Striped Bass — 2006
Date: September 4, 2001; To: PFIC Message Board; From: gyozadude; Subject: Dumbarton Pier — a Saga of Fate and Stupidity
I thought I’d head out to Dumbarton Pier today for an hour after work to catch the outgoing tide. When I got there, it was a bit breezy and chilly at 6:30pm, nothing at all like the warm air in the neighborhood at 5pm. It was my first time to Dumbarton Pier, so I casually walked with my gear, reading the posted signs. I stopped near the gate to read the regs. on fishing pier vs. shore. Two rods okay on the pier, no license. One rod from shore, need license… duh… what loser would chose the 2nd option? I wondered. There were a bunch of low swarming gnats near the shoreline. I tried to identify them and observe if baitfish were jumping to eat them. Nothing. The water was choppy.
I went to the end of the pier, a solid 7-minute walk and set up to fish the lower deck pier at the bottom of the stairs. Fished two rods, one with (human edible) shrimp on hi-lo-rig, the other with Sabiki tipped with scallops. (Couldn’t buy any squid at the local Safeway after work, didn’t know any local bait shops, and didn’t want to fight traffic searching for one). I was waiting for a buddy with frozen grass shrimp from some bait shop he claims he knows in the area.
The pier was deserted. Not a soul. I was trying to recall a story of a murdered Vietnamese kid who was killed out here years ago… and whether this was the pier… That, together with the cool wind was giving me goose bumps.
Started out with a 2-oz pyramid sinker 15-lb test. Wind was blowing south, so I cast that way. Maybe got about 50 yards on the cast. I tried going farther, but the bait kept flying off. Funny thing, but the current was pretty strong and swept anything that landed in the water north. I couldn’t get the bait to stay put, so I went to 3-oz, and the bait tumbled a bit before digging in. I finally settled on a 4 oz. pyramid sinker on 20-lb test. Nothing hitting for 20 minutes. No surprise, the undertow current below the surface must have been at least 5 knots. It was twisting my hi-lo rig silly while submerged, so I switched to egg sinkers (2 x 3 oz.) and a single hook. Swoosh… north they went. Couldn’t hold bottom as effectively as the pyramid sinkers. I figured at that point, that the undertow current must’ve been at least 8 knots or more.
Under these conditions, fish wouldn’t be in that current. They’d be looking for respite in the wake of some object like the bridge support piling. So I cast north in front of the Dumbarton Bridge support pillar/caisson. These are about every 100 feet, and are about 30 feet wide, 15 feet in profile, and 100 feet tall. I had two juicy 21-25 prawns on the hooks and put the rod to rest against the railing. I attached a bell, and prepared to check the bait and re-position the other rod still down below on the lower-level dock.
I walked down the steps. Had the other rod in my hands, then my bell rang. I looked up. The rod tip bent down really hard and jerked back up. The bell went nuts for a second. Then nothing… I ran up stairs and held the rod for a minute. Nothing, so I reeled in, and the shrimp on top was gone. I re-baited and re-cast to the same position. This time I loosened the drag on the rod, just in case something big hauled the rod over the edge.
I went back downstairs and quickly reeled in the other line, re-baited, and jogged upstairs and walked along the pier and cast toward a second caisson. As I lay the second rod down, my cell phone rang. It was my friend. Says he’ll be there in 5 minutes. I tried to warn him about the first speed bump on the road and to not go over 35. I was going around 45 mph and man… caught some air and come down hard. Definitely not good for the suspension on my truck. I was asking about whether he had brought his rod and just chatting, when the bell on the first rod goes off again.
“Hey, I gotta go…” I told him.
“Why’s that?” he asked.
“I gotta reel this in or I’ll lose my rig,” I told him.
“What, you gotta fish?” he asked again.
“I gotta go now…BYE!” I shouted and hung up.
I rushed to the rod, picked it up, and with a lot of power, whipped the rod back over my shoulder…. whizzzzzzzz….. DoH! The drag spun. I had forgotten that I loosened the drag on the reel before. I quickly tightened the drag and reeled the slack in and tried to set it again. But whatever hit swam out into the current and around the caisson. I ran to my right about 50 feet to get a better angle on the line and to maintain tension. I lifted the rod in a doubled-over position for about 5 seconds and then, snap! It was gone…
I reeled in the main line and there was nothing. No sinker. No hooks. Just the line, somewhat abraided by the sharp barnacles on the caisson.
My friend showed up about 10 minutes later. He jogged all the way down the pier. Just t-shirt and shorts. No rod. No reel. No grass shrimp. I had just finished rigging up again and was preparing to cast again. I tossed the bait back against the caisson. We waited for some time, but there was no more action. I don’t know whether my buddy cursed the fishing by his presence or the one that got away warned every other fish, but the bites just stopped. I’ll never know what it was. We ended up fishing another 20 minutes, until 7:30pm and had to pack up and leave before the gate closure at 8pm.
That was my first outing to Dumbarton. Now I see why people like it. I’ll need to head back soon. But this time, with less distractions. – Gyozadude, “Yes – I can roll my own potsticker skins”
7-Gill Shark — 2006
Posted by readership
Good stuff. I think 8-oz. weights are the average sinkers used out there to hold bottom. I use “sputnik”-type sinkers nowadays. Since I started using them, nothing but positive performance. Kind of pricey, but I think they’re worth it and definitely recommend for others to check ‘em out. Pretty long post to read at 4 in the morning, but cool story.
Posted by jason chin
Gyozadude — Great story seems like you had fun. Next time eh? The surf rods you were talking about in the past that you wondered if you would have use of, rig em up. They will hold an 8-oz. well. Use a slider for no tangles. If the current is going out (north towards San Mateo) and you are having a problem with staying down fish the top section of the pier casting north (usually into the wind) and your line will stay straight. Same goes for the incoming on the bottom section of the pier. When the pier gets busy you practically have to fish an 8-oz. or you will get some dirty looks as your line drifts over everyone else’s. If everyone uses an 8-oz. pyramid all the lines will fall into place. Ghost, grass shrimp, and herring are my preferred baits that generate a lot of action on the sharks, rays, and sturgeon. You think that current was bad? That wasn’t nothing, wait until a minus tide to a 6-footer. Sturgeon seem to like those tides though. All the fish mentioned above will feed in the middle of that current; they will be swimming with that tide and chewing your bait along the way. Hope this helps you for your next trip. And for safety, I’ve fished there I don’t know how many times by myself and not had any problems. Not that it can’t occur but hopefully this will help ease your worries. Jason “Bayrunner”
Posted by nufo
Jason is right on the money. Luckily I listened to his and Carlo’s suggestions before the first time I went out there or I would never have held bottom. Dumbarton is definitely a nice pier with plenty of different fish to catch. Nufo
Posted by gyozadude
Will bring heavier equipment. I’m jazzed about Dumbarton. There’s plenty of structure for fish to congregate around. I’m planning to hit that more often. I was using a 9′ Daiwa, el cheapo Eliminator yesterday. The 15-footer is still in the garage rafters. I might haul that out too. I have a spare Daiwa Jupiter Z 6000 reel that I’ve never used but got as a gift. How far do you guys cast out there and what pound test? I was using #2 hooks on my rig. The acceleration of trying to cast farther than say 50 yards knocks the bait off. And if I don’t worry about the bait and practice casting, the weight really stresses the line a bit. I’m fairly certain I need a 50-lb shock leader of sorts. I’m hoping smaller grass shrimp hang on better than the shrimp I used, or that I don’t need to cast that far. If the fish are closer to the pier, I’d prefer to bring a 6’4″ boat rod with a conventional reel and just toss the bait around 30 or 40 ft. – Gyozadude, “Yes – I can roll my own potsticker skins”