest thrill of all was a 6-lb, 24” white seabass (at first I thought it was a giant croaker)! I have never landed a harder fighting fish in my life ... it was really heart breaking having to return it but I didn't think that even standing on it could stretch it to the legal 28" (even though there were several people who had suggested it). In the future I am going to arm myself with a Polaroid so that I can at least capture them on film.
The El Niño is producing some interesting effects here—one night I caught a 12” octopus and a 16" mackerel. The young lady next to me caught a 10” spiny lobster. Shark fishing appears to be picking up as well, on Tuesday I helped land two 4' smoothhounds and I have caught 5-6 30” shovelnoses. My brother caught a 16”—3.5# kelp bass at Gaviota and I continue to catch at least several legals each trip to Goleta.
Date: January 10, 1998
To: Ken Jones
From: Robert K
Subject: Great site!!
Surfing the web for months, I had failed to search for a site on pier fishing. It had never crossed my mind to find pier fishing info. on the web until today. Me and my buddy, who told me to search for this site, fish anywhere and anytime we get a chance. We have fished just about every pier in so. Ca. and a few in central and no. Ca. but we usually stick to the ones that we've had our best luck on (Gaviota, Goleta, Port Hueneme, and Malibu when it was open.). I used to have to look in ten different newsletters and magazines to get a report on the ocean and try to apply it to what the pier would be like. Now, I can see updates on my favorite piers quick and easy. I also keep a copy of your book rolled up in my tackle box when I go fishing.
I am primarily a shark and ray fisherman when I go to the pier (for fun, not for keeps) and I have concluded that Goleta Pier is one of the best piers around. There's nothing like a bat ray going for its initial run or a shovelnose digging its nose into the ground trying to resist your pull. On Goleta you can have it all. We always fish far out even though large halibut are often caught in the shallows. We always cast one line out into the kelp that grows on the pipeline that parallels the pier about 30 yards out. Here we almost always catch a few kelp rockfish and other types including occasional sand bass, calico bass, and scorpionfish. When the fishing is slow we fish mid-pier by the crane for perch, which can run pretty big at times. At the end we catch mackerel and smelt for bait during the day and at night we put them to use for sharks. My best catch on Goleta was a 4-foot by 4-foot big skate which is not very common in so. Ca. It broke my little hand scale that measured up to 50 lbs. My buddy’s best catch was a shovelnose shark that was little over 6 feet and also tipped my hand scale over the max. It was the biggest guitarfish I had ever seen. One local told us to get it checked out to see if it might have been close to a record fish. However we had no cooler and live over an hour away from the pier so we decided to take a few pics and let someone else get the chance to catch it. Keep up the good work, Robert and Demetri—“pier rats.”
To: Boyd Grant
From: Ken Jones
Subject: Goleta Pier
Thought you might like to read the attached message since it concerns your favorite pier—Goleta. What do you think? Also, if you would like to contact him let me know and I can check with him to see if he wants to give his address out.
Best wishes, Ken,
Thanks for passing Robert's message on to me—sounds like he knows the Goleta Pier pretty good.
I agree with his descriptions of the hot spots.
The pipeline is to the west of the pier (on the right going out looking directly across to UCSB). The two best places on that side are mid-point across from the restrooms and at the three-quarter point next to the light. My all-time best was at that point one late morning in 1989. Within two hours I had caught three 10# shovel-noses.
But the trick is to cast out as far beyond the kelp as possible (I think there is substantial sandy bottom there). I use a 10' surf rod and 3-4 oz of sinker. Not easy to do because you're casting directly into the prevailing winds. But when the wind permits and the sea is glassy then it's almost a sure thing.
A lot of kelp bass just above the pipeline—bait gets nailed just as it starts dropping through the canopy but it's hard to keep them from wrapping themselves in the stalks. Took a 3# calico there last spring.
Was at Goleta for 4 hours last Monday—five 12" thornbacks. Felt like I was fishing in a nursery. For the last two trips out, on practically my first cast, something big has picked it up and then started to slowly move parallel to the pier until the line snapped (had the drag set too tight—20# test.) Didn't act like it was hooked or anything—rather like it was just moving on anyway. Didn't see any seals in the area—wonder what it might have been. Later, Boyd
Date: April 6, 1999
To: Ken Jones
From: David S
Subject: May Pier Report—Goleta
Hi Ken! I'm having a blast, catching fish and dreaming up new rigs. Here's a little report while it's fresh in my mind. I'll try to add a couple more to be merged at the end of the month:
The kids had been catching about 20 silver perch (walleyes) per hour on Lucky Lura jigs. Mostly from the second-quarter of the pier. Enough that the warden came out (after the wife and kids had gone home) to count up my fish. He wasn't satisfied when I showed him my 17 keepers. He had been watching us for hours with his binoculars and said, "There's no way you threw back all those fish, I was watching you the whole time." He accused my wife of taking a bunch when she left. I laughed, "they didn't even carry their own poles back, let alone any stinky fish to be cleaned!" Anyway, that seems to have slowed down a little. Now I'm seeing lots of good sized barred surfperch (2-3 lbs.) being pulled in from behind the surf. Typical high-low leaders with medium sinkers and, what else, fresh mussel! Took a trip to the end of the pier at sunset last night to see lots of angler action. The most impressive was some 11-year-old kid pulling in 9"-12" mackerel—three at a time!!! We caught a few of our own along with 6 white croaker, all ranging 9"-11". We used squid on snag lines with enough sinker to cast out but keep off the bottom as we retrieved. Interesting note, nothing was being pulled off the west (kelp) side of the pier.
Date: June 30, 1999
To: Ken Jones
From: David Strong
Subject: Monthly Report
Hi Ken, Here's your monthly Goleta Pier Report: Halibut seems to be on everyone's mind. The bite has been good and from what I hear, many have been caught. I only wish I could speak from experience! All of the anglers are working the bottom in search of the tasty flat stealth and they are catching plenty... shovelnose shark?!? You got it! Mixed in with some thornback rays and other bottom undesirables. I've caught plenty of flat rays/sharks myself this month and even saw a fellow angler pull up two on one line. Common size is 18 to 24 inches. I hooked into one that was about 4 feet, but lost it in the pilings when I had a (gag) tourist hang onto my rod while I went for the landing net. Note to self: never hand off my rod to anyone!
Early in the month we had one of those 'clear water days.' Visibility was a good 6 to 8 feet down—just like an aquarium. I spotted a barely legal halibut, a 4-foot leopard shark and tons of huge perch (1-3 pounds!) picking at the pilings below. Anglers were frantically dropping lines in their midst, but the fish wouldn't have any of it. I guess they got to be that big by sticking to the pilings for food, not trusting the easy pickings jiggling curiously just a few feet away. Before I make a joke about fish in schools, I'll just stop here...
Date: July 4, 1999
To: Pier Fishing in California Message Board
From: Carl Carillo
Subject: Salmon at Goleta
This morning a 28” Salmon was caught, according to Ranger Dave, on an anchovy! Anyone using floats or bobbers to suspend bait off the bottom and using the current and wind to cover larger areas than casting? Burnt drags! Carl C
Date: October 8, 1999
To: Pier Fishing in California Message Board
Subject: Goleta Pier
Bait: A nice abundance of decent sized Pacific mackerel. But once again the bait rigs weren't working. Fly-lining pieces of squid was the key. People were really getting upset around me because I was catching them left and right and no one was getting anything. I even showed them my rig when they asked but for some reason they wouldn't part with their 18-hook rigs. I brought along my tiny 4.5-ft. ultra light G. Loomis with 4-lb. test which made the mackerel a lot of fun to catch.
Sharks and Rays: Didn't see a single shovelnose but lots of thornbacks. Caught 1 smoothhound, 3 swell sharks, and who knows how many thornbacks. At midnight I finally caught my first ray in quite a while. I caught it on a rod I just finished building—what a way to break in a new rod. The ray had a 52-inch wingspan and was caught on 20-lb. test using squid for bait. It took four of us to hoist it up the pier—I need a larger rope for my net. The ray was released in good shape.
Date: April 20, 2000
To: Pier Fishing in California Message Board
From: Mike Gray
Subject: In reply to question by Leapin' Bass
Me and my buddies Scott, Matt, and Glenn, saw a mako tear through a school of mackerel in March of this year. This mako was estimated around 6 foot, a juvenile. Potential to be caught? Yes, when they are around. Scott caught a juvenile 4 years ago and released him. They are a rare sight, of course, but potential is there, even though limited. Matt caught a baby blue around 5 foot last year on a summer night. My co-worker John got a thresher last year as well as in the summer. The thresher was caught in the morning around 8:30 am. Tasted so good. All of us fish for sharks until we are the last one's on the pier. I am trying to earn my stripes. I've got a way to go.
Date: May 24, 2000
To: Pier Fishing in California Message Board
From: pat papa
Subject: Goleta Pier
Fished Goleta Pier from 5-10 PM. The bait fish (mackerel, smelt and sardines) were more than plentiful. For about two hours there were so many on the surface it was as if it was raining. I have never seen anything like it. The largest concentration of bait was from the middle to the end of the pier. Fished plastics towards the front of the pier for a few minutes without any hits, however someone next to me said they had gotten three halibut all of them short but returned safely. After catching some bait we targeted sharks at the end of the pier. What a night. We caught two large shovelnose, both over 45" and a couple of smoothhound sharks. All fish were returned unharmed (barbless hooks).
Posted by cojo_reef
I know all too well about the mackerel at Goleta. Congratulations. Goleta for me has been hit/miss the last three weeks. Did you catch your sharks on the right corner of the end of the pier or just straight out? That seems to be the best spot at the end of the pier. About 50 yards off the end of the pier is a horseshoe shape U that drops off into deeper water. This is the spot that holds sharks, rays, and skates (bait stealers). Just off the right side of the end an oil pipe is just on the ledge of this horse shoe and makes a deep drop off. On the end of the pier-right corner side, I have seen caught and have caught species from shovelnose shark, smoothhound shark, rays, puffer shark, leopard shark, cabezon, kelp bass, octopus, and huge spider crabs. This one little area holds so many species. When they come in or out to feed they always seem to visit this same spot. Have you noticed this too? You must have caught your sharks from 7:00 PM-9:00 PM. Am I right?
Posted by pat papa
We fished to the right at the end and also straight out and caught the shovelnose in both locations. It was nice because there was nobody at the end, which is unusual. I agree that this seems to be the hot spot. Last year we would fish Goleta 2-3 times a week but it was usually so crowded that we would fish at the second or third bench from the end. We usually got less fish but would usually get a couple. I would rather catch one or two and not be elbow to elbow. Where do you fish for leopard sharks? I have heard that its better fishing closer to the surf using sand crabs but have not tried it. I have only seen one caught from Goleta between the portacrapper and the crane. It was huge, probably 4-5' with large girth. What an amazing fish. As a side note, when I was talking to that guy that caught the leopard shark he said that he had seen a large shark surface which was about 10-12'. I guess that is not so common.
In terms of the time period, from what I remember last year, we got most of our bites were after 9 PM till about 11 PM, but you are right this time all fish were caught by 8 PM. Last year we started later in the summer, around the end of July, so maybe the time period has something to do with being later into the summer.
Posted by Leapin Bass
I've only seen one leopard caught at Goleta also but it was off the left end—caught by my cousin at about 2:00 am. It was a nice one (about 5 ft.). I hear a lot about leopard sharks being caught there but I believe a lot of them are swell sharks. I have caught quite a few when I used to surf fish with bait (now I only use plastics because it's much more fun and you catch more halibut). You're probably right about the leopards being in shallower water.
In September of 1984 two blues came close to the pier. One was about 6 ft. and one was about 9 ft. (they looked more like 10 and 13 ft.—everything always looks bigger in the water!) I had the big one on for about 10 minutes until he chewed through the rope I used as a leader (didn't have wire).
A half an hour after dark until around midnight on a rising tide has always been the best time for me.
Went out there for the first time this year last Thursday night... started trying to catch some bait and only got one tiny jack mackerel. Fished under the last light on the right hand side (secret spot!). There were people on the end of the pier but I didn't really care, I've been fishing at Goleta Pier since the early 80's and haven't really noticed the end being any better for sharks and rays than anywhere else toward the end. What I like about the end more than anything is that it's more difficult for other people to cast over your line. Because of the pipe and to avoid getting snagged in the kelp I typically fish off the left side for sharks and rays. Fished the left side near the last fish cleaning station with the mackerel on my lighter stick (15 lb.) and squid on the heavier (20 lb.). Got one bat ray (40-50 lb. range) and a couple of thornbacks all on the squid. The people on the end got 3 thornbacks for 4 guys.
The only other fish I saw was a tiny swell shark that they swore was a leopard shark (this happens all the time).
Date: August 13, 2002
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: Goleta's Dolphin Lady ...
Dolphin's seem to excite our imagination ... at least it does for this particular 'regular'. I first met her early one Saturday morning while I was fishing towards the end of the pier. I heard someone at the end imploring someone else named Flipper to 'come up out of there.' I didn't pay much attention until she started kicking amd pounding on the railing. At that I went over and asked if I could help ... thinking that maybe someone she knew had climbed down under the pier and was having problems getting back up. She informed me that she could communicate with the Dolphin's (we have a resident pod that got stranded during one of the El Nino's) and they always came when she called them. Except for today as Flipper was being 'naughty'... oooKay ... with that I went back to fishing doing my best to ignore her. Finally after 10 minutes or so she seemed satisfied that Flipper had acknowledged her and she left the pier. During the entire encounter I had seen no dolphins whatsoever.
Didn't think much of it until several weeks later when she reappeared with a reporter in tow and repeated the whole scenario. Afterwards the reporter sidled up to me and quietly asked if I seen the dolphin's that the women insisted had been there. I told her she had to use her imagination as dolphin's were magical creatures and didn't appear to just anyone ... just to those who believed in them. With that the reporter turned around and marched off the pier. Pierhead
Date: April 20, 2003
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: New species
Fished just after the low tide this morning. No wind and very calm. Still exploring the reef from the restroom area to the first west side light. Trying to see how this part of the reef—without much kelp—might be different from the heavily 'forested' area I usually fish. Met with Shaun (aka Goonerdude) and began working the reef with whole anchovy and some squid strips.
While Shaun threw a new lure I got a pretty good hookup. Took a whole anchovy as well as some line. With Shaun's help we got it netted and up on deck. Hadn't seen one like this before ... at 20 inches its shape resembled a shovelnose but the coloring was all wrong. It had dark wavy and mottled lines across it like it was in deep shadows. It also had what looked like a thornback's row of spines on the back. Shaun looked it up in the Petersen Field Guide and discovered it was a banded guitarfish. First one I've seen at Goleta and a brand new species for me!
Date: April 29, 2003
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: New pole and Lingcod
Which two California piers were threatened by closure in 2002 due to the number of pelicans being caught by anglers?
That's the trivia question that Ken posed at the Catalina Derby. Knowing that the prize was a beautiful 7-foot, one piece, hand-built and custom wrapped rod by none other than Gyozadude himself I shouted out the answer—Stearns Wharf and Santa Cruz—completely forgetting that I was supposed to preface it with my board name. But they cut me some slack ...
Today I took the rod out to Goleta to formerly inaugurate it. Got there around 7am to fish the incoming tide. Set up on the west side just behind the breakers hoping for halibut but there were no baitfish to be had so I settled for squid and anchovy which were spectacularly unsuccessful. Finally some 6" sardines showed up around 11am and I baited both G-dudes pole and a 10' Sealine- X with them on slider rigs. While I was temporarily away the Sealine went bendo and a friend rushed to help out.
Because he was unfamiliar with the drag system on the Shimano Baitrunner and wasn't aware that I was using Circle hooks the fish got off just as I got back. But it was a start and I rebaited and tossed out again. Within 5 minutes the Sealine went off again and this time I was able to bring it in ... a 20" thornback that had managed to lip the hook but couldn't swallow the bait because he was stuffed to the gills with sardines ... there was even a tail sticking out of his mouth!
Well, my rule of thumb is that when the thornbacks show up I split. Besides the wind was coming up again and I don't think I have ever caught a fish when it was windy. But just before I packed up I decided to move up the pier to give it one more try. I really wanted to be able to post a catch on the new pole as a way of thanking James for both the pole and the kind thoughts expressed towards me in a post yesterday.
Sabikied up a couple more sardines and cast out—giving his pole the favored position in the kelp reef. Didn't take long—down went his pole and up came a 22" Lingcod which went 3 pounds 3 ounces. How appropriate as green is my favorite color and it also matches the wrap on the pole. By the time I had measured, weighed and photographed it the fish was kind of tuckered out. So I placed it back in my net and lowered it over the side. It revived within a couple of minutes and slowly swam away.
Date: July 14, 2003
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: Goleta Get Together
I had a total blast at the Goleta Get Together.... First visit to both piers.
Friday and Saturday, July 11-12
I walked on Goleta pier shortly after 10am on Friday. Excellent first impression! The place was fishy, I knew it right away. Went back to the car and got my gear and went out about 2/3 to the end. I was not sure about bait down here so I had brought a few dozen pile worms that did not fare well despite being kept cold. But they did catch some fish. Still, I was humbled by the realization that, as baits go, local offerings were superior.
Kelp beds were in fairly close so I pitched rigs into the clump. This is a proven method and is less prone to snags than people might imagine. For one, I use compact rigs with short leaders on a drift ball sinker. It smacks the kelp and filters down the forest nicely. (Most times, anyway! Other occasions will see the bait sitting on top of the bed like a golf ball on the green.) The deal is, you don't pull in unless you absolutely have to. You wait for the fish because it is a lot easier (so to speak) to recover your rigging with a fish on. Even then there is a bit of a workout! I discovered fairly soon that my 2500 reel was not up to the task.
I got two rockfish the first "shift," one on whole frozen anchovy and the other on a pile worm, took care of some business and talked with some familiar and new people, then returned for a quick late afternoon shot. Met up with Red Fish and we tried the sequence of catching live shiners and trying for halibut. Not much going on there other than bait. So one more rockfish on anchovy and then it was time to get ready for the UPSAC meeting.
Saturday was more of the same, a trip in the late a.m with Andy, aka Fishfishaj, who is a great source of knowledge and wisdom. First we gathered sand crabs and tried to work the surf area for corbinas (his mom got a cool looking yellow fin croaker). Another rockfish and then it was time to go to the BBQ. Afterward I went out again and made some more casts, shot the bull with more people and caught some more rockfish.
But forget all that! Shortly before the sunrise (see Rich Reano's cool picture) and just into the moonrise (see Predator's cool picture), I saw five dolphins moving gracefully and majestically through the area. Just amazing and by itself worth the trip down!
Date: August 31, 2003
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: Goleta Pier 8-31-03
Now I don't normally fish for halibut but today I had a reason - the universe owed one of the regulars big time and I figured I could be the vehicle to make that happen
Here's the story: Yesterday Fred varied his regular perchin' routine and used a whole anchovy instead of cut bait ... and wouldn't you know it he gets hit big time. Like a 30" halibut big time. And no net because he is a percher ... But he goes through this routine several times a year so he is kind of used to it.
Walks the fish down to the surfline and floats it high up on the sand on the biggest wave of the set. That gives him some time to run down and pick it up. BUT - Augie says he will get it and makes a beeline for it. Fred, being the patient guy that he is and knowing that Augie sometimes needs to feel useful, nods his assent and watches him approach the fish, bend over and ... freeze. Perhaps it was the teeth that were snapping at him. Perhaps it was something else. But whatever ... he just can't make himself pick up the fish.
'Get it!', yells Fred from up on deck. No response. 'Get it!', yell the bystanders crowding on the beach. No response. 'Get the fish, Augie!', yell the kids from the Spec Ed school touring the pier.
But Augie just stands there watching as the fish comes unbuttoned and starts flopping around just above the incoming waves. Time is running out ... the waves are getting closer. And Fred is about to lose the biggest halibut he has had in years.
Finally one of the bystanders races over to the fish and steps on its tail ... which squirts the fish into the next wave. Nice clean release ... but not what Fred had in mind. But, as I said, Fred is understanding and by the end of the day had converted his personal tragedy into a very funny fish story that will stay with the rest of us much longer than even a 30" halibut.
So after hearing that story from Martin (GreenRag) last night I made up my mind that I was going to try to replace the fish that Augie lost. Woke up this morning thinking of Songslinger's halibut floats at Berkeley Pier and decided that was the way to go.
Now at Goleta bobbers are rarely used so I got a lot of questions this morning. I also got to watch the bobber get sucked under and run with 2 times and then, with some adjustments, finally landed 2 halibut (16 and 21"") before losing the rig (and the only bobber I had with me) to the pilings.
Couldn't replace Fred's fish but did find a way to fish for halibut that I really liked ... bobbers are fun and very visual when they get sucked under. You can see just how long the fish runs before it stops and swallows the bait. Using circle hooks (and the drag provided by the bobber) its just a matter of time before the fish moves off again and and hooks itself.
I used a 1-oz slider with a 30" leader and a #6 circle hook. Put the bobber about 4' above the weight and pinned a frozen anchovy through the nose. I used to pass the hook behind the eye and wrap the body several times before pinning the tail but the two I lost this morning were done that way. So I just did the nose thing and the bait had a more natural movement. The first two (wrapped) baits had large semi-circle bites out of the stomach whereas the nose-hooked were taken in completely. The wind was against me so I casted out 25 yards and let the bobber drag the bait back to the pier. All 4 hook-up were within 10 yards of the pier and 25 yards from the surfline.
Date: October 1, 2005
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: Unknown fish tonight at Goleta
Not really a lot of bait in the pier for most of the day until around five when the macks showed up. I was out there with pierhead, big Goleta kid, and seabass seeker. It wasn’t so hot. I caught a few little rockfish, some macks and some little perch. BGK’s dad caught a 30" angel shark...and there were a lot of real baby spider crabs cruising around. Got a keeper red rock crab in my net, and seabass seeker pulled up a crazy looking eel fish thing in his net. It looked like a fishes head and it really didn’t have teeth but it definitely had an eel body; a nice fat parasite crawled out of its gill too...I think pierhead got some decent pics so he might post them.
Did You Know? There is a prize-winning flower named after the pier. It’s an orchid
Lc. Orange Embers 'Goleta Pier' developed by the Suwada Orchid Nursery.
Did You Know? The beach upon which the pier sits is partly man-made resulting from operations that covered the existing sand spit with additional sand in 1945. Unfortunately there has needed to be constant and costly efforts to keep the beach from eroding away. Since the mid 1980s the beach has been eroding an average of 20 feet-per-year. Fear that the seaside park would eventually fail to exist resulted in several different plans and millions of dollars have been dedicated toward preservation. Latest plans include widening the inner portion of the pier and adding several hundred additional pilings to change water flow and block the flow of sand away from the beach.
Did You Know? The Goleta Slough is a tidal estuary, the largest between Point Mugu and Morro Bay. It drains the Goleta Valley and its entire watershed. The slough receives water from local creeks and those that drain from the southern face of the Santa Ynez Mountains. Wetlands that today cover about 430 acres once covered 1,150 acres. Construction of the Marine Corps Air Station, Santa Barbara, along with the subsequent construction and expansion of the Santa Barbara Airport, has covered up most of those wetlands. 279 different bird species have been recorded from the Goleta Slough
Did You Know? During World War II a crane was installed on the pier for training Marine airmen. An old torpedo plane fuselage was suspended from the crane. Trainees in full battle gear would enter the fuselage as though entering a plane and then the fuselage would be dropped 15 feet into the water. The crews had 60 seconds to orderly abandon ship and properly inflate a life raft. Sometimes the trainees were also dropped from the crane in parachutes. Records do not record how many men failed to perform these exercise in a timely manner or their fate if they failed.
Author’s Note. It’s rare to gain access to personal fishing logs but one is available for this pier. Boyd Grant, known as Pierhead to those at PFIC, adopted the Goleta Pier as his own in the late 1990s and became its main protector as well as its most vocal advocate. Not only did he set up a group of regulars to keep an eye on the pier but he also developed what I think is undoubtedly the best website for an individual pier (http://pierhead.freeservers.com/home.html).
His site includes a photo album, a historical overview, photo essays, helpful links AND a one-year log of his catches from June 2002 to May of 2003. Although every year is different it provides an intriguing look at the life of this one pier and with his permission I present a year in the life of a pier (and pier rat).
Total Fish this month: 106
Number of species: 16
Summary: Rockfish continue to be the predominant catch in the kelpline from the 3rd quarter of pier using either anchovy or squid. A few White Seabass ranging from 18-30” caught in surfline early in month. Other unusual catches included a 12# Black Sea Bass caught on 6/10 at the surfline and a 48” Blue shark caught 6/19 off the end. Did receive an unconfirmed report of 2 Striped Bass caught 6/2 off the end. Halibut to 30” are beginning to appear but not in the numbers like last year. Fish—staghorn sculpin, Pacific mackerel, white croaker, barred surfperch, blue rockfish, brown rockfish, kelp rockfish, bat ray, thornback ray, shovelnose guitarfish, brown smoothhound, barred sand bass, kelp bass, lingcod, anchovy, shinerperch, jacksmelt.
Total Fish this month: 72
Number of species 23
Summary: Rockfish remain the predominant catch in the kelpline on the west side of the pier. Increased species count by fishing pilings as well as kelpline and channel between pier and kelp. Beginning to see some ‘El Nino’ species—Senorita fish and Rock Wrasse. Halibut are also beginning to be caught regularly as the water warms above 64 degrees. The Corbina are still very active inshore along the surfline as well as a few White Seabass in the early mornings. Several large Bat Rays caught towards end of month—one was estimated to be over 100 pounds. Baitfish are still somewhat scarce but Mackerel are showing up with some frequency. Fish—Pacific mackerel, black perch, silver surfperch, black rockfish, blue rockfish, brown rockfish, black & yellow rockfish, grass rockfish, kelp rockfish, olive rockfish, thornback ray, shovelnose guitarfish, swell shark, barred sand bass, kelp bass, California halibut, California scorpionfish, senorita, mackerel jack, queenfish, jacksmelt, shinerperch, white croaker
Total Fish this Month: 49
Number of Species: 18
Summary: Major change this month was a drop in water temperatures during the 3rd week from 65 to 57 degrees. Too soon to tell if it has affected the halibut catch although it doesn’t appear to have made much of a difference so far. Rockfish catch rates were down in the first 2 weeks but seemed to have bounced back—perhaps due to the lower water temperatures? Grey Smoothounds and swell sharks are still being caught as well as the occasional WSB. The corbina are no longer appearing in great numbers (as of the third week) nor are they as easy to catch but baby squid are showing up at nights under the lights. There have been reports of the occasional giant Humboldt squid appearing on the beaches. Fish—staghorn sculpin, white croaker, Pacific mackerel, mackerel jack, silver surfperch, blue rockfish, brown rockfish, black & yellow rockfish, grass rockfish, kelp rockfish, thornback ray, brown smoothhound, swell shark, barred sand bass, kelp bass, California scorpionfish, giant kelpfish, shinerperch
Total Fish this Month: 74
Number of Species: 13
Summary: 9/7/02 Confirmed 16 pound Striped Bass caught on whole frozen anchovy tossed under the pier. 9/14/02 Large Barred Surfperch (12-16”) being caught on sidewinder crabs near foot of pier. 32” Halibut caught on live smelt midpier eastside. 9/22/02 Several large (25”) Corbina snagged in surf. 9/26/02 1st sand bass in a while. Fish— Pacific mackerel, white croaker, queenfish, Jack mackerel, blue rockfish, brown rockfish, black & yellow rockfish, grass rockfish, kelp rockfish, yellowtail rockfish, thornback ray, gray smoothhound, kelp bass
Total Fish this Month: 79
Number of Species: 10
Summary: 10/1/02 Major red tide conditions—low oxygen content, poor fish bite. Great bioluminescence. 10/13/02 Red tide has disappeared. Water quality downgraded to C on 10/7/02. 10/14/02 Lots of baitfish— sardines, smelt and anchovy. Good run of mackerel. Water upgraded to B. 10/21/02 Water downgraded to C again. Fish—Pacific mackerel, white croaker, black rockfish, blue rockfish, brown rockfish, grass rockfish, kelp rockfish, yellowtail rockfish, thornback ray, brown smoothhound, gray smoothhound, kelp bass, lizardfish, Pacific sardine
Total Fish this Month: 54
Number of Species: 13
Summary: 11/6/02 Some baitfish (jacksmelt and anchovy). Water upgraded to A. Heavy rains began 11/7 and ended 11/9. Mud from run-off appeared 11/11 and gone by 11-14-02. Report of a 20” Lingcod caught in kelp reef. 11/23/02. Many short halibut and a few 25-30” caught in surfline. Recent beach sculpting to create a winter berm has deepened the inshore slope causing steeper waves and more water movement. 11/24/02 Red tide again. 11/30/02 Excellent rockfish bite between 5-9pm … sizes are increasing from last months average of 8” and Grass and Kelp rockfish are replacing the summer’s Brown rockfish. Fish—staghorn sculpin, Pacific mackerel, white croaker, brown rockfish, black & yellow rockfish, grass rockfish, kelp rockfish, thornback ray, barred sand bass, kelp bass, California scorpionfish, jacksmelt
Total Fish this Month: 49
Number of Species: 7
Summary: Under the new DFG regulations effective 1/1/03 rockfishing is closed until 6-30-03. I have had a great year exploring the kelp reef structure and accumulating lots of good data on the rockfish population but now it is time to switch gears—my new emphasis for first half of this coming year will be on the piling structure and associated species like pile and buttermouth perch. I will also explore the wonderful world of Corbina fishing which was outstanding this past year at Goleta. Hopefully I will get a few Sandbass, Calico Bass and Halibut as well as I switch to fishing with live baits jigged up on a Sabiki rig. Best wishes and good fishing to all in the New Year as we adapt to the new restrictions on our sport. Fish— brown rockfish, grass rockfish, kelp rockfish, bat ray, thornback ray, cabezon, white croaker, shinerperch.
Total Fish this Month: 48
Number of Species: 12
Summary: 1-04-03 Lots of baitfish—small jacksmelt. Large pile perch still being caught on lugworms and small black rock crabs. 1/12/03 Baitfish thinning out. 1/13/03 Baitfish gone. 1/31/03 Baitfish beginning to reappear. Still catching large pile perch and Black perch (Buttermouth) but not as large and not as many as earlier in the month. Very few halibut now but there are still a few corbina at night. Fish—barred surfperch, black perch, walleye surfperch, brown rockfish, grass rockfish, kelp rockfish, barred sand bass, shovelnose guitarfish, Pacific sardine, jacksmelt, white croaker, shinerperch
Total Fish this Month: 20
Number of Species: 11
Summary: 2-1-03 Few baitfish in water. One legal halibut caught off end on mussels (25”, 5#). DFG ‘walked’ the pier today in response to recent complaints regarding multiple-pole violations—remember, only 2 lines allowed per person on public piers. 2-22-03: DFG walked pier again today. No baitfish in water. Several whales in bay—reports of a 50’ whale cruising the kelp reef last week. 2-27-03 Large Barred surfperch beginning spring run—sizes up to 16” and most bearing young—please return fry to water if keeping catch. Still no baitfish. Fish—staghorn sculpin, barred surfperch, walleye surfperch, brown rockfish, grass rockfish, kelp rockfish, thornback ray, shovelnose guitarfish, barred sand bass, Pacific sanddab, jacksmelt
Total Fish this Month: 61
Number of Species: 17
Summary: 3-3-03 Fishing very slow—primarily perch. Some small baitfish beginning to reappear. 1st grunion run (3/4- 3/7/03) did not materialize. 3-10-03 Baitfish back in number—halibut beginning to return …28” caught this weekend midpier on live bait. 3/15/03 Goleta Pier (SB Airport) got 4.74 inches of rain between 1am and 10 am today—most rain of any March storm since 1941. 3-25-03 Rockfish levels returning to Summer/Fall rates -primarily during sunset hours. Water temperatures have dropped from 57 degrees to 52 degrees, which is unprecedented … trying to determine if reports are accurate. More halibut being reported caught west side mid-pier. 3/28/03 Top smelt and night smelt in some numbers. Several more reports of a large (4-5’) Leopard shark—no one has managed to bring it in so far. 3/30/03—water temps still at 52 degrees. Caught a 19” Lingcod and a 16” Monkeyface Prickleback … also saw a 17” Cabezon caught. Fish—black perch, walleye surfperch, brown rockfish, grass rockfish, kelp rockfish, thornback ray, shovelnose guitarfish, barred sand bass, kelp bass, lingcod, onespot fringehead, speckled midshipman, white croaker, mackerel jack
Total Fish this Month: 23
Number of Species: 6
Summary: 4/4/03 Water still extremely cold (52 degrees). No baitfish in water. Very windy past week. 4/7/03 No wind and water temps up to 55 degrees. 4/29/03 Water temps at 54 degrees for past two weeks due to wind? Schools of sardines and small jacksmelt appearing regularly. Caught a 22” Lingcod … 3rd this year and second this month. Also caught a very rare Banded Guitarfish—possibly the northern-most catch of this species, as it is not usually found above San Diego. Fish—brown rockfish, grass rockfish, kelp rockfish, thornback ray, banded guitarfish, lingcod
Total Fish this Month: 22
Number of Species: 7
Summary: 5/3/03 Water muddy from recent rain … some baitfish (Jacksmelt) and small perch. 5/7/03 Water temp is the lowest I’ve seen—measured 50 degrees at the pier. Smoothhound sharks beginning to appear—saw the largest one I’ve ever seen—40+” caught at foot of pier. 5/26/03 Pier closed weekdays for next several weeks for piling repairs. Water temps are back up to 54-56 degrees and many halibut are beginning to be caught. Lots of baitfish—primarily small jacksmelt and sardines. Still a good run of large (14-16”) Barred surfperch. Fish— brown rockfish, grass rockfish, kelp rockfish, olive rockfish, thornback ray, and lingcod
History Note. When Juan Cabrillo discovered this coastal spot in 1542, it was the largest “city” in California. It had a population of over 1,000 Canalino Indians who lived on Mescalitan Island (which today sits under the road leading to UCSB). The term “Goleta” by the way, means “schooner” in Spanish and was used as a name for a land grant in 1846. No one is quite sure however if it is so named because of a wreck here of an American schooner or because a vessel was built here in 1829.
The Goleta Slough and Estuary was used as a deep-water port until the floods of 1860-1861 brought down more than fourteen feet of silt; later a whaling station operated on the beach in the 1880s.
In 1874 T. Wallace More who, along with other local ranchers, needed a way to ship his cattle and produce out of Goleta Valley built a wharf on Goleta Beach. As was the practice in those days, the wharf was named after the owner and became More’s Landing. Unfortunately for More, his use of the wharf was short lived. He was murdered by a group of squatters just three years later in 1877. Still, his wharf lived on.
That wharf was 900-foot-long, 35-foot-wide, and reached out into water that was about 11 feet deep at low tide. Shallow, but sufficient for the coastal boats that used it as a port (mostly for shipping the valley’s livestock to the islands, and its farm produce to San Francisco). Competition from the nearby Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara led to comparable shipping rates for the two wharves. Whenever a coastal steamer would announce its incoming delivery by tooting its whistle three times, the wharf manager would hurry down to the wharf with horse and wagon to unload the incoming goods.
In addition to the farm commodities, over 2,000 tons of asphaltum were sent from the nearby mines (located under today's UCSB) to pave the streets of San Francisco, as well as those in New Orleans' Vieux Carre (the famous French Quarter). With the coming of the railroad in 1887 the landing became a railroad wharf. Little remains of those early ventures.
The wharf at least partially collapsed sometime after 1902 but modifications (reconstruction and repair?) are recorded by the federal Department of Forestry in the late 1920s. Another reconstruction took place in 1954 (as happened again in the 1980s). Such is the nature of California’s coastal piers. Evidently the pier was reduced down to about 600 feet at some point since one report says it was lengthened by 800 feet in the '80s. There also was a time in the '80s when a sportfishing craft, the sixty-five-foot-long Island Fox operated from the pier. Today, the main boats that operate from the pier are private and university craft launched from the mid-pier sling.
Goleta Pier Facts
Hours: Open 24 hours a day.
Facilities: Lights and fish-cleaning facilities are located on the pier as is a launch sling for small boats. At the foot of the pier are found restrooms, a restaurant, and a snack bar. Free parking is found near the front of the pier.
Handicapped Facilities: Handicapped parking and restrooms. The pier surface is wood (but very uneven and rough in spots) and the rail height is 42 inches. Posted for handicapped.
How To Get There: From Highway 101 take the Hwy. 217/Airport exit. Follow it to Sandspit Rd. and the Goleta Beach Park turnoff. Follow this to the park and the pier.
Management: County Parks Department—Santa Barbara County.
Support UPSAC! Preserve pier and shore angling in California.
Last edited by Ken Jones on Sat Mar 21, 2009 11:37 pm; edited 1 time in total