Last modified: October 20, 2021

Fishing Piers Southern California

Balboa Pier

Date: April 25, 2007; To: PFIC Message Board; From: dompfa ben ; Subject: My favorite of all time (pier-related!)

…took place on Balboa pier when I was in High School. A fellow in a wheelchair was pushing himself along down the pier, a gas-can in his lap. After stopping at several fishing groups along the rail, he finally covered to distance to my location, and began his tale of woe.

Apparently, his van was out of gas over in the parking lot at the base of the pier, and his wife and kids were in there. None of them had eaten since yesterday, and he needed a little money for gas and food.

Maybe it was the wheelchair, maybe it was the possibility that there MIGHT actually be hungry kids over there. Somehow, he piqued my compassion, and I pulled out the three bucks I had crumpled up in my pocket (change from a Super Big Gulp, I imagine…)

Somehow in the transfer, the money left my grasp before it reached his, and with the early afternoon breeze, the half-crumpled bills started blowing towards the opposite side of the pier.

Immediately, the man jumped up from his wheelchair, sprinted towards the rolling ball of money, and stomped it into the pier surface with a well-placed foot. Leaning down like the otherwise healthy fellow he was, he lifted the few bucks, and quickly squirreled it away in the gas can! Replacing the cap on the red plastic container, he returned to his seat in the wheelchair, finished his sweep around Ruby’s (no one seemed to want to give him much after his miraculous episode of temporary walking faculties), and wheeled down towards the base of the pier.

I would have been angry if it had not been so funny. Still, I couldn’t help but feel a little taken, and perhaps, a little wiser. And no, he didn’t turn into the parking lot.

Date: April 18, 2008; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Snookie; Subject: Big Skate—More Balboa Pier Keepers  

 Yesterday Randy caught a 29-inch halibut about mid-way out. It was so fat and nice. It looked like the same size I lost last week in the surf when it jumped out of the net after it was well netted. We did discover an interesting way of filleting the halibut at ease. I am left handed and he is right handed so I filleted the part that is meant for left handers, and he filleted the parts meant for right handers. That works very well. Yes, he shared some fillets lucky for us. He caught that halibut on a shinerperch. We were able to get bait all day, but the other halibut we caught were small. The big thing of the day was a fish called a BIG SKATE. We had never seen one. This one was about 6 feet across and very spotted. It had an extremely pointed nose like most skates. A fellow on the end had hooked him in the wing. That fish was beautiful. Other than that we saw a lot of mackerel. Snookie

Date: January 6, 2010; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Snookie; Subject: Black Seabass at Balboa Pier  

Saturday a big Black Seabass was caught on the end of the pier. My friends at Ruby’s couldn’t wait to see me when I arrived on Tuesday, to tell me the story. I don’t know what the fellow used for bait, but the fish liked it. He had quite a tug from the weight of it, but he got it to the surface. Someone tried to gaff it with a grappling hook, but couldn’t lift it. Of course that is very illegal because of it being a black seabass and they are illegal to land. A boater came along and helped get the fish to the shore area. By that time enough people had gathered that someone in the crowd knew about black seabass being illegal to keep and apparently called someone of authority to let the person know that he’d better release that fish. Well the person with the fish recognized that he was going to have a problem with keeping this fish so he did release it and with help it swam back to deep water. As to the size of this fish, they say it was over 5 feet long with a large gerth. Would love to see a picture of it. With all those people around surely someone got a picture.

Posted by Moonbeam: Think you’re gonna wish you hadn’t seen this.

Fisherman at Balboa Pier hooks beast from the deep

A reader sent me this photo of a behemoth fish someone caught off Balboa Pier on Sunday. If anyone knows the details, I’d love to hear the story… Here’s what reader Kathleen Jackson, who took the picture, had to say about it: “The fish was about 5-6 feet long weighting about 150 lb. I was told it was a Black Sea Bass (something you don’t see very often). The guy in the picture kneeling is the one who caught. He said he fought with it for about 30 mins. Once it hit the surface no one could bring it up, so the crowd flagged down a passing speed boat and they towed it to shore.”

—Brianna Bailey, All Things Newport Beach, Daily Pilot, January 5, 2010

Eventually the angler was prosecuted by the California Department of Fish and Game.

Date: August 11, 2015; To: Ken Jones; From: Snookie; Subject: Halibut & Yellowtail

Thought I would tell you about Sunday and Tuesday fishing. Sunday on my last bait I caught a halibut at least 30 pounds. Because I didn’t have my usual netters with me I had to rely on some guys on the pier. Although I knew them they were not good netters. In hindsight I should have given them the pole and I should have netted the fish. Oh well, she was so beautiful!!!. I had complete control of her until one of them touched the tip of my rod. Why? Who knows? By the way, my brother caught the big halibut today, but he had his hook and leader break. We did get to see her though. Today, Tuesday, I caught a 15 pound yellowtail in the surf area on a sardine. He had almost spooled me when I saw what was happening. I got him back to the tee and he went into the surf where we could see him very well. That is where I lost him. Both fish were on my small rod and reel. I am going to take the bigger ones Thursday. Didn’t I tell you with all those Spanish jacks that we could have yellowtail this year. I just didn’t expect them to be that big. Needless to say I am having a great time!!!

Date: September 1, 2015; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Snookie; Subject: Yellowtail off Balboa Pier

 Today we caught some yellowtail. Mine was about 5 pounds. My brother’s yellowtail was about 10 pounds. There were about 3 other yellowtail off the end. We were in the surf. We had some other strikes too, but they didn’t stay on. We were using live sardines and Spanish jacks. It was fun!

Date: September 4, 2015; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Snookie; Subject: Striped Bass at Balboa Pier Today

 Randy got a beautiful striped Bass this morning on a sardine. It probably weighed about 6 pounds. I caught about a 35-inch barrie, but as Randy was netting him he came unhooked. I did get a nice yellowfin croaker, but I was already having fresh striped bass for supper thanks to Randy’s generosity. Both of us had a strike on every bait. We caught so many halibut, even if they were undersized, that we lost track of how many we did catch. No one was fishing with us in the surf area. We had it all to ourselves. What a day!! Yesterday on the other side of the tee a man and son caught a nice bonefish. Hadn’t seen one here since 1983. Caught it on a dead anchovy. It’s beginning to sound like a potential El Nino for sure now.

Date: November 7, 2017; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Snookie; Subject: Influx of small bat rays

In the surf area there was an influx of small bat rays that probably exceeded hundreds of them on both sides of the pier. Since I have spent my whole life down there, I have never seen anything like it before. This week we have had a young whale with unusual markings and a medium size turtle in the surf. What is next?

Date: October 12, 2018; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Sbookie; Subject: Bonito Run to Beat All Previous runs at Balboa Pier Yesterday

 Yesterday it was fantastic! There were bonito from the end to the surf all day! All were big. They all ran from 5 to 10 pounds. Some of them had to be netted if the line was to light to lift them. There were six of us doing the majority of the catching and retrieving so we had three people also doing the netting and the getting of more lures when needed. It was chaos a lot of the time, but oh so much fun. I hadn’t seen this in almost 40 years. Today there were only a few big ones caught, and the wind picked up to about 17 knots. Tomorrow it is supposed to rain and have thunderstorms. We”ll see.

Posted by Angler 67

No Doubt Snookie, I just came out on a whim yesterday and that size & quantity of fish I haven’t seen since my teens (1980’s) LOL my hands are all cut up hand lining up (sometimes with sea lions attached). Those brutes… Can’t believe the stark turnaround today.

Posted by Rusty

I was there too! But not expecting anything like what we saw, those huge boneheads attacking jigs like they did, its been a long time since I’ve seen a bite like this on the pier. Amazing to see these giants landed, they fight like crazy! I landed 1 out of 8 hookups, lost 3 to sea lions, pulled hook on the rest, my Kroc was way too small! But plenty happy! The previous Sunday I was out there and the ones I was catching were a lot of smaller, 2-3 lb. Planning to go out there tomorrow, hopefully they are still Around.

Potpourri — Possibly more than you may want to know about the Balboa Pier

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — Fish counts done at the pier by the California Department of Fish and Game from 2004 to 2009 showed that just like the counts at the nearby Newport Pier, Pacific mackerel dominated the catch. Here the species count was 19 with the leading fish being Pacific mackerel with 1467 fish. Pacific sardine came in second at 397 fish while 193 Pacific bonito were counted. All three leading species are pelagic in nature, often traveling in large schools, and species that, when present, will typically see large numbers of fish caught. Pacific mackerel were available all five years while the bonito only showed in 2004 and the sardines only in 2004 and 2005. They were followed (numerically) by jacksmelt, walleye surfperch, white croaker, topsmelt, shiner perch, jack mackerel, queenfish, barred surfperch, California lizardfish, yellowfin croaker, northern anchovy, white seaperch, spotfin croaker, California corbina, barred sand bass and sargo

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — Cass, a friend of Snookies, caught a 10-pound, 29-inch striped bass off this pier in 1991. It was the first striped bass reported caught on an Orange County pier even though stripers have been planted in Newport Bay since the late 1960s. Snookie says the bass was caught on a live smelt. “I was standing beside him when that fish hit. It was a beautiful sight to see it jumping. I netted the fish, measured him, photographed them and sold the article and picture to California Angler when they were still in business,” said Snookie. Several striped bass were recorded from Orange County piers in 1998, the year when the normally elusive linesides invaded southern California waters.

<*}}}}}}}}}>< Whenever the big Humboldt squid make an appearance, and the word gets around, there is a crowded, chaotic atmosphere at the pier. Squid jigs will be a flyin’ and people hoppin’ out of the way of the splattering ink that’s spewed by the gnarly creatures as they are brought over the railings. In May of 2007 Ben (dompfa ben) and his brother Bryan visited the pier and experienced just such an event. Shortly after, on May 29, they posted a report on their visit together with pictures. On May 31, Ben posted a follow-up, tongue-in-cheek story on the collapse of the pier due to the number of fishermen. The story became an immediate “Classic” on the PFIC board. The only problem was that it alarmed some readers who thought the story was real. It reminded me of the uproar over the infamous “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast by Orson Welles back in 1938 (on a much, much smaller scale).

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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