Last modified: October 13, 2018

Fishing Piers Southern California

Balboa Pier

 August 2002 — Our reporter, Snookie, reports “I have been taking my grandkids to the pier to learn more about fish and fishing. They love to catch bait, and they are good at it. The bait situation has been very good as far as being there to catch but catching them is not always easy… As to the bait we have had queenfish, anchovies of all sizes, sardines, small mackerel, smelt and grunion, and small walleyed perch and Spanish Jacks. What more could you ask for in bait? As to fish well, I think they are full of bait. Strikes are hard to come by unless you are fishing mackerel farther out. I did get a 12-inch Zebraperch on the snag-line. The halibut have been small although some keepers have been lost. I have seen some thornbacks caught and some yellowfin croaker. One early evening we had a time with the barracuda hitting our bait, but they were also a little undersized, but fat. The jumbo or Humboldt squid were here for a while. Although some were caught off the pier, some were also picked up on the shore while walking. As long as the grunion are still here the squid will most likely keep making appearances. A squid jig is a necessity. These squid are delicious to eat and they make good bait as well. They must be prepared soon after catching to be good. Don’t overcook them or they become tough.”

September 2002 — Our reporter, Snookie, reports, “This month has not been very good. Even the smaller halibut have been tough to come by for me at least. I do know of a few keepers being caught. There have been some good-sized shovelnose guitarfish caught. The yellowfin croakers are the big thing right now. Today there were lots of them in the surf area. Most of them were caught on squid. The squid bait was from the squid catches of the past few weeks. The Humboldt or Jumbo squid have been making nightly appearances for several weeks now, but are almost gone. It was a show in itself to watch as the pier was lined with elbow-to-elbow fishermen waiting for that magic hour when the squid would appear. They ran all the way to the surf following the grunion and other baits farther out. Those were happy people while the squid were there. The mackerel are around but not necessarily plentiful. Perch have been showing in the surf area. Oh yes, the mighty California Lizardfish has made an occasional appearance. The weather has been comfortable even with some big swells showing now. Just remember to not fish under the pier when the swells are big.”

May 2003 — Our reporter Snookie says “Not too much to report this month. The weather has not cooperated at all. Have heard of some keepers being caught. There are some mackerel and some sardines as big as the mackerel. Also saw the lowly lizardfish make its way back into the catches. Guess that is what happens when the water gets cold. The water is consistently the coldest this month that it has been for over nine years (have kept my weather diary that long). The biggy now is the influx of Velella velella a beautiful blue 4-inch hydroid with a sail that is all around the pier area now. It has also been seen in Crystal Cove today. Back in the late 50’s there was a major invasion of these creatures to the extent that you could see them as far as your eyesight would allow you to see. Some old fishermen used to say these meant good fishing ahead. Hope they are right.”

June 2004 — Our reporter Snookie says, “it has been fun this month. We’ve had so many white seabass it has been unreal. Wish they had been bigger though. They did run up to 24 inches. It has been windy and cool but nice to fish. The water is up to the high 60’s, which is warmer than it has been for quite a few years for this time of the year. We are getting keeper halibut now at a fairly consistent rate. Of course we have to weed through the smaller ones first. We’ve had some leopard sharks from babies up to 5 feet. There has been some nice sized bat rays and very large shovelnose guitarfish. The bait has been cooperating most of the time with a catch of smelt, sardines, Spanish jacks, queenfish and perch. The crowds are picking up with Memorial Day and summer coming soon, but there is plenty of room to fish. The tourists that see us catch fish immediately ask where they rent a rod and reel so they can do that too. Sounds easy doesn’t it.”

August 2004 — Our reporter Snookie says “this month at Balboa Pier has been getting more exciting by the day. We have had a run of tiny bonito. The problem with that is that people can’t seem to remember that five is the number of legals when they are under 24 inches fork length. The halibut have been around with some of them quite large such as a 26-pounder and the rumor of a 35-pounder off the end. The yellowfin croakers have been around to participate in our catches. Those are good eating fish. This past week we have had some legal barracudas upward of over 30 inches. They have been running all the way into the surf as well as the little bonito. There were some 1 1/2 pound bonito and a 2 pounder caught last week. The bait has been unbelievable in quantity. We have had smelt of all sizes, a few Spanish jacks, a lot of queenfish and small mackerel. It seems every day about noon the sardines come in all the way to the surf and hug the pier for protection. You really don’t need a bucket. A snag-line on a small rod and your rod to transfer the bait to is about it they are so thick. It is very busy right now because of the summer season and the nice days and as a result it is very noisy as well. It would be nice if the yellowtail would come in, and right now it is a strong possibility. It is fun fishing right now.”

September 2004 — Our reporter Snookie says “It has been repeatedly bonito, bonito, bonito for over a month now. At least they are growing bigger. The biggest so far have been around 24 inches. The water is full of bait being sardines, smelt, small mackerel, and Spanish jacks.  You could say that the water is literally alive with fish all around the pier. We have four resident pinnipeds that included a bull sea lion, a pup sea lion and a female plus one harbor seal. They are eating their share of the bait as well, although we don’t have too much trouble with them so far. There are no halibut because of the bonito around. With an increase in the small Spanish jacks we could see the yellowtail come into the pier in the next month. Oh but that would be fun again.”

October 2004 — Our reporter Snookie says “what a warm month this has been in Balboa. The fishing has been great if you are after bonito. As to the bait there has been an abundance of everything including sardines of various sizes, small mackerel, smelt of various sizes, queenfish occasionally, walleyed perch, and lots of grunion about 8 to 10 inches long and Spanish jacks. The bonito have been hitting almost anything that moves. They are all the way into the surf all day long. This makes it difficult to get the halibut to strike. They don’t like those juvenile acting fish bothering them. There have been quite a few shovelnose guitarfish and thornbacks caught. For a few nights there were Humboldt squid caught. One person caught as many as 14. It does help to know that they squirt ink when you bring them onto the pier. If you aren’t ready, you will look a mess when they get through squirting you.”

June 2005 — Our reporter Snookie reports, “Fishing has picked up considerably this month.  We are catching lots of halibut and some keepers. The bait situation has been good and bad, but at least we can always get a few baitfish. Most of the bait is smelt, but I have seen some nice Spanish jacks for bait. The halibut have been caught on the end as well as the surf areas. There are lots of mackerel and wall-eyed perch. There has been several nice shovelnose guitarfish caught and lots of thornbacks. There was a nice legal leopard shark caught on the end and a baby leopard shark caught in the surf area. An unusual catch in the bait net last week was a pipefish about eight inches long.”

September 2005 — Our reporter Snookie reports, “It’s been an interesting month. We’ve had the “black” jellies and the purple-striped jellies along with the red tide. At least the fish didn’t quit entirely. We’ve had some keeper halibut and a lot of undersized halibut. The mackerel have been around a lot. The yellowfin croakers and the corbina have made a good showing as well as the barred surfperch and wall-eyes. A friend caught six barracudas off the end, but they were only about 20 inches each. The bait has been good most of the time with queenfish being the easiest to get and next is smelt, but the sardines came in again last week along with a few anchovies.”

May 2008 — Our reporter Snookie reports, “At least this month is better, and it keeps getting better. Our bait situation is not always good. We have to work to get bait almost every time. We are persistent, and it pays off in small amounts of smelt. Sometimes there has been a sardine or two. Each one of us has gotten a keeper halibut up to 29 inches, so that is encouraging. We have also gotten quite a few small halibut. The interesting part of this month was the Big Skate that was caught. It was about 6 feet in diameter and very spotted. That was a first to see for all of us. That is a beautiful fish. It was released. There are a few mackerel around at the end and a large shovelnose guitarfish was caught but not landed. It took a big live bait. The walleyed perch are appearing in larger amounts now. They are small, but they are good eating. The red tide has been coming and going a lot as well this month. There are some jellies and lots of kelp going by. Had another first last week. A Jelly called Polyorchis haplus which is a small unusual jelly that was caught on the snag-line. It was only about 2 1/2 by 1 1/2 inches. The ocean is coming to life.”

July 2008 — Our reporter Snookie says, “The ocean is still unsettled, but the temperatures have risen to 72 degrees. Lots of kelp is passing through every day. There is lots of bait to be had. Most of the bait is from the middle tee to the end. It is smelt of all sizes and some Spanish jacks. We are catching quite a few undersized halibut, shovelnose guitarfish and nice-sized yellowfin croaker. Some of the shovelnose guitarfish have been almost 60 inches in length. There were two keeper halibut caught today by one person in the middle of the pier. There have been several white sea bass caught, but of course all undersized. There has been little “pencil” barries caught on our snag-lines but no legals yet. The halfmoons (blue perch) were there today in various sizes and very hungry for the snag-lines.

June 2009 — Our reporter Snookie says, “It has been better this month although some of the days brought us nothing like halibut. There has been lots of bait lately such as sardines, queenfish of a decent size, and Spanish jacks plus smelt and a few anchovies. Can’t ask for much more with those baits. The interesting thing this last week has been the thresher sharks. The boys on the end of the pier have been hooking up with some nice-sized ones although the one they did land was 80 pounds and 8 feet long. The others were bigger at about 200 pounds they say. Landing them was the problem, but they finally got a good gaff rig to successfully do it. It took live mackerel on sliders to attract the sharks. They are beautiful to watch jump. There has been several keeper halibut caught and lots of undersized ones as well. One lobster was caught in the surf area on a dead anchovy, and several legal-sized calicos have been caught all over the pier.

3 Responses

  1. I’m coming out with my family in Dec. I wanted to do some fishing. Can I rent gear at the pier and do I need a license to fish from the pier?

  2. No, there is no rental equipment at the pier. I think though you might be able to rent tackle nearby at Davey’s Locker. As for a license, no, one is not required as long as you are fishing from the pier.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *