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>> Balboa Pier — Update [topic: previous/next]
PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 4:14 pm
Ken Jones

Posts: 9788
Location: California

Balboa Pier

Piers are one of the most romantic spots on earth! If you don't believe me, tag along on a visit to Balboa Pier on almost any summer night. By 10 P.M., darkness has enveloped the pier. But while most fishermen have returned home, life continues on the pier. A slight breeze ruffles the flags, fires burn along the beach, and couples continue to stroll, hand in hand, out to the end of the pier where they might just sneak a quick kiss or two. Such behavior is expected. At the end of the pier, the red neon lights of Ruby's Diner light the sky, calling like a beacon to the lovers of the night.

Nearshore strollers looking up Main Street see another set of lights. The Balboa Pavilion and its famous cupola are bedecked in a Christmas-like celebration of light. It suggests an earlier age, that of the early 1900s, a time when every large pier in California seemed to be built with a nearby pavilion. Pleasure at the beach mandated both a fishing pier and a pavilion.

In Newport that meant the Balboa Pier and its sister attraction, the Scandinavian-style Balboa Pavilion. Both were built in 1906 and both were designed to attract land buyers to the area. The pavilion would serve as the southern terminus for the famous electric Red Car line of Henry Huntington and riders, if they were so inclined, could get off the rail cars and proceed directly down Main Street to the pier. Today, while the railroad is history and there is little if any land left to buy, both the pavilion and pier remain historical reminders of that more innocent and magical time.

Although just down the peninsula from the Newport Pier, this area has a very different feeling to it dating perhaps back to those early days. The Newport Pier is primarily an angler's pier while at Balboa, fishing is at times simply one small part of the life on the pier. Here, there are usually less anglers and the fishing seems less intense. But life is no less intense. Up Main Street are the activities and businesses by the Pavilion. At the foot of the pier sits Peninsula Park with its lawns, palm trees, baseball field, and bandstand where concerts are held during the summer.

In addition there are the boats. A look to the south reveals the Newport Jetty and the entrance to Newport Bay, one of the West Coast's major yacht harbors (with an estimated 10,000 boats). Some days there are only a few boats to be seen from the pier, other days will see a virtual flotilla emerging from the bay's portal: a diverse assemblage of commercial fishing boats, sportfishing boats, cabin cruisers, sailboats and yachts of almost every size, hue, shape and—cost. Increasingly you may also see a few kayaks, canoes and other cockleshells braving the mighty Pacific. The number of boats can be amazing! Although I've never counted them, I would be willing to bet that during holiday weekends there are more boats (ships) in Newport's navy than there were in King Philip II's “Invincible Armada” when it sailed against England (I believe his navy was about 130 strong).

Although fishing may at times be a secondary preoccupation at the pier, that's O.K. It gives the fishermen who are present more room to fish. Surprisingly, the fishing can be quite good. In fact, although I hate to admit it, the fishing can be just as good (or better) as that at the nearby Newport Pier, the pier where I first began to fish.

Environment. Like its sister pier that sits just down the beach, Balboa is fairly close to the Newport Submarine Canyon. Although the beach seems even more sharply inclined here than at the Newport Pier, the water is not quite as deep. Still, it is deep enough that you will occasionally see deep-water fish. On a visit to the pier in 1990 I watched in amazement as a long, ribbon-shaped fish swam among the pilings out at the end of the pier. The fish refused to accept my bait even though it had been blessed and a few prayers had been said. I’m not sure what the fish was, perhaps a ribbonfish (Desmodema polysticta) or perhaps, more likely, a king-of-the-salmon (Trachipterus altivelis), since it seemed at least eight feet long. Whatever the fish, it provided 20 minutes of entertainment—and eventually frustration. The dual proximity to both a deep-water canyon and the nearby Newport Bay almost guarantees an interesting mix of fish.

Several unusual fish have been reported by Snookie, our web site reporter who primarily fishes the shallower inshore to mid-pier area (and I probably could have called this chapter “The Snookie”). Included in the '97-'99 El Niño years were her catch of a midling thread herring (Opisthonema medirastre, normally found from Redondo Beach to Peru), a 2 1/2-pound tripletail (Lobotes pacificus, normally found from Petacalco Bay, Mexico to Panama), and a 4-pound baby giant (black) sea bass, a species hopefully making a comeback now that it's protected. She also caught a large, 2-pound female rock wrasse and a small fish that she couldn’t identify even though she has several identification books. (Scientific papers now indicate that the ’97 midling thread herring may instead have been a deepbody thread herring Opistlzonemu libertute.) She caught a bonefish (Albula vulpes) in the surf area (on bloodworms) in February of ’99 and saw several Pacific cutlassfish (Trichiurus nitens, normally found from San Pedro to Paita, Peru in deep water).

In September of 2003 Snookie caught her second baby giant (black) sea bass at the pier, this time a 10-inch-long youngster. In February of ’05 she caught a sand sole (Psettichthys melanostictus) a northern species normally found from Port Hueneme (or Redondo Beach depending upon the reference book you use) to Alaska. She also managed to catch a 29-inch, 10-pound king salmon while fishing the inshore surf area one day. (Another distaff member of the fishing fraternity, Michelle Flannigan, landed a five-pound king salmon in 2008—on a Sabiki.)

Several years ago Snookie witnessed the capture of a 12-inch green jack (Caranx caballus, normally found from Santa Cruz Island to Peru) and two sarcastic fringeheads out at the end of the pier, fish common to southern California but fish rarely seen at such oceanfront piers. In April of ’08 a big skate, nearly 6-foot in length was taken out at the end of the pier. The species, although recorded down to Baja, is rarely taken south of Point Conception. A common species, but one that is rarely taken unless snagged, is ocean sunfish and a fish estimated at 50-pounds was taken in May of 2003. Whatever the reasons the pier offers a very interesting and diverse mix of fish. Pilings, by the way, are heavily covered with mussels but rarely is there much kelp or seaweed around the pier.

To be honest though, most of the fish you will see day to day are the same as those seen at other southland piers. The inshore area, along the beach, will produce surfperch, small rays, and an occasional croaker or corbina. Midway out is best for halibut, white croaker, queenfish, sargo, topsmelt and jacksmelt, sardines, sculpin (scorpionfish), shovelnose guitarfish, and a few bass and barracuda (generally late summer to fall). The far end is best for sanddabs (some years), bonito (some years), Pacific mackerel and Spanish jacks (jack mackerel). Most years will also see a few yellowtail swimming through the end area in the fall. Not necessarily a desirable species, but one that is quite often caught in the cold-water months, is California lizardfish. When the lizzies are present they can be an irritating nuisance. The end area is also best for the larger sharks and rays. Tackle and techniques are the same as that at Newport Pier.

The human environment found here is also worth mentioning. As Orange County has grown, so too has its ethnic mix. Significant populations of many different groups are found within a short drive of the pier. The population of anglers on this pier and other Orange County piers reflects this mix. Contrary to the views of some of my fellow anglers, I find this mix interesting. I also find that people are people, some are good-natured, some are not. Two experiences from this pier highlight those feelings.

One incident involved an elderly Japanese gentleman. I was fishing one morning when the mackerel were on one of their patented “mac attacks,” and I was catching more of the greenbacks than I wanted to keep for bait. Did anyone want some of the mackerel? An angler pointed to a thin little man and said, “give them to him, give them to the Chinaman.” I yelled over to ask if he wanted the fish. No response! Then the angler mentioned that the man was deaf. So, with a little bit of speech, and an attempt at sign language, I asked if the man wanted the mackerel. His face lit up and he accepted the fish. “Thank you, thank you” and he gave a courteous bow. After each new fish would come a similar thank you and a bow. My thoughts were simple: it was nice to see someone appreciate such a small gift and secondly, wouldn't it be nice if our culture taught such simple signs of courtesy. It was also obvious that the man was Japanese and that he wasn't deaf, he simply tended to keep to himself.

A second incident involved a group of three Asian teenagers who were having dismal results one morning out on the pier. They had limited tackle and the wrong bait, yet they were working harder to catch fish than any of the other fishermen present. I was doing a little better; I had a couple of bonito, a nice sand bass, two scorpionfish (sculpin) and once again far too many mackerel. The boys finally came over, although somewhat timidly, and asked for some advice. In the next couple of hours I taught them a little about pier fishing and they told me a story I will never forget. A story about how their family escaped from Vietnam and finally made it to the United States. All three of the young men worked, all helped support their family, and all three loved to fish. They were courteous, friendly and respectful, and gave me much more in our short time together than I was able to give them.

Balboa also has a special group of “pier rats” that I've had the pleasure to get to know. As mentioned, one of them is "Snookie," (correct spelling) the reporter for my Pier Fishing in California web site. The following newspaper story is about her and her gang of "pier rats."

Reeling in the years

You should have been at the pier the day Warren hooked a near-keeper halibut.
Oh, Warren has hooked plenty of keepers in his time, but he'll tell you fishing isn't about what you take, it's about what keeps you coming back.
Anyway: This one halibut a couple of weeks ago--turned out to be 20 inches, two short of legal limit--had Warren moving.
Bad hip and all, dang thing, he raced that halibut, staying just ahead of the hooked fish's efforts to reach the pylons and wrap itself to freedom.
Thirty feet below Warren's bowed fishing rod, the young feisty halibut with the white belly challenged the 81-year-old fisherman, tanned like leather from so many long days in a sun that precocious halibut wouldn't survive a minute.
Noble had a line dropped several feet up the pier (toward Ruby's) and had to hustle to raise his rig to let Warren and the halibut scamper underneath.
Snooky abandoned her reel and went for the drop met.
She lowered the net in sync with Warren raising the halibut. Reeling, lowering, reeling, lowering until the flopping captive popped from the water and into the wide, circular net fixed to a thick rope, Snooky's good with the net. Snooky's good with everything out here.
Out came the measure, up-short came the halibut, over the edge went the 20-incher and back for more bait went Warren, his old, small face lit as if a boy again.
Milton was there that day. Cass might have been. Bob wasn't though; he's off fishing his way toward Washington or something.
And Sunny. Well, she's not out much this summer. Came out a lot last year and fished from her wheelchair, but even the Queen of the Halibuts has to give it up at some point, and this may be the summer—her 82nd—marked as Sunny's retirement.
If it is Tuesday or Thursday, and if the Balboa Pier is standing, this bunch will be on it. Usually gathered near the second "T" with carts and coolers and buckets and memories that go way back, to the days, even, before sardines got fished out; back to when barges were anchored three miles out and a water taxi would take you to them for two bits and you could catch barracuda so big they called them logs. Oh, yeah.
This summer there are about five or six regulars: Snooky, Noble, Warren, Milton, Cass. They all have last names. But not out here. Snooky's thick photo book shows the whole gang that has grown over the years to about 20, sometimes—if the scene of past Christmas parties is accurate. And, being that it's Snooky's book, you can bet it is.
She's got another book, without photos but with as many memories. It's the record book she keeps— the one that cost $12.95 but is worth it because it has tide information for each day of the year.
Even shows what time of day is best for fishing, although as Warren says: "I've never seen a halibut wearing a wristwatch."
Every summer, Snooky records each halibut caught by her pier peers, and at the end of the season, the person who has caught the most keepers gets...nothing.
Midway into the summer Warren and Snooky have four apiece; Cass, two, Noble, three. Milton mostly comes to visit.
Snooky, Sunny's daughter is the baby of the bunch. She's 60. Warren, you know, is 81. Milton is 80. Noble is 71.
Most are retired: from real estate, insurance, nursery management.
They get here about 10 A.M., break for their lunch precisely (well, as precisely as retired fishermen) at noon, stay sometimes till late afternoon.
This is not a hobby for any of them. Hobby? No. Something else. Something more life giving. Or so it seems.
“The camaraderie,” Snooky says she comes for. Which is something, considering how much she likes fishing and how good she is at it. Can't remember a time when she didn't fish. Goes to Vegas for international fishing conventions. Said Milton: “I come down to see the gang as much as anything.” Among the gang there are about 300 years of fishing experience, gathered on piers from Belmont Shore to here at Balboa, where they are a well-known sight. After all these years, a pool of anchovies can still excite them. Like last week, when the waters near the pier were darkened with thousands of the smelly baitfish.
Milton and Noble and Warren and Snooky left their main rigs propped on the pier railing and gathered their bait-catching lines, aiming leaded monofilament laced with tiny hooks into the school and yanking up cigar-shaped silver that shot sharp reflections at the midday sun.
See, game fish like anchovies best, it seems. Better than smelt, anyway. Maybe, Snooky figures, because anchovies have a softer scale.
So, when the anchovies come through, the excitement of getting bait is nearly as good as the thrill of a keeper catch. Nearly.
You need a lot of bait out here. Not that it's anything like it was 50 years ago, mind you, but a person who knows what he's doing can keep busy, This pier fishing is not as passive as you might think. There's bait to be caught, leaders to be strung, territory to be guarded against the occasional fisherman who wanders out here not knowing that the second "T" is the crowd's unofficial squat.
“If you want nuts,” Warren says, “come to the pier.”
The deranged come here, the drugged, the street preachers claiming to be fishers of men. The ill and ill-intentioned and the ill-conceit of the well-intentioned mix with those who fish for fun and those who fish for food and those who fish because it's what they've always done.
They watch after one another in this group.
A few years ago, Snooky says, it got so that if you didn't keep an eye on your equipment, it would disappear. So now, they all look out for one another and take lunch at the same time so they can watch their gear while they eat.
Things change.
Things don't.
Warren's been fishing these waters 72 years and says the thrill at 81 is the same as when he was 9. The same it'll be at 90.
He's seen a lot out here. Still, he dreams.
“It's always been a dream of mine to go to the Florida Keys and fish for those big tuna,” he says. “Man, to get ahold of one of those big things, boy, oh boy...”
Man, Boy oh boy.
Warren says he wants to die fishing. Almost did.
In 1993, he'd just landed a 27-inch halibut, and Snooky was taking a picture when Warren collapsed.
Noble and Snooky took him to the hospital. Heart attack.
He was back in two weeks, more convinced of how he wants to go out.
“I want to die with a 100-pound fish at the end of the line,” Warren says. “For a fisherman, that's the way to go out...But I'd be happy to get a 10-pound bonito out here."
Fishing, fishing, fishing.
Tuesday, Thursday. Tuesday, Thursday. Toss, reel, bait, clean, eat.

John Hughes, Subculture
The Orange County Register, August 2, 1997

Snookie says most of the group has been together for over thirty years, although some members have known each other for 55 years. Sunny, Snookie's mother, was the matriarch of the group (until she died in 2001) and fished on both the Balboa and Newport piers before Snookie was born, a time when you “had to have a license just for catching yellowfin croaker.” Snookie's daughter also grew up on the piers. “When she was in a stroller on Newport Pier, Grandma Sunny would make her play with live anchovies so she wouldn't be afraid of them later,” said Snookie. Although all had fished the local piers, they more closely banded together back in the '80s when thievery was at its height on the piers. Today, as seen in the article, the group is sort of a nurturing, extended family whose togetherness exemplifies what I sometimes affectionately call the Loyal Fraternity of Pier Rats. Their group should serve as a good example for other piers.

By the way, my first day of fishing with the group, in June of '99, highlighted several points that have been mentioned before but bear repeating. When Snookie arrived around 10 A.M. she brought with her the nets, live bait buckets, and other materials necessary to be a successful halibut angler these days. Soon Snookie had made some bait—lively small smelt—and the group was fishing. Snookie quickly caught a sub-legal halibut, which was returned to the mighty Pacific. A few minutes later a second halibut was caught, and then a third, while I was still fishless and hoping I wouldn't be embarrassed. But then my bait, which was patiently swimming in the depression down between some pilings, began to act up, followed by the characteristic strike from a toothy halibut. I hooked the flattie, quickly realized it was a good fish, and asked Snookie to get the net ready. Soon the fish was headed toward a waiting net, it made a final run after spotting the net, and then it was guided into the net. Within a couple of minutes a beautiful, 27-inch keeper halibut was sitting under a wet towel on the pier.

Point one was to always have someone present who knows how to correctly use a net or pier gaff to get the bigger fish, and Snookie was an expert at the task. The second point was the great advantage of using live bait. Within a three-hour time span the group of six people caught 10 or 11 halibut (including two by this lucky angler). I didn't see another angler using live bait, nor did I see another halibut caught. Point three was the simple fact that looks can be deceiving. Most of the halibut were 12-17 inches long and all were returned to the water with the exception of my fish described above. Many anglers looked into our buckets as they headed out toward the end. Since they didn't see any fish they assumed we hadn't had much luck. However, nearly everyone in the group had caught at least one halibut, which brings up points four and five. Point four is that regulars like these know how to catch the fish and do so on a regular basis. Point five is that the mid-pier area of the pier, the area where Snookie's group always fishes, is usually the best area for halibut. It may not produce as many pelagic species as the end areas but it definitely is the best area for the elusive, good-tasting and most-prized flatfish.

A point I should repeat is to make sure you have a net (or pier gaff) with you in case you do hook a big fish. Earlier on the same morning that I met Snookie's group, I had tried fishing the end area. Not too much was going on except for an occasional mackerel. One of the meat fishermen seeking mackerel was tossing out a multi-hook outfit that had a heavy line and about eight size 2 hooks. On the bottom was a 3 or 4-ounce sinker and a couple of feet above the top hook was a heavy float that kept the rigging floating near the top of the water. The fish (mainly mackerel and a few lizardfish) would hit the bait, his float would disappear under the water, and he would pull in the fish. Since he was using a fairly heavy rod there usually wasn't much of a fight. However, that would change. One hit yielded resistance that he hadn't previously seen and it took several minutes before his rig was near the top of the water and the fish could be seen. Imagine his surprise to see two mackerel together with a beautiful salmon that I estimated to weigh 10-12 pounds. Unfortunately, a net wasn't present and he tried to hand line the fish to the top of the pier. About half way up to the pier the fish gave a shrug and the line broke. Fish: one, angler: zero. With a net he would have had a rare and distinguished prize for a southern California pier (although I'm not too sure if it would have been a legally caught salmon). As it was, he was left only with the memory

Fishing Tips. Check out the far end of this 920-foot-long pier when you begin to fish. Because of the water depth, this can be an excellent pier for the pelagics—fish such as bonito, Pacific mackerel, and jack mackerel. Most of the mackerel are landed on Sabiki/Lucky Lura-type bait rigs or on strips of squid (or pieces of mackerel) fished under a float. Most bonito fall to feathers trailing a cast-a-bubble. This deepest water is also typically the best spot to pick up Pacific and longfin sanddabs if they enter the catch although they may be taken almost anywhere from the pier.

The far end is also the best area for the larger sharks and rays and many good-sized shovelnose sharks (guitarfish) and bat rays have been landed at the pier. In addition, this is where you'll normally encounter the pelagic species of sharks, species like thresher sharks and blue sharks. I've never seen any of the larger sharks caught at the pier but Snookie has caught threshers to 36 pounds and witnessed several LARGE sharks swimming by the pier. Most impressive were a 30-foot-long basking shark that leisurely cruised along the pilings one day, a great white estimated at 20-feet, and a pair of hammerheads, one 8-foot-long, the other estimated at 10-foot-long, that also checked out the Balboa action. All sound pretty interesting.

Probably the most famous (and for our purposes, controversial) Balboa shark was a fish that wasn't actually caught from the pier although it was close: approximately 100 yards out from the end of the pier. Local commercial fisherman Ted Phegley in his 16-foot dory boat took the shark, an estimated 12-foot-long, 1,400-pound great white, on January 29, 1960. Although he was fishing for white seabass, he managed to net and capture the huge great white that, at the time, was considered one of the largest “whites” ever taken along the Pacific Coast. It was soon hauled into shore and hung up on block and tackle near the Crab Cooker Restaurant in Newport Beach. That weekend, crowds estimated at 20-50 thousand people swarmed to Newport Beach to see the “man-eater.” I say controversial simply because part of what you just read may not be true. It is based upon newspaper accounts that appeared at the time of the capture (and which are posted on the wall at the Crab Cooker). When I asked “Snookie,” our local Orange County expert to review the section on Balboa Pier she sent me the following: “Ted Phegley's shark was actually 11 feet, 2 inches long and weighed 775 pounds. He was assisted in the landing by the 40-foot commercial fishing boat Crusader who passed by, hove to and helped Phegley land the shark. They used a winch to get the shark to the top of the water and then looped a rope over its tail to make it immovable. It was taken to McCarthy's Dock in Newport and hoisted and weighed still alive. It almost snapped a 4 x 6 dock rail in two with its teeth in a last effort to escape. This was the second great white for Phegley. The July before he hauled in a smaller one in approximately the same location.” Now I know that some of you good readers think that newspapers are always accurate and filled with stimulating, factual information (which is, of course, never biased) but I have a lot of faith in “Snookie.” Whatever the size of the fish, (and there's quite a measurable mathematical difference between 775 and 1,400 pounds) there is no disagreement that the fish was huge. Today the fish is stuffed and hangs in the main dining room at the Crab Cooker. Sort of a stuffed fish watching human’s stuff themselves on fish. If you visit the restaurant do make sure you view the fish and also look inside the mouth at the rows of teeth. Behind the main row of teeth are several other rows of teeth ready to slip down and replace teeth that the white has lost for whatever reason.

Back to fishing! A few bass will also enter the catch, both sand bass and kelp bass (calico bass), and most of these will be taken from the mid-pier area to the end. Live bait on the bottom is the best bait for the bass but they will also hit on cut anchovies, strips of squid, and occasionally on lures.

Gray smoothhound sharks can be taken from the inshore area to the end while leopard sharks are more common from the mid-pier area to the end. However, neither species is really that common at the pier. What are sometimes too common are thornback rays, a fish that has kept many an angler from being skunked. The inshore waters may also yield some round stingrays and an occasional butterfly ray but both are far less common than the throw-‘em-backs.

For many anglers, especially some of the “regulars,” the mid-pier area is preferable. Disinterested in mackerel, this group is primarily after halibut and this area offers the best chance for the tasty flatfish. The best rigging is a typical halibut rigging or a sliding leader baited with a live smelt, grunion, anchovy (if you can net some), or small queenfish. If you can't get live bait, use frozen or salted anchovy. Use a whole (small) anchovy, or cut anchovy if the bait is large. Hook the bait through the rear portion of the bait and be prepared to let the halibut mouth the bait a while before striking. Many regulars also like to try Scrounger-type lures and I've been told that the larger size lures, especially the bright green colored ones, can be deadly on winter halibut, the fish that are often the largest of the year. The same area and the same baits (especially small queenfish) can yield white seabass but few that are caught are legal size.

This mid-pier area is also usually the best area for the smaller croakers, sculpin and perch. For medium-sized tom cod (white croaker) and the larger herring (queenfish), use a high/low leader with size 4 hooks, and small strips of anchovy as bait. The same rigging can be used for sculpin (California scorpionfish), but squid is better bait for these good eating fish. Records, by the way, show that the best time to catch the sculpin is at night, and that the winter through spring months offer the best fishery for these fish. Balboa is one of the best piers to catch these scorpionfish.

Use small snag lines (self-made) or the Sabiki/Lucky Lura/Lucky Joe-type bait rigs for the smaller queenfish, walleye surfperch, pompano (Pacific butterfish), topsmelt and jacksmelt. Schools of the larger jacksmelt typically show up October through February and when they do many anglers will specifically fish for the hard fightin' and good eatin' “horse smelt.”

This is a also a pier where you may occasionally encounter small, juvenile rockfish, especially if you're using a bait rig set-up and make the mistake of letting it get down near the bottom in the deeper water. In fact, I even caught some baby bocaccio here back in 1974. Although I only caught a couple of the small fish, they were the same fish that (in those years) invaded the waters around central California piers each year and provided hours of fun for the “snapper” fishermen. With the drastic decrease in the number of bocaccio along the coast, they are much less common at piers today (although I did catch two bocaccio at the nearby Newport Pier in June of '99.) Balboa Pier is, by the way, the southern limit for my pier-caught bocaccio. Citizen’s Dock in Crescent City, up near the Oregon Border, and nearly 900 miles away, is the northern limit.

Inshore, try for croakers and perch. I've caught quite a few yellowfin croakers and corbina here on fresh mussels and bloodworms, and seen some nice barred surfperch caught by anglers using similar bait or live sand crabs. I've also been told that quite a few good-sized spotfin croakers are captured, not surprising considering the fact that the nearby Newport Bay is one of the best areas in California for the large croakers. Sargo are another fish commonly caught inshore to mid-pier and some are big as seen in a 17-inch, 3-pound, 14-ounce fish in July of ’99.

Another fish you may see cruising the shallows is mullet and when the schools of 2-3-foot-long fish show up anglers will toss a variety of baits and lures at them, generally with little luck. They're not impossible to catch on a line and hook, but about as close as you will probably come. They're vegetarians, primarily subsisting on algae and tiny bits of food they strain from the mud and sand, and about the only thing that will occasionally attract them are doughballs on tiny, size 12 or 10, hooks. Raymond Cannon in his excellent book How to Fish the Pacific Coast recommended making doughballs with cotton, flour and bananas and even suggested adding some garlic. I'm not to sure if these fish are Epicurean enough to require garlic but that old doughball recipe does work on some fish. More common is to see people snagging them with large treble hooks, a feat that is legal but not exactly sporting. At night, fish the inshore area using squid, mackerel or anchovies for better-than-average action on thornback rays.

Like the Newport Pier, Balboa will also see runs of squid every so often, both market squid and their larger cousins. Snookie sent in the following report in September of 2002, “the yellowfin croakers are the big things right now. Today there were lots of them in the surf area. Most of them were caught on squid. The squid bait was from the squid catches of the past few weeks. The Humboldt or Jumbo squid have been making nightly appearances for several weeks now, but are almost gone. It was a show in itself to watch as the pier was lined with elbow-to-elbow fishermen waiting for that magic hour when the squid would appear. They ran all the way to the surf following the grunion and other baits farther out. Those were happy people while the squid were there.”

Author's Note No. 1. Cass, a friend of Snookies, caught a 10-pound, 29-inch striped bass off this pier in 1991. It was the first striped bass reported caught on an Orange County pier even though stripers have been planted in Newport Bay since the late 1960s. Snookie says the bass was caught on a live smelt. “I was standing beside him when that fish hit. It was a beautiful sight to see it jumping. I netted the fish, measured him, photographed them and sold the article and picture to California Angler when they were still in business,” said Snookie. Several striped bass were recorded from Orange County piers in 1998, the year when the normally elusive linesides invaded southern California waters.

No peer at the pier

Armed with rod and reel, Vernona Fath proves faithful to her spot among the regulars who fish off the Balboa Pier


September and October are usually some of the better months for fishing off Balboa Pier. If the Spanish jacks come in, so do small yellowtail.
Big halibut, big bonito and barracuda are also on the pier menu this time of year, even a white seabass on the rarest of occasions might be caught.
But not this season. Not so far, at least. Action on the Balboa Pier has been s-l-o-w.
Yet Vernona “Snookie” Fath, 67, of Santa Ana doesn't much care. Well, she would prefer catching fish, of course, but if the fish aren't biting, she is not going to stow away the fishing gear.
Whether the fish are cooperating or not, every Tuesday and Thursday at 9:30 a.m. or thereabouts, Snookie — as everyone knows her — will walk halfway down Balboa Pier, stake out her spot and hope for the best.
She does this every week, every month, every year. She has been a regular pier fisherwoman for 58 years, or since she was 9 when her mother, Edith “Sunny” Oelkers, routinely took her and taught her the ropes.
“There's only one word for it,” said Bob Peterson, 73, of Irvine, another pier angler who fished with Sunny. “She's a nut, a pier-fishing nut.”
And why is she?
For one, the fishing can be good. To those who walk by and always ask pier anglers whether they really do catch fish, the answer is a resounding yes. Why else would they be out there? Actually, there are plenty of reasons.
“It's never the same, be it the people, the fish or the bait,” Snookie explained. “Things are never the same day after day. It's different each time.”
Memorable moments are as treasured as a legal-sized halibut to a pier angler. Among the snapshots from the pier etched in Snookie's memory from past years include:
An octopus closely following the movements of a crab above it on a leg of the pier, hoping the crab makes a misstep and becomes a meal.
A pair of adult gray whales protecting a baby whale from an orca.
A man from Paraguay screaming in his foreign tongue, pointing out the large creature near the pier: a 30- to 40-foot basking shark.
A sea otter floating on its back.
A leatherback turtle swimming by.
A hammerhead shark cruising the coastline.
Red crabs invading the water, migrating birds perching on the pier, big jelly fish floating by, giant squid squirting ink as anglers pull them over the pier's railing, pods of playing dolphin.
A gray whale swimming under the pier right toward a swimmer, who saw a large group of people on the pier pointing into the water.
“I've never seen a man swim so fast,” Snookie said. “I don't know if he even knew it was a whale. We see a lot of whales in close.”
Two-legged creatures provide entertainment on the pier, too, like the swimmer. Or the lady who went up to an angler, grabbed the fishing rod and tossed it into the water, saying the pier was for walking not fishing.
That occurred just a couple of weeks ago. The lady was later arrested and another angler snagged the rod and gave it back to the surprised angler.
anglers usually stick together. Camaraderie is as much a part of a day on the pier as catching bait. It's an unofficial social club, a place where everybody knows your name, though not necessarily your last name.
See, Snookie does not fish alone. Her supporting cast includes Bob, Vic, Randy, Milt, Cass, Walt, Warren, Alex, George, Noble, Arlene and Tom.
Non-fishing friends also routinely stop by. They are walkers who believe the pier is for walking and fishing.
For Snookie and Co., fishing remains the central theme and halibut is the primary target.
Snookie caught the biggest halibut of her pier-fishing career earlier this year: a 20-pounder. She has also caught a 100-pound bat ray and a 10-pound salmon, along with bonito, barracuda and yellowtail.
In a given year, Snookie catches three to six legal halibut, those that are 22 inches or longer.
“You go through several hundred (under-sized halibut) to get those,” Snookie said.
Thursday, she went through three hand-sized halibut but never did hook a legal one. Most of the bait was small, so expectations weren't high from the beginning. The perfect bait is 6-8 inches long.
“When I get bigger bait, I expect to catch bigger fish,” she said.
For bigger fish, she uses a heavy rod with a conventional reel and 15-pound test. For smaller fish, she fishes with a lightweight rod and 8-pound test. For catching bait, Snookie has a 4-pound test outfit with a six-hook ganion at the end.
To attract bait, usually smelt or sardines, Snookie tosses crumbled bread into the water. Whole grain and French bread work best, she said.
If she fails to hook baitfish on the ganions, Snookie lowers an umbrella net by rope into the water. When the baitfish feed on the bread above the net, she quickly pulls up the net.
A bucket filled with water and equipped with an aerator keeps the bait alive.
To land the fish she doesn't want to get away, she lowers a round landing net and leads the fish into it.
The landing net remained dry Thursday. The pickings were slim. Nevertheless, the anglers did not go home discouraged. They just started looking forward to the next trip to the Balboa Pier.
“There's something about pier fishing that brings us back,” Snookie said.
Perhaps Anderson explained it best: “Piscator non solun piscatur. That's Latin for, ‘There's more to fishing than catching fish.’”

—Dave Strege, The Orange County Register, October 8, 2002

E-Mail Messages

Date: January 1999
To: Mike—Pier Fishing in California Message Board
From: Snookie
Subject: halibut

The message board left out the Balboa Pier [on the list of top piers for halibut]. Balboa is an excellent halibut fishing pier. My halibut fishing friends and I catch many keepers every year, and we have over 50 years of experience fishing that pier regularly all year long. Remember to always watch the food supply in the water. If there are baitfish, chances are the halibut have moved in. By the way, we all fish the middle of pier to the surf. That is where the halibut congregate. As to baitfish, don't forget the sardines as well. Unfortunately the best bait is a live grunion. DFG frowns on that bait. Remember the bigger the bait, the bigger the fish. I carry a 48-inch in diameter net for landing the big ones, and we use it. Snookie

Date: July 5, 1999
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Ken Jones
Subject: Balboa Pier

Finally got the chance to meet Snookie, "the gang," and Mark Jackson at the Balboa Pier on the morning of the 29th.
Out at the end of the pier anglers were catching mackerel but I only caught one. Saw an angler hook a 10-12 pound salmon on his multi-hook mackerel rig. He got it up to the pier but tried to bring it up by hand and it broke his line. Remember to have a net!!!
When I joined Snookie at the middle of the pier she quickly made some bait (small smelt) and we were soon fishing just for the halibut. Snookie paved the way with the first fish and Mark soon duplicated her feat. Soon after, another member of the gang caught a flattie and I was beginning to worry. But I was next and caught a pretty nice-sized fish. We took turns catching fish for a couple of hours. The net haul of halibut was 10-11 fish for the 5 (eventually 6) anglers.
Snookie proved to be a very hospitable host (as well as an obviously great angler), the gang was a great group of people, and I'm ready to go back to Balboa.

Posted by Snookie

Dear Ken, The rest of the pier rats would be proud to have you fish with them. It was a great day, and it is something for them to look forward to. That halibut you caught wasn't just a halibut but a beautiful 27-inch halibut. You left our group very envious that day. You did well. You are welcome back to Balboa Pier anytime.

Date: September 22, 1999
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Snookie
Subject: Yellowtail

Take note that the small Spanish mackerel are in at the pier en masse. A regular snagline will get them. This can mean that the yellowtail will be behind them shortly. The water temperature is on the cool side, but may not make too much difference. For those of you that are going to try for yellowtail, use a slider rig. Cast out first with just a heavy sinker. Put a snap swivel on a 3-foot leader, add the Spanish mackerel (hook in the "nose" area), and snap the swivel to the line and let it drop into the water. Even if the yellowtail don't show up there are other fish that will like this method such as halibut, sharks (bigger ones). Snookie

Posted by fongster

Hey Snookie--are there many YT caught off piers? I heard that many, many years ago it was common practice to land many, probably 3 decades ago. I would think if there were any size to them it would be near impossible due their nature of running for structure such as the pilings. If people are catching and keeping those 2-3 pound ones, shame on them! Those are the ones that shouldn't be taken till they're at least 7-8 pounds or even bigger. Last year and the year prior it was a problem on the private boats too. Manly men saying they slayed the yellowtail when in actuality they only found and caught juveniles.
What a waste.

Posted by Snookie

Yes, there are yellowtails off the Balboa Pier at times. For about 12 years now we have had them show up in September and October if the jack mackerel show up first in quantity. We don't get them every year, but it has been often enough that have learned to expect them under these conditions. The conditions are right. Going to check again tomorrow. Yes, a lot of them are the firecracker sizes, but with all the fight the bigger ones have. My biggest has been about 15 pounds. My smallest were about 5 pounds. Believe me they are a real challenge for the fishermen. As to Balboa Pier we have always gotten ours from about midway out to Ruby's. They have always been on the sides--either side. Something to look forward to. I hope! Snookie

Date: September 21, 1999
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Steve
Subject: (In reply to any giant squid on Balboa Pier)

There were some giant squid off Balboa Pier tonight. They started biting around 8:30. I saw about 20-25 caught. My girlfriend caught 3 that were about 2-feet long. There were less squid caught compared to last night and they were about 1 to 2 feet smaller than the ones caught last night. The squid jig worked like a charm. At about 11:30 Bat rays started biting. Two were hooked as I left each w/ a 2-foot wingspan. A huge one that was hooked and lost was swimming on the surface. It had a 4-foot wingspan. Steve

Date: September 27, 1999
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Steak
Subject: Balboa Pier Report - Saturday

Hi all, Fished Balboa pier with the kids 11am to 6pm on Saturday, second 'T' on the left. No rays, lots of crabs eating bait. Saw NO bait until around 3pm when the sun came out. Four-year-old daughter got a few bait balls going with bread. THREE YELLOWTAIL started cruising past repeatedly, yes YELLOWTAIL (first time I have EVER seen them off a pier). Got daughter throwing bread and catching small mackerels on Lucky Lura. She'd bring me the macks and I'd put them on son's line. Meanwhile I was tossing every jig I had...yo-yo iron, surface iron, and Fish Traps. Got maybe one head turn from the passing yellows and the tail bitten off one of the macks (smallish bite radius, maybe a halibut?) but that's it. What I would have given for a nice lively flylined anchovy! Anyway nothing but small macks, most released and a couple chunked for ray bait. Enough action to keep two small kids busy for 6-7 hours so not too bad at all

Posted by Snookie

Dear Mark, If you return to Balboa Pier, go to the phone area out by Ruby's. Fish for your bait there. You want the Spanish or Jack Mackerel for the yellowtail. After you have some go back to where you were, but try both sides of the pier.
Use a slider for yellowtail. The sliding rig I am referring to is simple. Just attach a heavy enough sinker to give you a good cast. Now cast just the sinker on the line out as far as you can. Use a 3-foot leader with a snap swivel attached to the loop end. Now put your bait on the hook, and then attach the swivel snap to the line near the tip of the rod. Let it slide down to the water. It will stay on the surface indefinitely, and then gradually sink to the bottom. If nothing hits it on the top, it might wake up a halibut on the bottom when it gets there or as it is getting there. Check to see which way the wind is blowing, as your leader won't slide well against the wind. Good luck. Snookie

Date: April 14, 2000
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Bent Rod
Subject: A question to all Pier Rats

I remember as a kid fishing with my parents off of Balboa Pier and would see tons of big Piling perch feeding on the mussels. Over many years every time I go onto a pier I always check to see if I can spot any more of these beautiful fish. But it seems they have vanished, has any seen these fish lately or have they gone along the wayside...

Posted by Snookie

As to Balboa Pier, yes, years ago and not that many years we had beautiful piling perch. If you will notice the pilings have been wrapped to keep the growth down. That was and is a food supply area for all the fish. Also not too many people use the proper baits for those fish. We used the little crabs from the bay, and fresh mussels. None of this squid and dead anchovy stuff. We still have some large sargo around. They also eat the same things that the piling perch do, but they are closer to shore. The pilings close to shore are not wrapped, so they still have a feeding area. The rest of the fish such as the bonito, halibut, etc., will be back. They are here and gone in cycles for whatever reason they cycle. As Songslinger put it there is weather, toxins in an area, no food source, etc., but they WILL by back. Each year has always been different, and each year will continue to be different. That is the wonder of the ocean.

Date: June 21, 2000
To: Pier Fishing in California Message Board
From: Ken Jones
Subject: Fish Report

Fished Balboa most of Tuesday morning and afternoon. Bright and early tried out at the end; nothing but jacksmelt was around. Didn't see a single mackerel, or other fish for that matter. Joined Snookie and her charming group about 9:30 and had a delightful time listening to stories and the wisdom accumulated by a group of true experts over many, many years. Also managed to catch 5 halibut and one queenfish using the small smelt that Snookie provided. Saw one small blacksmith perch, an unusual crab, and a sickly barracuda (dark colored and estimated by myself at 4-5 pounds) that was hanging around the surf area until someone finally snagged it. After looking at the fish, the angler decided to return it to the water where it continued to patrol the shallow water for the next several hours. Thanks again to Snookie and the “gang” at Balboa for a great day.

Date: September 22, 2000
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Snookie
Subject: (In reply to: Hammerhead sharks off piers?

Although we haven't had any hammerhead sightings in a few years we used to get them regularly at Balboa Pier. The biggest was about 10 feet with a smaller companion hammerhead. We have had many small ones (about 4 or 5 feet). They never bothered anyone, and there were times they would come into the surf area around late afternoon. There were swimmers in the water, but the sharks were not interested in them. Most of the time they are looking for a fish menu. These times have been in either spring or fall not summer. Snookie

Date: March 14, 2001
To: PDFIC Message Board
From: Snookie
Subject: Tuesday Balboa Pier

Finally, a nice day was had Tuesday on Balboa Pier. The bait were there and no problem to catch. I did catch a Cabezon (only about 10 inches) and lost a good-sized croaker in the surf area, which is where I fished all day. The end fishermen were doing nicely on mackerel at last.
Early afternoon we had a full-grown gray whale come to us in the surf. It stayed for about 30 minutes. He or she was right against the pier. What a sight! We had spyhopping, flukes in the air, and pectorals in the air. We also had about 100 or so people watching. If any of you have this happen near you, have everyone speak only in whispers. If they are quiet, the whale will usually stay happily. (Can you imagine 100 people being quiet? They were, and the whale stayed). Sights like this make me glad that I carry a camera. I am taking the roll of film into the processor today. A beautiful day, some fish, lots of bait and whales to watch--what more can you ask for? Snookie.

Date: April 18, 2002
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Sniookie
Subject: Balboa Pier Big Halibut

It was a wonderful day today! I broke my pier record for halibut size and caught a 37-inch halibut on a nice sized smelt. That fish should weigh about 20 pounds. My friend Bob was with me and it was a good thing he was because I handed the rod to him so that I could net my fish. He is excellent with a rod and I trusted him. About 25 minutes later we had the fish in the net. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a 37-inch fish into a 28 inch in diameter net? We were exhausted after that. I lost another big halibut under the pier plus got some smaller ones. My other friend lost a big one under the pier as well, but also got some smaller ones, plus my friend Bob got smaller ones up to 20 1/2 inches. We had so much bait we threw out bait when we left. As we were leaving there were 3 sets of two whales each set came by us in the surf. They were cows with babies. What a sight to see. Yes, it was a great day for us!!!! Snookie

Date: July 30, 2002
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Steve
Subject: Jumbo Squid

I hate to spoil it for all of you who like to keep secrets but. The Jumbo Squid were back in full force last night. Got out to Balboa at about 8pm. By about 8:45 the first squid was caught. Between me and my brothers and sisters boyfriend of us we must of caught about 30 squid. It was very different compared to a couple years ago. The squid were a little smaller and much more aggressive. They were schooling about 1-4 feet below the surface. You did not even need to yo yo your jig or anything once you dropped your jig in the water they hit. They were following large schools of smelt. This went on in waves till about 11pm. Good luck finding a spot on the Pier tonight.

Date: August 17, 2002
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Josh
Subject: Giant Squid-Balboa

Well, I'm back from Balboa pier. I'll make it short because I'm tired. The Squid are back at Balboa, and I got there when they arrived at about eight. I used a squid jig on the 10' Ugly Stick Johny kindly gave me with 17# line on a Shakespeare Tidewater reel. The result: about 27 LARGE squid packed in neat layers in between layers of ice in the laundry room sink, since they wont fit in the freezer. At about 9:30 the squid largely took off to parts unknown and I moved just outside the surf zone... anybody with some calamari recipes (especially how to fry them) please let me know. I sure hope the neighbors like squid lol.

Posted by youngmanandthesea

Greetings, Balboa Pier was a mess last night. I arrived at 8pm and saw rods bending - over all around me. There were people everywhere as the squids made a strong showing. I saw piles and piles of squids lining the pier. Boy I'd hate to be the dude responsible for cleaning up that mess!! Anyhow, got set up with my egg sinker/squid jig set-up and joined in on the party. People were hooting and hollering all around me. It was a festive event. Lots of kids, and old people having fun. Amazingly, I remained pretty clean after the ordeal. Well, except for one squirt on the head. I caught about 20, but could have caught many more if I had the appetite, and the strength to carry those suckers back. On a different note, I lost my rod in the melee that resulted after the squids moved in. I was bummed out!! . But then, I saw an old friend and we started talking. As we were talking, a gentleman came up and asked if I was the dude that lost the rod. (You’re a true gentlemen Rod...Thanks!!) Got my rod back. Thanks for all the useful tips guys . . .. I had a blast last night!

Date: July 13, 2003
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Snookie
Subject: (In reply to: Anyone ever catch Salmon in the surf? posted by hoho)

My king salmon was caught in the surf area of the Balboa Pier on a 6-inch live smelt on a sunny day in the latter part of August. The smelt is the only part that makes any sense. The rest is out of the ordinary, but it happened nonetheless. It was 29 inches and 10 pounds and oh so beautiful. I could have cast from shore and found that salmon, but I just so happened to be on the pier. Keep trying. Strange things do happen. Snookie

Date: October 17, 2003
To: PFIC Message Board
From: tunanator
Subject: Too many “meat” fisherman at balboa

Man, I don't mean to sound like a total jerk or something, but MAN these 6 at a time bonie/mackeral fisherman are getting out of hand. They are flocking like vultures and seem to be multiplying. There were NO spots at the back rail today and EACH guy was fishing a cheap heavy spinning rod with 30 or 40#, 6-10 hook Sabikis with jigs at the bottom, and catching 3-6 bonies at a time. Half of them don’t cast straight, DONT look behind them when they cast or bounce fish, and are tangling lines. One even hooked a buddy in the leg with a jig, PAST THE BARB, 2 POINTS OF THE HOOK. They care about ONE thing, catching as many fish as they can until they fill their COOLERS (not just buckets). There seems to be little or no regard for common courtesy, safety, avoiding tangles, or let alone that hooks are sharp.
Catch a limit and let someone else in please... when bonies are around, try ONE jig, not a meat hook Sabiki. But I guess they aren’t there for the fun of it. I was only able to get ONE bonie during wide-open flurries because they were literally catching most of the school by the time they got to my side of the pier. And the only one I did manage to catch was when one guy left a spot open and I got a jig back there. The guy who got hooked in the leg by the jig didn’t even get to catch any bonies. And the meat fisherman didn’t leave until the bonie bite stopped and turned to straight mackerel, and even then they didn’t leave till they were full of mackerel. What do they do with all of those? They seem to do it a few times a week if not daily.
Sorry for the rant, but this was WORSE than a 1/2 day boat on a Sunday in July, at least on the boats most people respect limits, and they DONT leave a bunch of trash, rubber gloves, rags, chopped up fish, you know what I’m talking about... the same reason OC piers close at midnight now.
Next time that happens I’m over it, just gonna fill a bucket with dines from the Sabiki, go closer to shore, and try for halibut...
Again I’m sorry, but I had to say something now that I experienced how bad it can get, and this was a weekday, and heard it gets worse.

Date: September 6, 2004
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Gary Evans
Subject: Balboa Labor Day Nightmare

Fished Balboa today from 8 am to around 4pm. Saw some of the regular rats out today, was hard to pick them out from the mass of people who showed up today. I heard it was like a race when the gates opened, people pushing through the gate and running to the end. Just to get a chance at a Bonita. Are they really that good to eat?
I fished between the two tees, as there was no room from the second tee out to the end. Where I was fishing there was not much going on. So since the fish weren't biting, I spent a lot of time picking up trash and dead fish others had left on the ground. I don't understand how they cannot get to the trashcans. I have not seen the pier this messy for a long time. There were a few bonito being caught out on the end, and around 3pm the water started to boil with bait being driven to the surface. Some bonito were being caught when I left. I only managed one leopard shark around 3 feet, broke him off before lifting to the pier. Too many people were rushing up to ask what I was going to do with it. So I pulled hard and broke the leader. Frustrates me when people want your fish before you have even got it up to the pier.
Seals were around in force, but were not bothering the fisherman. Saw a few YFC caught, some thornbacks, one hali about 18". Lots of bait still around the pier. Dines, smelt, and small macks. All in all it was a frustrating day with people crowding in and tangling lines. I forgot how bad it can get when the news is out about good fishing. I think I will wait until the bonies leave before I come back out hali hunting. I think the crowds will leave once the bonies leave. Gary Evans

Posted by fishy

The meat fishermen at Balboa sell their fish. That is why sometimes when the fishes are biting these fishermen come in droves. They sell a lot of the fish to fish market and friends.
<*))>< "Something is FishY here"

Date: November 17, 2004
To: PFIC Message Board
From: bendopolo2004
Subject: O.C. Micronita Balboa Pier

Hit Balboa Pier again. Went out to the end and for the first time I couldn't make any bait. The Dinos' were there but just wouldn't eat the Sabiki. The couple of small baits I did snag were instant Bonies. Finally I was ready to quit, and as I walked back down the pier, I noticed the bait getting thicker. Mostly smelt, some grunion, and micro-mackies. Bait was easy to snag and the small macks would eat sometimes. The surf was loaded with Bonies and I ended up giving fish to some of the more needy anglers. They watched me catch bait, and flyline it. They watched me nail Bonie after Bonie, and yet they sat there on their “arses” and fished with chunks of dead fish or mussel, or squid. If you really want to improve your fishing odds, try new things, be creative, do what the local hot sticks are doing! We are out there to catch fish; this is not a spectator sport. Except for all those cute gals walking around, now they can spectate all they want!
P.S. The Fluorocarbon leader made all the difference today. Three feet of 15 pound tied on with a blood knot and a Number one Mustad 9174 on the Flyline. Go get 'em guys, Jim

Date: January 1, 2005
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Posted by hoozdragging
Subject: Bonito

Hello, my name is Angie. I am ten years old and I am a 5th grader. Every night I read this site's message with my Dad (hoozdragging). I like to report myself today because I caught the baitfish and the big fish (Bonitos). When I got out of Barnes & Nobles, the sky was clear. It was blue with white clouds. So I asked my Dad to go bonito fishing. I arrived at the pier at 1:30PM. No baitfish. Just a few smelt near the sand. After spending sometime I got two little sardines. Right after I wetted the sardine, I got hooked-up. Suddenly, KABOOM! Out of the blue my fishing rod bended big. I started to reel it in very, very carefully because I use a circle hook. Just below the pier the bonito swam around the piling. I relaxed the line and the fish turned around. While I was reeling up the fish, it was flipping in the air and it felt very heavy. I thought it was monster! But on the pier it was measured 18". About an hour later I got another bonito bite. This one was 17". This time it was easy. Later in the afternoon until sundown I caught lots of mackerels that I cut up and fed to seagulls. Lots of travelers saw my bonitos and asked a lot of questions to me. If it does not rain tomorrow, I would like to try again. Happy New Year and Happy fishing, Angie.”

Date: June 14, 2006
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Snookie
Subject: Balboa Pier

Yesterday was the day of days for catching. My keeper was 22 1/2 inches long and delicious for dinner. It was the only keeper caught, but the halibut went crazy all day. We caught somewhere between 50 and 100 halibut for the four of us. Each bait got a fish or a lost fish. It was hard to keep the bait buckets going so we just caught our bait as needed. Two of us were always manning the bait lines it seemed. I myself caught well over 30 halibut. Also we caught some nice yellowfin croakers and a corbina. Had some sardines for bait part of the time. Couldn't hook what was taking them, but it was either barries or white sea bass. There was one big white seabass early on. The wind was terrible all day, but we fished the leeward side most of the day. It was a day that the bonito should have shown, but they didn't as of 4 when we left. The mackerel were everywhere. Hope tomorrow is as good or better. Snookie

Date: April 25, 2007
To: PFIC Message Board
From: dompfa ben
Subject: my favorite of all time (pier-related!)

...took place on Balboa pier when I was in High School. A fellow in a wheelchair was pushing himself along down the pier, a gas-can in his lap. After stopping at several fishing groups along the rail, he finally covered to distance to my location, and began his tale of woe.
Apparently, his van was out of gas over in the parking lot at the base of the pier, and his wife and kids were in there. None of them had eaten since yesterday, and he needed a little money for gas and food.
Maybe it was the wheelchair, maybe it was the possibility that there MIGHT actually be hungry kids over there. Somehow, he piqued my compassion, and I pulled out the three bucks I had crumpled up in my pocket (change from a Super Big Gulp, I imagine...)
Somehow in the transfer, the money left my grasp before it reached his, and with the early afternoon breeze, the half-crumpled bills started blowing towards the opposite side of the pier.
Immediately, the man jumped up from his wheelchair, sprinted towards the rolling ball of money, and stomped it into the pier surface with a well-placed foot. Leaning down like the otherwise healthy fellow he was, he lifted the few bucks, and quickly squirreled it away in the gas can! Replacing the cap on the red plastic container, he returned to his seat in the wheelchair, finished his sweep around Ruby's (no one seemed to want to give him much after his miraculous episode of temporary walking faculties), and wheeled down towards the base of the pier.
I would have been angry if it had not been so funny. Still, I couldn't help but feel a little taken, and perhaps, a little wiser. And no, he didn't turn into the parking lot.

Support UPSAC! Preserve pier and shore angling in California.

Last edited by Ken Jones on Fri Apr 03, 2009 4:20 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 4:18 pm
Ken Jones

Posts: 9788
Location: California

The rest of the story...

Date: May 29, 2007
To: PFIC Message Board
From: dompha ben
Subject: Jumbo Squid Invasion at Balboa! (pictures)

Around 3:30, we... drove around to Balboa Pier. When we arrived, there were only a few families at the end, enjoying a wide-open mackerel bite. I split-shotted a small piece of mackerel and kept a few of the cannibals for bait. Almost all were released; those that didn't look like they would make it (eye injuries, etc.) were given away to folks.
As the afternoon turned to evening, more and more people showed up at the end of the pier. By the time the sun was setting, it was shoulder to shoulder, with people wrapping all the way around Ruby's.
As dusk fell, I saw the first squid cruise under the lights. At first, I thought it was a baby seal, but I noted the erratic pulsing movement, and realized what it was. Soon, there were hundreds of the huge critters flashing in the water. Bryan and I tossed out squid jigs, and immediately hooked up. Everyone on the end of the pier was bendo...it was incredible! I haven't seen that much excitement on a pier for a long time.
After a solid 40 minutes of wide-open squidding, they seemed to vanish just as quickly as they had arrived. I didn't keep any of the beasts, as I have a few slabs of calamari in my freezer from a squid my brother Dan gave me a few weeks ago. Instead, the squid we caught are going home with some of the nice families with whom we fished tonight, including a couple of people that didn't manage to land any squid of their own. I don't like to give away my catch as a rule, but in the case of squid, which don't release well, I didn't mind.
All told, the pier probably landed around 50 squid by 9:15, with over 100 lost due to light line, pulled jigs, inexperience, and unpreparedness. I had one of only three nets at the end of the pier, and it was being passed around like community property... I didn't mind, actually, and stopped catching squid for a while so I could help people net theirs.
My hoop net was in high demand tonight...Did I mention...BRING A NET!
Everyone was appreciative, and no one fought, complained, or acted too greedy. I can see why people think Balboa is the “friendliest” pier in SoCal.
Word has it the last few nights have had similar showings of the big squid at Huntington, Newport, Balboa, Oceanside, and Dana Point. Don't forget a landing net... these squid are BIG. By the way, I'm not blowing up the spot. It's already blown up, and the number of people using cell phones to call in their buddies tonight was almost comical. As we walked down the pier leaving, there were hoards of people coming in with coolers and buckets. I hope the squid came back to give them a repeat performance...because they were gone when we left. Happy hunting...

Posted by Calstar Bryan

Hi Everybody- Thanks for all the kind responses. The squid were (no pun intended) a blast to catch. As for rod and reel combos, I was using an 8ft. jig stick coupled with a Daiwa Sealine 30 tossing 30lb. test and they were still ripping drag and putting tons of bend-o in the rod.
Ben seemed to take top honors in “Fight of the Night” fishing an Abu 6500 on an 8ft. 15lb. rod with 50lb. Power Pro. I can't tell you how jealous sick I was watching him fight those freight trains on that light gear.
As for jigs, Ben was rigged pretty traditional for squirts, working a plastic squid jig 12 inches above a four-ounce torpedo sinker. I threw a painted glow-in-the-dark torpedo sinker with squid hooks and that seemed to work well too. Anglers fishing neon glow sticks (green or purple) were hooking up pretty consistently. Unfortunately, as Ben mentioned, some squid unbuttoned due to pulling the jig, inexperience and/or too light of line. It was kinda' entertaining though seeing some of the broken-off glow sticks breeze through the water then disappear into the depths.
I've never seen such excitement on a pier in all my life. People were cheering and high-fiving while others patiently played out the big cephalopods waiting for a landing net to be lowered. Complete strangers encouraged their fellow anglers on throughout their fights as fresh ones were being hooked up around the entire end of the pier. Oh to be a patron of Ruby’s, witnessing all this from a booth, must have amazing. The experience was truly awesome. If my brother reads this...Brady sorry I inked up your jeans.

Author’s Note No. 1. Whenever the big squid make an appearance, and the word gets around, there is a crowded, chaotic pier with squid jigs a flyin’ and people a hoppin’ out of the way of the discharged ink. Shortly after Ben’s visit (see above) he posted the following tongue-in-cheek post to the Pier Fishing in California Message Board.

Pier Collapse Prompts Investigation —
by B. Russell Acker, Staff Writer

May 31, 2007

NEWPORT BEACH-- In what is being called a freak accident, the Balboa Pier collapsed under the incredible weight of a large crowd of fishermen, and plunged into the roiling surf, late Wednesday night. While no one was killed in the incident, scores were hurt, and hundreds have already filed claims against the city for their injuries and loss of fishing gear.
Nick Tripodes, a local merchant, witnessed the ordeal.
“I heard a loud snap, followed by screams and a tremendous splash,” recounts Tripodes. “You could hear all those people swimming for shore in the dark. It was awful.”
Newport Beach Police Sgt. Raymond Devonian cites eyewitness accounts that suggest the pier collapse was caused by giant cephalopods.
“When the giant squid come in, the pier loads up with [anglers],” stated Devonian. An avid angler himself, Devonian empathized with the calamari-crazed fishermen. Still, he encourages anglers to be safe.
“It's just not designed to support that many people,” Devonian said about the pier, now little more than a concrete and wood jetty jutting out from the shoreline at a right angle. “What we're going to do with the tons of squid jigs that are washing up on the beach I really have no idea,” said Devonian.
Initial reports from the Army Corps of Engineers suggest that over 17,000 people were on the pier Wednesday night at the time of collapse.
“That's astronomical,” said Ken Jones, author of Pier Fishing in California. “It's not the kind of thing we [pier anglers] take lightly. When this sort of thing takes place, there's really only one question: Where's the tartar sauce?”
Jones' comments were merited by how rare it is for the tasty cephalopods to swim en masse this close to a pier.
It is unclear at this time if last winter's cold weather spared enough of California's lemon crop to meet the demand of calamari anglers. “Let's just hope the price of lemons makes these eight squid I caught last night worth it,” stated one soaked angler. He did not wish to be identified, but added, “Balboa is still the friendliest pier in California. I'll be back.”
Several organizations are calling for a probe into Wednesday's catastrophe. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) exercised his executive powers early Thursday morning, declaring a state of emergency, which makes many anglers eligible to apply for federal aid to replace lost fishing gear.
At a press conference, Schwarzenegger's comments were short, but hit a sour note among California's pier anglers.
“You are mine now! You belong to me!” exclaimed Schwarzenegger. It was not clear if Schwarzenegger was speaking about the Balboa pier collapse, or if he was simply quoting lines from the 1990 film, Kindergarten Cop.
What is clear is that the Governor has called for the immediate closure of all piers in the state, until such time as they can be inspected and deemed safe.
When asked when the piers might be reopened, Schwarzenegger only stated, “You forgot the second rule in a crisis situation...”
He did not comment further, leaving many pier anglers and residents of the quiet Newport Beach community to wonder about their beloved pier.

Pier Fishing In California Fish Reports

February 1998—Ben Acker visited the pier mid-month and said it was a "virtual Mac-attack, though on four pound test and a trout rod, it was a good time..."

February 1999—We've got a new reporter for the pier, Snookie, who says, in her own words, “I fish Balboa two times a week, every week of the year. I have done so for 55 years. Yes, I'm a fishing addict." Welcome aboard Snookie! Her first report, on January 19th, said, "today was awful. It's typical January. There's not much in the way of live bait. The fish being caught are small mackerel and sardines. One thornback and one barred surfperch were the catches today. At least the city is replacing the missing pilings from last spring. Once that is done, we will have peace on the pier again. Balboa Pier is one of the best whale watching piers. It has deep surf and they come in to shore regularly. If the fishing isn't good, the whale watching is.” A later report said much the same—“as to a report from the Balboa Pier this month, it is not going to be encouraging. There have been the usual mackerel and big sardines, but the halibut and the surf fish have been far and few between. If you like thornbacks, there are plenty of those. It's just that time of year. The live bait situation has been terrible. There have been some smelt in the surf area. They were small schools of a dozen to two dozen. Hard to get them excited about the chum to get them into the net.”

March 1999—Our reporter, Snookie, filed two reports this month. On the 23rd, she reported that the fishing was “the best since the first of the year. The live bait (smelt) has returned en mass. There are all sizes as well. They were very near shore. All that was caught though was a 20 1/2 inch halibut by Noble, but at least there's now a chance with the good bait. To have the bait return certainly lifts the spirit and the possibility of catching something. We were graced with the presence of a bat ray that was well over a hundred pounds. She was in about three feet of water just paralleling the shore. What a beautiful sight! A couple weeks ago one fellow caught a bucket of small yellowfin croaker using mussels... We have been getting the small yellowfin croakers too, plus some nice big barred surfperch. Those were hitting the bloodworms. We are seeing lots of corbina in the surf, but we are not having any luck catching them. The ‘snaggers’ caught some when the water was clear enough to see them. We are still watching the whales coming north now. We had a small pod of common dolphins through today with one very small baby. That was very interesting as they stayed around long enough for us to observe the baby. The mackerel fishermen have not been doing well on the end. This will improve soon... March can be an exciting month. With the water the coldest in at least five years we'll see what happens.” Very interesting was Snookie's report of a bonefish (Albula vulpes) she caught on February 18. It was the first bonefish I have heard of from the pier and the first she has caught after fishing the pier for 55 years

April 1999—Our reporter, Snookie, says, “Things are beginning to pick up a little—finally. Our bait situation is sometimes iffy, but most of the time we are getting some smelt. My group is spending our time in the surf area because of the grunion being there. Naturally the halibut come to where the good food is. We are getting some undersized halibut fairly regularly but not in any quantity. On the 18th I caught two keepers that were seen by all of us. Each one won its freedom. One shook the hook loose, and the other shot out of the water and up the pier and around a piling before I could catch up with him. That did let us know that the halibut are here and almost ready to be ours. Our biggest thrill that day was because of the clear water we saw a ‘barndoor’ halibut swim out from under the pier. She must have weighed around thirty or more pounds. She was in about two feet of water just paralleling the shore. We all have plans for her even if she did thumb her nose at us. We know they are territorial, and that she lives here. I and one other of my group have each had her in the last year or two. There are lots of corbina in the surf in the spawning mode but not the biting mode. One morning when I was getting my bait there was a Pacific cutlassfish swimming just under them. I was helping him catch his breakfast. They are a beautiful fish to watch, especially if the sun is shining on them. The weather is still giving us some problems. None of us are crazy about fishing in the winter rains. Apparently the mackerel fishermen aren't either. They are not doing well with the mackerel as yet.”

September 2001—Snookie reports “This month has been good for the mackerel fishermen although it is an off and on thing, but that's the way fishing is. There has been some quite large mackerel in amongst the medium ones. The halibut are there en masse, but they are undersized. For fun they are great though. What little fighters they are. One of my friends, Noble, caught a 26-inch halibut this month in the middle of the pier on a smelt. Another friend, Randy caught a silver salmon about 12 pounds, but he knew better than to land it. He also caught a green jack about 14 inches long. They are not common to the pier, but we occasionally see one. There has been lots of bait, but it has not been easy to catch. They won't take the snag-line easily, but they have been nettable. There have been afternoons that the sardines have come in thick. Those were easy to catch on the snag-lines. There are also some queenfish of all sizes plus some very small mackerel. Those have all been good baits for those little halibut. I know that there was another large shovelnose caught, but I have not seen any other rays, although my friend Randy had a large ray on last week. He just tightened the line too snap it because it was heading out to sea and he was being lazy to complete the process of bringing it to the pier. The snaggers have been there regularly and catching some fish... There are still a few jellyfish passing by. This is the time of the year fishing improves.”

September 2002—Our reporter, Snookie, reports, “This month has not been very good. Even the smaller halibut have been tough to come by for me at least. I do know of a few keepers being caught. There have been some good-sized shovelnose guitarfish caught. The yellowfin croakers are the big thing right now. Today there were lots of them in the surf area. Most of them were caught on squid. The squid bait was from the squid catches of the past few weeks. The Humboldt or Jumbo squid have been making nightly appearances for several weeks now, but are almost gone. It was a show in itself to watch as the pier was lined with elbow-to-elbow fishermen waiting for that magic hour when the squid would appear. They ran all the way to the surf following the grunion and other baits farther out. Those were happy people while the squid were there. The mackerel are around but not necessarily plentiful. Perch have been showing in the surf area. Oh yes, the mighty California Lizardfish has made an occasional appearance.”

May 2003—Our reporter Snookie says “Not too much to report this month. The weather has not cooperated at all. Have heard of some keepers being caught. There are some mackerel and some sardines as big as the mackerel. Also saw the lowly lizardfish make its way back into the catches. Guess that is what happens when the water gets cold. The water is consistently the coldest this month that it has been for over nine years (have kept my weather diary that long). The biggy now is the influx of Velella velella a beautiful blue 4-inch hydroid with a sail that is all around the pier area now... Back in the late 50's there was a major invasion of these creatures to the extent that you could see them as far as your eyesight would allow you to see. Some old fishermen used to say these meant good fishing ahead. Hope they are right.”

June 2004—Our reporter Snookie says, “it has been fun this month. We've had so many white seabass it has been unreal. Wish they had been bigger though. They did run up to 24 inches. It has been windy and cool but nice to fish. The water is up to the high 60’s, which is warmer than it has been for quite a few years for this time of the year. We are getting keeper halibut now at a fairly consistent rate. Of course we have to weed through the smaller ones first. We've had some leopard sharks from babies up to 5 feet. There has been some nice sized bat rays and very large shovelnose guitarfish. The bait has been cooperating most of the time with a catch of smelt, sardines, Spanish jacks, queenfish and perch. The crowds are picking up with Memorial Day and summer coming soon, but there is plenty of room to fish.”

August 2004—Our reporter Snookie says “this month at Balboa Pier has been getting more exciting by the day. We have had a run of tiny bonitos. The problem with that is that people can't seem to remember that five is the number of legals when they are under 24 inches fork length. The halibut have been around with some of them quite large such as a 26-pounder and the rumor of a 35-pounder off the end. The yellowfin croakers have been around to participate in our catches. Those are good eating fish. This past week we have had some legal barracudas upward of over 30-inches. They have been running all the way into the surf as well as the little bonitos. There were some 1 1/2 pound bonitos and a 2-pounder caught last week. The bait has been unbelievable in quantity. We have had smelt of all sizes, a few Spanish jacks, a lot of queenfish and small mackerel. It seems every day about noon the sardines come in all the way to the surf and hug the pier for protection. You really don't need a bucket. A snag-line on a small rod and your rod to transfer the bait to is about it they are so thick... It would be nice if the yellowtail would come in, and right now it is a strong possibility. It is fun fishing right now.”

September 2004—Our reporter Snookie says “It has been repeatedly bonito, bonito, bonito for over a month now. At least they are growing bigger. The biggest so far have been around 24 inches. The water is full of bait being sardines, smelt, small mackerel, and Spanish jacks. You could say that the water is literally alive with fish all around the pier. We have four resident pinnipeds that included a bull sea lion, a pup sea lion and a female plus one harbor seal. They are eating their share of the bait as well, although we don't have too much trouble with them so far. There are no halibut because of the bonitos around. With an increase in the small Spanish jacks we could see the yellowtail come into the pier in the next month. Oh but that would be fun again.”

September 2005—Our reporter Snookie reports, “It's been an interesting month. We've had the ‘black’ jellies and the ‘purple striped jellies’ along with the red tide. At least the fish didn't quit entirely. We've had some keeper halibut and a lot of undersized halibut. The mackerel have been around a lot. The yellowfin croakers and the corbina have made a good showing as well as the barred surfperch and wall-eyes. A friend caught six barracudas off the end, but they were only about 20 inches each. The bait has been good most of the time with queenfish being the easiest to get and next is smelt, but the sardines came in again last week along with a few anchovies.”

May 2008—Our reporter Snookie reports, “At least this month is better, and it keeps getting better. Our bait situation is not always good. We have to work to get bait almost every time. We are persistent, and it pays off in small amounts of smelt. Sometimes there has been a sardine or two. Each one of us has gotten a keeper halibut up to 29 inches, so that is encouraging. We have also gotten quite a few small halibut. The interesting part of this month was the Big Skate that was caught. It was about 6 feet in diameter and very spotted. That was a first to see for all of us. That is a beautiful fish. It was released. There are a few mackerel around off the end, and a large shovelnose guitarfish was caught but not landed. It took a big live bait. The walleyed perch are appearing in larger amounts now. They are small, but they are good eating. The red tide has been coming and going a lot as well this month. There are some jellies and lots of kelp going by. Had another first last week. A Jelly called Polyorchis haplus, which is a small unusual jelly that was caught on the snagline. It was only about 2 1/2 by 1 1/2 inches. The ocean is coming to life.”

Special Recommendation. This pier, like the Newport Pier, was targeted for closing unless anglers did a better job keeping the pier clean. Today it is posted as a “Litter Free Zone” and signs indicate a $500 fine for discarding refuse onto or from the pier. PLEASE help the local anglers keep the pier clean by doing the same yourself!

Balboa Pier Reeling in Visitors

Even if they're forced to tell stories about “the big one that got away,” anglers who flock to the Balboa Pier to fish say there's no better way to spend a sunny summer day.
On most days—particularly a sunny Sunday afternoon in the middle of summer—the city's short wooden pier is lined with anglers.
Young and old arrive early to jockey for position. First-time fishermen brush elbows with seasoned veterans, all with the same goal—landing the big one.
On Sunday afternoon, Paul Sabandit of Diamond Bar and his two young children spent the day fishing off the pier, with little success. The Sabandit's catch bucket was empty—only one small mackerel that had to be tossed back was caught—but the day wasn't a total waste,
“It's a lot of fun,” Sabandit said. “Especially today. It's not too hot. A perfect day for fishing.”
Max Tabikha lives in Temecula but drives to Newport Beach at least once a week to try his luck in the shallow waters off the Balboa Pier. With three rods in the water at once and a bell on each tip to signal a strike, Tabikha stays pretty busy and said it's a great way to spend a summer afternoon.
“The scenery is great,” Tabikha said. “The pier is a high-point, so you can see everything from up here.”
And a good day at the pier can mean an even better night at the dinner table, Tabikha said.
Ted Dimeola of Newport Beach is a self-described “old salty dog” who has spent a couple days a week during the past 30 years with a rod and reel at the tip of the Balboa Pier. Dimeola and others said fishing off the pier amounts to “a diamond in the rough” that few locals ever take advantage of.
“I love it down here,” said Dimeola as he speared another slimy squid onto a hook. “During summer, it's even better,”
Dimeola, a retired accountant, grew up on the East Coast, where he would go clamming off the coast of Massachusetts with his family.
“I've been around the sea my whole life,” said Dimeola, 72. “But like they say on the commercials, 'it just doesn't get better than this.' “
Everybody on the pier seemed to have his own secret to luring the big one, from strange mixtures of bait to exotic knots to tie the hook to the line.
But Eddie and Stephen Carvalis of Irvine really think they've stumbled onto something that could revolutionize the sport of ocean fishing: peanut butter.
“The fish love it,” Eddie Carvalis said. "I use crunchy, but my bother uses creamy. I don't know which is best.
Tabikha and others on the pier are more conventional—no peanut butter for them—creamy or crunchy.
“I use mussels, mackerel, anchovies,” he said.
Despite their “secret weapon,” the Carvalis brothers didn't fare much better than their pier mates on Sunday, but they may still have the best bait on the pier,
“What we don't use, we eat with some crackers,” Stephen Carvalis said.

—Tim Grenda, Summer Stories
Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot, August 18, 1997

Author’s Note No. 2. When I discuss the species of fish found at individual piers I use my own anecdotal records going back to 1962, traditionally published reports (DF&G or newspapers), and, most recently, reports submitted to the Pier Fishing in California website. I feel my information is fairly extensive and accurate. Nevertheless, it cannot be as complete as information that is compiled by a person or group who visits a pier on a weekly visit—especially if the visits have taken place as long as mine—nearly five decades. In the case of Balboa and Newport we do have such a record.
Snookie and Bob Anderson, who is part of her group, are both naturalists that, like me, keep detailed records of the fish they catch and see. In 2007 Bob was kind enough to share with me a list of the fish that he and Snookie have seen at the Newport and Balboa piers. The list includes (1) species that he or Snookie personally caught, (2) fish that were caught in the bait nets they use to capture their halibut bait, (3) and fish they have seen others catch. Many times Snookie has had to identify pier-caught fish and by use of her well-thumbed Peterson Guide to Pacific Coast Fishes she’s been able to identify what might be an uncommon or even fairly rare species.
As for the list itself, I think it reflects the fairly unique fauna of the area, one influenced by both the nearby Newport Bay and the deep-water Newport Canyon. Bob’s list includes 87 species. However, a new species was caught from the pier in April of ’08, a big skate (Raja binoculata). In addition, there are several species that I have caught at the Newport Pier that are not on the list. KJ species—calico rockfish/1976 & 1977 (Sebastes dallii), olive rockfish/1976 & 1977 (Sebastes serranoides), starry flounder/1962 (Platichthys stellatus), longjaw goby or mudsucker/1962 (Gillichthys mirabilis), silver surfperch/1962 (Hyperprosopon ellipticum), and basketweave cusk-eel/1962 & 2002 (Otophidium scrippsi). Taken together, the total number of species would now be 94.
Lastly, I note with interest the recent change to the listed southern range of sand sole. According to the Resource Inventory of Marine and Estuarine Fish of the West Coast and Alaska (Love, Mecklenburg, Mecklenburg and Thorsteinson, 2005), the southern range for sand sole is the Balboa Pier. This is in contrast to most (older) guides that list the southern range as either Port Hueneme or Redondo Beach. It my belief that the change is due to a 15-inch-long sand sole caught at the Balboa Pier by Snookie on February 3, 2005. She reported the catch later that night to the Pier Fishing in California Message Board and I believe that report led to the change to the southern limit.

Balboa and Newport Pier Fish

Class Elasmobranchii: Sharks, Rays, and Chimeras

Order Squaliformes

Family Squalidae: Dogfish Sharks
1, Spiny Dogfish—Squalus acanthias

Order Lamniformes

Family Alopiidae: Thresher Sharks
2. Common Thresher—Alopias vulpinus

Order Carcharhiniformes

Family Triakidae: Houndsharks
3. Gray Smoothhound—Mustelus californicus
4. Brown Smoothhound—Mustelus henlei
5. Leopard Shark—Triakis semifasciata

Family Carcharhinidae: Requiem Sharks
6. Blue Sharks—Prionace glauca

Order Squatiniformes

Family Squatinidae: Angel Sharks
7. Pacific Angel Shark—squatina californica

Order Rhinobatiformes

Family Rhinobatidae: Guitarfishes
8 Shovelnose Guitarfish—Rhinobatus productus

Order Rajiformes

Family Rajidae: Skates
9. California Skate—Raja inorata

Family Platyrhynidae: Thornbacks
10. Thornback Ray—Platyrhinoidis triseriata

Order Myliobatidiformes

Family Dasyatididae: Stingrays
11. Diamond Stingray—Dasyatis brevis

Family Urolophidae: Round Stingrays
12. Round Stingray—Urolophis halleri

Family Gymnuridae: Butterfly Rays
13. California Butterfly Ray—Gymnura marmorata

Family Myliobatididae: Eagle Rays
14. Bat Ray—Myliobatis californica

Class Osteoichthys: Bony Fishes

Order Elopiformes

Family Albulidae: Bonefishes
15. Bonefish—Albula vulpes

Order Clupeiformes

Family Clupeidae: Herrings
16. Threadfin Shad—Alosa sapidissima
17. Pacific Sardine—Sardinops sagax

Family Engraulidiae: Anchovies
18. Deepbody Anchovy—Anchoa compressa
19. Slough Anchovy—Anchoa delicatissima
20. Northern Anchovy—Engraulis mordax

Order Salmoniformes

Family Salmonidae: Salmons, Trouts, and Chars
21. Silver Salmon—Oncorynchus kisutch
22. King Salmon—Oncorhynchus tshawytscha
23. Steelhead—Oncorhynchus mykiss

Order Myctophiformes

Family Synodontidae: Lizardfishes
24. California Lizardfish—Synodus lucioceps

Order Gadiformes

Family Merlucciidae: Merluciid Hakes and relatives
25. Pacific Hake—Merluccius productus

Order Batrachoidiformes

Family Batrachoididae: Toadfishes
26. Speckled Midshipman—Porichthys notatus

Order Atheriniformes

Family Belonidae: Needlefish
27. California needlefish—Strongylura exilis

Family Atherinopsidae: New World Silversides
28. Topsmelt—Atherinops affinis
29. Jacksmelt—Atherinopsis californiensis
30. Grunion—Leuresthes tenuis

Order Gasterosteiformes

Family Sygnathidar: Pipefishes and Seahorses
31. Bay Pipefish—Syngnathus leptorhynchus

Order Scorpaeniformes

Family Scorpaenidae: Scorpionfishes and Rockfishes
32. California Scorpionfish—Scorpaena guttata
33. Chilipepper Rockfish—Sebastes goodei
34. Bocaccio—Sebastes paucispinis
35. Treefish—Sebastes serriceps

Family Anoplopomatidae: Sablefish and Skillfishes
36. Sablefish—Anoploma fimbria

Family Cottidae: Sculpins
37. Pacific Staghorn Sculpin—Leptocottus armatus
38. Cabezon—Scorpaenichthys marmoratus

Order Perciformes

Family Moronidae: Striped Bass and Relatives
39. Striped Bass—Morone saxatilis

Family Polyprinidae: Wreckfishes
40. Giant (Black) Sea Bass—Stereolepsis gigas

Family Serranidae: Sea Basses and Groupers
41. Kelp Bass—Paralabrax clathratus
42. Spotted Sand Bass—Paralabrax maculatofasciatus
43. Barred Sand Bass—Paralabrax nebulifer

Family Carangidae: Jacks, Amberjacks, and Pompanos
44. Green Jack—Caranx caballus
45. Yellowtail—Seriola lalandi
46. Jack Mackerel—Trachurus symmetricus

Family Haemulidae: Grunts
47. Sargo—Anisotremus davidsonii
48. Salema—Xenistius californiensis

Family Sciaenidae: Croakers
49. White Seabass—Attractoscion nobilis
50. Black Croaker—Cheilotrema saturnum
51. White Croaker—Genyonemis lineatus
52. California Corbina—Menticirrhus undulatus
53. Spotfin Croaker—Roncador stearnsi
54. Queenfish—Seriphus politus
55. Yellowfin Croaker—Umbrina roncador

Family Kyphosidae: Sea Chubs
56. Opaleye—Girella nigricans
57. Zebraperch—Hermosilla azurea
58. Halfmoon—Medialuna californiensis

Family Embiotocidae: Surfperches
59. Barred Surfperch—Amphisticus argenteus
60. Shiner Surfperch—Cymatogaster aggregata
61. Pile Perch—Damalichthys vacca
62. Black Perch—Embiotica jacksoni
63. Walleye Surfperch—Hyperprosopon argenteum
64. Rubberlip Perch—Rhacochilus toxotes

Family Pomocentridae: Damselfishes
65. Blacksmith—Chromis punctipinnis
66. Garibaldi—Hypsypops rubicundus

Family Mugilidae: Mullets
67. Striped Mullet—Mugil cephalus

Family Sphyraenidae: Barracudas
68. California Barracuda—Sphryaena argentea

Family Labridae: Wrasses
69. Rock Wrasse—Halichoeres semicinctus
70. Senorita—Oxyjulis californica
71. California Sheephead—Semicossyphus pulcher

Family Clinidae: Kelpfishes, Fringeheads, and other Clinids
73. Sarcastic Fringehead—Neoclinus blanchardi

Family Stichaeidae: Pricklebacks
73. Monkeyface Prickleback—Cebidichthys violaceus

Family Scombridae: Mackerels and Tunas
74. Pacific Bonito—Sarda chiliensis
75. Pacific Mackerel——Scomber japonicus

Family Stromateidae: Butterfishes
76. California Butterfish—Peprilus simillimus

Family Lobotidae: Tripletails
77. Tripletail—Lobotes surinnamensis

Order Pleuronectiformes

Family Bothidae: Lefteye Flounders
78. Pacific Sanddab—Citharichthys sordidus
79. Speckled Sanddab—Citharichthys stigmaeus
80. Longfin Sanddab—Citharichthys xanthostigma
81. Bigmouth Sole—Hippoglossina stomata
82. California Halibut—Paralichthys californicus

Family Pleuronectidae: Righteye Flounders
83. Diamond Turbot—Hypsosetta guttulata
84. C-O Turbot—Pleuronichthys coenosus
85. Sand Sole—Psettichthys melanostictus

Family Cynoglossidae: Tonguefishes
86. California Tonguefish—Symphurus atricauda

Order Tetraodentiformes

Family Molidae: Molas
87. Ocean Sunfish—Mola mola

History Note
. The Balboa subdivision was developed by the Newport Bay Investment Company in 1905 and named by E.J. Louis, Peruvian consul in Los Angeles, in honor of Vasco Nunez de Balboa, discoverer of the Pacific Ocean in 1513.

The pier itself, although built in 1906, was virtually destroyed in the September hurricane of 1939 (including the T-shaped end). A rebuilt pier opened a year later. Since then there have been several repairs and renovations including repairs from storm damage in 1998 when one corner partially collapsed following damage to a piling. In 2001-2002 the pier was closed for a period of time for a major renovation. It opened in the spring of 2002 with new railings, a new surface, reinforced pilings, and new restrooms near the front of the pier. It’s supposed to last an additional twenty years—and it looks beautiful.

Two additional piers (or small wharves) graced local waters early in the century. Corona del Mar's early developer, George E. Hart, started two piers in 1904. A short 200-foot-long, inner-bay pier was quickly and easily built. It was a necessity since it provided the only platform by which to visit the area. Visitors would arrive by boat from the Balboa Peninsula or from Newport's oceanfront wharf. The bayside pier was located where Electric Way (now the eastern end of Bayside Drive) and Ocean Boulevard met (later the Ferndale Avenue ramp replaced this part of Ocean Blvd). In 1907, Hart completed the three-story-high Del Mar Hotel on the bluff above the pier. However, it never achieved the success that Hart had envisaged.

A short-lived, oceanfront pleasure pier was begun in July of 1904. It was built on the beach below Pier (now Marguerite) Avenue. That September an unusual storm washed out part of the pier and destroyed much of what was left (the storm also damaged the piers at Newport Beach and Huntington Beach). Work began anew but another storm delivered damage in March of 1905. A shortened version of the original pier was evidently able to withstand the elements until around 1911. Both piers today are just history.)

40 years of Ruby's shooby dooby

Success stories in Newport-Mesa are certainly not rare. We are fortunate to live and work in an area that is brimming with talented entrepreneurs and winning ideas. Among those talented entrepreneurs is Doug Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh is the founder of Ruby's Diner, and just this week that 1940s-style eatery celebrated its 25th birthday
Started in an old bait shop at the end of the Balboa Pier, Cavanaugh banked on an investment that yielded a mere $63 on its first day of business. Two years later, that idea was raking in a cool million. Ruby's is now a vast enterprise with 44 stores in eight states serving up burgers, fries and shakes. Oh those chocolate shakes.
But Ruby's is more than just a burger shop. Visitors to Ruby's on the Balboa Pier can get a window seat overlooking the Pacific. They are treated to good service and a friendly atmosphere, punctuated by the 1940s-style tunes pumped in.
Going to Ruby's on the pier can often be a long wait, as it can be in the many Ruby's restaurants in Orange County and beyond. We can attest, it's worth the wait. So as Ruby's is celebrated for all its success, so too should Cavanaugh, who named the popular diner after his mother, who still makes cameo appearances to the delight of the restaurant customers.
Congratulations, Ruby's, and happy birthday to you.
Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot, April 7, 2007

Balboa Pier Facts

Hours: Open from 5 A.M. till midnight.

Facilities: Restrooms are located near the entrance to the pier. There are lights, some benches, and fish-cleaning stations on the pier. Ruby's restaurant sits out at the end of the pier. There is currently no bait and tackle facilities. Parking spaces can be nearly impossible to find so I recommend the parking lot adjacent to the pier even though the cost is $1.50 an hour (with a maximum of $7). If the kids are seeking entertainment they can find it nearby at the Balboa Fun Zone near the Pavilion. They’ll find a small Ferris Wheel and some arcade games.

Handicapped Facilities: Handicapped restrooms. The pier surface is concrete with a rail height of 36 inches. Posted for handicapped.

Location: 33.59925013477555 N. Latitude, 117.90061712265014 W. Longitude

How To Get There: From the Pacific Coast Highway take Newport Blvd. which will turn into Balboa Blvd., follow it west to Palm Street. Turn right and follow it to the pier and an adjacent parking lot.

Management: City of Newport Beach

Support UPSAC! Preserve pier and shore angling in California.
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