Last modified: November 14, 2018

Fishing Piers Southern California

Cabrillo Pier — San Pedro

A pileperch caught by Mahigeer (Hashem Nahid)

Another option is to drop your bait down around the pilings. You will be often rewarded with buttermouth perch (blackperch), white seaperch, sand bass, kelp bass, or sculpin (scorpionfish). On one visit while trying for perch I could hardly keep small, baby sculpin off my hooks.

Blackperch aka buttermouth perch

A final option is to cast toward the breakwater rocks using size 6 or 4 hooks, and fresh mussels, bloodworms or ghost shrimp for bait. Rock frequenting species such as opaleye, buttermouth perch (blackperch), Catalina blue perch (halfmoon), sculpin, calico bass (kelp bass), sand bass, and even an infrequent sheephead will sometimes reward an angler with a hit. Anglers fishing winter months will often see quite a few cabezon in this area. If you are a competent caster and can cast without losing your tackle in the rocks, you might want to try a lure. Try Scampi-type lures for bass; try motor oil-colored grubs for perch.

Lures and — lizardfish?

When the bonito make an appearance the standard rigging is a splasher rig—Cast-A-Bubbles with feathers, especially green and yellow feathers. However, MegaBaits, Krocodiles, and Yo-Zuris are alternative lures that can also produce. Bait of course is the other option and a lively sardine or smelt fished under a float can also produce the boneheads. 

Diamond turbot caught by Mahigeer

The Pier Rats Speak

Date: March 20, 1999; To: Pier Fishing In California Message Board; From: Steve Rothman; Subject: Cabrillo Pier

I fished Cabrillo Pier in the morning on Saturday, March 20, in a light rain, later clearing. There were 10 – 20 anglers, but one guy was catching most of the fish (not me). He was using 1-inch chunks of thawed, previously frozen anchovy. He would cut off the head, then take the next inch chunk and use it, cutting off and discarding the tail section. He hooked a size 4 hook through it twice. He had a high / low leader with a light sinker, and also one snag line with multiple hooks, also with anchovy chunks. He had 5-6 fish that looked to me like white croaker, but maybe it was one of the less toxic close relatives, because he was keeping them alive in a wire basket lowered into the water, probably with the intention of eating them. He also caught a couple of mackerel. All the fish were caught off the bottom, straight down from the side of the pier.

I fished with mussels and couldn’t get a bite, so I guess anchovy is the way to go at that pier, or at least was today.Incidentally, I had not been to the pier in a couple of years, and it is fixed up quite a bit. They tore down the old boarded up, graffiti covered building that was not currently used for anything anyway and was a real eyesore. They added a sort of roof over one 35 yard section of the pier. On a rainy day like today, you can bet that’s the section all the anglers were at. There are a couple of benches under the roofed section for sitting, tackle boxes, wives, babies or whatever. For some reason, the roof stops about a foot short of the side of the pier, so as you move up to the rail, you get wet. But at least once your lines are in the water, you can step back and stay dry. They also have drilled holes every couple of feet in the rail, so you can stick the butt end of your rod into it as a rod holder. In a few places along the pier, there are sinks with running water.

There’s no bait and tackle shop or rest rooms, but all in all the pier is a lot nicer than it was a couple of years ago. Steve Rothman

Date: May 7, 2000; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Dick;  Subject: Cabrillo Beach Pier

Got to the pier early this morning. As time went by and no fish for me. I noticed the pier was very barren. Typically by 9, it’s elbow to elbow fishing. By this time, I notice one mackerel caught by man on the deeper end of the pier. I stayed to 11 and caught 2 corbina, 1 kingfish, 4 sand bass (under-sized), approx. 30 small smelt, and no halibut. All fish that I caught were released except for my smelt, which I used for bait and later on released.

I saw one guy caught a 12 inch halibut kept it. Another guy caught 4 calicos, all undersized and kept. Another guy caught 2 sand bass, both undersized and kept. I also noticed that a lot of people fished off the breakwater. It must be hot, but I didn’t dare to take a chance of getting knocked off into the water to see what is going on. Tight Lines, Dick

Date: October 26 2007; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Leapin Bass; Subject: Another opah picture

Probably nothing you’ll ever see from a pier but man they are weird fish. I was on my cousin’s boat yesterday out of Morro Bay and on our first jig strike we picked up two opah. I guess they are extremely rare and to get two of them is unheard of. I even had a third one take my plastic but it didn’t stick. If anyone’s interested and you can time it right between the storms the big albacore are in close (12 – 18 miles). We got 4 between 35 and 46 pounds and another boat got a 65 pounder. [Plus picture]

Posted by Dion

(In reply to: Another opah picture posted by Leapin Bass). I saw one of these fish caught off of Cabrillo Beach Pier last year.

Posted by Marty Borboa

The Opah is also known as the “Ocean Sunfish.”  I saw one caught off the Oceanside Pier about 10 years ago. It went around 15 lbs and looks like the back end of the fish got cut off. Marty B.

Posted by The Fishin Magician

Ocean Sunfish… The ocean sunfish is actually a different fish, usually called a mola mola. Here’s a link to some pictures of them: Though they look a bit like the opahs, I don’t think they’re related. Tight lines

Date: December 16, 2002; To: Pier Fishing In California Message Board; From: Ken Jones; Subject: A Short Little Trip to the Southland

Had a couple of appointments in Los Angeles last week and decided to combine business and pleasure by taking off a few days to go fishing. I didn’t expect much due to the time of the year and thus wasn’t disappointed when I caught so little — but I did catch some fish..

Cabrillo Pier: 12/11/02 — “Any fish biting” I asked the angler in the parking lot. “A few mackerel and jacksmelt,” he replied. Sounded about normal since I’ve caught a lot of both from this pier. Well, apparently it was an early morning bite since I saw neither species. There were only about 10 anglers on the pier and none seemed to be getting fish when I arrived. However, I set up shop out at the far end (where the water is a little deeper) and cast out a pile worm. First cast and what shows up but a lizardfish of about a foot in length. Assumed there would be more since they typically occur in fairly large schools but didn’t see another one.

Cast out cut anchovies and ghost shrimp on the heavier outfit, pile worms on the light outfit. Fished for an hour and a half with limited success – the lizardfish, 3 white seaperch and a speckled sanddab. Tried a few plastics and cast some pile worms up against the rocks near the jetty but no hits.

Finally decided to try the shallow end of the pier. Found some fairly steady action on white seaperch in that area using pile worms. Probably could have caught quite a few more if I had wanted to fish a little longer but wanted to try a new pier.

Fished: 10:15 a.m. – 12:45 — Results: — 10 White Seaperch — 1 California Lizardfish — 1 Speckled Sanddab

Date: January 6, 2003; To: Pier Fishing In California Message Board; From: Jonjon; Subject: Cherry Beach or Cabrillo Beach

We go to Cabrillo a lot. Mostly at night. My buddy lives on the same street that the pier is on. We usually catch a lot of white croaker, small rockfish, and even a few small leopard sharks. We use a small glow stick and squid and cast toward the breakwater side of the pier.It’s really shallow and you can almost see the fish hit the bait. Although the croaker catch is pretty good, there are signs everywhere saying not to eat the fish due to contaminants in the water. Good luck, jonjon

Setting up for the UPSAC Cabrillo Pier Derby in 2010

Date: August 1, 2005; To: Pier Fishing In California Message Board; From: dompfa ben; Subject: (In reply to: Anyone hang lights from piers? posted by tackleholic)

A couple of anecdotes. Several years ago, my brothers and I braved Cabrillo pier after dark. If memory serves, we had just been run out of a favorite PV spot by a guy in a helicopter (but that’s another story altogether)…so we were feeling brave.

Upon arrival, we encountered a family that had somehow managed to unscrew one of the light fixtures from the overhead awning, and had pulled about 30 feet of conduit out. They hung the light over the railing, so that it was suspended just a few feet above the surface of the water.

2 Responses

  1. Where can I purchase early morning bait (anchovy’s) is San Pedro to fish off the pier?

  2. Your best bet would be at the “Rusty Hook” — 245 N Gaffey St., San Pedro, CA 90731
    (310) 832-2429

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