Pier Fishing in California

Resources :: California Fish




Girella nigricans; from the French word girelle (a derivative of julis, an old word used to denote a number of small wrasse in Europe), the Latin word nigr (dark) and the Greek word ikanos (becoming, in reference to its pleasing appearance).

Alternate Names

Blue-eye perch, green perch, opaleye perch, bluefish, Jack Benny, button-back, and button bass.


Opaleye are perch-shaped but heavier bodied. Their coloring is usually dark olive green, usually with two light spots at the base of the dorsal fin; eyes are large and an opalescent blue-green color.


To 25.4 inches and 13 1/2 pounds; most caught off piers are under 16 inches.


From Cape San Lucas, Baja, California to San Francisco.


Shallow-water, rocky areas.


Can be caught on almost any pier in southern or central California located near rocks, reefs, or kelp, but they’re uncommon north of Cayucos and rare north of Monterey. Best bets: Shelter Island Pier, Ocean Beach Pier (inshore), Oceanside Harbor Pier, Aliso Beach Pier, Cabrillo Pier, Redondo Sportfishing Pier, Gaviota Pier, and the Green Pleasure Pier at Avalon.

Bait and Tackle

Some anglers specialize in opaleye, and many of them swear that moss or frozen peas are the best bait. I’ve caught them on both, but I’ve also caught many on fresh mussels, pieces of bloodworms and small rock crabs. Hooks should be kept small, size 8 or 6.

Food Value

A fairly good eating fish that is generally fried.


Opaleye are a favorite of many anglers due to their size and fighting ability.