Pier Fishing in California

Resources :: California Fishing Piers

Trinidad Pier

This pier is the northernmost oceanfront pier in the state and sits in one of the state’s most beautiful settings. Just a short drive north of Eureka, the pier gets steady if not necessarily heavy use by pier anglers. Although fishing from the pier is generally only fair, few seem to mind. For most people, especially visitors from southern California, the pier fishing itself is secondary. More visited are the nearby redwood groves and the spectacular coastline. Most anglers come for the seasonal salmon and bottom fishing (including some big lings up by Redding Rock) which is available from skiffs and party boats. However, excellent fishing is also available in the nearby surf for redtail perch and smelt, while coastal lagoons offer a relaxed environment with plentiful trout.


The pier is situated in Trinidad Harbor which means it is protected from the most severe storms by the adjacent Trinidad Head. Home at one time to those seeking otter and whale, the harbor today is the center of sportfishing activity, both for salmon and for rockcod. Unfortunately, the other fishing activity sometimes interferes with the pier fishing. The end of the 520-foot-long pier is sometimes closed to pier fishermen to allow sportsmen to unload their trucks and to carry supplies down the ramp to the boats below. A gas dock is situated under the pier as is a skiff rental operation, and the partyboats “Jumpin’ Jack” and “Shenandoah” which operate through the summer months. Although one of my sources said that fishing is permitted from the lower deck, large signs proclaim that fishing from the lower area is prohibited. Ask at the bait shop and unless they say yes, don’t do it! The lower area is disassembled during the winter months to prevent damage from the winter storms.

Although the bay bottom is mostly sand, it is also home to many large rocks. One large rock south of the pier is Prisoner Rock, a name given to it during the gold rush when unruly prisoners would be left out on it overnight to consider their misdeeds.

To the left of the pier is Little Head rock which effectively makes fishing a close-in activity along much of the inshore area on the left side. Here is where the best fishing is often found. Around the rock are various channels, seaweed, and all the normal attributes which make up rock fishing; and here that in essence is what you are doing. Think of rock fishing but being able to use a light outfit to do it. In this rocky area you can expect to find several species of perch, greenling, small rockfish, small lingcod, a few cabezon and, once in a great while, a wolf eel. On the bay side you might catch a few more sandy-shore species including Pacific tomcod, white croaker, redtail surfperch, calico surfperch, jacksmelt, Pacific herring and big skates (a 100+ pounder was caught in the summer of 1996). When you can fish the end section you are closer to deep water. Here is the best section to catch lingcod in the fall and winter as well as larger rockfish and cabezon.

Fishing Tips

If you want rocky shore species, fish on the left side of the pier using tube worms, fresh mussels, shrimp or crab backs for bait. Use small, size 4-8 hooks attached directly to your line above a half ounce to one ounce sinker. Using a light outfit you should be able to feel your bait and keep it out of the rocks. Cast your line as close to the rocks as possible; greenling and rockfish hide under the rock and in rock crevices. As wave action sweeps your bait close to the rocks it will be grabbed by interested fish. BE PREPARED! Most greenling and rockfish will head straight back to their hole under the rock as soon as they grab a bait. If you let them reach their holes, you will probably lose your leader and sinker!

The biggest mistake made by rock anglers is using baits and hooks that are too big for these species. Generally, the chances of hooking a large lingcod or cabezon are, with one exception, fairly remote (although medium to large wolf-eels are a possibility). Fish for the small to average size fish that make up ninety percent of the fish caught here: kelp greenling, rock greenling, striped seaperch, walleye and silver surfperch, black or copper rockfish, and small lingcod. For more variety, try a second pole on the right side of the pier. Using the same setup, and even the same baits, you may get any of the sandy-shore species already listed.

The one exception which I refer to above, is in the fall and winter, from about September until March. Lingcod come into shallower water to spawn during those months and it is fairly common to see some large lings (20+ pounds) swimming around the pier. Best bait for these large lings is a live shiner or other small fish. If those are unavailable, try a whole squid or octopus. Be sure to use a heavier line, a medium to heavy pole, and a good net. It is never easy to land a large fish on a pier and especially not one of these nasty lings. They have a habit of appearing to be finished and then showing a second wind just as you are about to net them. So, be prepared!

This is also one of the few piers (in California) where you may occasionally catch one of the red or orange colored rockfish. Small to medium size orange (canary) rockfish and even rosy rockfish have been caught off the end of the pier. Black rockfish are more common and frequently a school will show up by the pier; when that happens the lucky anglers will be assured a bucketful of the fish.

Although I have heard of few salmon being taken from the pier, they should be a definite possibility since they are common to the area. Best time should be July to September and your best bet would be to try using an anchovy under a float or large bobber, the rigging made famous at Pacifica.

Special Recommendation

This is a PRIVATE PIER and requires a FISHING LICENSE so be prepared. Since this is a private pier, recognize the fact that pier fishing is of secondary importance to the commercial fishing and boat sport fishing. No one really minds if you fish but stay out of the way and don’t interfere with the customers who make money for the pier operator.

Also be sure to watch for sea otters in the bay. There are quite a few of the playful beasts and they can be quite comical at times. However, I watched a pair one day checking out the skiffs tied down below the pier. They had no trouble getting into the boats and went down the line entering one boat after another. I wondered if they were looking for food (bait) left by the fishermen. As I watched, I also began to think they looked like big rats even though that doesn’t fit the normal stereotype of the species. I am curious as to whether or not they hurt the fishing since the pier has the second lowest rating of the north country piers (in my records).

History Note

When the Bruno de Hezeta expedition took possession of the bay on June 11, 1775, he called it Puerto de la Trinidad because it was Trinity Sunday. The earliest recorded wharf was a wharf constructed alongside Trinidad Head in 1870; it was used for both passengers and cargo (especially lumber). The site itself was earlier used as a whaling station.

The current all-wooden pier dates back to 1946 when it was constructed with contributions from the Arcata Lumberjacks’ Association. It was then, and still is, one of the main launching sites for sportfishing craft along this wild stretch of coast. The owner and operator of the pier is Bob Hallmark who celebrated his fiftieth year at the pier in 1997.



Primarily daylight hours although there is a large light which is turned on in the summer months.


Restrooms are between the parking lot and the pier. Free parking is adjacent to the pier. The Seascape Restaurant is located at the foot of the pier. A small bait shop, Bob’s Boat Basin Bait and Tackle, is located at the foot of the pier. It carries tackle and bait but for the most part it is for the boat angler, i.e. salmon fishermen. It is open full time only during the summer months. Another bait and tackle shop is located next to the entrance of town, on the left side as you enter from Highway 101. This is Salty’s Bait and Tackle; it carries a full line of bait and tackle for all forms of fishing and is open year round. Both are open full time only during the summer months so you may want to call ahead or bring your own bait – Bob’s Bait and Tackle (707-677-3625), Salty’s Bait and Tackle (707-677-3874).

Handicapped Facilities

None. Wood planking with a railing approximately 40 inches in height.

How To Get There

From Highway 101 take the Trinidad exit and follow the road all the way to the harbor – it will change from Main Street to Trinity to Edwards Street.


Owned and operated by Bob Hallmark.