Last modified: November 14, 2018

Fishing Piers Southern California

Cabrillo Pier — San Pedro

I did get a chance to visit the Cabrillo Pier. Hashem and I met up in San Pedro where I was scheduled to interview Bill from Paul’s Bait and Tackle (I’m doing an article on what it’s like to own/run a bait and tackle shop). Hashem and I soon headed out to the Cabrillo Pier to do a little fishing before Bill arrived for the interview. Interestingly, we ran into Jennifer Renzillo, the diver from the Sea Doc Society who is doing their line recycle project. She and two other divers were cleaning the pilings of line/hooks/lures before installing line recycle bins. We had talked several times on the phone, and I had even invited her to an UPSAC meeting which she missed due to illness, but we had never actually met. Now unexpectedly we run into each other out on the pier. It’s a small world! As for the fishing, there were quite a few black perch, white perch, and giant kelpfish that weren’t so giant. Hashem also managed a diamond turbot but we didn’t see any halibut.

Bill’s son with his sand bass

Bill’s son managed a sand bass. We did make sure to cast away from the pilings while the divers were doing their thing. It just wouldn’t have looked too good for an UPSAC official to hook one of Jennifer’s companions. As for myself, it was quite a bit of fishing considering I started at 8PM on Sunday night and stopped at noon Wednesday but with my new sleep machine I wasn’t even tired (although the body is sore as well as sunburned). The worst part was the drive home yesterday. The air conditioner in my truck quit working and even with the widows wide open the Valley heat was pretty intense.

Date: August 28, 2007; To: Pier Fishing In California Message Board; From: lollich; Subject:  Cabrillo Pier

We got to Cabrillo at 5:15 a.m. We also brought our new fishing partner. I caught two tiny baitfish that we threw back. Then I switched to my Bonito setup and had a 20″-30″ Barracuda on the line, but it got off. Mom caught a few baitfish that we used, for nada. Mom used ghost shrimp and caught three nice-sized perch. Then at about 10:15, Mom caught here first keeper bass, which was a 13″ Barred Sand Bass! About 15 minutes later, Attila from PFIC showed up with his fishing pal. Attila caught a short halibut and a few white croaker. At about noon, I start setting up ghost shrimp, when Attila said, “Hey you’ve got one on”. So I ran over, set the hook and start reeling in, and found a giant Calico Bass!!!!! Mom helped bring it up with the net. Then, I measured it at 14.5”! It’s my first keeper bass. My fishing partner went crazy. After that the fishing became slow and Attila left. We left at 2:00 p.m. Daniel

 Daniel and his keeper-size kelp bass

Date: Sep[tember 3, 2007; To: Pier Fishing In California Message Board; From: sheldon; Subject:  Cabrillo Pier Late Cabrillo Pier

Took my son and we got there around 9:00am or so and the parking lot had the most cars we’ve seen in it for the time we’ve been fishing there….only the lsat 2 months or so. The most cars we’ve seen is aboit 20 or so, whereas the lot had about 100 cars that day. We had been fishing there on Fridays to avoid any potential crowds since my son was on summer vacation and it’s also one of my days off. The pier and the jetty had a higher amount of people as well, but spots were available. We usually walked the length of the pier throwing plastics but ended up staying in one spot due to the number of anglers. Talking to the anglers as we walked to our spot revealed the action was slow. It was slow for me till I fished the side of the pier facing the jetty. I hooked a small ‘but pretty quick and would, through the course of the day, catch 8 additional small halibut off that side…..I got two on consecutive casts!! It was neat because the water was shallow enough to be able to see most of the hookups as well as a lot of tailing fish. Nobody prior to my catching the first one was fishing that side of the pier, but soon some anglers moved to that side. I saw two other guys fishing that side nail a small ‘but each. One was on a krock and I think the other was on bait.

I caught everything on a 3″ Big Hammer swimbait on 6-lb line. It was a previously used one that was in my box already threaded on a 1/4 oz leadhead. I’ve definately have gotten my monies worth out of that one and it is still fishable!!! It was a yellowed green colored lure. My son nailed a small ‘but, two sand bass (one was 11 1/2″….so close), a lizard fish, and a queenfish on a 3″ Big Hammer swimbait in the Deep Blue color. We did see a few anglers catch other fish….a bareacuda, small bass, and a few macs here and there, but pretty slow for the most part. It was fun to see so many people even if it limited our fishing area. There was a couple sea lions prowling around the pier and a school of dolphins outside the jetty too. It was great out there with a nice onshore breeze to keep things cool.

By the time we left at 2:00pm the lot was pretty much full and upon exiting the park, saw they had closed the entrance off due to the park having reached capacity. There was a lot of traffic as people were looking for street parking in the neighborhood and a lot of people were still walking in with ice chests ready to enjoy the day on the beach.

Potpourri — Perhaps more than you want to know about the Cabrillo Pier

<*}}}}}}}}}>< Although at first glance the pier would not seem to be too different from most other SoCal piers, the proximity to the breakwater does bring in a larger than normal mix of fish. In delving through the pier surveys conducted by the Fish and Game Department, Cabrillo stands out by having one of the largest mixes of fish. 44 different species were recorded, virtually all the common species as well as a couple uncommon to SoCal piers—copper rockfish and gopher rockfish. Almost every year sees more than 20 species of fish recorded. The list (numerically) — white croaker, shiner perch, jacksmelt, Pacific mackerel, black perch, white seaperch, queenfish, topsmelt, Pacific bonito, walleye surfperch, opaleye, yellowfin croaker, kelp bass, striped seaperch, blacksmith, barred sand bass, California sheephead, pile perch, rubberlip seaperch, sargo, California halibut, jack mackerel, California scorpionfish, halfmoon, Pacific sardine, California corbina, black croaker, cabezon, copper rockfish, shovelnose guitarfish, gray smoothhound shark, senorita, California lizardfish, barred surfperch, spotfun croaker, diamond turbot, spotted sand bass, brown rockfish, gopher rockfish, black and yellow rockfish, white seabass, zebra perch, salema and giant kelpfish.

High tide can be dangerous and people occasionally are trapped on the jetty (that can become very wet and slippery). Some do not escape.

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — I’ve heard reports that the state is going to pump sand onto adjoining beaches. The plan is designed to improve water quality in the area but would probably mean that the ecosystem of the pier would also change. Although the bottom is already primarily sand and mud, it would probably lead to an even shallower environment and possibly lead to the area between the pier and breakwater becoming more of an eelgrass haven. It could help but probably would hurt.

<*}}}}}}}}}>< Although it pales in comparison to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Cabrillo Park contains its own aquarium—the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. It’s smaller and less techy than its cousin but also quite a bit less expensive and a great place to take the children. For more information:

<*}}}}}}}}}>< Even though I have seen relatively few sharks caught at the Cabrillo Pier, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of sharks in these waters. Even so, the numbers are nowhere the same as described in the following quote—which is talking about the year 1860.

“While some men were digging for treasure, others sought fortune in the deep. Spearing sharks…was an exciting industry at this period; sharks running in large numbers along the coast, and in the waters of San Pedro Bay. In May, Orin Smith of Los Angeles, with the aid of his son, in one day caught one hundred and three sharks, from which he took only the livers; these, when boiled, yielding oil which, burned fairly well, even in its crude state. During the next year, shark-hunting near Rattlesnake Island continued moderately remunerative.” Harris Newmark, 1916, Sixty Years in Southern California, 1853-1913

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — As part of the Montrose Settlement it was decided to use part of the money to develop artificial reefs adjacent to some of the piers in the Santa Monica-Long Beach area. One pier that was felt could benefit from such a reef was this pier. However, when tests were done on the mud/sand that fronts the pier it was found to be just a little too soft for the rocks that would have been needed for the reef. Test showed that the rocks would simply sink into the super soft bottom and quickly be covered, a fact that sort of puts a damper on a reef.

kelpangler  (Eugene Kim)

Did You Know? That the pier has a regular summer Pier Fishing Program? Groups of kids or adults can reserve a time to go to the pier and learn the basics of fishing as well as learn about environmentally responsible fishing and fishing regulations. The program has served up to 1,500 people a summer. The program is sponsored by the Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park and the City’s Recreation and Parks Department.

Did You Know? That the beach on the outside of the breakwater is considered one of the best beaches in the area to see grunion when they make their runs. The small, 5- to 7-inch smelt come ashore at night to spawn, usually four nights in a row after a full moon and a new moon, which is every two weeks. You’ve got to be there during the two hours of high tide and though the fish can show up from March through August, the season is closed April and May. They can only be caught by hand and those 16 or over need a license.

Did You Know? That the pier has been seen in at least two TV shows. One day I was watching an episode of Monk when I spotted the  pier (which was supposedly  located in San Francisco). It got me wondering how many other movies or TV shows had used the pier for a setting? The only one I have been able to find is an episode of the TV show Dexter (Episode 8, Season 3) and again the scene is supposed to represent a pier in an other area, this time Miami.

History Note. When one considers the early history of both San Pedro and the Cabrillo Beach area, one is confronted with the tremendous, largely man-made, ecological changes that have taken place. Prior to the construction of the San Pedro Breakwater, the area out near Point Fermin and today’s Cabrillo Beach was an oceanfront area, unprotected and open to the whims of winter storms and changing channels. The area to the north and east was largely estuarine (a result of the Los Angeles River) with sandbars, mudflats and salt marshes.

Regardless of possible danger, Sepulveda’s Landing, one of California’s earliest shipping sites, was located on this point (by 1835). Shortly thereafter, exact date unknown but prior to 1850, the area’s first pier, called Tomlinson’s Wharf, was built here. Spurred along by the beneficial construction in the 1850s of the Los Angeles and San Pedro Railroad, along with regular stagecoach and wagon service, the area became a major port area.

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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