|“Proceeding down the length of Goleta Pier is almost like walking along a rustic, folk version of a Parisian quay... The course along the pier is full of events and interest. There's much that's worth pausing over and relishing: The sound of the water, the creaking of the wood, the wheeling of the birds, the activities of the people fishing are all part of a tapestry of sensual events. The structure is textured and detailed in a satisfying, rough-hewn way. The Pier offers tons of smashing vistas and perspectives, while insisting on none of them... If the approach to the pier was striking in the way it completed and enhanced the setting, the view from it is even more eloquent, once again both setting off and completing the natural beauty of the beach and the bay... The interaction of structure and setting... The way nature and nurture harmonize... The way the Pier is both so utilitarian yet dare-we-say-it spiritual.
Part of what I love best about Goleta Pier is how modest it manages to be. Despite a genuinely spectacular length of over 1000 feet, it's anything but domineering. It's here to serve, and in almost any way you want it to: as setting, as diversion, as highlight or backdrop, or just as a place to dangle some bait from. This willingness to serve is to me far more beautiful than much of the self-conscious beauty that “great architecture” often traffics in. It's a human quality, not a purely aesthetic one—and where architecture goes (and certainly where I go), human virtues trump aesthetic ones. There are many different kinds of beauty to be enjoyed, after all. The strictly-aesthetic ones... Well, they can be nice too... There Goleta Pier stands, a mundane-yet-poetic, tremendous-yet-unpushy thing of more-than-merely-aesthetic beauty that's much loved by those who know it.
—Michael Blowhard, Architecture and Happiness: Goleta Pier, October 16, 2008
On one visit to this pier, I casually mentioned to a fellow angler that I considered this one of the best piers in California. He nodded in agreement, said he had recently moved from the Los Angeles area, and mentioned that he had never seen the consistent action he had gotten at Goleta. Usually something is biting at this pier and, more often than not, there is an opportunity to catch good quality fish such as halibut, corbina, bass and rockfish not to mention some large sharks and rays. When combined with easy access, good (and free) parking, and well-maintained facilities, there is every reason to include Goleta in a list of the state's best piers.
Environment. This 1,450-foot-long pier extends out south from the sandy beach of the Goleta Beach County Park, a narrow half-mile-long sandbar that is capped with towering Mexican fan palms, beautiful picnic grounds, and an excellent restaurant. On one side sits the mighty Pacific and Goleta Bay, on the other is the Goleta Slough, one of the region’s major estuary areas. It’s the most popular and visited park in the county.
Just east of the pier is the outlet from Atascadero Creek and Goleta Slough, and many days you can see surf anglers wading out from the outlet in pursuit of surfperch, corbina and halibut. Look to the west, and you'll see the nearby buildings of the University of California-Santa Barbara as well as Goleta Point.
The bottom here is mostly sand but the pier's pilings are heavily encrusted with mussels and the sea stars that feed upon them—mainly ochre stars. The mussels also attract perch and a diverse assemblage of smaller species (which in turn attract larger species). The pilings act as an artificial reef—reef #1.
In addition, a pipeline runs parallel to the pier on the right, or west side, roughly 120 feet away from the pier before the bend in the pier, 90 feet away after the bend. This pipeline, and the ballast rocks that protect it, provide a strong base onto which kelp can attach and acts as an artificial reef—reef #2. The name it’s been given by anglers is the “pipeline reef” and it’s usually covered by several species of algae, as well as a variety of invertebrates (although the amount of kelp can vary year to year depending upon water temperature). The kelp provides an underwater forest that serves as a home and attractant for fish (including at least six types of rockfish) and other marine creatures—five types of sea stars, a trio of tube anemone, many different species of crab, and even an occasional lobster and octopus. Although Goleta Bay itself was once home to a lush and large kelp forest, much of that disappeared in the early 1980’s, primarily due to the El Niño storms of 1982-83. If it ever regains its former size it will only improve the fishing (and 2008-09 saw a tremendous increase in kelp around the pier).
Inshore is the sandy beach, an intertidal area rich with filter-feeding sand crabs and polychaete worms, the favorite foods for the barred surfperch and corbina that make up most of the catch close to the beach. Close by though, and sometimes in surprisingly shallow water, will be found halibut, small leopard sharks, guitarfish and thornback rays. It's also the only pier where I've heard of a black (giant) sea bass being taken in the shallow surf area. The unusual catch, a small, 12-pound juvenile bass was taken in June 2002; several more of the protected fish have since been taken from deeper waters of the pier.
Further out on the pier, especially on the east or non-reef side of the pier, an area where sand is the predominant feature, is where halibut become the main quarry. Mid-pier also sees a steady catch of white croakers, jacksmelt, small perch and, depending on the season, pelagics including mackerel, bonito, and barracuda. Years past saw a smattering of yellowtail and wayward salmon but the yellows haven’t been seen for several years.
The reef area created by the pipeline is most heavily populated by sbr (the local term for small brown rockfish) and SBR (yes, the larger, small brown rockfish) but is also frequently home to hungry calico bass (kelp bass), grass rockfish and kelp rockfish. Unfortunately, a lot of the bigger fish are lost as they wrap the angler's lines around the kelp. As usual, the regulars are the ones who best know the proper techniques and baits, and they tend to catch most of the big fish. However, this is one pier where both expert and novice can usually catch some fish.
Recent unusual fish have included a banded guitarfish (Zapteryx exasperata) taken in April of 2003, a run of deep-sea Pacific saury that visited the pier at the end of August in 2003, and a 30-inch sheephead taken in June of ’04. In addition, a baby great white shark was taken in September of 2000. The young shark, only 5-foot-long, was hauled up onto the pier by way of two crab nets and four strong anglers, and then returned to the water after the hook was removed. Since it is now illegal to capture a great white, it was a wise move.
Fishing Tips. Bring two poles here; use the light one to catch your live bait and a larger pole to catch your dinner. Most regulars here try to catch a small smelt, a shinerperch, or brown bait (a small queenfish or white croaker) and then fish these as bait on the bottom for halibut and shovelnose sharks (guitarfish). Use a slider leader or a Carolina-type rigging with live bait attached to the hook.
To catch brown bait, or if you simply wish to catch a few small fish, do the following. For queenfish, use a Sabiki or Lucky Lura-type bait rig and simply jig, with a slow up-and-down motion, straight down from the pier, being careful not to tangle in the pilings. Generally, the best area for the queenfish is between the shallow surfline and the mid-pier area. For white croaker (tom cod), use a high/low leader baited with number 6 hooks and a small piece of anchovy. Cast the bait out and start to reel in as soon as the sinker hits bottom. The small croakers will usually hit just as the bait nears the bottom or on the retrieve. Of course, you may latch on to a larger fish with this light outfit but if you do, that's a bonus.
The majority of halibut are also taken in this fairly shallow area, because of the queenfish, shiners and other morsels of food they see inhabiting their territory. Since the advent of the pipeline it seems most halibut are taken on the east side of the pier but some halibut will be landed from almost every section of the pier each year. Increasingly over the years more and more regulars use plastics for the halibut even though they aren’t nearly as effective from the pier as when used in the surf or from a kayak. A plethora of brands and colors are available but Big Hammer swim baits, a product manufactured by local angler Pete Wolf, has become a favorite. He recommends the 3-inch red flake and red diamond varieties.
For large barred surfperch and some really large corbina, fish the surf area on the bottom using live sand crabs, fresh mussels, or bloodworms. Quite often the fish will be in the shallowest water imaginable but you've got to put your bait where the fish are holding. And, similar to the halibut seekers, a sizeable number of perch fishermen seek out the perch using plastics—generic grubs (darker colors, especially root beer colored), 3-inch Berkley Power Bait grubs, small swim baits (a variety), and Gulp! Alive Sandworms by Berkley. Here too the Big Hammer swim baits are popular; try 3-inch Big Hammers in the Sea Wolf and Bleeding Mackerel colors.
Unfortunately this pier, like many, has a population of resident snaggers that target the corbina. Their legal, but unethical catches, makes it hard on those truly anglin’ for the bean-shaped sportfish. Some locals have called for Fish and Game action against the snaggers (since they often illegally sell the fish) but to date there has been little or no action taken.
For some decent-sized kelp bass (a.k.a. calico bass or checkerboard bass) try by the pipeline reef on the right side of the pier. There are a lot of calicos in the reef and they will often hit the bait just as soon as it begins to drop through the kelp canopy that covers the pipe. In addition to the kelp bass and brown rockfish (numerically the #1 fish), anglers will pull in a sizable number of kelp rockfish together with the other residents of the reef—grass rockfish, gopher rockfish, California scorpionfish, an occasional sand bass, and a few cabezon and lingcod. I’ve personally caught several legal size kelp bass from the reef, caught a legal size lingcod (March 2004) and caught, seen or heard of several good-sized rockfish taken from the reef (including an 18-inch grass rockfish in January of 2009).
I've also seen huge schools of sardines hold between the pipeline kelp and the pier as well as thick schools of lazy little lizardfish that seemed to blanket the bottom; more common than either are good old Mr. Bullhead—staghorn sculpin. Also, don't be surprised if you see anglers fishing in inner tubes or kayaks on the other side of the kelp, it's become a favorite area for anglers casting plastics for bass along the edge of the kelp. Divers report good numbers of sheephead on the reef but to date few have actually been landed by pier anglers.
Two spots favored by locals are (1) mid-pier, near the Angler Center, and (2) at the three-quarter point just past the light. Both of these primarily sandy-bottom areas seem to offer good sport for guitarfish; cast to the left of the pier. Another spot, near the crane, is reported to be good for large perch (pileperch and rubberlip perch), although part of the area is marked no fishing. Fish straight down around the pilings and do not be afraid to let your bait drift under the kelp even if it means an occasional loss of leader. I’ve hooked some really nice perch in the area and seen even larger perch that I was not able to reach (and a 21-inch cabezon was taken in the area in February of 2009).
The end area, just like on most piers, is generally the home of the pelagics and seems to receive the heaviest pressure from anglers. Most common are Pacific mackerel and when they are running almost any bait and rigging will work. Many people use Sabiki or Lucky Lura-type bait rigs but it’s a good way to see an expensive rigging twisted into a useless mess. Better to simply put a couple of size 4 or 2 hooks on your line and bait with a small piece of mackerel. If the fish are touchy, use a small piece of tapered squid on a size 4 hook at the end of your line with a splitshot sinker up above (if it isn’t too windy).
Bonito have made a comeback in southland waters these past few years but not too many make it north to Goleta (maybe 40% of the years). For the boneheads the best rigging seems to be a Cast-a-Bubble or golf ball followed by a splasher feather. Live bait (especially a small Pacific mackerel or jack mackerel) fished on a sliding leader will work best if the yellowtail make an appearance (September-October). Barracuda, when they're around, are often caught on cut anchovies or cut squid but Kastmasters or Krocodile lures can be very good, especially at night.
Many regulars will be out each night to fish for sharks and the end area is generally the hot spot. Fresh mackerel and sardine seems the most common bait for the sharks, but squid is usually better for the large bat rays and occasional big skate that show up. Most of the sharks that are caught are smoothhounds, leopard sharks, or spiny dogfish but you'll also see an occasional swell shark (often mistakenly called leopard sharks by locals), horn shark or angel shark. Most of the sharks are small to mid-size but not all as seen in the 60” leopard taken in June of ’08 as well as a five-foot-long soupfin shark the same month. Once in a blue moon someone will latch on to one of the larger thresher sharks, a blue shark (a 48” blue was taken in June of 2002), or even a great white (as mentioned above). Both shovelnose guitarfish and bat rays are common and batties over a hundred pounds are sometimes seen.
Do not, repeat, do not, simply cast out your line and let the bait sit on the bottom. Not only is this not the best way to catch fish, but this is also a pier that sometimes sees heavy infestations of starfish (oops, sea stars). The interesting creatures (and here they're typically the small purple colored sea stars) like to grab hold of baits sitting on the bottom. Check your bait often and make sure the probing, gnarly, purple foot of a sea star doesn’t encircle your hook.
Don't be surprised if you occasionally see an even gnarlier looking creature—an ugly old spider crab. Although perhaps not as common as at Port Hueneme or Stearns Wharf, they are the main “crab” catch at the pier followed by an occasional red crab or yellow crab. Also don’t be too surprised if you bring up a lobster; they’re not as common as piers to the south but enough are seen to keep it interesting. Do make sure you do not keep any lobster caught on a hook (you have to have a hoop net) and be sure you have a lobster card if you intend to keep a lobster.
Lastly, be sure to follow the rules! The following story is taken from the web sites July 1997 Report Page: “A Fish and Game officer, in plain clothes, apparently did a little sting operation at Goleta last week. First he watched the fishing action for a while. Then he put his badge on the front of his shirt and approached an angler. How had he done? No fish was the reply. The officer then asked to see inside the man's backpack and lo and behold there were three undersized calico bass (kelp bass) and one undersized halibut. The officer wrote out a ticket, which the man then proceeded to rip up and throw into the water. He followed that up with a few choice words that cannot be printed in this G-rated site. Ten seconds later the man was handcuffed to a pole, the sheriff was called, and shortly thereafter the man was issued tickets for four illegal fish, polluting the water, and resisting arrest. DUMB, TRULY DUMB!” By the way, although sting operations were once fairly common at both Goleta and Stearns Wharf, today they’re much less common.
Date: September 20, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Boyd Grant
Ken, good news! The halibut are finally biting at Goleta and Gaviota. I've caught 15 since mid-August ... landed a 4-pounder at Goleta last Tues. evening (after losing a 10 lb+ at Santa Barbara on Sunday because I didn't bring my net). The biggest one caught at Goleta (two weeks ago—not by me, unfortunately) was 28” and there were unverified rumors of another over 20 lbs! All are caught mid-pier. One of the rangers at Gaviota told me that Ron (another staff member?) landed a 34” halibut fishing from the end of the pier using a whole (8-10”) live mackerel two Sundays ago.
I've had great success dragging the bottom less than 20' from the piers—I use frozen anchovies snout-hooked to a 2/0 live bait hook tied to the end of 20# test and weighted down with a small split-shot (1/4"—how do you measure split-shot?). I cast to either side and let the bait settle to the bottom... then I bring it up several times and let it settle back down before finally dragging it very slowly (4-6" per second). I hold the pole balanced in my hand and have to be extremely alert to when the bait is picked up—if it meets with some resistance I stop dragging and wait for the line to start pulling away before I set the hook. Works like a charm! But it is such an intensive effort that I usually only fish the hour before and after the tidal high. The advantage here is that (unlike still fishing with dead bait where, if you catch one at all, they swallow it all the way down making it somewhat difficult to extract from a short without severely injuring the fish) it generally produces a fish hooked through the side of the mouth which can be released without hardly any damage at all.
But the biggest thrill of all was a 6-lb, 24” white seabass (at first I thought it was a giant croaker)! I have never landed a harder fighting fish in my life ... it was really heart breaking having to return it but I didn't think that even standing on it could stretch it to the legal 28” (even though there were several people who had suggested it). In the future I am going to arm myself with a Polaroid so that I can at least capture them on film.
The El Niño is producing some interesting effects here—one night I caught a 12” octopus and a 16” mackerel. The young lady next to me caught a 10” spiny lobster. Shark fishing appears to be picking up as well, on Tuesday I helped land two 4' smoothhounds and I have caught 5-6 30” shovelnoses. My brother caught a 16”—3.5# kelp bass at Gaviota and I continue to catch at least several legals each trip to Goleta. Boyd
Date: January 10, 1998
To: Ken Jones
From: Robert K
Subject: Great site!!
Surfing the web for months, I had failed to search for a site on pier fishing. It had never crossed my mind to find pier fishing info. on the web until today. Me and my buddy, who told me to search for this site, fish anywhere and anytime we get a chance. We have fished just about every pier in so. Ca. and a few in central and no. Ca. but we usually stick to the ones that we've had our best luck on (Gaviota, Goleta, Port Hueneme, and Malibu when it was open.). I used to have to look in ten different newsletters and magazines to get a report on the ocean and try to apply it to what the pier would be like. Now, I can see updates on my favorite piers quick and easy. I also keep a copy of your book rolled up in my tackle box when I go fishing.
I am primarily a shark and ray fisherman when I go to the pier (for fun, not for keeps) and I have concluded that Goleta Pier is one of the best piers around. There's nothing like a bat ray going for its initial run or a shovelnose digging its nose into the ground trying to resist your pull. On Goleta you can have it all. We always fish far out even though large halibut are often caught in the shallows. We always cast one line out into the kelp that grows on the pipeline that parallels the pier about 30 yards out. Here we almost always catch a few kelp rockfish and other types including occasional sand bass, calico bass, and scorpionfish. When the fishing is slow we fish mid-pier by the crane for perch, which can run pretty big at times. At the end we catch mackerel and smelt for bait during the day and at night we put them to use for sharks. My best catch on Goleta was a 4-foot by 4-foot big skate which is not very common in so. Ca. It broke my little hand scale that measured up to 50 lbs. My buddy’s best catch was a shovelnose shark that was little over 6 feet and also tipped my hand scale over the max. It was the biggest guitarfish I had ever seen. One local told us to get it checked out to see if it might have been close to a record fish. However we had no cooler and live over an hour away from the pier so we decided to take a few pics and let someone else get the chance to catch it. Keep up the good work, Robert and Demetri—“pier rats.”
To: Boyd Grant
From: Ken Jones
Subject: Goleta Pier
Boyd, Thought you might like to read the attached message since it concerns your favorite pier—Goleta. What do you think? Also, if you would like to contact him let me know and I can check with him to see if he wants to give his address out.
Best wishes, Ken,
Thanks for passing Robert's message on to me—sounds like he knows the Goleta Pier pretty good.
I agree with his descriptions of the hot spots.
The pipeline is to the west of the pier (on the right going out looking directly across to UCSB). The two best places on that side are mid-point across from the restrooms and at the three-quarter point next to the light. My all-time best was at that point one late morning in 1989. Within two hours I had caught three 10# shovel-noses.
But the trick is to cast out as far beyond the kelp as possible (I think there is substantial sandy bottom there). I use a 10' surf rod and 3-4 oz of sinker. Not easy to do because you're casting directly into the prevailing winds. But when the wind permits and the sea is glassy then it's almost a sure thing.
A lot of kelp bass just above the pipeline—bait gets nailed just as it starts dropping through the canopy but it's hard to keep them from wrapping themselves in the stalks. Took a 3# calico there last spring.
Was at Goleta for 4 hours last Monday—five 12” thornbacks. Felt like I was fishing in a nursery. For the last two trips out, on practically my first cast, something big has picked it up and then started to slowly move parallel to the pier until the line snapped (had the drag set too tight—20# test.) Didn't act like it was hooked or anything—rather like it was just moving on anyway. Didn't see any seals in the area—wonder what it might have been. Later, Boyd
Date: April 6, 1999
To: Ken Jones
From: David S
Subject: May Pier Report—Goleta
Hi Ken! I'm having a blast, catching fish and dreaming up new rigs. Here's a little report while it's fresh in my mind. I'll try to add a couple more to be merged at the end of the month:
The kids had been catching about 20 silver perch (walleyes) per hour on Lucky Lura jigs. Mostly from the second-quarter of the pier. Enough that the warden came out (after the wife and kids had gone home) to count up my fish. He wasn't satisfied when I showed him my 17 keepers. He had been watching us for hours with his binoculars and said, “There's no way you threw back all those fish, I was watching you the whole time.” He accused my wife of taking a bunch when she left. I laughed, “they didn't even carry their own poles back, let alone any stinky fish to be cleaned!” Anyway, that seems to have slowed down a little. Now I'm seeing lots of good sized barred surfperch (2-3 lbs.) being pulled in from behind the surf. Typical high-low leaders with medium sinkers and, what else, fresh mussel! Took a trip to the end of the pier at sunset last night to see lots of angler action. The most impressive was some 11-year-old kid pulling in 9”-12” mackerel—three at a time!!! We caught a few of our own along with 6 white croaker, all ranging 9”-11”. We used squid on snag lines with enough sinker to cast out but keep off the bottom as we retrieved. Interesting note, nothing was being pulled off the west (kelp) side of the pier.
Date: June 30, 1999
To: Ken Jones
From: David Strong
Subject: Monthly Report
Hi Ken, Here's your monthly Goleta Pier Report: Halibut seems to be on everyone's mind. The bite has been good and from what I hear, many have been caught. I only wish I could speak from experience! All of the anglers are working the bottom in search of the tasty flat stealth and they are catching plenty... shovelnose shark?!? You got it! Mixed in with some thornback rays and other bottom undesirables. I've caught plenty of flat rays/sharks myself this month and even saw a fellow angler pull up two on one line. Common size is 18 to 24 inches. I hooked into one that was about 4 feet, but lost it in the pilings when I had a (gag) tourist hang onto my rod while I went for the landing net. Note to self: never hand off my rod to anyone!
Early in the month we had one of those ‘clear water days.’ Visibility was a good 6 to 8 feet down—just like an aquarium. I spotted a barely legal halibut, a 4-foot leopard shark and tons of huge perch (1-3 pounds!) picking at the pilings below. Anglers were frantically dropping lines in their midst, but the fish wouldn't have any of it. I guess they got to be that big by sticking to the pilings for food, not trusting the easy pickings jiggling curiously just a few feet away. Before I make a joke about fish in schools, I'll just stop here...
Date: July 4, 1999
To: Pier Fishing in California Message Board
From: Carl Carillo
Subject: Salmon at Goleta
This morning a 28” Salmon was caught, according to Ranger Dave, on an anchovy! Anyone using floats or bobbers to suspend bait off the bottom and using the current and wind to cover larger areas than casting? Burnt drags! Carl C
Date: September 22, 1999
To: PFIC Message Board
Matt, I've been fishing on the Goleta Pier (a few miles north of Santa Barbara) for almost 20 years. When I first started fishing there I primarily targeted halibut. The most enjoyable way to catch them is on plastic swim baits but this is not the most productive. Live or dead anchovies work good. You can get a snag line and catch live bait (small mackerel, shinerperch, etc.) Fish like Bonito and Yellowtail show up during El Nino years but I haven't seen them in a while.
For the past 12 or so years I've been concentrating on sharks and rays. You can catch them day or night but a lot of the shark species are caught better at night or on a very overcast day. Squid is very good bait but it tends to be stolen quite often from by little fish. I usually try to catch Pacific or Jack Mackerel either on a snag line or a single size 6 or 4 hook baited with squid or mackerel. Then cut them into chunks and use them. Sometimes fillets work well but you may have the same problem with the little fish stealing your bait. The chunks tend to solve this problem.
My rigs are 15-25 lb. line (most people go heavier but I really don't see the need—I caught my biggest ray on 20 lb.). I tie a 2-3 oz. sinker (pyramid) on about 4-5 inches of line and then to a barrel swivel. I then thread a small plastic bead on my main line, then thread the other loop of the barrel swivel that the sinker is attached to, then another bead, then tie another swivel, then tie my leader (usually 50 lb. test about 18-inches long) to the other end of that swivel, then a 3/0 to 6/0 hook. Cast out, let the line freespool until it hits bottom, set the rod down, take up the slack, and set the clicker on the reel (loosen the drag if you are using a spinning reel). I always set my rod down so that it's resting on one of the guides, this allows the line to flow freely when a fish takes it instead of your line being pinched between the pier and your rod blank. Some people disagree with me about this because it may damage the guide but I've been doing it for 20 years and have never had a problem.
Date: October 8, 1999
To: Pier Fishing in California Message Board
Subject: Goleta Pier
Bait: A nice abundance of decent sized Pacific mackerel. But once again the bait rigs weren't working. Fly-lining pieces of squid was the key. People were really getting upset around me because I was catching them left and right and no one was getting anything. I even showed them my rig when they asked but for some reason they wouldn't part with their 18-hook rigs. I brought along my tiny 4.5-ft. ultra light G. Loomis with 4-lb. test which made the mackerel a lot of fun to catch.
Sharks and Rays: Didn't see a single shovelnose but lots of thornbacks. Caught 1 smoothhound, 3 swell sharks, and who knows how many thornbacks. At midnight I finally caught my first ray in quite a while. I caught it on a rod I just finished building—what a way to break in a new rod. The ray had a 52-inch wingspan and was caught on 20-lb. test using squid for bait. It took four of us to hoist it up the pier—I need a larger rope for my net. The ray was released in good shape.
Date: April 20, 2000
To: Pier Fishing in California Message Board
From: Mike Gray
Subject: In reply to question by Leapin' Bass
Me and my buddies Scott, Matt, and Glenn, saw a mako tear through a school of mackerel in March of this year. This mako was estimated around 6 foot, a juvenile. Potential to be caught? Yes, when they are around. Scott caught a juvenile 4 years ago and released him. They are a rare sight, of course, but potential is there, even though limited. Matt caught a baby blue around 5 foot last year on a summer night. My co-worker John got a thresher last year as well as in the summer. The thresher was caught in the morning around 8:30 am. Tasted so good. All of us fish for sharks until we are the last ones on the pier. I am trying to earn my stripes. I've got a way to go.
Date: May 24, 2000
To: Pier Fishing in California Message Board
From: pat papa
Subject: Goleta Pier
Fished Goleta Pier from 5-10 PM. The bait fish (mackerel, smelt and sardines) were more than plentiful. For about two hours there were so many on the surface it was as if it was raining. I have never seen anything like it. The largest concentration of bait was from the middle to the end of the pier. Fished plastics towards the front of the pier for a few minutes without any hits, however someone next to me said they had gotten three halibut all of them short but returned safely. After catching some bait we targeted sharks at the end of the pier. What a night. We caught two large shovelnose, both over 45” and a couple of smoothhound sharks. All fish were returned unharmed (barbless hooks).
Posted by cojo_reef
I know all too well about the mackerel at Goleta. Congratulations. Goleta for me has been hit/miss the last three weeks. Did you catch your sharks on the right corner of the end of the pier or just straight out? That seems to be the best spot at the end of the pier. About 50 yards off the end of the pier is a horseshoe shape U that drops off into deeper water. This is the spot that holds sharks, rays, and skates (bait stealers). Just off the right side of the end an oil pipe is just on the ledge of this horse shoe and makes a deep drop off. On the end of the pier-right corner side, I have seen caught and have caught species from shovelnose shark, smoothhound shark, rays, puffer shark, leopard shark, cabezon, kelp bass, octopus, and huge spider crabs. This one little area holds so many species. When they come in or out to feed they always seem to visit this same spot. Have you noticed this too? You must have caught your sharks from 7:00 PM-9:00 PM. Am I right?
Posted by pat papa
We fished to the right at the end and also straight out and caught the shovelnose in both locations. It was nice because there was nobody at the end, which is unusual. I agree that this seems to be the hot spot. Last year we would fish Goleta 2-3 times a week but it was usually so crowded that we would fish at the second or third bench from the end. We usually got less fish but would usually get a couple. I would rather catch one or two and not be elbow to elbow. Where do you fish for leopard sharks? I have heard that its better fishing closer to the surf using sand crabs but have not tried it. I have only seen one caught from Goleta between the portacrapper and the crane. It was huge, probably 4-5' with large girth. What an amazing fish. As a side note, when I was talking to that guy that caught the leopard shark he said that he had seen a large shark surface which was about 10-12'. I guess that is not so common.
In terms of the time period, from what I remember last year, we got most of our bites were after 9 PM till about 11 PM, but you are right this time all fish were caught by 8 PM. Last year we started later in the summer, around the end of July, so maybe the time period has something to do with being later into the summer.
Posted by Leapin Bass
I've only seen one leopard caught at Goleta also but it was off the left end—caught by my cousin at about 2:00 am. It was a nice one (about 5 ft.). I hear a lot about leopard sharks being caught there but I believe a lot of them are swell sharks. I have caught quite a few when I used to surf fish with bait (now I only use plastics because it's much more fun and you catch more halibut). You're probably right about the leopards being in shallower water.
In September of 1984 two blues came close to the pier. One was about 6 ft. and one was about 9 ft. (they looked more like 10 and 13 ft.—everything always looks bigger in the water!) I had the big one on for about 10 minutes until he chewed through the rope I used as a leader (didn't have wire).
A half an hour after dark until around midnight on a rising tide has always been the best time for me.
Went out there for the first time this year last Thursday night... started trying to catch some bait and only got one tiny jack mackerel. Fished under the last light on the right hand side (secret spot!). There were people on the end of the pier but I didn't really care, I've been fishing at Goleta Pier since the early 80's and haven't really noticed the end being any better for sharks and rays than anywhere else toward the end. What I like about the end more than anything is that it's more difficult for other people to cast over your line. Because of the pipe and to avoid getting snagged in the kelp I typically fish off the left side for sharks and rays. Fished the left side near the last fish cleaning station with the mackerel on my lighter stick (15-lb.) and squid on the heavier (20-lb.). Got one bat ray (40-50 lb. range) and a couple of thornbacks all on the squid. The people on the end got 3 thornbacks for 4 guys.
The only other fish I saw was a tiny swell shark that they swore was a leopard shark (this happens all the time).
Date: August 13, 2002
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: Goleta's Dolphin Lady...
Dolphins seem to excite our imagination ... at least it does for this particular 'regular'. I first met her early one Saturday morning while I was fishing towards the end of the pier. I heard someone at the end imploring someone else named Flipper to 'come up out of there.' I didn't pay much attention until she started kicking and pounding on the railing. At that I went over and asked if I could help ... thinking that maybe someone she knew had climbed down under the pier and was having problems getting back up. She informed me that she could communicate with the Dolphin's (we have a resident pod that got stranded during one of the El Nino's) and they always came when she called them. Except for today as Flipper was being 'naughty'... oooKay ... with that I went back to fishing doing my best to ignore her. Finally after 10 minutes or so she seemed satisfied that Flipper had acknowledged her and she left the pier. During the entire encounter I had seen no dolphins whatsoever.
Didn't think much of it until several weeks later when she reappeared with a reporter in tow and repeated the whole scenario. Afterwards the reporter sidled up to me and quietly asked if I seen the dolphins that the women insisted had been there. I told her she had to use her imagination as dolphin's were magical creatures and didn't appear to just anyone ... just to those who believed in them. With that the reporter turned around and marched off the pier. Pierhead
Date: April 20, 2003
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: New species
Fished just after the low tide this morning. No wind and very calm. Still exploring the reef from the restroom area to the first west side light. Trying to see how this part of the reef—without much kelp—might be different from the heavily 'forested' area I usually fish. Met with Shaun (aka Goonerdude) and began working the reef with whole anchovy and some squid strips.
While Shaun threw a new lure I got a pretty good hookup. Took a whole anchovy as well as some line. With Shaun's help we got it netted and up on deck. Hadn't seen one like this before ... at 20 inches its shape resembled a shovelnose but the coloring was all wrong. It had dark wavy and mottled lines across it like it was in deep shadows. It also had what looked like a thornback's row of spines on the back. Shaun looked it up in the Petersen Field Guide and discovered it was a banded guitarfish. First one I've seen at Goleta and a brand new species for me!
Date: April 29, 2003
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: New pole and Lingcod
Which two California piers were threatened by closure in 2002 due to the number of pelicans being caught by anglers? That's the trivia question that Ken posed at the Catalina Derby. Knowing that the prize was a beautiful 7-foot, one piece, hand-built and custom wrapped rod by none other than Gyozadude himself I shouted out the answer—Stearns Wharf and Santa Cruz—completely forgetting that I was supposed to preface it with my board name. But they cut me some slack ...
Today I took the rod out to Goleta to formerly inaugurate it. Got there around 7am to fish the incoming tide. Set up on the west side just behind the breakers hoping for halibut but there were no baitfish to be had so I settled for squid and anchovy which were spectacularly unsuccessful. Finally some 6” sardines showed up around 11am and I baited both G-dudes pole and a 10' Sealine- X with them on slider rigs. While I was temporarily away the Sealine went bendo and a friend rushed to help out.
Because he was unfamiliar with the drag system on the Shimano Baitrunner and wasn't aware that I was using Circle hooks the fish got off just as I got back. But it was a start and I rebaited and tossed out again. Within 5 minutes the Sealine went off again and this time I was able to bring it in ... a 20” thornback that had managed to lip the hook but couldn't swallow the bait because he was stuffed to the gills with sardines ... there was even a tail sticking out of his mouth!
Well, my rule of thumb is that when the thornbacks show up I split. Besides the wind was coming up again and I don't think I have ever caught a fish when it was windy. But just before I packed up I decided to move up the pier to give it one more try. I really wanted to be able to post a catch on the new pole as a way of thanking James for both the pole and the kind thoughts expressed towards me in a post yesterday.
Sabikied up a couple more sardines and cast out—giving his pole the favored position in the kelp reef. Didn't take long—down went his pole and up came a 22” Lingcod which went 3 pounds 3 ounces. How appropriate as green is my favorite color and it also matches the wrap on the pole. By the time I had measured, weighed and photographed it the fish was kind of tuckered out. So I placed it back in my net and lowered it over the side. It revived within a couple of minutes and slowly swam away. Mission accomplished!
Date: July 14, 2003
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: Goleta Get Together
I had a total blast at the Goleta Get Together.... First visit to both piers.
Friday and Saturday, July 11-12
I walked on Goleta pier shortly after 10am on Friday. Excellent first impression! The place was fishy, I knew it right away. Went back to the car and got my gear and went out about 2/3 to the end. I was not sure about bait down here so I had brought a few dozen pile worms that did not fare well despite being kept cold. But they did catch some fish. Still, I was humbled by the realization that, as baits go, local offerings were superior.
Kelp beds were in fairly close so I pitched rigs into the clump. This is a proven method and is less prone to snags than people might imagine. For one, I use compact rigs with short leaders on a drift ball sinker. It smacks the kelp and filters down the forest nicely. (Most times, anyway! Other occasions will see the bait sitting on top of the bed like a golf ball on the green.) The deal is, you don't pull in unless you absolutely have to. You wait for the fish because it is a lot easier (so to speak) to recover your rigging with a fish on. Even then there is a bit of a workout! I discovered fairly soon that my 2500 reel was not up to the task.
I got two rockfish the first “shift,” one on whole frozen anchovy and the other on a pile worm, took care of some business and talked with some familiar and new people, then returned for a quick late afternoon shot. Met up with Red Fish and we tried the sequence of catching live shiners and trying for halibut. Not much going on there other than bait. So one more rockfish on anchovy and then it was time to get ready for the UPSAC meeting.
Saturday was more of the same, a trip in the late a.m. with Andy, aka Fishfishaj, who is a great source of knowledge and wisdom. First we gathered sand crabs and tried to work the surf area for corbinas (his mom got a cool looking yellow fin croaker). Another rockfish and then it was time to go to the BBQ. Afterward I went out again and made some more casts, shot the bull with more people and caught some more rockfish.
But forget all that! Shortly before the sunrise (see Rich Reano's cool picture) and just into the moonrise (see Predator's cool picture), I saw five dolphins moving gracefully and majestically through the area. Just amazing and by itself worth the trip down! Om.
Date: August 31, 2003
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: Goleta Pier 8-31-03
Now I don't normally fish for halibut but today I had a reason—the universe owed one of the regulars big time and I figured I could be the vehicle to make that happen.
Here's the story: Yesterday Fred varied his regular perchin' routine and used a whole anchovy instead of cut bait ... and wouldn't you know it he gets hit big time. Like a 30” halibut big time. And no net because he is a percher ... But he goes through this routine several times a year so he is kind of used to it.
Walks the fish down to the surfline and floats it high up on the sand on the biggest wave of the set. That gives him some time to run down and pick it up. BUT, Augie says he will get it and makes a beeline for it. Fred, being the patient guy that he is and knowing that Augie sometimes needs to feel useful, nods his assent and watches him approach the fish, bend over and ... freeze. Perhaps it was the teeth that were snapping at him. Perhaps it was something else. But whatever ... he just can't make himself pick up the fish.
'Get it!', yells Fred from up on deck. No response. 'Get it!', yell the bystanders crowding on the beach. No response. 'Get the fish, Augie!', yell the kids from the Spec Ed school touring the pier.
But Augie just stands there watching as the fish comes unbuttoned and starts flopping around just above the incoming waves. Time is running out ... the waves are getting closer. And Fred is about to lose the biggest halibut he has had in years.
Finally one of the bystanders races over to the fish and steps on its tail ... which squirts the fish into the next wave. Nice clean release... but not what Fred had in mind. But, as I said, Fred is understanding and by the end of the day had converted his personal tragedy into a very funny fish story that will stay with the rest of us much longer than even a 30” halibut.
So after hearing that story from Martin (GreenRag) last night I made up my mind that I was going to try to replace the fish that Augie lost. Woke up this morning thinking of Songslinger's halibut floats at Berkeley Pier and decided that was the way to go.
Now at Goleta bobbers are rarely used so I got a lot of questions this morning. I also got to watch the bobber get sucked under and run with 2 times and then, with some adjustments, finally landed 2 halibut (16 and 21”) before losing the rig (and the only bobber I had with me) to the pilings.
Couldn't replace Fred's fish but did find a way to fish for halibut that I really liked ... bobbers are fun and very visual when they get sucked under. You can see just how long the fish runs before it stops and swallows the bait. Using circle hooks (and the drag provided by the bobber) it’s just a matter of time before the fish moves off again and hooks itself.
I used a 1-oz slider with a 30” leader and a #6 circle hook. Put the bobber about 4' above the weight and pinned a frozen anchovy through the nose. I used to pass the hook behind the eye and wrap the body several times before pinning the tail but the two I lost this morning were done that way. So I just did the nose thing and the bait had a more natural movement. The first two (wrapped) baits had large semi-circle bites out of the stomach whereas the nose-hooked were taken in completely. The wind was against me so I cast out 25 yards and let the bobber drag the bait back to the pier. All 4 hook-up were within 10 yards of the pier and 25 yards from the surfline.
Date: July 8, 2005
To: PFIC Message Board
From: dompfa ben
Subject: Goleta Pier & Beach, Awesome Friday 12-3 A.M.
Got a late start leaving Pasadena last night. With reports of algal blooms from Ventura south, we decided to take the long drive to Goleta. It turned out to be one of the best pier-fishing decisions we've made this year.
I arrived with my dad and brother Dan around midnight. As we walked out onto the foot of the pier, we noticed the tide was impressively high—and that there were hundreds of shimmering fish dancing across the sand...GRUNION RUN! Dan and I scampered down onto the beach and grabbed about a dozen for bait. Already, I was very pleased with the decision to drive all the way to Goleta.
After setting up near the crane, using hi-lo's and dropper loop setups ranging from 8#-30# test, we started catching fish as soon as our bait hit the water. Dan immediately put three grass rockfish on the pier with his first three casts. Dad quickly got in on the act, and started making perfect 5-6” Spanish mackerel for bait with a Sabiki. Holding the Sabiki stationary seemed to do the trick, instead of jigging it up and down.
Around 1:00 A.M. we saw an angler at the end of the pier hook up big-time with the long rod. Half an hour later, he was right next to us, after having walked an estimated 80-lb. bat ray (SoCal Gangsta') down to the crane. He didn't have a net or a pier gaff, and was going to try to land the fish from the lower gang-plank. I assisted by holding his rod, while he fashioned a lasso and tried to work it down around the brute. Alas, the knot parted after several unsuccessful attempts, and the big girl lived to fight another day. The angler was a nice guy named Tyler, and as we said fare-thee-well, we made a verbal agreement to bring landing nets with us from now on.
The fact that we did not have a landing net also became apparent on the next cast, when Dan hooked something huge on a live Spanish mack. A 5-minute fight through the kelp produced the largest swell shark I have ever seen. It was easily 4 feet long, and was probably pushing 25 or 30-lbs. We tried to hand-line it up, but the 30 lb. test snapped like string on a Big Lots kite.
Last night also marked our first lobster of 2005—a close-to-legal male hooked in the mouth on squid. Like everything else caught last night (except for the grunion) it was returned to the water unharmed.
After an epic night of pier fishing, our decision to head for home was delayed by Dan's rod going off (again...), fishing a live Spanish on 25#, egg sinker sliding rig, and a 2/0 Gamakatsu live bait hook.
“Going off” isn't quite the right expression...BLASTING off might be more appropriate. A huge bat ray had inhaled the bait, and was heading for UCSB. The big ray took Dan from the elbow all the way to the surf line, running all the way. When the big fish got shallow, it really hit the accelerator. With the reel screaming and line peeling down towards the knot, Dan made the decision to glove the spool. The big ray was gone--but as Dan said, better that it just has a pierced lip, than a pierced lip with 200 yards of mono trailing behind it in the surf line. Good call.
Truly, this was one of the most memorable trips I've had in a while. Despite the late night, we had a great time with awesome fishing and nice weather. The grunion are forecast to run again tonight. Don't forget your licenses. I'm still debating if I'm heading back up there tonight to see a repeat performance.
Totals for the night
1- 25 lb. swell shark
10- assorted small rockfish
1- spiny lobster
1- white croaker
several incidental crabs
1-giant bat ray
“all you want” bait- shiner perch, Spanish mackerel, one greenback mackerel, and a few smelt mixed-in.
Go get em! DOMPFA Ben
Date: October 1, 2005
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: Unknown fish tonight at Goleta
Not really a lot of bait in the pier for most of the day until around five when the macks showed up. I was out there with pierhead, big Goleta kid, and seabass seeker. It wasn’t so hot. I caught a few little rockfish, some macks and some little perch. BGK’s dad caught a 30” angel shark...and there were a lot of real baby spider crabs cruising around. Got a keeper red rock crab in my net, and seabass seeker pulled up a crazy looking eel fish thing in his net. It looked like a fishes head and it really didn’t have teeth but it definitely had an eel body; a nice fat parasite crawled out of its gill too...I think pierhead got some decent pics so he might post them.
Date: June 1, 2008
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Ken Jones
Subject: Knuckleheads and Chowderheads at Goleta Pier
I talked to Boyd and he said it was an interesting day at the pier today, especially when massive bait balls of anchovies appeared next to the pier. Within an hour the numbers at the pier went from about twenty to over sixty. Aren't cell phones just grand?
Scenes: (1) A thirty-five-year-old (or so) mother and her teenage daughter decide to jump off the pier near the hoist while making sure they held on to their forty-ounce malt liquor. Lifeguards finally got them out. (2) Kayakers are going back and fourth under the pier and through the fishing lines. Unhappy anglers on the pier. (3) Two small private skiffs decide to troll up and down the pier about twenty feet out from the pier. Anglers weren't happy. (4) Two divers emerge from the depths and climb up the steps by the hoist. They're carrying a bucket full of 4-6 inch perch that they managed to harpoon. They walk back to the shoreline in their wet suits amidst catcalls from the “rats.” Just another day in Paradise.
Date: September 21, 2008
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: Goleta Pier
A bit late for today, but Goleta has been very slow all summer. I fished the end 1-4 today across the top of the tide and it was better than average, but still a long time between anything. People were getting jacksmelt reliably inshore, and some sardines were hanging around about 1.5 casts out most of the afternoon, with a few loners coming to the 1 lo-ong cast mark. Using cut sardines got me a couple of queenfish, 4 mackerel, a short calico, a HUGE jacksmelt and a walleye, and for a bit of a surprise a 26” WSB (carefully raised and lowered by net, swam off fine). Others at the end got a 3’ guitarfish and a ca. 30-lb bat ray (latter released) on sardines bummed from some guy, and a short halibut, legal calico and a couple of decent perch came up within my sight back down the pier. Mind you, this is about 3-4x more fish catching than has typically happened here since late June.
Windy afternoons and murky water, with a great deal of salad inshore, have been the norm at Goleta this summer, and today was no exception. Sardines and macks have been mostly absent, and gone in a flash when they do pass through. The clear water line usually stays about 2-3 cast lengths off the end, thanks to the wind alignment and the surf breaks at Goleta Point.
Date: February 28, 2009
To: Ken Jones
Just saw your revised swell shark article. You mentioned that small swell sharks are not able to puff up like the adults. Was just wondering where you found this bit of information. My understanding from those working at the miniature UCSB aquarium/touch-tank is that even with newly hatched swell sharks under a foot long, gulping air is a problem. While I am not sure if they are able to gulp in enough air to create a distended stomach like the adults, it is something they try to avoid, and if one of the small swell sharks does gulp air, they need to burp it. Which leads me to another interesting thing that you may consider adding to your article. They prevent these small swell sharks from gulping air by holding their mouth closed when they are out of water. Because swell sharks are actually gulping air/water, holding their mouth shut prevents them from doing this. I have been using this technique fairly successfully with the swell sharks we catch off of Goleta Pier as well. After we pull a swell shark to the surface, we try to keep it in the water until we can get our crab net ready. As soon as we net the shark and pull it out of the water, we pull it up as fast as we can and grab the mouth and hold it shut. This gives us all the time we need to untangle the lines from the net and remove the shark. Then allow the mouth to open for only as long as we need to remove the hook, and then again lower it as fast as we can in the net to get it back under water. Before learning this trick, we had numerous incidents where released swell sharks had gulped so much air that they were unable to submerge themselves and were left floating belly up, but since learning this technique almost 100% of the swell sharks we release have been able to swim down to the bottom. Roy
In Probably More Than You Want To Know About The Fishes Of The Pacific Coast, Milton Love says “Curiously, small swell sharks, which you would think would benefit from the ability, don't seem to be able to puff up.” That's my source on the info but I find your note of great interest. Perhaps we need to revise it a little?
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Last edited by Ken Jones on Mon Apr 06, 2009 4:03 pm; edited 1 time in total