Last modified: October 20, 2021

Fishing Piers Southern California

Balboa Pier

January 2014 — Our reporter Snookie says, “We have been getting quite a few jacksmelt for the past few weeks. I have been eating them and do enjoy them. They are so mild, and easy to clean. I fillet them. They are good smoked as well. We have had some good sardines for bait, but nothing really wants to eat them other than crabs. Well, after all it is winter, and we really can’t expect too much. There are some thornbacks around. The water has been crystal clear for several weeks now. Makes it interesting to watch the bottom for future reference as to snag areas. This week we watched several blue whales spout and show their backs. They were out a ways, but it was a very calm day water wise and wind wise, so we could see those extremely high spouts at a distance and the sun shining on their backs.  Friday we had a large mola mola come into the pier by the pilings and stay about an hour.  It was about 10 feet long and probably about 500 pounds. That was the biggest one we have ever seen. With the water as clear as it was it made viewing the mola mola very interesting. Our water is staying at 60 degrees which it normal for this time of year. There are lots of tourists from everywhere coming out on the pier.  It is fun to hear their comments.  They thought the mola mola was a manta ray… Oh, by the way, you may not have known him personally, but we lost an important person in the fish world last week. It was Art Mello.  He had the bait boats for years here, such as the Mona Lisa, Mello Boy, Mello 2, and several others.  He delivered bait to Newport Pier when I fished it and before.  I know his son, Sam, from Dana Harbor.  I attended the funeral yesterday at Pacific View.  On his casket there were fish at each corner of the casket. I now plan to have four halibut on mine. (no hurry!)  How about you?” [KJ — Hmm?]

 September 2014 — Our reporter Snookie says, “Interesting past two weeks. Had big water last week and lots of big water this week. The white sea bass liked it although they were far from big enough.  Saw a couple of BIG halibut following the small halibut that were caught. We now know there are some biggies there when they are ready to bite. There have been quite a few bonito in the mornings early. They have been decent sizes. Also, there are a lot of mackerel too all day. The bait situation is great with small mackerel, Spanish jacks, and smelt of all sizes. Unfortunately the lizardfish have been quite prevalent with an appetite for all the baitfish. A couple of very large white sea bass were seen in the surf last week. These were 60 pounders. Oh, that would be quite the excitement to get one of those. We had to fish out towards the end of the pier because of the big waves. At least they weren’t as big as a few years ago when they broke over the pier in the surf area. That ocean gets out of control at times.

November 2014 — Our reporter Snookie says, “It’s been a better month. We have had more bait than we can use. The bait consists of smelt of all sizes, sardines, Spanish jacks, Pacific mackerel and grunion.  A 10-inch grunion got a 39-inch white sea bass in the surf last week. We have been catching lots of undersized halibut with a 24-1/2 inch halibut in the surf on a smelt. There are lots of bonito around after the bait. They are not hard to catch even all the way into the surf. They are getting bigger too. Someone caught a very small yellowtail as well. Of course the mackerel are there too. We are having a good time now.  It would be nice if the bonito fishermen would follow the DFG rules and only keep the legal five bonito instead of a bucket full.”

 July 2015 — Our reporter Snookie says, “This month is better, but we are still looking for a big halibut. The small bonito were around a lot off and on. A lot of people don’t pay attention to the law that says you can only keep five of those small ones. I did get one on my snag-line yesterday. I took him home for my supper. The small Spanish mackerel are around which is a good sign for yellowtail if the Spanish mackerel stay another month. Right now the white sea bass and halibut love them and there are lots of them. I’ve seen quite a few nice spotfin croakers snagged in the surf, and some corbina too.

September 2015 — Our reporter Snookie says, “This month at the pier has been quite interesting. I told you about my 30 pound halibut that was lost in netting it. Two days later my brother had her on briefly, so she is still there. That day I caught a 15-pound yellowtail in the surf in that 72-degree water. His teeth cut the line in the little waves he got into. Lucky him! We have had bonito en masse off and on for several weeks now, but Tuesday and Wednesday this week they were everywhere from the end to the edge of the surf. Needless to say I did enjoy one meal Tuesday night of fresh bonito. Wednesday we had an 8 ½-foot hammerhead shark show up in the surf. One of my friends yelled to the lifeguard that he might want to keep an eye on it, but the lifeguard thought he was just being friendly and ignored him. Then the swimmers saw the shark and hightailed it out of the water. They told the lifeguard about it and he promptly closed the beach. We used to have quite a few hammerheads around years ago, but we just haven’t seen any for a while. They usually came in small schools, so that shark probably had a few friends with him. So far they have never attacked anyone at Balboa. There has been a few threshers seen off the end, but no one has managed to catch one yet. The bait has been excellent. We have had many sardines, Spanish jacks, smelt of all sizes, a few grunion and small macks. Thursday the bonito disappeared. They knew to get out of there before they became a meal for that shark. Last Tuesday we had a humpback whale about a half-mile out that breached three times before it went for its deep dive. That was exciting.”

November 2015 — Our reporter Snookie says, “It has been a great month. We have had lots of yellowtail and bonito in the surf area as well as around the pier. We are using small grunion, and that is what they want. The yellowtail are smaller lately, but some are decent size. There was a beautiful 7-pound striped bass caught last week. There are lots of small halibut, shovelnose guitarfish, butterfly rays, thornbacks and stingrays. Out farther there were five turtles seen, two of which were caught and released. The biggest was a 6-footer, which we think because of its head size that it was a loggerhead. There are still lots of humpback whales around. Guess there is a lot for them to eat. The bait situation is fantastic everywhere. I have been going down everyday for the morning hours. Yes, we are eating a lot of good fish. Keep El Nino coming!”

 January 2016 — Our reporter Snookie says, “Fishing has slowed again now that the water has cooled. It is 60 degrees now and the water is crystal clear. The only fish lately have been small mackerel on the end of pier and nice-sized jacksmelt in the surf area. The jacksmelt are there just off and on, but they are easy to see since the water is so clear. Bait is a problem, but we have gotten some. That is when Gulp comes in handy. Yesterday we observed an 8 to 9-foot great white shark about 10 feet from shore on the west side of the pier. What a beauty!!  We also have sene a few humpbacks out about a mile. They love to jump and show their pectorals. One gray went by last week heading south.

 June 2016 — Our reporter Snookie says, “It is slowly getting better, but very slowly. Bait has been our big problem.  Now its is coming, but it is 2-inch smelt and anchovies. You have to use at least two of them at a time.  As of last week we are beginning to get a few herring  (queenfish), but so far no takers. The mackerel are still going strong farther out. The red crabs are swimming about everyday now with lots on the beach. It was quiet yesterday for the fishermen on the pier as the shark attack in Corana Del Mar kept all the swimmers out of the water from Crystal Cove to Balboa Pier.”

 July 2016 — Our reporter Snookie says, “It is finally beginning to pick up.  We have had big water for over a week now, but we are making do even in the surf area. We have been catching lots of nice yellowfin croaker, kelp bass, and halibut although the bass and the halibut are small. We have been using extremely small live baits such as anchovies and smelt. Once in a while we get a queenfish some of which are big, and some are very small. Randy got a 22-inch white sea bass today on a regular-sized smelt.  My kelp bass was only 13-1/2 inches. Getting close. We have been eating a lot of yellowfin croaker this week. There are lots of small mackerel. The big story this week is that the bonito have returned. They aren’t big, but they are bigger than some of the mackerel. Yesterday there was a mola mola right under us. He was close to 500 pounds. He was at least 6 feet long.

August 2016 — Our reporter Snookie says, “It is getting more interesting at the pier lately. We are getting lots of good bait. There are smelt of all sizes, Spanish jacks, little mackerel, some queenfish, and an occasional grunion. There were thousands of sardines one day, and joining them was a 10- foot salmon shark in the surf area. He has teeth like the great white, so the lifeguards closed the beaches for a while. Those people in the water weren’t sardines, so he [the shark] wasn’t really interested. There was a yellowtail caught in the surf a few days ago that was decent-sized. Maybe we’ll have them again this year. There were several bonito caught off the end on snag-line outfits. Those bonito were about 2 pounders.  I got two halibut last week an hour apart. One was 22-1/2 inches and the other was 29-inches. Both were caught on smelt. Delicious!! Haven’t seen any other keepers since, but they are there.

October 2016 — Our reporter Snookie says “the water is cooler than last year at this time. It is running about 66 to 69 degrees. I think the fish want it warmer. We do have a lot of bait all around the pier, which includes smelt, sardines, Spanish Jacks, anchovies (pinheads). We have had a lot of bonito this month. Some have been nice-sized, but right now they tend to be smaller. There are lots of mackerel as well. The halibut have been very small, but easy to catch in the surf. Out about midway there have been some thresher sharks, which are always fun to catch. One day about a week ago the bonito came in fast and furious. We were fishing the middle tee. All you had to do was put bait in the water and the bonito were there instantly. They are more selective at the moment. Yesterday I caught a 14-inch Spanish jack on my snag-line. He went home for supper with me.

November 2016 — Our reporter Snookie says, “Fishing has not been great at all.  We still have lots of bait. There are lots of very small halibut in the surf area on small baits. I did catch a 21-inch halibut, and some smaller but good sizes. Then there was the hand-size ones which I caught a lot of. There were three stripers caught within 24 hours. One was caught on a blue and silver Krocodile lure. Another was snagged, and the third one was caught on a plastic. They were all about the same size from 29 to 30 inches. The bonito are still around, but there aren’t as many. Of course there are mackerel, sometimes into the surf. The jacksmelt have shown up now in the surf area. The snaggers are getting mullet, but they aren’t big.

Special Recommendation. This pier, like the Newport Pier, was targeted for closing unless anglers did a better job keeping the pier clean. Today it is posted as a “Litter Free Zone” and signs indicate a $500 fine for discarding refuse onto or from the pier. PLEASE help the local anglers keep the pier clean by doing the same yourself!

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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