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 the occasional bonito or barracuda. My own records show over
a dozen fish per trip average and one halibut every six trips. When combined
with easy access and good facilities, there is every reason to include it
in a list of the state's best piers.
This 1,450-foot-long pier sits on a wide, sandy beach and is part of the
Goleta Beach County Park. Just south 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 bass and halibut. Look to the west, and you'll
see the nearby buildings of the University of California-Santa Barbara
as well as Goleta Point. The bottom here is mostly sand but the pier is
often surrounded by a lush kelp bed and the pier's pilings are heavily
encrusted with mussels. In addition, a pipeline runs parallel to the pier
on the right, or west side, and it is usually covered by kelp part of
Inshore, the pier is one of the best for barred surfperch, guitarfish,
thornback rays, and halibut, as well as quite a few corbina. It's the
only pier where I've heard of a black (giant) sea bass being taken in
the shallow surf area. The unusual catch, a small, 12-pound juvenile bass
was taken in June 2002. Further out on the pier, halibut are again a main
quarry but there is also usually a steady catch of white croakers, jacksmelt,
small perch and, depending on the season, pelagics including mackerel,
bonito, barracuda and even a few yellowtail or salmon (some years). The
kelp area by the pipeline is frequently home to hungry calico bass (kelp
bass) and kelp rockfish, but a lot 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.
Bring two poles here; use the light one to catch small live bait and a
larger pole to catch your dinner. Most regulars here try to catch brown
bait, a small queenfish or white croaker, then fish these as bait on the
bottom for halibut and shovelnose sharks (guitarfish). If brown bait isn't
available, the regulars will switch to small shinerperch or smelt. Use
a slider leader or a sliding sinker with a three-foot leader and bait
attached to the end of the line.
To catch brown bait, or if you simply wish to catch a few small fish,
do the following. For queenfish, use a Lucky Lura or similar type snag
line 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 and other morsels of food they see inhabiting
their territory. However, halibut will be landed from almost every section
of the pier each year.
For large barred surfperch and some really large corbina, fish the surf
area on the bottom using live sand crabs, fresh mussels, or bloodworms.
Quite often the fish will be in the shallowest water imaginable but you've
got to put your bait where the fish are holding.
For some good-sized calico
bass (kelp bass) try by the pipeline on the right side. It sits about
thirty feet out from the pier and is usually covered by kelp. Regulars
tell me that there are a lot of bass by the pipeline and that they will
often hit the bait just as soon as it begins to drop through the kelp
canopy (which can often mean a quickly tangled line around the kelp).
In addition to the kelp bass, anglers will pull in a sizable number of
kelp rockfish together with brown rockfish, gopher rockfish, and a few
sand bass, California scorpionfish, and even an occasional cabezon and
lingcod. I've also seen good schools of sardines hold between the pipeline
kelp and the pier as well as thick schools of lizardfish which seemed
to cover the bottom in the area I was fishing. Also don't be surprised
if you see anglers fishing in inner tubes 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.
Two spots favored by locals
are (1) mid-pier, across from the restrooms and (2) at the three-quarter
point just past the light. Both of these primarily sandy-bottom areas
seem to offer good sport for guitarfish. Another spot, near the crane,
is reported to be good for large perch (pileperch and rubberlip perch)
but be sure to fish down around the pilings.
The end area, just like
on most piers, seems to receive the heaviest pressure from anglers. When
the mackerel are running almost anything may work, especially a small
spoon or a number 4 Lucky Lura rigging. Most bonito seem to be caught
on feather jigs, as do most yellowtail, but live bait (small Pacific mackerel,
jack mackerel, or anchovies) fished on a sliding leader, works best for
the larger yellowtail. Barracuda, when they're around, are usually caught
on cut anchovies or cut squid but Kastmasters or Krocodile lures can also
be 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 or smelt 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
or leopard sharks but you'll also see an occasional swell shark or horn
shark and once in a blue moon someone will latch on to one of the larger
thresher sharks or blue sharks (a 48" blue was taken in June of 2002).
Guitarfish and bat rays are also common and batties over a hundred pounds
are seen each year.
Although extremely rare,
a great white shark was taken from the pier in September of 2000. The
fish, a youngster 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.
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 an area which
sometimes sees heavy infestations of starfish. The interesting creatures
(and here they're typically the small purple colored starfish) like to
grab hold of baits sitting on the bottom. Check your bait often and make
sure your hook isn't encircled by the probing purple foot of a starfish.
Also don't be surprised if you occasionally see a spider crab. Although
not as common as at Port Hueneme or Stearns Wharf, their catch is a regular
Lastly, be sure to follow
the rules! The following story is taken from the web site's 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 which 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, sting
operations are fairly common at both Goleta and Stearns Wharf.
Date: September 20,
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
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 sea bass (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" Pacific 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
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 which
grows on the pipeline which 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 which measured up to 50 lbs. My
buddies best catch was a shovelnose shark which 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"
Date: January 10, 1998
To: Boyd Grant
From: Ken Jones
Subject: Goleta Pier
Thought you might like
to read the attached message since it concerns your favorite pier --
Goleta. What do you think? Also, if you would like to contact him let
me know and I can check with him to see if he wants to give his address
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
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.
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's, 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: 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 got
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 site, of course, but potential
is there, even though limited. Matt caught a baby blue around 5 foot
last year on a summer night. My co-worker John got a thresher last year
as well as in the summer. The thresher was caught in the morning around
8:30 am. Tasted so good. All of us fish for sharks until we are the
last one's on the pier. I am trying to earn my stripes. I've got a way
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
on May 25, 2000
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 on
May 25, 2000
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
on May 25, 2000
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
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).
Juan Cabrillo discovered this spot in 1542, it was the largest city in
California. It had a population of over 1,000 Canalino Indians who lived
on Mescalitan Island (which today sits under the road leading to UCSB).
The term "Goleta" by the way, means "schooner" in
Spanish and was used as a name for a land grant in 1846. No one is quite
sure however if it is so named because of a wreck here of an American
schooner or because a vessel was built here in 1829.
The Goleta Slough and Estuary was used as a deep-water port until the
floods of 1860-1861 brought down more than fourteen feet of silt; later
a whaling station operated on the beach in the 1880s. Records from 1883
designate More's Landing as the name for the wharf at Goleta. It was 900-foot-long,
35-foot-wide, and reached out into water that was about 11 feet deep at
low tide. Shallow, but sufficient for the boats which used it as a port
(mostly for shipping livestock to the islands and farm produce to San
Francisco). In addition, over 2,000 tons of asphaltum were sent from the
nearby mines (located under today's UCSB) to San Francisco, as well as
to New Orleans' Vieux Carre (the famous French Quarter). Still later,
in the 1890s, it's recorded as the site of a railroad wharf. Little remains
of those early ventures.
No one seems to know when the current pier was actually built but it predates
1954 since that was the year of a major repair and rebuild (as happened
again in the 1980s). Evidently the pier was originally only some 600-feet-long
since one report says it was lengthened by 800 feet in the '80s. There
also was a time in the '80s when a sportfishing craft, the sixty-five-foot-long
Island Fox operated from the pier. Today the only boats that operate from
the pier are private craft launched from the mid-pier sling.
Hours: Open 24 hours a day.
Facilities: Lights and fish-cleaning facilities are located on
the pier as is a launch sling for small boats. At the foot of the pier,
restrooms, a small restaurant and snack bar, and, in some years, a bait
and tackle shop are located. Free parking is found near the front of the
Handicapped Facilities: Handicapped parking and restrooms. The
pier surface is wood and the rail height is 42 inches. Posted for handicapped.
How To Get There: From Highway 101 take the Hwy. 217/Airport exit.
Follow it to Sandspit Rd. and the Goleta Beach Park turnoff. Follow this
to the park and the pier.
Management: County Parks Department -- Santa Barbara County.