Last modified: October 26, 2018

Central California Fishing Piers

Cayucos Pier

Stats: ~20 white croaker (mackerel tipped Sabiki, even some 12”ers!!) — 1 bullhead — 1 sanddab — 4 swell sharks (up to 30” on mackerel) — 2 thornbacks (mackerel) — 1 (small) Big? skate (squid head) — All fish released.

Most fish came between 8pm and 9:30pm. Fishy baits work best. Weather was cold and windy upon arrival but calmed at dark like it’s supposed to and was a nice evening after that. Moon was full, sky was clear. High tide was about 9:30pm and was almost a +7!!! Great Cayucos tides and a classic Cayucos Summer evening (well would have been with a dog shark or two).

Shovelnose shark (guitarfish)

Date: April 22, 2006; To: PFIC Message Board; From: calpolypierrat; Subject: Cayucos is actually pretty hot right now….

To start this story, let me give you some background. On Tues. night of this last week, my friends and I went out to Cayucos to do some fishing since we hadn’t been there in a while. There were a bunch of people fishing there and within 5 minutes of us fishing, we caught two small spiny dogfish. The rest of the night was fun and we caught about 15 small dogfish between us. A gentleman at the end actually caught about a 4-foot shark that we helped land. It was fun so we decided to go back last night… and wow. We got there around 8pm and the night started of with my roommate catching the biggest thornback I have ever seen. That’s not that impressive, but it was an indication of the night to come. An hour later or so, my pole almost goes flying off the end of the pier. A 15 minute battle later, and with the help of those on the pier, I landed a 50-60-lb bat ray! That is my first successful landing of one. I was using 65-lb spectra that I had just bought that day. Boy was I glad I did. An hour or so after that, my roommates pole literally flies off the end of the pier, and we see in make its way into the ocean blue with something on the end of it. I made 3 desperate attempts to snag his line or pole with my rig, and on the third time, I got it. I fought his fish for about 5 minutes with my rig on his pole. Eventually we got a pier gaff and snagged his rod in the water once it was close enough, and then he finished off the battle for 15 minutes longer. With the help of some fellow Cal Poly students (thanks guys if you read this) we landed a 56-inch guitarfish! Now this is the first one I have seen alive and it was a monster. I didn’t think that they got any further north than Pismo either. Anyway, it weighed almost just as much as the bat ray. Not wanting to end the night yet, we stayed till 3am and about an hour or two before we actually left, I caught what I came to catch, my first shark of any significant size. The dogfish tipped the tape at just over 37 inches and was a decent fight. So, for all of you wondering what is going on at Cayucos, here is just a taste. All I can say is get out there and chance it…we did and boy did it pay off!!

Stats: two ten foot poles: one with 65-lb spectra and the other with store spooled 20-lb test. — squid and whole sardines for bait — wire leader and 6/0 circles — 50-60lb bat ray with 3-ft. wingspan  — 56-inch shovelnose — 37.5-inch spiny dogfish — 5 thornbacks

Date: June 23, 2006; To: PFIC Message Board; From: pierkahiki; Subject: Re: Morro Bay/Cayucos Action??

My girlfriend and I fished at Cayucos pier last Saturday night from sunset to about 11:00 pm. Using hi-lo leaders with 1/0 circle hooks baited with chunks of mackerel or squid we caught 1 bullhead, 2 thornback rays, and 1 swell shark. Mackerel was the hot bait and we left the sharks and rays biting when we ran out of mackerel.

The swell shark was a very interesting creature–I’ve never seen one of them before. One of the other fishers on the pier offered to impale it on a pier gaff but I declined. He seemed offended and said “well you’re not releasing that alive!”. I told him I was and he protested saying that the shark will emit a poison in the water preventing anyone from catching fish the rest of the night. I told him that wasn’t true and he seemed shocked. I honestly couldn’t tell whether he believed his story or whether he was just really disappointed that I didn’t plan to kill the shark. Everything was carefully released.

Date: January 6, 2007; To: PFIC Message Board; From: eventhorizon; Subject: Heck of a night at Cayucos Pier

 I caught off the end of the pier between 8 and 10 pm with mackerel on a steel hi/low rig—1 legal sized halibut (barely); 1 40 inch leopard shark; 1 (I believe) 58 inch, 82 pound pacific sharpnose shark; the last was a great fight (where is my aspirin) that began with a 150 yard run and ended with two twists around the pile at the end. All were released to be caught again; 1 month ago my son brought in his first shark. it was a broad nosed seven gill at 58 inches long ( my son is 53 inches tall); this one was eaten.

Date: July 3, 2007; To: PFIC Message Board; From: jmobfishen; Subject: Re: Fish of the Day—Swell Shark

Funny you mentioned our little puffy friends. I fished Cayucos Sunday night while in town for my wife’s high school reunion. We fished from 6pm to midnight. Lots of macs and smelt around…even a few lizardfish…1st time I have ever seen lizzies that far north. However the water is very warm. Some of the warmest water I have ever felt on the central coast. Anyway back to our puffy friends. I caught one about 9pm it was about 3 feet long. I have caught lots of these little guys at Cayucos Pier while fishing for larger sharks over the years. As for the rest of the night we landed 2 Spiny dog sharks and a small skate along with countless smelt mackerel bullheads and the occasional lizardfish. The dogfish were both a little over 4 feet…both were brought up in the crab net and then released via the same method unharmed and back to happy spawning. One was male and was kind enough to let me know he was ready to spawn….LOL

Date: July 15, 2007; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Gip of Paso; Subject: Cayucos is slammin’

Went to Cayucos after work yesterday, macs were rippin’ most were around 14” range, but some were absolutely huge, we weighed the largest that my friend caught and it was three and a half lbs. Then at about nine o’clock the dogfish swarmed the bait. Largest spiny we brought to the deck was four feet nine inches. The sharks kept everyone busy, not one angler at a time but three to four people were hooking up. Last night was great, and it wasn’t stopping, when we left at midnight people were still hookin’ up.

Posted by Danthefisherman

57” huh? Looks like them sharks are getting bigger. Biggest I’ve seen so far was 45”. Its been going off with the macks and dogsharks for about a month. I’ve pulled a couple of all nighters and the bite usually starts once the sun sets, and ends at about 12-1am, but sometimes the school will come through again at 2 for a few more hookups. After that it’s dead. I haven’t been on a weekend so I cant speak for the crowds, but weekdays have been PACKED. Get there after dark and you wont get a spot anywhere near the end (not that it matter b/c you will catch sharks off the side too). It sure is nice to have the pier going off though huh? Hopefully these dogs will finish up their business and some new species will move in.

Posted by Gip of Paso

Started at 6:30 ended at 12:00. We fished by the second light on the south side. Wind was blowing to the north. People were thick. Go catch one of the big dogs like we were getting, and the doubting will stop. I’ve fished this area since the seventies and have never seen anything like the bite that was going on. Go get the biggies, they’re here.

Posted by Danthefisherman

Believe me I know! I had a double hook-up myself. ALMOST landed two simultaneously…almost. Each day they get a little bigger…been going on for about a month with the action really picking up this past week. It appears that most the sharks are about ready give birth soon. That and the future tides say it will only last another week, maybe two. Then maybe we can catch something new. I like the sharks and all, but they don’t fight too well, and seem to “control” the area (can’t catch another species if you tried while they are here). WTG on the 4’8” shark…definitely a big ‘un. Here’s 15 minutes for 4 anglers Thursday night (there were many more anglers, and many more sharks caught…this was 2am and the final “run” for the night)… Here’s my biggest…15lbs 11oz. Setup was an Ugly stick striper paired with an abu5500c3 and 12lb mono (fun but still not much of a challenge).

Date: February 5, 2010; To: PFIC Message Board; From: FishermanDan; Subject: Picture of Spider Crab

The [spider crab] pic doesn’t do it Justice. I think it weighed in at like 7-8lbs!!! (look how big the back two legs are in his grasp) Could be mistaken on the weight though, it was a long time ago. I do remember however that all night this crab was pestering everyone at the right corner Cayucos pier! It was actually snagged 3 times in total. First 2 times it popped off at the surface and while being pulled out of the water. The crab would scamper back out to his “area,” and continue to steal everyone’s bait. At first, we all thought there was a school of fish out there, turned out to be this super aggressive beast of a crab. The third time, I managed to get a net underneath the crab as the angler pictured pulled in the crab, which ate his hook.

 Potpourri — Possibly more than you want to know about the Cayucos Pier

<*}}}}}}}}}>< Limited fish surveys done by the Department of Fish and Game between 20054 and 2009 give a glimpse into the fish at the pier (numerically) — walleye surfperch, calico surfperch, jacksmelt, silver surfperch, barred surfperch, white croaker, rubberlip seaperch, thornback ray, white seaperch, spiny dogfish and swell shark. If surveys had been done at night the numbers of sharks and rays would be much higher.

<*}}}}}}}}}>< For years I would get fish reports for my monthly PFIC reports from Glenda who owned the Tidepool that was located near the front of the pier in Cayucos. Of course when I was in town I would stop in to see her.  Alas the day came when she said she was selling her store. She was getting married and moving to my home state of Indiana (what a contrast). As a parting gift she donated a ton of prizes that we were able to give away to the kids at out UPSAC Kids Fishing Derbies. She’s missed but life goes on (and we keep in touch on Facebook).


<*}}}}}}}}}><   Cayucos Beach, adjacent to the pier, is the northernmost beach in California with grunion runs. If you’re staying in the area during the appropriate times (nighttime high tides which occur during the spring and summer, and which follow the first three to four nights after the full and the dark of the moon), go down to the beach and see if you can catch some of the elusive smelt with your hands. And no, they really are not the ocean equivalent of snipe, they’re just little sex-crazed fish that have a thing for the beach.

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — For years a local sight was Snowflake, a harbor seal that seemed to have adopted the pier (or at least the water around the pier) as his residence. He was a popular attraction for tourists and truth be told most anglers also looked forward to Snowflake sticking his speckled head up above the water as though checking out the action on the pier.

Of course he wasn’t always welcome (for example, when he infrequently decided to steal a fish from an angler’s line). When the anglers decided they had enough of Snowflake for the day they would shake a yellow towel at him. That was the signal for him to leave the area. Sounds like a story that an expatriate from Pittsburgh might have invented—you know, all those Pittsburgh Steeler fans waving their yellow “terrible towels.” But I haven’t seen Snowflake in my last few trips to the pier. Hope he simply found a new love and vacated the premises for some better digs.

<*}}}}}}}}}>< Almost all piers see fish from time to time that are uncommon or even rare. Such was the case with the catch of a poacher, probably a warty poacher, in 2007.

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — One of my favorite visits to the pier was a less than stellar (fish wise) visit in July of 2008. Having heard that the pier was yielding up sardines for bait, and numerous sharks (dogfish) for sport, I made an early morning visit to the pier. Unfortunately, for me, most of the shark action was occurring during the nocturnal, midnight to three hours, and I would fail to catch a shark on this visit. But there had been action as evidenced by the odor at the end of the pier: an effluvium connoting death. Dried blood from the previous night’s shark fest splotched the surface of the pier while blood, guts, and squid slime coated the top of the rails.

To make matters even worse, I failed in my mission to replenish my bait cooler with sardines. The sardines were there, but 300-400 yards out from the pier. That was where several pods of dolphin, hundreds of cormorants, and several phalanx of pelicans were attacking shoals of unseen fish. Most impressive were the pelicans that were doing their dive bomb routines almost straight down into the water after their prey. Each splash of the big birds would elicit comment from the tourists watching nature’s show and it was indeed a pretty impressive display. Numerous seals were also in attendance but the dolphins and pterodactyl-imitating pelicans stole the show. The spectacle lasted for the nearly three hour time I was there and became one of those just wish moments… as in just wish I had a movie camera with me.

3 Responses

  1. I see these are some older posts good tips but how is the fishing now for perch and Halibuts 

    1. Can’t really say since we no longer have a reporter for that pier.

  2. Was at Cayucos, pier yestetday fishing, caught the smallest bull head in my life. Bunch of jack smelt. Nothing big or interesting.

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