Pier Fishing in California

Resources :: California Fish

Kelp Greenling

Kelp Greenling


Hexagrammos decagrammus; from two combinations of Greek words; hex (six) and gramma (line), deca (ten) and gramma (line, referring to the number of lateral lines on the side of the fish).

Alternate Names

Commonly called seatrout; also called greenling seatrout, rock trout, kelp trout and kelp cod.


Distinguished by the five lateral lines on each side of the fish and two pairs of cirri – one pair above each eye, the other on top of the head. Their coloring is different for males and females. The males are dark gray with bright blue spots on head and sides. Females are gray-brown with bright golden to brown spots on body and head. The inside of the mouth in both sexes is yellow.


To 21 inches; most caught off piers are under 15 inches in length. The California record fish weighed 2 lb 9 oz and was taken at San Simeon in 1993.


From La Jolla to the Amchitka Islands in the Aleutian chain, Alaska; rare south of Point Conception.


Rocky shallow-water areas, although most go to deeper water in southern California.


Kelp greenling are a common fish in rocky and kelp areas from central California north, but few are taken on piers south of San Francisco. Best bets: San Francisco Municipal Pier, Elephant Rock Pier, Point Arena Pier, Eureka Municipal Wharf, Trinidad Pier and Citizens Dock (Crescent City).

Bait and Tackle

A high/low leader using size 6 hooks and a small piece of shrimp, fresh mussels, pile worm or tube worm is the ideal setup for these fish. Fish around rocks in the water or around the pilings. Kelp greenling will usually tap the bait first then come back and take the bait with a second bite; be patient and be prepared to reel in the fish on the second hit.

Food Value

Greenling are mild-flavored fish suitable for most forms of cooking but they are especially suitable for pan frying. Most pier-caught fish are fairly small so the fillets may not offer much meat.