| Although the San Mateo
Pier is closed, I felt I would make it the Pier of the Month because it
needs your help. The pier was closed several years ago when Cal Trans began
retrofitting the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge. At the time, Cal Trans said it
would be open by 1999 but it is still closed and some in Cal Trans are now
saying it may never reopen since repairs are needed to the pier. With the
loss in the past few years/months of the Candlestick Point Pier, Warm Water
Cove Pier, Agua Vista Pier and Ravenswood Pier, anglers along the peninsula
are faced with a shortage of piers. This pier is needed so I urge all you
to contact San Mateo County and City authorities as well as the State Representatives
and the Wildlife Conservation Board in Sacramento to support whatever is
needed to repair and reopen this pier!
This article was written
before closure of the pier so it is written in present tense; hopefully
there will not be a need to convert it to the past tense down the road.
One of the best places to catch sharks in San Francisco Bay is this pier
(which is really in Foster City and is sometimes called the Foster City
pier). It was originally part of the old San Mateo-Hayward drawbridge,
a bridge which when opened in 1929 was the world's longest bridge (nearly
8 miles long). However, it had become too small for the increased traffic
of the late 1960s. Instead of simply tearing down the entire bridge, part
was turned into a fishing pier. Since opening in 1972, this pier has become
one of the most heavily visited piers in the area and one that yields
a lot of sharks, rays, and miscellaneous fish.
At 4,135 feet, this is the not only the longest pier in the bay but also
the longest pier in California. Due to its length, anglers can try for
several different species. Inshore, around the shoreline, a few perch
will be caught seasonally as well as jacksmelt. Further out, the middle
area can be decent for such species as starry flounder and white croaker
(kingfish) as well as an occasional striped bass, shark or ray. The far
end sits in water nearly 40-feet-deep. This is the prime area for leopard
sharks, brown smoothhound sharks, bat rays, skates, and sturgeon. The
bottom here is mud and sand and there is little growth on either the pilings
or the nearby bridge supports. Inshore waters are shallow and there are
only a few rocks (and half-buried debris such as shopping carts) so fishing
tends to be spotty. Either schools of fish are present, or they are absent.
When absent, you may have a rather boring time sitting or standing in
this usually windy
area. However, when schooling fish like jacksmelt are present, it is often
easy to catch a bucketful. Pileperch, black seaperch and a few rubberlip
seaperch visit in winter and spring, but they are replaced by walleye
and silver surfperch later in the year.
Winter and spring will see the arrival of white sturgeon and perhaps
a few green sturgeon; they usually seem to show up about the same time
as the first rains and accompanying runoff enter into the South Bay. When
herring move this far south into the bay to spawn, and it doesn't happen
every year, local waters will be thick with the large fish. Up above the
fish, in boats or on the pier, will be eager anglers hoping to take a
chance at these ancient critters, the nearest thing to big game species
that most anglers will catch (although striped bass, salmon, halibut and
large sharks aren't too bad). At times more than forty sturgeon have been
landed from this pier in a single day. In the spring striped bass begin
to make their appearance and generally stripers will hang around until
the fall months when they return to inland waters. Although sharks will
be caught year-round, summertime into the fall is the peak season.
As mentioned, this is one of the best places to go shark fishing. Bat
rays in excess of 100 pounds and large leopard sharks are caught every
year. Infrequent, but seasonally a possibility, are sevengill sharks and
soupfin sharks (and theoretically I suppose you could even see a sixgill
shark although you have about the same chance to win the lottery). If
you try for any of these large toothy critters, make sure you use the
appropriate tackle (including wire leaders) and have a treble-hook gaff
and a friend along to help. The larger sharks seem to bite best on live
bait so use midshipmen or mudsuckers (longjaw goby). Next best is squid
or an oily fish such as mackerel or sardine. The bat rays seem to prefer
squid. For all of these, the best fishing occurs in the late afternoon
and evening hours when fishing from the mid-pier area out to the end.
It shouldn't be necessary to say, but do watch out for the teeth on the
sharks and the stinger on the bat rays. Also, bleed your sharks and rays
soon after capture if you plan to take them home for food.
Striped bass are one of the most sought after species here and most
years will see a few fish approaching, or even exceeding, the 30-pound
mark (and I was told by one angler that a fifty-pound striper had been
landed here). Most anglers use cut anchovies or live bullheads (staghorn
sculpin) but a few fish will be caught on pile worms, grass shrimp and
artificial lures like Hair Raisers. Inshore, try
for jacksmelt and seaperch using pile worms or, if available, grass shrimp
(for the perch). Use a high/low leader on the bottom for the perch, a
multi-hook rigging under a float for the jacksmelt. In the summer, it
is common for kingfish (white croakers) to show up and, at times, Pacific
tomcod, sand sole, flounder and even halibut. For most of the smaller
species, a high/low leader baited with cut anchovies or pile worms will
work well. For the halibut, try a live shiner using a flounder-sturgeon
rigging on the bottom. For sturgeon, and sturgeon exceeding 120 pounds
have been landed here, try ghost shrimp or mud shrimp and make sure you
have a good net. If herring are spawning locally be sure to bring along
some herring or herring eggs. One pest which you are stuck with is staghorn
sculpin. During summer months, these small sculpin can be hard to keep
off your hooks.
It's a long way out to the end of the pier, especially if you are
carrying much tackle (and some of the "shark specialists" bring
some heavy gear). Local anglers (illegally, I might add) have made a habit
of bringing shopping carts to the pier and leaving them there when they
are done. Most days you will find a few unused carts at the shore end
of the pier. Feel free to use a cart to haul your tackle out to the end.
When you arrive at the far end of the pier you will probably find most
of the already present anglers with a cart of their own. It's a tradition!
Winds can be strong in this area. In March of '97, about the same time
sturgeon were feasting on herring eggs by the pier, and anglers were taking
two to three dozen sturgeon a day off the pier, a boat capsized near the
pier. Three anglers found themselves in the cold and choppy waters of
the bay. Forming a human chain, and using the strong ropes they had brought
to net the sturgeon, several regulars at the pier were able to pull the
three men up to the pier and keep them warm until helicopters could rescue
them. True heroes!
The area now known as Foster City once consisted of Brewer's Island and
several square miles of tidal wetlands. In 1958, developer T. Jack Foster
bought and began to reshape the land. He created a 200-acre lagoon and
built a city which now encompasses nearly 5,000 homes and 30,000 people.
Such is progress in the Golden State.
Mateo Pier Facts
Hours: Currently Closed.
Facilities: Fairly primitive. Portable restrooms, lights, wind
breaks, fish cleaning stations, some benches and water fountains. No bait
Handicapped Facilities: None really. The surface is concrete and
suitable for wheelchairs and the railing is approximately 44 inches high.
How To Get There: Leave US 101 (Bayshore Freeway) at the Hillsdale
exit and drive east along Hillsdale Boulevard and Beach Park Boulevard.
Management: San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Department.