|“B” Street Pier
Looks, whether for women, men, or piers, can be deceiving. When first built, the expectations for this pier were high. It reminds me of the Ocean Beach Pier in San Diego which was seen as sort of a second coming if you listened to the talk of the fishermen at the time. Poking out into the Point Loma kelp beds, anglers expected to haul in the same fish as the sportfishing boats—at a fraction of the cost. It never happened. Expectations were never THAT high at this pier but anglers, including myself, certainly expected it to be a bonanza of a pier. So far, it's hasn't happened!
Time has proven the pier to be excellent for crabs but generally only fair for fishing unless you happen to visit when a school of pelagics is present. Even so, the view is absolutely breath taking (when it isn't raining or foggy) and it's satisfying to simply cast out a line and contemplate the beauty of the angler's world. After all, catching a fish is only one aspect of pier fishing!
Environment. This 900-foot-long pier is located at the western end of the bay almost directly opposite from Citizen’s Dock, its sister (brother?) pier to the east. Nearby, to the west, is the famous Breakwater (with its tetrapods) and Battery Point Lighthouse.
The bottom here is mud and sand, but the pier's closeness to the breakwater, and several fairly good size rocks/small islands that sit near the pier's entrance, would seem to offer a combination of conditions ideal for both sand and rock seeking species. However, the rocky shore species such as greenling and cabezon seem to prefer the rocky areas and the surf species, like redtail surfperch, seem to prefer the nearby coastal beaches.
The pier does sit in a fairly straight line from the entrance to the bay and it does, at times, offer up good fishing for the transient schools of fish that enter the bay—the smaller surfperch, jacksmelt, herring, and, in warm water years, schools of jack mackerel. It also sees some flatfish, some sharks and rays, and even an occasional unusual northern species. But overall, the fishing is fairly slow and inconsistent.
Not so with the crabbing that is very good much of the year. Both red crabs and Dungeness crabs are present most of the year although the Dungeness can only be kept legally for part of the year (and know your regulations).
But there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of attractants for fish. Even the pilings are wrapped in rubber, a preventive “new century” technique used for their protection. Unfortunately the protection also means the pilings are void of the mussels that help transform many piers into virtual artificial reefs. There are a few barnacles on the pilings but little else. What the pier seems to need is an artificial reef similar to those that have been installed at many piers to the south.
The pier does deserve its title as the ultima thule of California piers, the most northern pier in the state.
Fishing Tips. For much of the year the predominate fish will be small to medium size perch such as silver surfperch and walleye surfperch. Small hooks (size 4- baited with pieces of tube worms, shrimp, or clams take most of the fish. If schools are thick, you can try bait rigs like Sabikis (size 8-12), but they do not normally seem to take as many fish as at other piers. Redtail and calico surfperch may make an appearance, especially around late May or June, and if they do the best bait will be sand crabs which you have brought from nearby beaches. Next best baits would be pieces of clams, shrimp or tube worms. A standard high/low leader with number 4 or 2 hooks will prove adequate for these perch. A few other perch species, especially white seaperch and striped seaperch may occasionally show up and the same baits and riggings will work with them.
Jacksmelt have proven to be a fairly common species and the typical rigging of 3-4 small size 8 hooks fished under a bobber seems to be the standard gear. Most anglers use small pieces of shrimp but I think pieces of tube worms make better bait. Although the large smelt may be caught whenever a school swings past the pier, the prime times seem to be at night, just as it is getting dark. Since the darkness can make it hard to see your bobber, buy one that is luminescent or buy a small hook-on glow light.
Flatfish have also proven common, something which was to be expected given the sand and mud bottom around the pier. Most common are small sanddabs that will latch on to bottom baits and hooks intended for larger fish. Unfortunately, most of these are too small to keep. However, a few eating-size sanddabs and sand sole may be included. Quite a few starry flounder also enter the bay and anglers with know how can catch a few of these tasty fish. Best rigging is a sliding leader rigging which offers no resistance when picked up by the flounder. Bait with a strip of anchovy, a piece or shrimp, clam or tube worm. Although I haven't seen any anglers use them here, I think live ghost shrimp would prove to be a sure fire bait for the bottom flatfish (as long as the crabs don’t get them first). You can't buy ghost shrimp locally but I would think they would be available in the mud flats of the bay if locals acquired some ghost shrimp pumps.
Halibut have proven to be the game fish ‘de jour for most of the pier anglers. Each year a few California halibut are landed with fish in the 24-30 inch size being recorded (and a 29-pounder was caught off the pier in 1997). I haven't heard of any Pacific halibut being caught but some of the young of the species should enter the bay and young of the species can be as large as medium-sized California halibut. For both of these species, a sliding leader baited with small live bait would be best. This generally means a live shinerperch, or a small walleye or silver surfperch (and you might need to go over to the Citizen's Dock to catch the bait). Sometimes schools of anchovies, smelt, herring or sardines may also swarm around the pier. Be sure you have some bait rigs with you so that you can snag some of the fish for live bait. Unusual has been the report of these halibut during the winter months (when the weather cooperates). Whereas December runs of the fish have been reported at this pier, most California piers see May-July as the prime halibut months.
This pier has lights so it can be fished at night. This should improve your chances for skates, bat rays, or sharks if you wish to fish for them. I've heard tale of a blue shark landed at the pier and a couple of leopard sharks and dogfish (sand sharks) but the numbers are surprisingly low. Use squid as the bait for the sharays since it will best survive the ravages of the crabs.
Small to mid-sized rockfish—black, brown and copper—sometimes hang around the pilings and, at times, you may see a school of Pacific tomcod or juvenile sablefish enter the bay. The numbers of these fish are small overall but they can provide a little variety and action for the anglers. Some years also see fairly good numbers of jack mackerel enter the bay and for some reason most of these are good size fish, often exceeding two feet in length. Most are caught on bait rigs and generally it is the late summer to fall months that see most of these pelagic critters.
Finally, be prepared to share space with the crabbers. As mentioned, this pier has proven to be a top-notch spot for crabs and at times this can be to the detriment of anglers. One night I visited the pier for a little potpourri fishing and was startled to see crab pots tied every 7-10 feet around the entire end of the pier, in fact the outer 1/3 of the pier. There must have been at least 50-60 crab pots out there and if you wanted to fish a spot you had to do so amidst the pots and the ropes to the pots as well as the families that were crabbing and having a little social gathering. Every few minutes a pot would be pulled in and then tossed back out (generally as far as the person could throw it); it was a loud and disturbing racket which didn't help the fishing and I blamed my lack of success at least in part to the din of the crabbers. But they were catching crabs and certainly had as much right to the pier as I did. The Dungeness crab season is basically December through July and I wonder if certain sections couldn't be reserved for the crabbers and others for fishermen, at least for those months?
Date: December 5, 2000
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: (In reply to: Citizen's Dock posted by Ken Jones)
Crabbed the B street pier in Crescent City Monday and Tuesday. Got two legal rocks, one red, and one Dungeness. First time I've crabbed in thirty some years. Tuesday (Nov 2 was real slow until about and hour before low tide. Then we were getting 12+ crab to a ring, some nearly legal. Fished both days without a bite. Are those fat sea lions in the harbor doing a job on the fish inhabitants? Buying and reading 'Pier Fishing in California' renewed my interest in fishing and crabbing. Thanks Ken!!
Date: June 8, 2003
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: the cursed docks
Went fishing on The Cursed Docks aka the B Street Pier in Crescent City trying for flounder or perch. No bites, nothing. Probably because of low tide. Lots of herring swimming around though, too bad I didn’t have one of those baitfish rigs.
Pier Fishing in California Fish Reports
September 1997—William Van Dyke, of Popeye's Bait & Tackle at the foot of the pier, says there has been a good run of mackerel, Pacific herring and jacksmelt at the pier. Anglers are using bait rigs or very small hooks and beads to attract and hook the fish. Some of the mackerel are up to 3-feet in length which leads me to suspect they are jack mackerel (Spanish mackerel), although this El Nino year may see Pacific mackerel up in that area. Fishing for both halibut and perch has slowed.
December 1997—Linda at Popeye's Bait & Tackle says it has been windy, cold and rainy and few if any fish have been landed recently. However, in the first three hours of the new Dungeness crab season, eight people on the pier landed their limits, so it looks like another banner year for the Dungeness crabs.
January 2000—Chris, at Englund Marine says that he is getting reports of quite a few halibut being landed at the pier. Six fish, 15-20 inches long, were landed one day and another two fish broke the lines of the anglers. He says it is a possibility they are sand sole but all reports so far indicate they are California halibut even though it’s a strange time of the year for them. Most action is being done by the crabbers who are out in force. The weather has been pretty good for this time of the year.
March 2001—Dave at Englund Marine, says that anglers are beginning to pick up quite a few pogies/pumpkinseeds at the “B” Street Pier and at Citizens Dock. Unfortunately, I’m not too clear as to if they are pileperch, striped seaperch or redtail surfperch, but at least some type of perch are cooperating with the local anglers. He says anglers are also snagging some herring when the schools make their runs into the bay and that people are getting a few Dungeness crabs (although overall it has been a slow crab season).
August 2001—Leonard, at Eugland Marine, says salmon action has been fantastic off the shoreline and that a few are also being landed from the piers and wharfs. He says there is bait everywhere—jacksmelt and Spanish mackerel. He says the salmon are being taken on 1/2 to 1 oz. Kastmasters, Little Cleos and Krocodiles.
September 2001—Leonard, at Eugland Marine, says visitors hitting the pier are getting a few fish—smelt, herring and flatfish. He says there’s been a massive die off of fish in the harbor and the smell is somewhat overpowering.
February 2002—Chris at Englund Marine, at the foot of Citizen’s Dock says a couple of California halibut were landed recently along with some small sand sole. As at the dock, crabbing has been poor. Again however, the runs of Pacific herring should start anytime.
September 2002—Chris, at Eugland Marine says anglers are mainly getting some nice sand sole (which they mistake for halibut) and a few perch. Quite a few octopus are also being taken.
October 2004—The B Street Pier is seeing occasional flurries of jacksmelt along with the regular perch (walleyes, silvers and a few redtails). Some sand sole are also available. Most of the action continues to come from crabbers.
August 2006—Leonard, at Eungland Marine, reports that more people are crabbing than are fishing although a couple of good sized leopard sharks were taken from the pier.
History Note. The pier sits on the site of a previous wharf, the Dutton Dock, a private lumber dock that was built around 1950. Due to its location and strong construction, that dock survived the 1964 tsunami with little damage (unlike Citizens Dock). However, it could not overcome the ravages of time and by the ‘80s was no longer being used for commercial purposes. In 1984 the pier was acquired and demolished by the City and soon after discussion began as to building a new recreational pier. In 1987 the Wildlife Conservation Board allocated $500,000 to be matched by the City for construction of the new pier. At the same time, a 1,500-foot causeway from the end of “B” Street was reconstructed to provide easy access to the pier. The pier opened in 1991.
Although the pier appears much as it did at opening, there has been a loss of some structures and a 2008 report by the city council indicated a lack of maintenance at the pier and a need to study the structure, which the Director of Public Works Jim Barnts said was “suffering from corrosion of underwater metal pilings.” He added that the study was simply intended to assess the damage and see what measures were needed too fix the problem. “It's not an accident waiting to happen,” he said. “It's one of those things that needs to be fixed.” I hope he’s right.
“B” Street Pier Facts
Hours: Open 24 hours a day.
Facilities: Limited free parking at the foot of the pier, night-lights, and a few trashcans. There used to be a fish cleaning station out at the end of the pier but it’s gone—“vandals took the handles”—and everything else. The small bait and tackle shop that used to sit near the entrance has also disappeared. Thankfully, a couple of portable toilets are still present—most of the time.
Handicapped Facilities: None with the exception of ramps leading up to the curb. The pier's surface is wood planks and the pier's railing is approximately 40 inches high.
Location: ??? N. Latitude, ??? W. Longitude.
How To Get there: Take Highway 101 to Front Street, go west on Front Street to “B” Street; go south (left) on “B” Street to the pier.
Management: Crescent City Harbor District.
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