Last modified: October 13, 2018

Fishing Piers Southern California

Balboa Pier

March 1999 — Our reporter, Snookie, filed two reports this month. On the 23rd, she reported that the fishing was “the best since the first of the year. The live bait (smelt) has returned en mass. There are all sizes as well. They were very near shore. All that was caught though was a 20 1/2 inch halibut by Noble, but at least there’s now a chance with the good bait. To have the bait return certainly lifts the spirit and the possibility of catching something. We were graced with the presence of a bat ray that was well over a hundred pounds. He was in about three feet of water just paralleling the shore. What a beautiful sight! A couple weeks ago one fellow caught a bucket of small yellowfin croaker using mussels… We have been getting the small yellowfin croakers too, plus some nice big barred surfperch. Those were hitting the bloodworms. We are seeing lots of corbina in the surf, but we are not having any luck catching them. The ‘snaggers’ caught some when the water was clear enough to see them. We are still watching the whales coming north now. We had a small pod of common dolphins through today with one very small baby. That was very interesting as they stayed around long enough for us to observe the baby. The mackerel fishermen have not been doing well on the end. This will improve soon. I hope by next month I’ll have an interesting report for everyone. March can be an exciting month. With the water the coldest in at least five years we’ll see what happens.” Very interesting was Snookie’s second report where she said, “Here’s one for the books. Thursday, February 18, I caught a bonefish at the Balboa Pier. I was fishing the surf area with bloodworms when I caught him. He is definitely a bonefish (Albula vulpes)… I have the fish in my freezer. None of my fishing friends ever remember a bonefish being caught locally. According to the books they only grow to one and a half feet here.” It was the first bonefish I (KJ) have heard of from the pier and the first she has caught after fishing the pier for 55 years

April 1999 — Our reporter, Snookie, says, “things are beginning to pick up a little—finally. Our bait situation is sometimes iffy, but most of the time we are getting some smelt. My group is spending our time in the surf area because of the grunion being there. Naturally the halibut come to where the good food is. We are getting some undersized halibut fairly regularly but not in any quantity. On the 18th I caught two keepers that were seen by all. Each one won its freedom. One shook the hook loose, and the other shot out of the water and up the pier and around a piling before I could catch up with him. That did let us know that the halibut are here and almost ready to be ours. Our biggest thrill that day was because of the clear water we saw a ‘barndoor’ halibut swim out from under the pier. She must have weighed around thirty or more pounds. She was in about two feet of water just paralleling the shore. We all have plans for her even if she did thumb her nose at us. We know they are territorial, and that she lives here. I and one other person in my group have each hooked her in the last year or two. There are lots of corbina in the surf in the spawning mode but not the biting mode. One morning when I was getting my bait there was a Pacific cutlassfish swimming just under them. I was helping him catch his breakfast. They are a beautiful fish to watch, especially if the sun is shining on them. The weather is still giving us some problems. None of us are crazy about fishing in the winter rains. Apparently the mackerel fishermen aren’t either. They are not doing well with the mackerel as yet.”

August 1999 — Our reporter Snookie, says “up until this week, we had warmer water which was helping the fishing. The small queenfish arrived and the halibut loved it. Of my group I was the only one to catch a keeper (26 inches). Ken, the one you caught while visiting us on the 29th was 27 inches. Another fellow caught a 29-inch halibut last week, and his friend caught a 26-incher July 5th. The smelt for bait have been sporadic. At least when they weren’t here, we could catch queenfish. Today a few sardines showed up. We have also been using walleye perch and shiner perch and deep bodied anchovies. The oddball fish was my 4-pound giant sea bass on a live queenfish. I also caught a 48-inch shovelnose guitarfish. The interesting fish being caught are the sargo with some size to them. Also some beautiful big barred surf perch and corbina. All of these were on mussels and sand crabs. Of course we are catching lots and lots of small halibut up to 21 inches As of Sunday, we have a red tide condition. We had the warm water then it dropped almost 10 degrees. That certainly will contribute to red tide conditions. At least it is still mild. We also lost a piling (shore corner from the sink). No one knows what happened, but it is obvious it was literally ripped out. It had to have been a boat.”

June 2000 — Snookie reports, “We are still having trouble getting this season started. The halibut are there when you can get live bait. The live bait is being elusive most of the time this month, but if you work real hard up by the telephone, it is possible to get some. Don’t throw back the very large ones because the BIG halibut will try for them. I know as I had the use of some 10-inch smelt under the pier close to the surf, and both were hit quite hard. It was a lazy fish, and she didn’t finish her meal. I pulled up shredded smelt. I have had some undersized halibut though. The surfperch, especially walleyes (that are very tasty), are now available. The baits for them are mussel, ghost shrimp, and bloodworms. The yellowfin are there too with the same menu. So far even though the corbina are around and easy to spot, they are not cooperating. I am seeing some baby leopard sharks being caught on the surf rigs, and the large leopards have made their appearances in the surf. Did you know that those 5-foot leopards chase and probably eat corbina? Interesting to watch. This past week we had numerous jellyfish come by in all sizes. Sounds as though we are going to have cold water for a while longer, which by the way is staying around 57 to 59 degrees. Yes, we are still seeing a few Grey whales heading north. The mackerel catching still seems to be on the slow side, but I am not there at night to see if it is better then.”

Date: June 21, 2000; To: Pier Fishing in California Message Board; From: Ken Jones; Subject: Fish Report

I fished Balboa most of Tuesday morning and afternoon. Bright and early tried out at the end; nothing but jacksmelt were around. Didn’t see a single mackerel, or other fish for that matter. Joined Snookie and her charming group about 9:30 and had a delightful time listening to stories and the wisdom accumulated by a group of true experts over many, many years. Also managed to catch five halibut and one queenfish using the small smelt that Snookie provided. Saw one small blacksmith perch, an unusual crab, and a sickly barracuda (dark colored and estimated by myself at 4-5 pounds) that was hanging around the surf area until someone finally snagged it. After looking at the fish, the angler decided to return it to the water where it continued to patrol the shallow water for the next several hours. Thanks again to Snookie and the “gang” at Balboa for a great day.

October 2000 — Snookie reports “it has been a good month at the pier with quite a few keeper halibut caught. The bonito have been showing quite regularly although they are on the small side. I have seen some beautiful sargo near the surf being caught on fresh mussels. I myself have two keeper halibut this month. I released a 20-inch white seabass last week. Have also caught several calicos (kelp bass) near the surf all of which were legals. I did release the calicos. They were not on my menu for that night. Have also caught several shovelnose guitarfish with good size to them. Have seen some very small ones as well. There have been some bigger fish on the surface a few evenings for those that fish the surface on the end. For some reason they were lost bringing them in, but those fishermen who had them are some of the better fishermen, and they said they were on the large size for whatever they were. A few days this month have been very hot at the pier to the point of almost not being bearable. Other times have been much better than inland. For the surface fishing it has been important to have a southeast breeze or wind blowing. We have also had some “big” water conditions from the storms off Baja. That does not help the halibut fishing, but the other fish don’t mind. As of the last two days the yellowfin tuna and the Dorado have been only 3 miles out. Could this be a year they would dare to wander close to our piers? There is certainly a large amount of bait around the pier, and as of yesterday there are sardines as well as little Spanish Jacks.

 March 2001 — Snookie reports “The few times I have been fishing I used bloodworms—fresh and old. I am beginning to catch more barred surfperch with some nice sizes to them. There are birds close to shore diving for bait including the pelicans, but the water is so murky that I can’t see the bait. I am not getting any live bait either. The end of the pier is on again/off again. Nothing is cooperating, especially the weather. With the cold water (down to 52 and 53) we should see the salmon come in. Of course the season does NOT start until April 14th. That will be a Saturday. With March coming up this week we should soon see a good change in our fishing. Now if the weather will allow us to fish. A week ago after a strong wind/storm we had an episode of lots of shells appearing on the beach. They must have covered an area 10 or more feet wide as far up and down the beach as one could see. There were all sizes including some Pismo’s, sand dollars, and scallops, etc. It was spectacular. However, with good things come bad things. The tiny midges came with the empty shells. We have never had a bug infestation like that, that I can remember. They were there the next time I went down too. That was a time a wind was a welcome happening. It blew them away for a while. We found out—THEY BITE!”

September 2001 — Snookie reports “Well, I am back to fishing the pier again. I feel like I have come home. This month has been good for the mackerel fishermen although it is an off and on thing, but that’s the way fishing is. There has been some quite large mackerel in amongst the medium ones. The halibut are there en masse, but they are undersized. For fun they are great though. What little fighters they are. One of my friends, Noble, caught a 26-inch halibut this month in the middle of the pier on a smelt. Another friend, Randy caught a silver salmon about 12 pounds, but he knew better than to land it. He also caught a green jack about 14 inches long. They are not common to the pier, but we occasionally see one. There has been lots of bait, but it has not been easy to catch. They won’t take the snag-line easily, but they have been nettable. There have been afternoons that the sardines have come in thick. Those were easy to catch on the snag-lines. There are also some queenfish of all sizes plus some very small mackerel. Those have all been good baits for those little halibut. I know that there was another large shovelnose caught, but I have not seen any other rays, although my friend Randy had a large ray on last week. He just tightened the line too snap it because it was heading out to sea and he was being too lazy to complete the process of bringing it to the pier. The snaggers have been there regularly and catching some fish. The days have been great on the pier plus the water has been very cooperative with no strong currents. There are still a few jellyfish passing by. This is the time of the year fishing improves.”

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.

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