Last modified: January 19, 2024

Fishing Piers Southern California

Bayside Park Pier — Chula Vista

Public Pier — No Fishing License Required

Sometimes things stick in your mind. Hopefully for a pier it is the memory of a great day or a memorable fish. Not so with this pier. Instead, it concerns a couple of events that took place one day while I was hoppin’ from pier to pier. I had started at the Ferry Landing Pier, gone to the Imperial Beach Pier, and was now planning on visiting this pier. But first I stopped for a pre-pier meal at a local hamburger joint.

Soon after, two less than memorable events happened that unfortunately have remained in my memory all these years. I was finishing my meal when a gentleman (?), who appeared to be in his early to mid-30s, sat down a couple of tables away. He proceeded to eat his lunch and then, in a cavalier manner, took out his teeth, his false teeth, and began to clean them with a napkin. I will give him this, he was meticulous. And, I guess if you’re not going to floss this would certainly work. But it wasn’t the most enjoyable vision if you know what I mean.

Then, as I left, I noticed that a car had parked next to my truck, parked about six inches away from the side of my truck. Nothing so unusual there except that there were about thirty parking spaces and these two vehicles were the only ones in the parking lot. Some reason why the driver couldn’t have parked in another spot? Duh! Unfortunately I didn’t realize till later that there was a small dent on the passenger side door of my truck. People!

Looking toward San Diego

Environment. This pier, located near the Chula Vista Marina, is small and rarely receives the pressure from crowds that other area piers experience. The reason, as is generally the case when there is little angling pressure, is that fishing here is often fairly slow. The pier is located near the south end of San Diego Bay in an industrial area that at one time offered little sport; today it attempts to accommodate recreational needs as well as business needs, and it does an admirable job. To be honest, the park receives the main thrust of use by visitors but the pier itself is a regular destination by locals of all ages.

The pier, often called the J Street Pier by local anglers, sits at the entrance to the Chula Vista Marina and with its solid, concrete wall under the pier provides protection for the boats and slips in the marina. It reminds me very much of the Spud Point Marina in Bodega Bay.

Anglers are offered three areas to fish: the inner waters that sit between the pier and the boat slips, the end of the pier that fronts the channel into the marina, and the outer wall of the pier. The latter is where most anglers fish although many of the locals like to fish in the channel at the end of the pier.

The outer wall

Most of the water is fairly shallow and the bottom here is mud and sand. The most common catch are species that prefer this environment. Expect the typical bay species—white croaker, queenfish, topsmelt, jacksmelt, diamond turbot, perch, halibut, guitarfish, bat rays, round stingray, smoothhound sharks and a few leopard sharks. Needlefish are a common sight and will often molest the baits but few are caught. Bonefish are a regular catch for those using the right bait. Pelagic species, including mackerel and bonito, may make an appearance so anglers should come with a variety of baits.

A black croaker taken from the inside waters of the pier in October 2021 on bloodworms.

The inside waters of the pier, between the boat slips and the pier is shallower and offers up a mud and eelgrass covered bottom that is a little tougher to fish. Although fewer people fish this area some do try for bass, bay bass (spotted bay bass), sand bass and various croakers.

The channel at the end of the pier seems to see a little more water flow and often seems the place to fish for larger sharks and rays. Unfortunately the pier is not open at night, the best time to catch the sharays.

Spotted Bay Bass caught by Ray619 in January 2024 on a Wham Minnow fished near the eel grass.

Fishing Tips. For best results use bloodworms or ghost shrimp on the bottom for turbot, blackperch, white seaperch, pileperch, barred sand bass, bay bass (spotted sand bass), yellowfin croaker, spotfin croaker and black croaker (China croaker). Use a high/low leader and size 6 or 4 baitholder hooks if using worms, size 4 or 2 Kahle hooks if using ghost shrimp. Ghost shrimp is undoubtedly the best bait if you’re trying to catch a bonefish.

For halibut, use live anchovies or small smelt on a Carolina rigging if you can net or snag some live bait. Use frozen or salted anchovies if live bait is unavailable. If using live bait you may also be able to hook onto one of the shortfin corvina that hang out in this area.

For sharks and rays, squid or cut mackerel with a Carolina-type rigging seem to works best. If you wish to try for large guitarfish or bat rays, remember to use a heavier line and have a way to bring them onto the deck. However, it is possible here to walk larger fish down to the end of the pier and bring them onto the rocks that edge the park (although you may be crossing a lot of lines along the way). Unfortunately, since the pier closes at night, the best time to fish for the rays and sharks is lost.

Since it isn’t usually too crowded, artificial lures can also be tried here (especially in the inner waters). Best bets would be soft plastic lures such as Scampi, Scroungers, Fish Traps, etc., or grub-like lures. Freshen the lures with a small strip of squid or cover the lure with a gel or spray attractant (and some new grubs come impregnated with scents already in them). I’m also told (see the E-Mail messages below) that Krocodiles work well at times.

On one visit I observed a group of large striped mullet (Mugil cephalus), most in excess of three feet in length, were swimming back and forth around the pier. No one on the pier, myself included, tried to catch them. Since then I have seen mullet fishermen catch mullet at the mouth of the San Diego River using large-hook snag-lines and multi-hook leaders baited with dough balls. I don’t know if the dough balls would work here but it would be interesting to find out.

<*}}}}}}}}}><  This pier offers up one of the best places for a “pier rat” to catch a bonefish. Fish survey studies done by the Fish and Game (now Wildlife) personnel show bonefish as a common catch at this pier. It is the only California pier that shows bonefish as a regular catch.

<*}}}}}}}}}>< The pier was the site of one of the earliest forays by United Pier and Shore Anglers of California into the world of kid’s fishing derbies. Since then UPSAC has been involved in dozens of such kid’s fishing tournaments but none at this pier.

Young Anglers Fishing Tournament

Chula Vista— More than 50 youngsters, most with their families, spent yesterday at the Chula Vista Bayside Park Pier for the International Game Fish Association’s Young Anglers Fishing Tournament.

A lot of people talk about getting America’s youth more involved in the outdoors, but this fishing day came courtesy of a group of individuals who are putting their time, money and energy into doing just that. It was the third successful tournament—second this summer—sponsored by the IGFA, the San Diego Sportfishing Council and the Unified Port of San Diego…

Fishing was slow, but kids won prizes for their catches (all released) and took home more good stuff from the raffle.

LeJuan Mayfield, 15, won his age division and the overall tournament with a couple of bass and a stingray. Mayfield won an IGFA certificate, a Maxima hat, a West Marine bag filled with goodies, a Zebco rod and reel set and a half-day trip for two on the Fisherman III out of H&M Landing. Mayfield’s name will be etched on the tournament’s perpetual trophy, a wood carving of a giant hook by hardwood sculptor David Wirth of Temecula. The trophy will be displayed at the nearby Chula Vista Yacht Club, which provided lunch for the kids.

Other age-group winners won hats, IGFA certificates and gift certificates from Target or Wal-Mart. They included: Conner Logan, 3 years old, who won an orange Capt. Nemo cap; Wesley Runyan, 6; Tanner Engen, 7; Joseph Busalacchi, 8; Samantha Pineda, 9; Sabrina O’Neal, 10; Erin Williams, 11; Gavin Fillmore, 12; Colin Masters, 13; Anita Byra, 14.

Schoolteacher Sherrie Jancasz, who has a fishing club at Arroyo Vista Elementary in Chula Vista called “The Astonishing Anglers of Arroyo Vista,” received a special award—a hat that says “Captain”—for her dedication to young fishermen.

Other volunteers at the event included Catherine Miller of the San Diego Sportfishing Council and Tom Withers; Jack Innis, Michael Campbell and Bill Fusselman of the IGFA; Commodore Linda Whipple, social chairman Pat Upton and power fleet captain Donna Sorensen, with her husband Al, all of the Chula Vista Yacht Club; Garth Hansen, Rod Mina, Rich and Tammy Reano and Rebecca and Adam Cassidy, all of the United Pier and Shore Anglers of California.

—Ed Zieralski, Outdoors, San Diego Union-Tribune, August 29, 2004

<*}}}}}}}}}>< An interesting place to visit, especially if you have kids with you, is the nearby Living Coast Discovery Center. It has interesting displays on both the local fish and other wildlife in the area. For more information:

The Pier Rats Speak

Date: March 27, 1999; To: Ken Jones; From: Norm D; Subject: Bayshore Shore Pier—Chula Vista

So you need a reporter for Bay Shore Pier; here I am. Last week the smelt were running during the day…a few way-undersized Halibut. But at night…if you’re into sharks, I was able to catch a guitarfish…not a bad size either. But seem to be pestered by bat rays…. fun to catch… but I personally don’t have a need for them. Did seem to hook one good-size halibut… but it was a line cutter… bummer. Saw quite a few guys in boats (in the bay) drifting for halibut. Some of the nights have been nice and calm… some of the days have been pretty windy. Going to try my luck this weekend. Will write and let you know. By the way… THANKS for the having your cool web site. It really helps a lot as to know where the fish are biting. Norm — Chula Vista

Norm, Thanks for the information and you’re now the reporter for the pier. By the way, how do you fish the pier at night? I thought they closed the park at night? Best wishes, Ken

 Ken, We park down by the marina and walk to the pier they only bother you if your parked inside the park. Norm

Date: April 25, 1999; To: Ken Jones; From: Norm D; Subject: J St Pier – Chula Vista

 Was out for a while and saw a few needlefish and sand sharks caught but saw something a little different by the rocks —bonito jumping out of the water chasing bait fish around. Quite a few of them made things look a little promising for the future.

Date: January 2, 2002; To: Ken Jones; From: Basfishing; Subject: Bayshore Park Pier

I went fishing on this pier a couple of days before Christmas. We didn’t catch many fish. I caught a nice-sized bass, and my brother a bunch of smelts. But we were staying at the RV Park right at the pier. So we were able to fish anytime we wanted. Even after the parked closed. We went out there every night at like 8 and stayed till 11 or 12. I don’t know what you would consider good fishing, but I think we had pretty good fishing. Mostly for rays and sharks. We used dead anchovies either on the bottom or a little off. We were fishing at the end of the pier. The left side seemed best. Casting straight out from the end. Not to the sides. My brother caught about a 3-foot shark, and a very little baby. He also caught a baby stingray. My brother Chris only went out for two nights and he caught a nice-sized bat ray (maybe 15-20 pounds). I caught about a 10-pound bat ray and the first night I caught what must have been a nice 30-40 pound bat ray. It took off running for about 100 yards or so and jumped. I don’t know if rays can jump but this one did something of that sort. And it took about 10 minutes to bring him in. We couldn’t get him up because he was too big, and we didn’t have anything to bring him up with. Also my brother who was using 20-pound test used a jacksmelt that he caught as bait. He didn’t get any bites while it was alive so when it was dead, we cut open the stomach to let it bleed a little. That’s when he got one bite. The fish slowly took the bait and his Ugly Stik slowly bent. He tried to pick the pole up off the rail, but he couldn’t. It was too heavy. My brother isn’t a small person, either, he’s pretty big. But he couldn’t lift it up, and the line finally snapped. I don’t know if you would call if good fishing, but it was really fun. If you go there at night, have at least 20-pound test and loosen your drag. I think the only reason that we were able to fish is because we didn’t have to park in the lot, because we were in the RV park, and they said if you don’t make too much noise, no one is going to bother you. You should try it out sometime if you already haven’t. Thanks for the tips in your book also. Very helpful.

Date: August 28, 2004; To: PFIC Message Board; From: fishingrod; Subject: Bayside Park Pier

The kid’s fishing contest was a success and UPSAC was well represented by Rich, Tammy, Adam, Rebecca, Garth and his daughter Elise. We set up all of the tackle, prepared the bait and helped out with the scoring. Not a lot of fish were caught but there were a variety of fish around including yellowfin croaker, leopard sharks, round stingrays, smelt, bass and a controversial mis-ID of a croaker which was scored as a corbina by an IGFA official (go figure). Everyone had a great time and our help was much need and appreciated. Thanks for all of those who showed up and contributed their time to help out the kids.

Posted by corbinaman1

Nice to help the kids learn fishingsurprising that a Yellowfin Croaker was misidentified as a Corbina by an IGFA official! Sounds like a fun day with some fun catches.

Posted by garth

The IGFA guys are mostly big-fish boat guys. Most of the people I was talking with had…difficulties…tying a hi/lo rig! I did a lot of untangling, knot tying, bait cutting and casting instruction, as did the other fellas from UPSAC/PFIC.

Posted by garth

It was weird, after getting lost, driving around for a while, finding it, and getting into the flow of helping out, it was pretty much like a normal day at the pier, as in helping all the kids. I normally do that anyways, so it was cool. Elise had a good time, even though Rod put a little pressure on her, saying “My money’s on you!” They gave out prizes by age group, and Elise, being in the 11 year old group, had a good shot, but could only come up with a smallish stingray. Lots of those guys came up. Elise wasted some time targeting what Rich figured was a mullet cruising the shore. We also spotted what might have been a corvina? It looked like a longish croaker, but had a forked tail. Rich thought it was a bonefish, based on my description.

I gotta hand it to the IFGA, the Yacht Club, and everyone else who organized it, that was some good stuff gathered together. Though next time they should back off and let UPSAC ID the fish! That’s what we do, ya know. They had some truly good hot dogs (rare!) and some nice prizes for the raffle and age-group winners. Elise won a Maxima hat in the raffle, she was very pleased with that.

Bayside Park Pier extends out into the harbor across an inlet to a spot where a bunch of boats are moored, and has a big concrete wall on one side to keep any wave action away from the boats. The other side is open. It’s about 150′ long or so and you can cover most of the area, all the way to the other side, off of it. There is some eel grass around it, but not too bad. The pier is a little hard to cast off of because the railings are set back from the edge of the pier, leaving some concrete to negotiate on one side, and big wooden beams on the boat side. There was tons of bait in the water (and one Baitfish on the pier). I asked Elise why she didn’t Sabiki up some smelt, and she said “I thought it would be cheating, because no one else knew how to do it…” She’s sweet. Well, all in all, I’d definitely do it again. I’m thinking we should get something together like this up in Oceanside. That’s a big ol’ pier. Hmmmm…

Date: September 3, 2003; To: PFIC Message Board; From: SDBrian; Subject: Bayside Park Pier

Fished from 11am till 4pm. Rigs using were Hi/Low with a squid strips and 1/2 ‘chovies. On the slider I was using mussels. Not much action going on. I caught one YFC on the ‘chovie, and a small ray on the squid. But one of my friends caught a mullet on a half ‘chovie. I have never seen that. I have only seen people catch mullet by sagging them. Weird.

Date: October 21, 2013; To: Ken Jones; From: mav; Subject: Tips on fishing Chula Vista Marina (J Street) Pier

 I feel bad that you didn’t get anything there the last time… That pier is the closest to me so I do a lot of “fun” fishing there.. For a pier it’s rather high on the difficulty level to fish but when you know what’s there, structure wise, it improves your odds…

I usually fish plastics on this pier but if you have ghost shrimp you have a small chance at catching bone fish… With ghost shrimp, you want to fish the shallow sand flats facing west from the time frame from early morning till after noon.. During the fternoon it gets WAY too windy to fish… It’s next to impossible to feel any bites..

The two artificial lures that I fish on this pier are plastics and a chrome 5/8 krocodile… I try to fish on an incoming or outgoing high tide. I only use the Krocodile in late spring when there are still a lot of baitfish in the water… For plastics, I use mainly motor oil or white grubs and swim baits resembling smelt or lizardfish… First spot facing east… You want to throw your bait behind that last boat closest to shore… There’s a steep drop off there where predators like to hang out… I’ve caught Spotted Bay Bass, Halibut, and Corvina behind there… That’s the honey hole.. Next you want to continue to walk up a little and throw parallel to the pier close to the ladder on the west side (along the wall)… I’ve CnRd some nice sized spotties there. When you reach the ladder cast out west in a fan pattern because there are rocks out there where spotties hold. Then switch sides and cast out east in a fan pattern behind the boats and work your way up to the last boat.. I usually get fish (spotties/ short halibut) next to the last boat… Next you can fish the main channel at the end.. I’ve heard of large halibut taken there with live bait but I’ve never caught anything, not even once… Again, work your way down on the west side casting parallel to the pier again… Again, large spotties here… Finally, when you get back to the sand flats on the west side near shore, throw a white grub or kroc… I’ve CnRd corvina on these flats and it’s worth a try… That’s my Chula Vista pier routine but it can vary a little.. During years when there are a lot of eel grass on the west side in low light conditions, you can “burn” a swim bait over the grass and get hit by medium small spotties… Mostly short but still fun…

History Note. The name Chula Vista comes from chula, a Mexican word meaning ‘pretty’ or ‘attractive,’ and the Spanish word for ‘view.’ The town was laid out and named by the San Diego Land and Town Company in 1888.

The six-acre Bayside Park itself was dedicated on November 19, 1982. An expansion adding three additional acres of parkland and beach was completed in 1987.

Bayside Park Pier Facts

 Hours: The park is open from 6:30 A.M. till 10:30 P.M.

Facilities: The park features picnic areas, game tables, open space for play and biking and walking paths. Restrooms are near the entrance to the pier. Free parking is adjacent in the landscaped park parking lot. The Chula Vista RV Park is east of the park behind the fence that surrounds the park.

Handicapped Facilities: Handicapped parking (2 marked stalls) and restrooms. The pier surface is cement, the rail height is 43 inches and it is posted for handicapped.

 Location: X33.654959222951774 N. Latitude, 118.004150390625 W. Longitude

 How To Get There: From I-5 take the J Street off ramp and go west. Take J Street to Tidelands Ave., turn right. Take Tidelands to Sandpiper Way, turn right. Take Sandpiper to Bayside Parkway, turn left and follow the road to the park.

Management: City of Chula Vista.


7 Responses

  1. I Fish the J Street Pier often usually catch multiple small spotted Bay Bass with most between 8 and 10 inches long its pretty rare to catch a bass of legal size here today i caught a 31 inch Halibut on top water at dead low tide

  2. I got 23 bass the other day on artificials easy… can be great at times, also can be horrible. Fished there today and was the only one on the whole pier who got anything.. little 10 inch bass.

  3. The pier is not open due to the corona virus shutdown. There is no way to know when it will reopen.

  4. I remember fishing there with my NAVY brother Mike please good times.. great place for fishing and yes they have lobsters and oysters right there off that pier

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