Last modified: October 20, 2021

Fishing Piers Southern California

Balboa Pier

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.

October 2009 — Our reporter Snookie says, “This month hasn’t been too bad. Although we haven’t seen a lot of keeper halibut, we have seen a lot of 21 inchers and smaller. They have been healthy looking too. Of course there are lots of mackerel. Bonito have been showing with the catches being on splashers mostly. The bonito haven’t been large just nice-sized. There are a lot of shovelnose guitarfish in the surf area. Most are young ones but fun to catch. Have been some leopard sharks too. The water has been nice and the bait has been great everywhere. There are a lot of jacksmelt around as well. Oh yes, and that dreaded thing the lizardfish is here too. We had a young whale visit us last week. He is quite late going north, but I think he had an injury that may have detained him. His flukes had met up with a prop or a great white. He’s moving now though. The snaggers have been getting a lot of mullet this past week. At least I haven’t seen any corbina caught by them lately. Although there aren’t a lot of people around now, watch your equipment because we have spotted couple young men that are trying to steal our stuff. At least we caught them in the act of trying last week, so we all know what they look like.

 August 2010 — Our reporter Snookie says, “This month is better. Have had some halibut, shovelnose guitarfish, yellowfin croaker, corbina, perch (barred and walleyed), a bonito, some small barries, and of course mackerel…We have gotten good bait most of the month. We even had anchovies one day with a school hanging out around the surf area of the pier. The sardines, smelt, Spanish Jacks and queenfish are showing regularly. You just have to figure out what the favorite is for the fish that day. Have had a variety of jellyfish coming through. The nettle jelly has shown up several times lately. There are about three others that I couldn’t identify except for one. It was the Fried Egg Jellyfish. That is a definite id. Easy! All those were observed near the shore, so be careful those of you in the water.”

October 2011— Our reporter Snookie says “Although this month hasn’t been the greatest the past two days have made up for it.  Humboldt Squid arrived en masse. They were chasing our big bait schools of sardines and little mackerel. Thursday we started getting the squid about mid pier. Just my group was getting them. We did have our squid jigs with us, which made it easier to get them. They started out smaller at about 2 to 2 1/2 feet, and then they got bigger up to about 4 feet. Of course you have to remember those tentacles stretch out quite a ways. Thursday I got four of them in the time I was there. Came back Friday morning about mid-morning and got four more plus I got two small market size squid. Finally the sun came out and that ended the bite plus it got too hot to stay. I did get squirted in the back by the squid caught by the man next to me. What a shock, but it at least didn’t have ink in the squirt. We did get a good laugh out of that happening.  Friday morning the pier was a mess. There was ink everywhere even down to the surf. We need a good rain now. The people needed big bags so all the bags were missing from the trash cans on the pier. The night was of course the best time to catch the squid, and hundreds went to new homes. My friends and I haven’t had that much fun in a long time with “catching.”  Oh, and my calamari dinner was excellent if I do say so.”

June 2012 — Our reporter Snookie says, “It has been awful this month unless you wanted more sardines or mackerel.  I did see a lot of small walleyed perch being caught. Those that are catching them aren’t paying attention to the amounts they can keep. Fish and Game is going to have a blast when they come out to see what everyone is catching and the amounts they are keeping. Sardines and mackerel don’t have a legal amount, but perch do. There are some thornbacks being caught and a very few shovelnose guitarfish. Last week a snagger caught a 28-inch halibut in the surf area. The next day we saw four more big halibut, a big shovelnose, a very large white sea bass and a large school of spotfin croaker all in the surf.  Nothing would take live bait. We have had lots of bait, mainly smelt of all sizes and baby walleyes.  The young queenfish are starting to show up the past few days too. The water is much warmer now at 64 to 66 degrees.  Hopefully soon!”

August 2012 — Our reporter Snookie says, “There were two keeper halibut caught this month. One was 31 inches and the other was 23 inches. The bigger one was caught on a small lizardfish. At least we found out that they do work for live bait. There have been a lot of walleyed perch caught of all sizes, some yellowfin croaker and some undersized white sea bass. The live baits have been sardines, smelt, Spanish jacks, and a very few queenfish. The water temperatures are up to 68 degrees at times. Those that have gotten some sand crabs have caught some nice corbina lately. There have been some big strikes in the surf with live bait such as sardines, but they got away. They probably were big leopard sharks. I saw one bluefin tuna about 35 pounds in the surf area.  He was healthy but lost. Most unusual! Have seen a lot of Salps in the past two weeks. Also close to the biggest Black Sea Nettle jellyfish came by. Don’t need a lot of those. The Salps are fine though.”

September 2012 — Our reporter Snookie says, “I’ve seen a couple keeper halibut caught this month, but the snagger got the biggest, which was about 25 inches. Another snagger has been getting some corbina, mullet, and spotfin croakers. We haven’t been getting much… [KJ — Perhaps due to the snaggers?]

.April 2013 — Our reporter Snookie says, “If you like sardines, it was a great month for them.  There were thousands if not millions of sardines caught. All were down at the surf area.  We are now also getting smelt of all sizes. Some are jacksmelt.  We want the smaller smelt for halibut live bait. Are we getting halibut-NO, but we are still trying. There are some mackerel being caught in with the sardines, but they aren’t big. We are seeing quite a few whales heading north. The sea lions are chasing the bait all day long. The sardines that are being brought in on the snag-lines are being chased by the sea lions. That is a humorous thing to watch. Perhaps it is a good thing we are not getting a decent halibut with those sea lions around. Animal control picked up a baby sea lion resting on the beach last week. Right after she left with the baby, the mother sea lion came up to the shore and was looking for the baby. I think animal control needs to learn more about the habits of these creatures.

August 2013 — Our reporter Snookie says, “Things are better at the pier now. We have been getting lots of halibut although they are undersized. At least they are around and there should be some mothers and grandmothers in amongst them. My fishing buddy and I each have two keepers since the first of the year, and we expect more keepers. The bait is there for them as well. There has been some large yellowfin croakers caught up to 4 pounds. The white sea bass are around, but their sizes aren’t big enough.  There was a 38-1/2 inch one caught in the surf by a snagger. We have seen some larger ones go through. Don’t know how we would land those that looked like 60 pounders. The mackerel are there towards the end of the pier. Saw one small bonito. The snaggers have gotten some corbina off and on. The water has been nice most of the time with 68 to 70 degree water.

November 2013 — Our reporter Snookie says, “Part of the time this month was okay, and part of the time it was awful.  We had lots of smelt of all sizes most of the time, but the fish just didn’t want to eat. I did get 4 halibut and 2 another day, but no keepers. There were thornbacks, stingrays, and yellowfin croakers.  Of coarse there were mackerel that were small and we did have a few small bonito.  There was an 18-pound spotfin croaker caught in the surf area. Yes! I said 18 pounds!” [KJ — We are checking on how the fish was weighed and have asked for a picture since the state record fish was only 14 pounds.]

4 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.

  3. […] Piers are one of the most romantic spots on earth! If you don't believe me, tag along on a visit to Balboa Pier on almost any summer night. By 10 P.M., darkness has enveloped the pier. But while most fishermen have returned home, life continues on the pier. via […]

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