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>> Stearns Wharf (Santa Barbara) — Update [topic: previous/next]
PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 8:30 pm
Ken Jones

Posts: 9780
Location: California

From Pier Fishing in California, 3rd Ed.

Stearns Wharf—Santa Barbara

What's with these travel writers anyway? Santa Barbara seems to get more than its fair share of articles in newspaper and travel magazines but I've rarely seen such diversity of opinion about any other town. One writer wrote about the “faux funk look” of the town and remarked, “The stud through Santa Barbara's navel is clearly a clip-on.” Turns out that the writer was giving a compliment: the town “is just a little too clean cut to be funky and a little too big to be considered a trendy enclave.” Another waxed poetic—“It was a day when the sky of rich cerulean blue was quietly melting into a clear aqua sea, when the silhouettes of Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and San Miguel islands arched like great leaping dolphins on the shimmering horizons.”

It's all academic to me. Ask me the color of an urarovite or a chrysocolla and I'll probably begin a slow drool—perhaps combined with a slightly ticking eyeball. But ask me where to fish in Santa Barbara and I'll immediately mention Stearns Wharf, the wharf built in 1872 by local lumber merchant John Peck Stearns. It is one of the last of California's original large working wharves, essential facilities that served not only as ports but also as focal points for entire towns. Later, with the advent of railroads and automobiles, the wharves became less important. Eventually, pleasure piers replaced some of the old wharves, and still later many were succeeded by fishing piers. Only a few of these big old wharves remain: Redondo Beach, Monterey, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara. Each is a large multi-use facility that caters to a wide range of interests. Today, Stearns is the home of fine restaurants, fresh fish markets, ecology groups, a museum/aquarium (the Ty Warner Sea Center), Gypsy palmistry and an estimated five million visitors a year. Fishermen and fishing don't always get the most attention, but they still provide a lot of the life, flavor and excitement on the pier.

The wharf: Battered but unbowed

I stood on the far end of Stearns Wharf and wondered how long it could stand the pounding. With powerful, chocolate brown-colored waves battering the 126-year-old pier, and around 150 thick planks already knocked out, could it survive? Survive? A few hours later, the Harbor Restaurant was hosting 300 guests...”A fast recovery,” laughed hostess Janet Johnson. Despite needing an estimated $250,000 in repairs, the wharf was open to the public Wednesday, except where replacement of pilings and planks was under way at the ocean end. “The wharf is looking great and businesses are open,” Al Steinman, owner of Moby Dick's Restaurant said Wednesday. “The city's really on the ball.”...

But Tuesday afternoon, I didn't see how John Peck Stearns' 1872 pier could last another day. Steinman was checking his place. “I got down here about 5 a.m. It was wild. I've never seen it that wild. Forty to 50 mile-an-hour winds, at least. The blowing sand peppered you. But all the people showed up for work this morning. The faithful. “Its déjà vu all over again,” he said, recalling the 1983 storm that knocked the restaurant out of business for months.

But despite wave after giant wave battering the pilings and crashing under the Harbor Restaurant Tuesday, I found no one who had the slightest doubt that the wharf would survive the pounding. Picking my way past gaping holes in the planking with News-Press photographer Steve Malone, I met yellow-slickered Dwayne Johnson, a city wharf worker at the far end. “It's pretty dangerous out here,” Johnson warned as a cold wind and rain lashed us. The Coast Guard shack, holding the foghorn, had been swept overboard the night before. Splintered 4-by-12 planks were piled like broken matches. “Even the wishing well was wrecked,” Johnson said, pointing to railings around the open area where tourists peer into the depths at the sea life and toss money down...

I thought of the story I wrote after the February 1983 storm, about how the old pier had survived countless acts of man and God. It was only six years old when a south-easter tore out 1,000 feet. In 1887 the cadence of 200 marching Civil war vets set the rickety pier swaying so much that 3,000 onlookers were nearly pitched in the drink... In 1921 the wharf was set afire by sparks from a hotel blaze. In 1925 a storm carried the Yacht Club clubhouse out to sea... But by Wednesday's early light, the pier was still there, the huge American flag still flying.

—Barney Brantingham, Off The Beat
Santa Barbara News-Press, February 5, 1998

Environment. Although Stearns is basically an oceanfront, sandy-shore pier, Santa Barbara’s artificial harbor and its breakwater sit just a short distance west of the pier. In effect, some currents and wave actions are blocked although it’s hard to gauge the overall impact to the fishing. However, the necessary yearly dredging of the harbor’s entrance (usually in the winter) can affect the clarity of the water and the turbidity can affect the fishing during the time of dredging.

Unfortunately the pilings, once heavily encrusted with mussels, have suffered the same consequence as many other southern California piers. They’ve been wrapped with rubber and rarely show the same growth on them as unwrapped pilings; lack of things like mussels and the various assorted critters that inhabit the mussel environment also means less fish cruisin’ around the pilings. Nevertheless, there can be decent amounts of kelp by the pilings some years and fish will be attracted to the kelp and its associated creatures.

Also unfortunate is the limited amounts of pier space left to anglers. When I first fished the pier back in the early ‘80s almost the entire pier was open to fishing, at least those parts that weren’t covered by commercial establishments. Today the narrow inshore section prohibits fishing; it has something to do with the possibility of a stray sinker plunging through a car’s windshield (it makes sense). Mid-pier areas are heavily covered with businesses and/or reserved parking spaces for cars and again there’s a reluctance to allow hook and sinker people, and their occasional careless casting, into those areas (it makes sense). Although I’m told some fishing is still allowed in front of the Sea Center, the majority of fishing area is the far end of the pier, roughly 300 feet of wide-open space. And I do mean wide-open space since there are no railings (although a few benches and logs).

With the loss of the inshore and mid-pier areas to fishing comes a loss of two normal So Cal pier activities: (1) fishing the surf area for barred surfperch and (2) fishing just out from the surf area for halibut. Although the former may not be a big loss, since the moderate waves do not provide as good fishing as piers with more sand disturbing wave action, the mid-pier halibut loss is significant. Kayakers and tubers report good halibut action near the pier in areas and water depths no longer available to most of the pier anglers. Halibut are still available out at the end but I’m convinced far more would be taken if the mid-pier section were open for fishing.

Fish available at the pier are the normal southern California species with halibut, mackerel, jacksmelt, white croaker (ronkie), sand bass, kelp bass (calico bass), scorpionfish (sculpin), various perch, bat rays, and shovelnose guitarfish (sand sharks) dominating the catch. A good attribute, since most of these species are small, is the moderate wave action and the fact that the pier’s surface is fairly close to the water; most of the time an angler can fish with a fairly light line and weight.

And even though most of the pier’s anglers will rarely see it (due to the techniques they chose to follow), there can be good variety. As example, a three-hour trip by myself on a mid-June evening produced ten different species of fish. Included were several types of perch, two types of croaker, sand bass, Pacific mackerel, jack mackerel, sanddabs and even a scorpionfish. The scorpionfish was the strangest of the night. I had caught a small queenfish and decided to use it for live bait. A few minutes later I had a strike and pulled in a scorpionfish that was barely bigger than the queenfish. What the spiny beast was doing attacking the queenfish was unclear since the queenfish would not have fit down El Scorpio’s gullet.

One species of note is kelp bass; of the 35 southern California piers in my personal record book, only the two piers at Catalina show a higher number of kelp bass than Stearns. I’m not sure why the number is so high but there’s a lot of the feisty little bass under the wharf. Unfortunately most are 8-10 inches long and thus illegal to keep since 12 inches is the minimum legal length.

One interesting local enigma is the unusual name used for white croaker. Generally in southern California a white croaker is called a tom cod (not to be confused with the true tom cod of northern waters). In central California and the San Francisco Bay region the fish is called a kingfish (not to confused with the kingfish of the southern and Gulf states). But no, Santa Barbara has to be different; in this area the fish has traditionally gone by the alias “Roncador” or “Ronkie.” Although the latter sounds like something out of Star Wars, many Santa Barbarans (Barbarians? —just kidding) continue to use the name. To be fair, many people in southern California used to call the little croaker a Pasadena trout and no doubt it was a put down on both the fish and on Pasadena. I doubt if anyone would be offended by calling it a “Ronkie.”

The non-fishing environment, as mentioned, is also interesting with its eclectic mix of restaurants, shops and tourists from throughout the world seeking out a bit of (somewhat unnatural) nature. On shore, the waterfront is lined with towering palms, buildings with attractive early California architecture, and a backdrop view of the Santa Ynez Mountains that can be hard to beat on a clear day. It’s a beautiful area with an interesting aura to it, just wish it wasn’t so crowded—and pricey.

Fishing Tips. With the restrictions on fishing space, most fishing is at the end and most of the recommendations apply to that area. Three main types of fishing are practiced. Both the regulars and the tourists use the first. Bait rigs, mainly Sabiki, but also Lucky Lura and others, are used in the pursuit of baitfish (by regulars) and any and all fish by others. Several species of baitfish come in near the wharf with Pacific mackerel, Spanish mackerel (jack mackerel), and sardines leading the hit parade. When they’re present they are usually present in good numbers. Smelt, both jacksmelt and topsmelt, will also be taken on the bait rigs, as will walleye surfperch, shinerperch and occasionally queenfish.

The second main technique, primarily used by regulars, is to take the live baitfish that was caught by the bait rigs and fish on the bottom for halibut, sharks or rays. Generally a Carolina-type rig, aka fish-finder-rig, is used in which the line is free to move through an egg sinker. All of the baitfish mentioned make good halibut bait (and I especially like small queenfish), while sharks prefer something a little oilier and smellier; they especially like mini-mackerel.

The third approach, seemingly used by less and less people, is the old, tried-and-true approach to fishing the pilings and under the wharf for perch and bass. For this all you need is a light action rig, a couple of size 8-4 hooks, and a one-ounce torpedo sinker. Use seaworms—pile worms, bloodworms, and lugworms—fresh mussel, small ghost shrimp, or small pieces of market shrimp and fish the vertical length of the pilings as well as the area next to the base of the piling. Old time perchers, and I'm old enough to be one, would target big pileperch in the upper portions of the water, blackperch (buttermouth), rubberlip and rainbow seaperch down near the bottom next to the piling.

Those three techniques are the primary methods but there are lots of variations, especially when the live bait isn’t available. For the halibut, cut or whole anchovies can be used, either Carolina-style of with a high/low rig. Most people simply cast it out and wait, better is to cast out and retrieve slowly much as you would do with a lure. If the wharf isn’t crowded, troll (walk slowly) along the edge of the pilings; often the halibut like to hang in depressions between pilings. Lures will also work with swim baits—Big Hammer, Fish Trap, etc. being the most commonly used. Am told by Pete Wolf, the local producer of the Big Hammer lures that the favorites for halibut in these waters are the anchovy, smelt and rainbow trout patterns. I understand the anchovy and smelt patterns, but come on, rainbow trout? Are there some steelhead secretly hanging out under the wharf?

For sharks, guitarfish and bat rays use a bloody piece of mackerel or a decent-sized piece of squid and let the bait sit on the bottom. The sharks like the mackerel best, the rays like the squid (and some people put a live fish inside a hollowed out squid body for smell and movement). For the large bat rays use heavy tackle and be prepared; several bat rays weighing over 100 pounds have been landed here. Somewhat lighter gear is appropriate for most sharks but still have a net to bring the fish up to the pier. Am told by a regular who should know that about once or twice a year the pier gets a really heavy dose of mackerel and often during those times the thresher sharks follow the mackerel in. During such times a live mackerel put on a Carolina-rig or slid down a line on a sliding leader will hook the big-tailed sharks.

When the schools of larger mackerel move into the wharf area you may want to try something different than a bait rig. The bait rigs will work but sooner or later you’ll get three or more on a line and wind up with a tangled mess that either (1) means taking too much time to unravel the line or (2) cannot be untangled meaning the loss of a $3-4 rig. Better is simply to attach a couple size 4-2 hooks to the line, bait each with a strip of squid or piece of mackerel, cast out and begin a slow retrieve. If the macs are around they will find your bait. If the macs are skittish you may need to tie a single hook to the end of the line, attach a small split shot sinker a couple of feet up the line, and bait with a strip of squid or a piece of mackerel. Sometimes, when the macs are hanging mid-depth, you might also want to try a float; set it so the hooks and bait are 6-8 feet under the surface of the water. At night you can attach a glow stick near your bait and this will also improve your chances on the macs.

Small spoons will also work for the mackerel and in late fall the macs may be joined by barracuda (especially at night). When the ‘cuda are around a Kastmaster or Krocodile often proves deadly.

Although not as common as in the ‘60s and ‘70s, bonito have also begun to show up again in reasonable numbers. For the bonito try a Cast-a-Bubble with a feather, shiny spoons like Kastmasters and Krocodiles, Snapper Zappers or MegaBaits. The boneheads will also fall for a lively sardine if they’re available.

As always you can also just cast out a baited high/low or Carolina rig and sit and wait. Cut bait most typically yields white croaker, thornback rays, small sharks and a variety of small perch and flatfish.

You may also want to try the fish well out near the end of the pier (and I almost always give it a try). The small, rectangular spot will often yield an unending number of small perch, primarily shiners, even when other areas are seeing few fish (and the shiners are good bait for halibut). Do though be careful of what you keep! Young, undersized kelp bass are very common here, as are a number of different juvenile rockfish (including kelp rockfish, grass rockfish, and olive rockfish—Johnny bass). While you can legally keep the young rockfish, you cannot keep the small kelp bass. Be sure you know how to identify the different species.

Some years there are also quite a few spider crabs caught out toward the end of the pier and some are massive. Be sure to follow the correct laws for crabbing since game wardens have targeted crabbers at Stearns in the past. Actually make sure that you follow all of the various regulations. Although it is true you don't need a license to fish on a public pier, you do need to follow the rules for size and number of fish. Remember that it is every angler's duty to help restore our fishery!

As mentioned, the inshore area is almost impossible to fish although a small area is available near the Sea Center. Water here is typically shallow and will yield some barred surfperch, yellowfin croaker, shovelnose guitarfish, thornback rays and a few white croaker and walleye surfperch. Try sand crabs, bloodworms, or fresh mussels if you want the larger perch, croakers and corbina. Try squid or bloody pieces of mackerel if you want sharks or rays and for some reason quite a few small bat rays are taken from the pier (as well as some really big ones). I don’t know why but local anglers often call the small baby bat rays monkeyface rays (and you should always return them to the water).

This area will also yield up halibut, especially when the grunion are doing their spawning routine. However, I have also been told it can be a mixed story at times when the grunion are present. Sometimes schools of dolphins will also follow the grunion into the shallow, inshore waters and unfortunately when they do, they put a damper on the fishing for croakers, corbina and barred surfperch.

I've also seen some large pileperch and rubberlip seaperch lurking near the pilings, especially where the wye section connects to the main part of the pier. As usual, these species are hard to hook. One local technique is to attach half of a mussel shell to the line with a paper clip. A couple of size 12 hooks on dropper lines are then inserted into the meat of the mussel. When the large perch suck up the meat they get hooked.

In April of 2002 I had the chance to fish the wye section (behind the Sea Center and out of the wind) for a couple of evening hours with PierHead and Sinker, two of the esteemed Message Board regulars. Using some fresh mussels on size 6 hooks, I managed to land a couple of buttermouth perch (blackperch), a splittail perch (white seaperch), and something that I would have expected if I was fishing in San Francisco Bay—a bullhead (staghorn sculpin). All of the perch were taken when fishing directly under the pier and right up against the pilings; the sculpin hit my lone cast out to the deeper waters.

Sharks, by the way, do not seem to have the following here that some piers do in this area. However a number of large leopard sharks (to 5-feet-long) are normally caught each year from the mid-pier area out to the end. Add in some gray smoothhounds, an infrequent thresher shark, and even less common swell sharks, and you have a nice mixture of sharks.

Also, always be prepared for the unexpected. On a short visit to the pier in July of 1994 I had experienced what can only be described as a poor fishing trip for myself—two small fish, a kelp bass and a jack mackerel. However, an old-timer stood proudly nearby, displaying a 29-inch, 11-pound silver salmon he had caught on the pier that afternoon. His name was Bill Schenk, he was 90 1/2 years young, and he had fished on the wharf nearly every day since 1969. He, of course, was a regular and one who had his own personal pier name, Sitting Bill, since there were four other regulars also with the name of Bill. It was the largest fish “Sitting Bill” had caught on the pier in 25 years. It was also his second salmon after an earlier 3-pounder in 1990. Using light trout-fishing tackle and a heavier than normal 8-pound line (because barracuda had been biting through his line) he had his hands full. However, his friend, Mike Katz, owner of the nearby tackle shop, heard his cries, ran out, and netted the fish. The day was considered a great success for Sitting Bill. Meeting him and getting the chance to talk with him made my visit a success.

Unusual occurrences have included a good run of sole that took place in February and March of 1997. For a period of time no one seemed to be sure what the 12-14” fish really were. Some thought they were diamond turbot, some votes went to C-O turbots (Pleuronichthys coenosus), some went to honeyhead turbots (Pleuronichthys verticalis), and some votes were even cast for rock sole (Lepidopsetta billineata) or spotted turbot (Pleuronichthys ritteri). The fish turned out to be fantail sole (Xystreurys liolepis) but just about the time they were identified the run stopped.

Timing can also be critical. Several different times over the years I've heard of the “afternoon mackerel.” After a short run early in the morning, the mackerel would disappear and then, like clockwork, reappear between 3:30-4 p.m. in the afternoon. Evidently, this is most common in the summer months and does not happen every year. However, as a rule, the fishing is best in the morning and in the late afternoon-early evening.

Lastly, be willing to try different methods. In October of 2008 I visited the wharf right after strong winds had hit the area and turned off what had been a great bite on Pacific mackerel and Spanish mackerel. Although people were still trying bait rigs for baitfish few were seeing fish. And though the regulars were trying for halibut with the limited amount of live bait, they too were having little success. I was only in the area for a couple of days and simply wanted some action.

On the first day I headed out onto the wharf while noticing the lack of action. Checking the pilings showed that Piling #135 had a good growth of kelp around it, much more than the other pilings, so it would be the one I tried first. Using my normal high/low rigging, size 6 hooks and pile worms for bait I managed to find fish as soon as I started fishing the piling. Putting the rig about 8-12 feet down, right next to the piling and its kelp, resulted in almost immediate strikes. Dropping the rig to the bottom, in a small space between four closely spaced pilings, meant a little slower action but somewhat better fish. An hour and forty-five minutes produced 7 kelp bass, 4 senorita, 2 walleye surfperch, 1 white seaperch, and 3 topsmelt. A couple of casts away from the pier followed by a slow retrieve yielded 2 shinerperch and 1 speckled sanddab.

The next day I returned to the same piling although the bait was now a combination of pile worms and fresh mussels cut into worm-like strips. One and a half hours yielded 9 kelp bass, 9 senorita, 2 cabezon and 2 shinerperch. All of the kelp bass were between 8 1/2 inches and 11 inches long; the senorita ranged up 9 inches; both cabezon were about 9 inches in length and all the fish were released. So, no large fish but pretty consistent action. What amazed me was that none of the other fishermen were willing to try down by the pilings. They continued to toss out their Sabikis away from the pier and for the most part continued to land no fish or very few fish. If you’re not getting fish, and you see someone else getting fish, check out the method and give it a try.

E-Mail Messages

Date: June 27, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Mike Katz—Santa Barbara
Subject: She hooked a whale!

Ken—Thought you would get a kick out of this one. Some gal was fishing out by my shop yesterday morning and her line headed out and headed out and headed out. Finally it snapped and a baby gray whale surfaced just past the end of the wharf. It is very late in the season and I thought they had already gone through. This one must have gotten lost. I told the gal that gray whales were out of season.

An interesting story about the whale. You hear about it happening but it's pretty rare (although I hooked a killer whale once while fishing from a boat near Carmel).

Date: July 4, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Boyd Grant
Subject: Pier of the Month—Stearns Wharf

Thank you for capturing in words so many of my impressions from almost 50 years of fishing that historical pier. My father first fished the wharf with his father before 1920...
By the way—I'm 53—I started fishing the Wharf when I was 5. And yes, I still fish one of the local piers at least once a week. For the past 7-8 years I fished Goleta exclusively trying to recapture the morning when I took 3 10#+ shovelnose sharks off the west side 3/4th of the way out. I was using 20# mono and anchovy cut bait, casting out over the kelp (which follows the outfall line). Apparently they were congregating there (late spring) and for weeks I had been taking 3-4 pounders. I got 13#s of tail meat.
Goleta hasn't been too hot this year so I went back to the wharf starting 3 weeks ago—my first day (in search of some action ... ANY action!) resulted in 16 small (9-11") calico bass, 2 mackerel, 1 small shovelnose, 2 white croakers and a senorita fish. I've been there 4-5 more times since and the calico and mackerel action has been consistent.
That first weekend a woman tourist snagged a baby whale that took out several hundred yards of line before it surfaced and the line broke—maybe it was 15' long. By the end of the day it had become (for her) a 30' blue whale. Guess it just goes to show any fish, no matter how big, can always stand some exaggeration.

Date: November 23, 1998
To: Ken Jones
From: Mike Katz
Subject: Stearns Wharf fire

Dear Ken: I don't know if you saw the news Wednesday and Thursday but as of then there is no more Mike's Bait & Tackle out on Stearns Wharf. Wednesday evening about 9:20 there was an explosion and fire in the Moby Dick Restaurant and the winds blew the fire onto Santa Barbara Shellfish and my shop. My building collapsed into the ocean and there is nothing left but a big hole in the wharf.
The City fathers state that it will take about a year and a half to re-build. The seaward end of the wharf is closed off and will be for some time to come. Mike

Mike, Sorry to hear the news. Was only the end of the pier damaged? Ken

Ken, The fire broke out at the Moby Dick Restaurant and the winds took it to the end of the wharf. Everything else on the wharf is fine but there is no wharf beyond where the restaurant used to be except a gaping hole and a few pilings. Mike

Mike, I hope you had insurance to cover the time you will be down—or is that wishful thinking? Best, Ken

Dear Ken: One of the things that I hated to enter in my lost inventory was your “Pier Fishing” book to me that you had autographed. Mike

Mike, Send me your address and I'll send you a new one. Ken

Ken, Thanks for the offer of a replacement book. Right now I feel like the fellow who was a “Live-aboard” near my shop. He had three boats go ashore and break up when he was not on board. He finally gave up and moved to Arizona. The storm had me closed February, March and April and now THIS! Mike

Date: January 13, 2001
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Got Em
Subject: Stearns Wharf 12 January

Fished Stearns Wharf last night from 2100-0100. Fished right off the end. I was using whole Sardines and chunks of Sardines. The 6 Sand sharks I caught were BIG. I caught 1 decent size Ray. Of course, the best for last. I hooked up to a 4 ½-5 foot shark. When I got him by the surface, next to the wharf, I had a little crowd by me then going ewww and ahhhh and 'look at him'. Right when he was by the surface, he did his classic roll and twist, SNAP! My rod tip broke and the line broke, just like it was a twig, and then another ahhhh from the crowd. But it was fun. Had a blast last night. The water by the breakers was really dirty, but out towards the end was normal. I might have to crimp up some wire leaders.

Date: October 8, 2002
To: PFIC Message Board
From: donblaze420
Subject: Santa Barbara wharf

I did it fellas. It has been a long 4 years. I finally landed my first keeper Halie! Went out to the Stearns wharf last night at about 6:30 pm. (kinda late I know, especially considering I was in a tube!) Only got about seven casts in total for the night. 1st cast—nothing. 2nd cast—nothing. 3rd cast—BAMM! Hit it right at the surface. I was actually done with my retrieve and had started reeling in faster just to get a couple more cast in before I had to split. It ran on me 4-5 times before I got a glance. HEALTHY looking fish, definitely a legal. Now if only I can land him. Reached back and grabbed my net. Tried to guide him in but took another run when he seen the net. That scared me. Thought he was gone for sure. Finally he decided that the net didn’t’ look so bad after all and swam right in. Cheers from the crowd that had gathered on the wharf watching me. That was cool. Was too big to get in the bag I have attached to my tube, so I kicked in to shore. I got him on a 3' blue-green-silver flake Fish Trap w/ a 1/2 oz. lead-colored head. Cast from the shore about four or five more times but was so excited I had to get that puppy home. It measured 28 inches, not too big I know, but nonetheless was my first keeper.

Date: April 18, 2003
To: PFIC Message Board
From: pierhead
Subject: Re: Anyone remember how you used to buy live bait...

I sure do, the old bait shop on Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara used to have an outside well. The tickets were 5 cents and you scooped them yourself. There used to be an abalone processing plant on the end as well. All the trimmings went into 50 gallon drums which you were free to go through ... made a great bait, better than mussels.
Years later I was fishing with my son (10 at the time) at the breakwater across from the live bait receiver. I told him what great bait it made and regretted the fact that you could only get it if you had access to the receiver by boat. He called out to the guy on the receiver to see if there was any way he could get bait to us. He said to tie a $5.00 bill on a line and cast it out to him (no hooks!). We did and he filled a large plastic bag with seawater and bait, tied it back to the line and set it over the side so we could retrieve it. Doubt they would be willing to do that now. Pierhead

Date: June 16, 2003
To: PFIC Message Board
From: OB Pier Rat
Subject: Stearns Wharf thresher

Got to Stearns Wharf about 1:30 PM after catching up on sleep from almost pulling the all-nighter at Ventura. As I was wheeling the gear out this guy comes running in towards me whoopin’ and hollerin’—he had just landed an 8 foot 2 inch Thresher Shark; caught it on macks on the very end. He also had about a 50# bat ray. I stuck around and watched him filet them and I made bait on a few sardines on a Sabiki and headed to Goleta.

Date: April 24, 2004
To: PFIC Message Board
From: pierhead
Subject: Breaking News ... pierfishing.com exclusive!

World’s largest pier caught bat ray just landed at Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara...Report to follow...

Greenrag and I were listening to Fish Talk radio this morning when they interrupted their program to announce that a 203 pound bat ray had just been landed at Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara ... they were pleading with the lucky local angler, James Elledge, 45, not to release or clean the fish before they got there.
Naturally pierfishing.com shortly had their own reporters on the scene. Spoke with Mr. Elledge and learned that this was the largest fish he had caught in his 40 years of fishing. The fight lasted 1 hour and 20 minutes before the fish was gaffed by Ron Maxell and hoisted topside. It was caught on a live bait rig using a 3” smelt. Fortunately the fish ran parallel to the pier and was landed mid-channel off the end.
With the help of the Wharf's B&T owner, Ray Angel, the fish was carried over to the certified scale at the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company where it was weighed and all the appropriate measurements were taken for inclusion in the International Game Fish Association's
(IGFA)World Record book ... possibly the largest Bat Ray ever officially documented as caught on a California Pier.
And pierfishing.com was there ... the first fishing board to offer complete coverage of this historic event!
Pierhead, Proud Supporter of UPSAC

Date: November 16, 2007
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Ken Jones
Subject: New policy at Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara.

Frank at the bait shop mentioned to me how he watched a teen yesterday dragging a bat ray down the pier. What? The kid had caught a bat ray and then snagged it with a treble hook gaff. The kid then proceeded to go up and down the side of the pier with the ray on the gaff while a friend filmed it on a cell phone. Frank said it changed his entire way of thinking.
Regulars at the pier, including Frank, have always gaffed bat rays. He said no more. He's going to limit his equipment to nets, he's only going to post pictures at his shops where nets are used, and he's going to try to convince all the regulars to switch. He said he doesn't know why it took him so long to realize that gaffing them is wrong. I told him that similar conversions have taken place with most of the PFIC regulars. One day you just realize there is a better way to do things. Yesterday was his day.

Author’s Note. No. 1. I received an e-mail message in 2005 asking if I happened to know the number of planks on Stearns Wharf? I had no clue but we had an interesting mathematical thread on the PFIC Message Board speculating on the number of planks. Soon after, the staff at Edhat.com, a local paper in Santa Barbara walked the pier and reported the following:

November 22, 2005 — Hook, Link, and Ed

Yesterday the dedicated staff of edhat.com was Gone Fishin’. We walked down all 2,027 planks of Stearns Wharf to check up on the angler activity going on at the end of the pier. You could say we were taking a poll of poles—counting the number of fishing poles dangling their hooks into the water in hopes of getting a bite and a tug on the line. We were counting fisher-people, as well. We’re getting kind of tired of saying this, but once again it was a beautiful day. The clouds began circling in the late morning. By 3:30 in the afternoon, when we arrived at the wharf, the clouds had gathered themselves nicely into picture-perfect patterns, a great background for photographs. It was warm, too. We don’t know much about the ideal conditions for catching fish, but these were definitely the ideal conditions for going fishing.
At the end of the wharf we met Frank, the owner of the bait shop. He sells everything one needs to cast a baited hook off the pier and into the ocean. He also rents fishing poles for $5/hr, bait included. Shortly after we got there, a group of two girls and a separate group of two guys arrived to put their own poles in the water. The dedicated staff recognized the girls as some of Santa Barbara’s finest water polo players, just back from a triumphant third place finish in the prestigious Speedo Cup tournament in St. Louis, Missouri.
As the dedicated staff headed back toward shore, Frank and the four kids were actively fishing. We were told they catch fish all the time, but we didn’t see any fish being pulled out of the water when we were there. But then again, it didn’t seem like anyone was very concerned.

Author’s Note No. 2. A couple of establishments on the wharf have been used for movies/TV. The Moby Dick Restaurant was used for a scene in a 1966 Batman episode where Batman tries to dispose of an explosive on the wharf. In the movie version of My Favorite Martian, Uncle Martin is found gorging himself at the Great Pacific Ice Cream Factory.

Author’s Note No. 3. Because of the piers location, extending south from the shoreline’s east-west orientation, it’s possible to get up early and watch the sun rise over the ocean on one side of the pier. Later that night you can watch the sun set over the ocean on the other side of the pier. Neat, right?

Special Recommendation. One of the favorite tourist attractions on the pier are the Pelecanus occidentalis, the all too numerous brown pelicans that someone once said looked like a cross between a dinosaur and a ballet dancer. They sit there on the pier; waddle around, and trick you into thinking they are docile albeit dorky little playthings just waiting for a “Kodak Moment.” Don't be fooled! They can also be aggressive, in fact overly aggressive. That fact was brought back to me on a visit in June of ‘98. Whenever I would catch a fish the big birds would hurry over hoping for a handout. Unfortunately for them I was returning most of the fish to the water. However, when I caught a large 17” mackerel I had to wrestle and actually push away several birds as I attempted to unhook the squirming fish. I'm not sure what they thought they would do with the mackerel since it was too big for them (I think)—it wouldn't even fit in my cooler. Be careful not to leave bait out on the pier, either the pelicans or equally aggressive sea gulls will pull a disappearing act with your bait. Pelicans, by the way, have made the news since I first wrote the above words. The following article describes their plight and what some activists would like to do to pier fishing at the wharf. Help solve the problem by properly disposing of lines and hooks. And, don’t feed the birds!

Brown pelicans in peril
Activists would like to see ban on wharf fishing

As more and more California brown pelicans become entangled in hooks and line at the waterfront, some activists say fishing on Stearns Wharf should be banned.
Volunteers for the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, a nonprofit group, say they have been called to the harbor twice a week this summer to rescue pelicans wound up in fishing lines, with hooks lodged in their pouches, legs and wings. California brown pelicans have been on the federal endangered species list since 1970.
On Thursday, one of the birds, an adult female, died a day after she was rescued. She had been found at the Sea Landing jetty, mangled by four different fishing lines and hooks. One of her legs had been deeply cut by a line and the wound was infected and swollen, volunteers said. It was the 20th pelican the network had disentangled from fishing gear this year.
“Fishing is just doing so much damage to the birds,” said June Taylor, a Goleta resident who heads 21 volunteers in the network's seabird program. “This last year, it's been really bad. I feel like fishing off the pier should be disallowed. All of my volunteers feel this way.” Often, Ms. Taylor said, the pelicans will swoop down to grab the fishing bait in mid-air, hook and all, as the line is being cast into the water. “They're attracted to the piers,” she said. “A lot of people are just so careless.” Hundreds of people fish off Stearns Wharf every week, catching mackerel, smelt, perch, barracuda, halibut and calico bass.
In an effort to protect pelicans, harbor officials have installed barrels on the wharf for the disposal of used hooks and line. They perform regular “sweeps” to remove dangling fishing lines—three times per week on the wharf and once a week or every two weeks below it, at water level. Next month, the city plans to erect signs in English and Spanish urging the public to recycle their hooks and line, said Mick Kronman, the harbor operations manager. Mr. Kronman noted that $250,000 of the money to rebuild the end of the wharf after the recent fire came from the Fish and Game Wildlife Conservation Board, with the stipulation that the wharf be used only for sportfishing and other recreational activities having to do with wildlife. “I think closing down the wharf might be a bit extreme,” Mr. Kronman said. “A more prudent course might be to pursue education.”
Fishing off Stearns Wharf Thursday, Raul Diaz said a ban would result in the loss of a relaxing and enjoyable pastime for many people, but he understood why some would want to bar fishing. “A lot of people cut their lines and leave it here on the pier or throw it in the water,” he said. As he spoke he pointed to a pelican hobbling around the pier. He said the bird only had one leg and most likely had gotten tangled in some fishing line. At the very least, he said, something should be done to monitor anglers to make sure they clean up after themselves.
Last week, the state Department of Fish and Game and the city of Santa Cruz imposed a temporary ban on fishing along two-thirds of the Santa Cruz pier to protect pelicans. Large schools of anchovies have attracted flocks of the birds there; more than 100 pelicans have become entangled in fishing line, state officials said. Twenty of those birds have died or been euthanized as a result of their injuries.
Santa Cruz and Fish and Game officials are patrolling the wharf daily, telling anglers to cast away from pelican feeding areas and how to release a hooked bird. Animal rescue workers are asking for a total fishing ban at the pier at least through next week, when the anchovy run is expected to be over.
On the Santa Barbara waterfront, the Wildlife Care Network continues to respond to emergency calls to save pelicans. Thursday, a volunteer was called to the Mission Creek bridge at the waterfront to capture a pelican less than a year old that was trailing a fishing line about 10 feet long. The line was wound around one wing, but not tightly enough to prevent the bird from flying. Seemingly aware of the volunteer with the big blue net perched on the banks, the pelican stayed out of reach and finally flew away.
In addition to pelicans, volunteers say they find grebes, cormorants and many seagulls wrapped up in fishing gear at the harbor. In recent months, several pelicans on the South Coast also have been injured by vandals. Diane Cannon, president of the wildlife network, praised the city for what it has done so far. “The city has been very helpful in working with us to put up signs,” she said. “They've been very supportive. It should make a real difference. Not having any fishing would make the biggest difference, but it's not a realistic option.”

—Melinda Burns
Santa Barbara News-Press, September 7, 2001

Before the coming of the railroads in comparatively recent times, the sea furnished the most comfortable and convenient roadway to Santa Barbara's door. The eyes of those whose memory runs back to sixty years light at the mention of the “Orizaba,” the “Pacific,” and other passenger steamers which touched regularly at the port...
In the '60s and '70s the ships carried much freight, and the stay in port was usually for several hours. When one steamed in on a Sunday afternoon, most of the population of Santa Barbara-able to walk turned out to welcome her. There was a line of open carriages in waiting. And in these vehicles passengers were taken for drives about the town. James L. Barker, a pioneer who died recently while on a world tour, spoke of those days to me as follows: “The Orizaba and the Senator were regularly on this run. They left San Francisco on alternate Saturdays and arrived here on Sunday afternoon between four and five o'clock. ‘Steamer day’ was our gala day.”
“The passengers were brought ashore in a whaleboat to the small wharf at the foot of Chapala Street. When the water was very rough, it was impossible to bring the boat alongside without danger, and so a barrel with half of the top cut away and a seat built in was used. One passenger at a time sat in the barrel and was hoisted to the wharf by tackle.”
—History of Santa Barbara County

History Note. The name Santa Barbara was applied to the offshore channel by Vizcaino on December 4, 1602, the day of the Roman maiden who was beheaded by her father because she became a Christian. Later the name was applied to the presidio, then to the mission, and finally to the city and county.

As is true at most coastal towns, the growth in the mid-1800s was accompanied by a certain amount of peril. The “schooners, the brigantines, the sloops-of-war, the square-rigged clipper ships,” and later the side-wheelers, were forced to anchor outside the kelp and unload their passengers and cargo by way of small boats—lighters—through the surf. As recorded, during “southeasters, every ship rode the swells beyond the kelp with slip-chains on her cables, ready if there came a blow, to fly at a moment’s warning and ride out the storm in the lee of Santa Rosa Island.” A wharf/pier was needed.

The first pier built in Santa Barbara was one that was built by the “La Compañia del Muelle de Santa Barbara”—the Santa Barbara Wharf Company. The company was composed of a polyglot group of local entrepreneurs— Samuel Brinkerhoff, New York physician; J.F. Maguire, exiled Irish patriot; “Dr.” P.B. Shaw, English gentleman, Luis Burton, Tennessee fur-trapper and Rocky Mountain pioneer; Isaac J. Sparks, Yankee trapper and seaman, and Martin M. Kimberly, sea captain. They received permission to build a wharf from the city council on September 18, 1865.

Their pier was built at the foot of Chapala Street and opened in October of 1868. Unfortunately, the pier reached out only to the kelp line (500 feet) and was too short for deep-draft, ocean going vessels.

That last fact was important for local lumberman John Peck Stearns, a one-legged Vermonter who had hoped for a longer wharf. Since lumber schooners couldn't use the Chapala Street Wharf, they would simply dump his incoming shipments of lumber overboard into the water and count on the tides to wash them ashore. That usually meant that at least some of the lumber would be damaged. Stearns soon offered to buy an interest in the wharf company and extend the Chapala Wharf but his offer was rejected.

In 1871 Stearns decided to build his own wharf, a longer wharf that would reach out into the deeper waters needed for safe anchorage. He then gained the backing of W.W. Hollister, Albert Dibblee, and Thomas B. Dibblee (the local money men/movers and shakers). A franchise to build a wharf at the foot of State Street was sought and, against the bitter opposition of the Chapala Street Wharf syndicate, it was granted to Stearns in July of 1871. Stearns had borrowed $41,000 from Hollister (with whom he had helped establish Santa Barbara College in 1869) and he soon ordered the lumber and pilings he would need for his wharf. Next, he hired the firm of Salisbury and Frazier, who had recently completed the Port Hueneme and San Buenaventura wharves, to build his wharf.

Just over a year later, the 1,500-foot-long wharf that reached water 21 feet deep at low tide was completed. Freighters and schooners, previously forced to float cargoes ashore, piggyback them on the backs of strong sailors, or bring them through the surf by surfboats (called lighters), could now load or unload directly at the pier. On September 16, 1872, the freighter Annie Steffer became the first vessel to visit the wharf. Passenger steamers, including the side-wheeler Orizaba, followed by the Senator, the Mohongo, the Kalorama, the Queen of the Pacific and many others, soon made Santa Barbara a popular port of call.

Stearns Wharf immediately became the center of beachfront commercial activity, much to the chagrin of the Chapella Wharf owners. When Stearns announced plans in the spring of 1873 to extend his wharf by 500 feet, the Chapella Wharf group raised money to lengthen their wharf by 1,000 feet. However, Stearns had the Salisbury & Frazier pile driver, the only one that was available, and they couldn't extend their wharf. By July of 1873, Stearns had extended his wharf out to 2,200 feet and the new 24-foot depth at the end of the wharf allowed the large mail steamers to tie up to the wharf. Stearns' Wharf became, for a period of time, the largest pier on the Pacific Coast, outside of San Francisco Bay. As such, it became the city's “front door,” the economic center for Santa Barbara, and the most important wharf along this stretch of coast.

Soon Santa Barbara saw an explosion in the export of agricultural products, wool and hides, fish, abalone and abalone shells. A similar expansion was taking place in imports, especially of wood and manufactured products. Most important, long term was an expansion in the number of people flocking to Santa Barbara. The population explosion would change the area forever.

One problem, common to all piers, was occasional damage from storms. On November 16, 1877, the local newspaper reported the “fierce winds at Santa Barbara injuring the wharfs.” It was only a prelude to the larger and more devastating storms that would strike two months later. On January 14, 1878 new reports said “high winds and heavy seas are breaking up the old wharf at Santa Barbara (the Chapala Street Pier) and carrying a part through the new wharf (Stearns' Wharf).” On January 23, new accounts reported “there is a break in Stearns Wharf and waves have carried off 900 feet of the wharf.” The January sou'easter, together with assorted flotsam (mainly debris from the Chapella Wharf) had smashed out over 900 feet from the middle of the wharf. However, the pier was rebuilt by July of that summer (after Stearns forced the county to rescind a wharf license fee).

Then, on December 31 a new storm, together with a waterspout, pounded ships against the wharf once again and ripped out a new 100-foot section. Repairs waited until the following spring but once again they were completed.

Another challenge, one that would prove as dangerous as the winter storms, was the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad on August 19, 1887. “Ring the Bell!,” cried out the Weekly Independent, “Patience has its perfect work! After years of waiting, Santa Barbara’s millennium has arrived. Come all ye who are weary of stagecoach and saddle and ride at the rate of thirty miles an hour—so saith the Southern Pacific.” Although the initial line only ran ten miles up the coast to Elwood, it did connect southern California with Santa Barbara and the wharf saw an almost immediate drop in business.

Stearns responded to the competition by joining it. He built a new, 1,450-foot-long, wye or Y-shaped wharf in 1888. It jutted out from between Anacapa and Santa Barbara Streets and joined to his first wharf. The new wharf included a railroad spur that connected to his lumberyard and the nearby Southern Pacific Depot. Now the railroad could run right out to the wharf (and the original wharf was widened and strengthened); Stearns Wharf continued to be a success. By 1889 the local paper reported that the city could boost of the largest wharf on the Pacific between Sitka, Alaska and Cape Horn. However, the Y-shape seemed to weaken the wye-wharf and high seas destroyed it in 1898. It was never rebuilt.

But technology and life in California was changing. By the early 1900s there were faster and cheaper methods for moving passengers and cargo although freight handling for some high-bulk, low-value products (like lemons), remained relatively high until the 1920s. And though the vessels of the Pacific Coast Steamship Company had visited the wharf since the 1870s, they discontinued their stops in 1916.

At the same time, the wharf was becoming an increasingly important resource for recreation, used by local anglers and tourists alike. The mid-'20s saw the fishing barge Jane L. Stanford based at the pier and also saw a catch from the wharf of one of the largest fish ever caught from a California pier.


Biggest Fish of the Year

R. A. Hendricks brought in the biggest fish of the year late yesterday afternoon, when he landed a 453-pound black sea bass at Stearns Wharf after a hard fight that lasted nearly two hours. He was fishing on the side of the wharf opposite the pile driver when the big fish struck. He played the fish from the wharf until he had broken one of the handles on his reel and was nearly exhausted. He said this morning that the fish made forty to fifty runs out to the end of his 150 yards of line. Each time the fish apparently tired and allowed himself to be towed back to the wharf by the fisherman. Finally Mr. Hendricks jumped into a rowboat that was alongside the wharf. The fish was tied to the boat and the fight continued. Several times the big fish was worked in alongside of the boat, but would suddenly break away for another run. A small .22- caliber rifle was brought into play as the fish came alongside of the boat for the final time and five shots stopped the fight. The fish was hauled up the stairs to the wharf and then brought to J. L. Hendricks' store on Estado. Many Santa Barbara fishermen saw the huge fish this morning. It measured seven feet three inches from tip to tip and two feet across the tail.

Santa Barbara Daily News, October 23, 1925
(Four months after an earthquake leveled much of the town)

However, the decrease in commercial business meant less money for repairs and a slow but steady deterioration of the wharf. Equally devastating was a fire that engulfed parts of the wharf in 1921. Embers, blown offshore from the nearby Potter Hotel fire (assisted by fifty-mile-per-hour Santana winds), started the fire. Because of the fire damage, and additional though minor damage from the 1925 earthquake, a group headed by Major Max Fleischmann rebuilt much of the wharf in 1928.

During the ‘30s the wharf saw a mixed use, although it maintained its mainly commercial nature. Although some of the commercial fishing boats now called the recently completed (1929) Santa Barbara Harbor their home, most still had to bring their catch to the wharf for sale. The S. Larco Fishing Company, Santa Barbara's dominant fish retailer and distributor, remained on the wharf into the ‘40s.

In 1941 the Harbor Restaurant was built on the wharf and it quickly became one of the main attractions and moneymakers for the wharf (and in some ways ended the reliance on shipping, transportation). But Pearl Harbor and World War II were on the way, and in the spring of 1942 the Coast Guard took over control of the wharf and restricted public access. That stayed in effect until 1944 when the wharf, under new owners, was reopened to the public.

Soon after, in 1945, actor James Cagney and his brothers bought the run-down wharf for $200,000 with hopes of turning it into a major tourist destination. That dream ended when the “City Fathers” expressed opposition to the idea of a wharf amusement park. Cagney's group sold the pier just three years later to Leo Sanders (after filming Fort Royal on the wharf).

Unfortunately, Sanders rarely had the money to properly maintain the wharf. It continued to deteriorate until 1955 when Sanders sold it to George V. Castagnola, owner of the area's largest local seafood company, and Norman Hagen, owner of a sportfishing fleet in Newport Beach (who had been given permission by Santa Barbara to open a sportfishing operation on the wharf). Their Santa Barbara Wharf Company soon began to replace more than 1,900 piles at a cost of $208,500. From 1955 to 1972 they spent over $1 million on repairs and improvements. Among the improvements were the renovation of the Harbor Restaurant and the importation of an old gasoline station onto the wharf—which was soon converted into Moby Dick's Coffee Shop.

From the 1940s to the 1950s the fishing industry had provided much of the commercial revenue to the wharf. Most of this was commercial fishing but sportfishing boats were also available, as was barge fishing (the San Wan in the '40s, the No-Name in the '50s). That changed in 1961 when independent fishermen were able to convince the city to let them use the Navy Pier (built during the war year of 1942 and transferred to the city in 1959), which sat nearby in the protected harbor.

The loss of the commercial fisheries seemed potentially devastating until the intervention of oil into Santa Barbara's economy and the extensive use that oil companies and allied business made of the wharf. Oil soon dominated the wharf's activities (which created considerable unhappiness with local anglers and tourists). Then, on January 28, 1969, the environmental consciousness of local residents, Californians, and much of the nation was engaged by an oil spill that occurred in the nearby Santa Barbara Channel. Protests soon began (led in part by GOO—Get Oil Out) against the oil industry. Many began to question the role of Stearns Wharf and convinced the city fathers that perhaps a new vision of the wharf was needed. The city decided the wharf should be used primarily for recreational purposes and proposed an early termination of Castagnola's lease.

Six months before the lease was up, on April 14, 1973, an early morning fire destroyed George Castagnola’s Harbor Restaurant and much of the wharf. The city now took over the wharf and a long process began to determine the best use of the wharf and how it would be financed. The Coastal Commission rejected initial plans by the city but finally, with the help of the Coastal Conservancy; a plan agreeable to all was proposed and approved. Restoration began in 1979 and the wharf was re-opened in 1981.

As chronicled, there has often been damage to the pier, either from winter storms or from fires. One of the worst fires occurred on November 18, 1998 (less than a year after damage from an El Niño storm). Roughly 47,000 square feet of the pier, a strip about 140 yards long, was destroyed at the end of the pier. This area, of course, was the main area used by anglers. The $11 million blaze destroyed two restaurants, Moby Dick's and the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, and also destroyed the small bait shop which had been run by one of my web site's most interesting reporters, Mike Katz of Mike's Bait and Tackle. The section that had been destroyed was not reopened until late in 1999. Unfortunately Mike's Bait and Tackle did not reopen. No longer could people check out the picture of the locally-caught 2,500-pound, 15-foot-long great white shark that graced the wall, or pick up the “feel good” rock from his counter, and I hated to see Mike leave.

However, the good news is that the shop that now sits out on the wharf, Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, is also an excellent shop and Frank Drew its owner does a similar excellent job!

Stearns Wharf was not the only pier to grace the city's curving shoreline during the early years of the Twentieth Century. Throughout California every beach side tourist area, and major seaside hotel, seemed to need a pleasure pier. The same was true locally. Santa Barbara’s “pleasure pier” was a 425-foot-long pier that was located next to the municipal bathhouse “Los Banos del Mar” at the foot of Castillo Street. The Edison Company, the company that operated Santa Barbara’s streetcar system, built the pier. Although primarily built as a support for the suction line that brought seawater to the power plant, it soon became a favorite of both swimmers and fishermen. It was built in 1895 (some sources say 1901) and used until 1929 when shifting sands from the harbor’s construction filled in the area around the pier.

None of Santa Barbara’s early piers and wharves remain with the exception of the venerable and iconic Stearns Wharf, a city treasure that is, in many ways, as important to Santa Barbara today as it was nearly a century and a half ago when birthed.

Stearns Wharf Facts

Hours: Open 24 hours a day.

Facilities: Lights, some benches, restrooms, an excellent bait and tackle shop (Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle), restaurants and snack bars are all located on the wharf. Wharf parking is available at a cost of $ 2 an hour with some validation possible. There is some free 90-minute parking on State Street and there is also a city parking lot that costs $1 an hour.

Handicapped Facilities: Handicapped parking and restrooms on the pier. The surface is wood planking and although there are no railings, large pilings (to sit on) have been placed near the edge of most fishing areas. These would restrict handicapped anglers in some areas. There are some sections that have only a short, 6-inch wood curbing and these probably could be used.

Location: 34.40967136517077 N. Latitude, 119.68548774719238 W. Longitude

How To Get There: From Highway 101 take Castillo St. or State St. west to the beach and follow signs to the pier.

Management: City of Santa Barbara.

Last edited by Ken Jones on Sat Mar 21, 2009 11:29 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2008 4:10 pm

Posts: 66

Really good stuff!

Last time we were there, we did take a walk out to the finger by the sea center to see if anyone was catching anything, but the guys fishing were looking for something big.. Smile We plan to try the finger next time and see what happens..

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