Last modified: November 26, 2018

Fishing Piers Southern California

Crystal Pier — San Diego

Date: January 14, 2003; To: PFIC Message Board; From: trotsky; Subject: Crystal pier (long)

The best pier to fish for halibut during every season would be Crystal Pier (privately owned, fishing pau as soon as sun sets). [Pau means finished or done in Hawaiian—KJ] Try live anchovies if you don’t mind buying bait or live smelt (3-4” is the best size), which you can hook easily using Damashi. Fish a moderately high tide straight between the pilings (egg sinker, barrel swivel, 2’ leader, and preferably an AH hook brought back from Hawai‘i)–the best, I think, is just beyond the last motel units on the pier. The two inside corners of the “T” at the end is another good spot to try. The middle portion—waste time, I think. Leave the egg sinker above the bottom by about 1/2 the length of your leader, which should be 10-15lb test fluorocarbon. You can also try lures but waste time in my opinion.

Spring is also sometimes good for yellowfin croaker (ono—the meat is firm like ahole without many bones—use bloodworm or mussels about 10-20 ft. feet away from pier from the middle to 3/4 out), barred surfperch (inshore to 3/4), walleye surfperch (middle to end) smelt and queenfish (middle to end), the occasional mackerel (3/4 to end), the infrequent calico bass (sneak a big overhand cast straight out from the end—and watch out for huge kelp paddies) and, of course at this pier, large shovelnose. You might consider trying for this last, as the meat in the tail is ono and the fight is better than most fish you can catch from a pier in San Diego. Pretty good fun even by Hawai‘i standards.

Watch out for the lobsters, which may start to return inshore during this time period (we caught couple big ones in April one year, using a net, of course…).

Watch out for the ubiquitous tourist (harmless, but annoying) and surfer (not harmless, and at times very irritating)—if the latter should shoot the pier, do me a favor and drop a big pile palu (smashed mussels, tomato sardines and bread—whatever) on the head.

Another annoying thing about this pier is the amount of opala—limu of various kinds—that sometimes litters the bottom, making it real humbug to fish, especially if the current is pulling strong. [Opala is trash in Hawaiian; Limu is seaweed. KJ]

The other S.D. piers are, I think, a waste of time, that is if you are set on hooking halibut. Crystal Pier can be waste time as well, but get better chance. Good luck, hope you hanapa‘a, Trotsky

Date: July 9, 2003; To: PFIC Message Board; From: SD Fisherman; Subject: Crystal Pier

Fished Crystal from 11-1pm today. Conditions were decent and in the two hours I pulled in a Leopard, Grey Smoothhound, two big Thornbacks, and some Walleyes on the Sabiki. Not exactly what I was looking to catch, but fun anyway. Tried right past the surf line on the south side about halfway out. I know there are YFC and Corbina in that surf line, maybe next time. Didn’t really see anybody else catch anything while I was there.

Oh yeah, forgot about this…While I was fishing a guy came out with a small duffel bag. He pulls a container out (didn’t notice if it was an urn), and dumps ashes? down into the water. I know people do commit loved ones ashes to the sea off piers, and I don’t know if that was the case here, but the ash residue lingered at the top of the water and drifted right into where I was fishing. A little unnerving. Anybody ever have this happen? ~Don aka SDF~

Posted by OB Pier Rat

Nice report Don…I’ve seen quite a few of these happen at OB as a matter of fact, in a couple cases a boat named “Ashes at Sea” came in close to the pier where a group in funeral attire were standing, a person on the boat would release the ashes and then the group on the pier threw a wreath of flowers into the sea, I thought it was pretty cool. In fact I’ve told my wife a few times that if my burial became a hassle just toss my ashes off the left end of the OB pier, my favorite spot…

BTW, Did you catch any more fish there after the ashes floated over? Always looking for tricks to help catch fish. hehehe…

Posted by pescare

I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to do it from shore, but if someone’s last wish was for me to spread their ashes there I’d do it in a heartbeat and just be prepared to pay the price. Ed ps. If you happened to see ashes along the shore just outside of Bodega Bay last January it may have been my uncle Tilio who had a similar wish.

Date: July 18, 2003; To: PFIC Message Board; From: SD Fishermean; Subject: Crystal Pier

Since getting a nice Yellowfin Croaker a couple of weeks back, I’ve been looking to break out at Crystal with a big day. I walked out on the pier to see what was going on at 10am, and there were a bunch of kids in a field trip group fishing, as well as some others, despite the cold/rainy conditions. One of those anglers was an elderly gentleman, and once I saw him reel in two fattie Sargo on mussel, I was convinced it was worth a try. Overall the fishing was okay. Lots of Walleye on the Sabiki as normal. As I was fishing the Sabiki, I see my other rod (baited with squid on a hi-lo) go bendo big time. I rush over, and proceed with a good battle. It’s a good-sized shovel, at least three feet long. It tried to go under the pier, but I lifted it just enough at the surface to keep it stationary. I started handlining it up the side, but the hook popped out and that was it. Oh well. I ended up getting another shovel, about 18” or so, and that was it for the day. The wind picked up and the conditions became choppier, which killed off the fishing. Looking forward to the next time. ~Don aka SDF

Date: July 17, 2004; To: PFIC Message Board; From: reeffisher; Subject: Crystal Pier Black Sea Bass

Saw my first ever black sea bass caught from a pier yesterday. I and three other fishermen on the pier were kicking ourselves for not having our cameras with us. Mine was in the car; I had all the intentions in the world to bring it out on the pier, but alas the excitement of getting out on the pier got in the way of my diminished memory. When the lucky guy hooked up, we all thought he had a large bat ray. Hardly any runs and a slow hard steady tug. It was taking awhile so I went back to catching the mighty smelt (sarcasm mood on). I totally missed how they got it up on the pier and only saw it as it hit the deck with a big cheer from the gathered crowd. Some say it was 50 plus lbs. to me it looked more like 25-30 lbs. maybe 36-40 inches long. To their credit the fisherman and the folks helping him wasted no time getting it back in the water. BUT NO PICTURE!!! As far as I could tell he was using 30-lb mono on a Shimano Baitrunner (4500 or 6500?) with a quality pole, baited with a whole squid.

Date: June 26, 2009; To: PFIC Message Board; From: raider; Subject: New fish at Crystal pier

 Went to Crystal Pier yesterday morning and caught a rock wrasse, which is the 53rd different fish I’ve caught at the pier. And the crazy thing is that I caught it on a Sabiki, along with a lobster, and a small sand bass, all on the same line! I was also able to get about a 3-foot-long shovelnose guitarfish but overall it was another slow day at the pier.

Date: October 24, 2004; To: PFIC Message Board; From: reeffisher; Subject: Crystal Pier Yellowtail — We’re Talking Big

Several weeks ago I heard about a 42 pound yellowtail landed at Crystal Pier. Needless to say I was a little skeptical, but in talking to a couple of regulars and one in particular that took a picture of it, I became a believer. I guess one of the earlier pictures floating around the net was from a cell phone camera. This picture was from a film camera, and today while at the pier the photographer had some copies. He was kind enough to give me one for all of us to enjoy. This year has truly been a great one here in San Diego. Lets hope next year is even better.

Posted by dompfa ben:

Hate to be “that guy”… but that is not a 42 lb. yellowtail, unless that gentleman is like, 6’5”. It goes without saying, however, that it is an amazing and rare catch from any pier!

Posted by: Mel

It might not be exactly 42 lbs but it’s a big fish anyway from a pier. Congrats for him whoever he is. The fish might look smaller because they way he’s holding it makes the fish bend a little.

History Note

The modern history of Pacific Beach dates to 1887 when the Pacific Beach Company offered its first lots for sale. The Golden Era magazine said the land just north of False Bay (today’s Mission Bay) was a “magnificent beach, unsurpassed in California and the bay for yachting, fishing and duck-shooting.”

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