Last modified: December 13, 2018

Fishing Piers Southern California

Cabrillo Mole — Avalon, Catalina Island

Baitfish (Adam Cassidy) and a sheephead

  • Fishing at Night —Fish tend to fall into one of three categories, those primarily active during the day (diurnal), those most active at night (nocturnal), and those most active at twilight—dawn and dusk (crepuscular).

Having said that, the rules are not absolute, a primarily nighttime species may show up during the day and a primarily daytime species may show up at night. As example, opaleye and black seaperch are supposed daytime species but I have caught both at the Mole at night; treefish that are considered a nighttime species are caught frequently during the day at the Mole.


Nevertheless, nighttime action at the Mole is quite different and tends to confirm the difference between the daytime and nighttime species. The overall affect is that nighttime action at the Mole is typically slower than during the day. At the same time, you’ll encounter some species rarely seen during the day and also encounter some larger specimens of species seen during the day.

  • Diurnal Species — The decrease in action at night is primarily due to several resident species being diurnal meaning they are active during the day and sleep at night. Included in this mix of fish are senorita, rock wrasse and sheephead and since both senorita and rock wrasse are constantly attacking bait, you’ll be getting less bites. Some of the fish, especially the senorita, actually bury themselves in sand at night with just their heads sticking out. They apparently head to bed about twenty minutes before sunset and reappear, ready to eat (and start attacking bait), about twenty minutes after sunrise. Since I’ve never seen any of them wearing a watch I am not quite sure how they manage this 20-minute routine, but that’s the scene reported by the marine biologists.

Lovely nocturnal view from the Mole by Mahigeer (Hashem Nahid)

     •  Nocturnal Species — As for the species caught at night, most common will be kelp (calico)    bass and the nocturnal hours really seem to see a lot more of the BIG kelp bass. Studies have shown that juvenile kelp bass primarily feed on small organisms during the day and shelter amid vegetation at night. Sub-adults primarily feed on crustaceans living near the bottom during the day and though they may feed at night it’s usually only over sandy areas. Adult bass are more piscivorous in nature feeding on other fish (and just about whatever else they can grab) and are especially active at night; sub-adults are primarily diurnal while adults are more nocturnal.

This good-sized kelp bass hit during the day but more of the big bass hit at night

Nighttime hours also sees quite a few scorpionfish. Although they are considered a nocturnal fish, a few are caught during the day. Nighttime hours though will see far more.

Several species rockfish are noted primarily as nocturnal, nighttime species. Included here are several that rarely show up during the day—kelp rockfish, olive rockfish and brown rockfish. Although not considered a nocturnal species, the only grass rockfish I have caught or seen at the Mole was during the night. Treefish are considered to be primarily nocturnal but some are also caught during the day.


Treefish are easily recognized by their yellow color, stripes and pink lips. A nickname is lipstick fish.


Another species rarely encountered during the day but frequently common at night are salema, a big-eyed fish seemingly made for nighttime action. Since the salema travel in schools, when you catch one you will almost always catch more.


Moray eel are another mainly nighttime fish albeit we’ve seen several caught during the day. At night they leave their caves and crevices in search of food and you never know when one might grab your bait.

Moray eel

Both sharks and rays are noted nocturnal species and nighttime action may include a few sharays. However, the number here usually is fairly low with the most common—horn sharks, swell sharks and bat rays, making only occasional appearances.

Horn shark caught at night by Burger

  • Crepuscular Species —The primary crepuscular (dawn and dusk) species is probably Pacific bonito. They are famous for making a run right at daybreak and then again as the sun is setting. They are not at the Mole every year but when present the locals know to hit the Mole early and late.

A second crepuscular species is Pacific mackerel—with a difference. When present, and again it is not every month or even every year, they are noted for morning and late afternoon “mac attacks” when they seem to hit anything thrown in the water. The difference with bonito is that you rarely see a bonito caught at night. Mackerel though will often hang around after sunset and attack non-stop for several hours.

Mahigeer (Hashem Nahid) and a Pacific mackerel

  • Crustaceans —There was a time when the Mole was the best places along the coast for pier rats to hoop net for spiny lobsters (far better than any mainland pier). Locals would be out at the Mole during lobster season and anglers would make the trip over from the mainland just for the lobsters. Then the Marine Life Protection Act came along! After many, many tumultuous meetings it was decided that the Mole would remain open for anglers to catch fish. But, it would be closed to lobster. For a couple of years the boundary lines were set incorrectly and locals continued to seek out the spiny lobster but eventually the lines were fixed. Today, it’s illegal to target or keep lobsters at the Mole. You can still hoop for lobsters at the Green Pleasure Pier.

Mahigeer (Hashem Nahid) measuring a lobster

Mahigeer: Too small, adios amigo — and adios amigo to hoopin’ on the Mole.

When it was possible to hoop at the Mole you could fish a little, hoop a little, fish a little, hoop a little … and bring home a nice variety for the Mrs. Those days are gone! However, no one told the lobsters. It is fairly common to see a lobster or two pulled up on a fishing line during the day at the Mole and it’s very common at night. But remember—lobsters are illegal at the Mole; it’s as simple as that.

You occasionally may also see a large spider crab aka sheep crab grab a bait (although they are much more common at the Green Pleasure Pier) but they too are illegal at the Mole.

 Potpourri — Perhaps More Than You May Want To Know About The Cabrillo Mole

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — Can it get get cold in this earthly paradise? Yep! Two long PFIC Message Board posts and versions of the same trip with slightly different perspectives!

Date: March 11, 2010; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Mahigeer; Subject: An Epic Fishing Marathon at Catalina With The Skipper

Skipper Jones was going to be in Los Angeles for the Fred Hall Show on Saturday and Sunday, so I suggested he join me for one more marathon fishing/hooping at Catalina. This was my last opportunity to go one more time before March 17th, when the lobster season for the law-obeying anglers came to an end. It was accepted. I loaded and did all of the packing before and after the sessions of the FHS.

Come Monday morning we made one stop at the Paul’s Bait and Tackle in San Pedro for some ghost shrimp and then we were at the terminal by 7:30 a.m., carts loaded and waiting for the ticket office to open. Due to a dredging operation at the Long Beach terminal, we had to go from and come back to the San Pedro Terminal. It was OK, since I had not seen that place yet.

Upon arriving at the island around 10:00 am, Skipper noticed that the big floating dock in front of the Green Pleasure Pier was gone along with the bunch of ropes. There was lots of fishing space and no one fishing.

The Green Pleasure Pier minus the float that’s installed at the end during the summer season

We saw three other fishermen at the pier the whole time we were there and each maybe fished for ½ hr. or so. Talk about elbow room at the railing! We had decided to fish the GPP first and then setup camp, if you will, at the Mole for hooping and fishing later.

I put one net in the water to see if there are any day-crawling lobsters at that pier. There were none. Due to lack of space, I didn’t take my opaleye (20-foot-telescopic) setup and tackle. However, after seeing the huge opaleye swimming around, I setup a float rig and started with moss as bait. No takers. Then I switched to frozen peas. The fish would come to the bait and just turn around. Very frustrating. Then I started to modify the rig. First I switched to a Fluorocarbon leader, three times the length of the previous leader. Then I moved the spilt shot sinkers higher, so the bait would move more freely.

The first cast after rework produced a fat opaleye. Minutes later there was another one. Then the bite died on opaleye. They are very finicky fish. We did catch a lot of Spanish mackerel though. We released all. We should have kept them for lobster bait. I thought the large bonito from the previous trip would be sufficient bait but it was not. More on that later.

Around 4:00 p.m., we packed and moved to the Mole. I did not want to spend another trip living on submarine sandwiches but the Skipper somehow found out the Buffalo Nickel Restaurant delivers pizza. Hot pizza at the Mole sounded great and they had a two large meat lover’s special on sale. They only deliver after 5:00 pm. so when the time came we got the pizza and enjoyed freshly made hot pizza.

I was casting two different rigs for bonito: a torpedo sinker/bucktail and a cast-a-bubble and rubber band lure. The torpedo got a good hit and a hookup. Fish on! I did a give and take with the fish and suddenly it’s off. I am reasonably sure that it was the seal that was hanging around. A short time later, the #20 P-Line CXX leader, comes back in chewed. That was the only hook up with a possible bonito of the trip.

As the sun was going down, I set up my nets while Skipper was cutting the previously mentioned bonito for bait. The first hour or so it was no bugs. This was not good. Not even short ones. Last time out I had two legal bugs and one short one in a net about 20 min. after the net went into the water.

Eventually the short ones came up. Then a legal, then short, then legal in the mix throughout the night. Interesting enough, the worst the sea got the bigger the bugs became. One last pull before the sunrise, and there was a legal one.

I stayed awake and only took catnaps from time to time between pulls. Skipper got some sleep (I will let him post about his adventure), and around 2:00 a.m., he woke up. He was very cold, so I sat him next to my heater. The hot soup was ready for consumption and it tasted great. Later we shared hot coffee at our “Hobo” camp.

He later decided to go after eel, but the wind started to pick up and it was not bearable beyond the protection of the building we were using as a wind block.

Around 4 am, the Harbor Patrol came and raised the second red warning flag. I kept on pulling nets all night long till sunrise at which time I washed the nets and we put away the nets and packed the “Hobo” camp.

One Response

  1. Mole is closed until december, unfortunately.

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