Last modified: September 12, 2019

Fishing Piers San Francisco Bay Area

Ferry Point Pier — Richmond

Most any month may produce small brown rockfish although summer months are peak. They are really too small to keep but give great fun for the youngsters in the group. Use size 8 hooks on a high/low rig and bait up with pile worms or small pieces of shrimp. 

           Striped bass are, of course, one of the most popular species. Best times will be the spring and fall months with a variety of baits and lures producing the fish. Favorite baits include cut anchovies and sardines, pile worms, ghost shrimp, bullheads (staghorn sculpins) and mudsuckers (longjaw gobies). High/low rigs with hooks size 2 to 2/0 as well as sliding sinker rigs can be used for the bass. Popular lures include Fish Traps, Hair Raisers, Rapalas and Kastmasters.

Another prized fish is white sturgeon. Winter and spring, especially when there is a good run-off from inland waters, will sometimes produce a few fish (and two sturgeon were reported during the first month the pier was open). In addition, most years see Pacific herring spawn by the pier, generally January-February, and the pier may be lined with fisherman casting out their nets, filling buckets with herring, and (generally) leaving an almost solid mass of herring scales covering the pier. It can be somewhat of a madhouse but the herring runs attract those in hopes of filling cooler after cooler with the small fish for food and bait.
Sturgeon too are attracted during the herring runs. Sturgeon, with their syphon-like mouths (sort of like vacuum cleaners), cruise along the bottom sucking up whatever food they happen to find. When the herring enter the bay to spawn they carpet some of the shallow areas with their sticky masses of eggs. When that happens, the carpet slurpin’ sturgeon are in 7th heaven and it’s one reason why the herring roe is sometimes used for bait.  Of course some anglers also swear by herring fillets and will add a little Pro-Cure herring oil to the bait. Then again, some locals tell me that they rarely catch sturgeon during the herring runs, perhaps the big fish are already too stuffed with food?

Most of the year the prime baits for the sturgeon are ghost shrimp, blue mud shrimp, grass shrimp, and eel and all work — at times. Unfortunately, less and less bait shops seem to have live bait; it’s a risky business. If you decide to seek out the big bruisers be sure to have stout tackle, a net, and perhaps a friend or two to help you net the elusive diamondbacks. Also remember (1) that only fish between 40 and 60 inches can be kept (smaller and larger fish must be returned to the water), and (2) you need a sturgeon card if you’re fishing for the sturgeon.

Perhaps the most common fish, especially during the summer months are the sharays — sharks and rays. In fact, bat rays are one of the most reliable fish at the pier. Guaranteed fish? I was told by a regular that a diagonal cast out from the far left corner of the pier will almost always guarantee a bat ray (and the regulars are usually the ones who know).  Whatever the case they are one of the most common fish and often they are huge with some of the old mama bat rays approaching 100 pounds or more. You need appropriate, strong tackle, a good saltwater rod and reel, at least 50-pound test line and a net to bring the bat rays (aka mud marlin) up onto the pier.

Bat ray — Totally wrong way to hold it
Some are caught on high/low rigs but more will be caught with sliding sinker type rigs, strong 2/0 to 4/0 hooks, and squid for bait. They will hit any hour of the day but are really on the prowl during the nocturnal nighttime hours.

Leopard sharks and brown smoothhound sharks are also common. Most of the smoothhounds are small, less than 30 inches in length, while some of the leopards can reach nearly five feet in length. The smoothounds will hit on most bait but oily baits like anchovies and sardines and/or bloody baits like mackerel are generally the best bait. Squid is also commonly used for the smoothhounds. Leopard sharks will take all of these baits but often prefer live bait such a midshipmen or mudsuckers. Hooks size 2 to 4/0 are used with both high/low and sliding sinker rigs working.

By the way, in talking to a local one day he told how he had once overturned some inshore rocks looking for pile worms but instead found a number of midshipmen, fifteen in all, in a small space under the rocks. He now checks the rocks on a regular basis. So, live bait may be available.

Since the pier is near moderately deep water, a number of 7-gill sharks will also be landed and some may approach pretty good size. As with all sharks and rays, have a medium to heavy size rod and reel, an appropriate rig (in this case a wire leader) and a way to bring them up onto the pier.

Finally, there is the possibility of seeing king salmon passing through the area, generally in the fall months as they head inland toward their birth streams. Although common in the area, very few will be hooked or landed. Salmon generally have stopped eating by the time they reach these waters and (wisdom has it) can only be hooked by lure. Since few anglers seek out the salmon at the pier, it stands to reason that few of the trophy fish will be hooked.

Although fairly uncommon for the area, both lingcod and kelp greenling have been reported from the pier.

The most unusual catch, by a long shot, was the reported catch of a triggerfish in September 2016. Although no photo has surfaced, numerous people reported seeing the fish being caught by a little old lady who, soon after, asked PFIC for help in identifying the fish. She reported that it had “weird, human-like teeth, a strange little tab near the top of the head [a fin with a spike?], and a tail with one long point at the top and one at the bottom. “After seeing a picture of a finescale triggerfish she reported that yes, that was the fish. Although its range is recorded north to Alaska, finescale triggerfish are considered uncommon north of Baja California and rare north of Southern California. It’s hard to say what it was doing on the east side of San Francisco Bay. 

The Pier Rats Speak

Date:  January 19, 2016; To: Pier Fishing In California Message Board; From: Kilgore Trout; Subject: Re: Herring in the bay?

Yeah, I only caught the tail end of it on Sunday morning at Richmond. People fishing there were so pleasant considering that it was a little crowded — gave me a little faith in humanity. Lots of curious spectators and kids as well. Anyway, I think you can probably catch up to them if you put a little scouting time in around the North Bay… Btw, the Sabiki fishermen were doing pretty well, and some monster smelt were in the mix if you’re into some sport on light tackle.

Posted by: I am Brandon

Herring were in Ferry Point in Richmond over the weekend and yesterday morning. I was there mid-day to evening and none were seen. I keep arriving a day late!

Date: January 28, 2017; To: PFIC Message Board; ;From: Red Fish; Subject: Ferry Point Pier

Herring at the Ferry Point Pier two weeks ago.

Date: June 18, 2017; To: Ken Jones; From: Red Fish; Subject: Ferry Point Pier

Ken, I landed 5 California halibut all at 19″ or above today on Ferry Point Pier. The one that was low 30’s came unbuttoned at the net. Frozen anchovies and live smelt.

To: Redfish; From: Ken Jones;

To Redfish, Wish I was there today instead of in Fresno where the temperature is predicted to reach 110 degrees.  Ken

Date: February 3, 2018; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Red Fish; Subject: Ferry Point Pier

I showed up at Ferry Point Pier about 4:25pm and it was NOT crowded. There were no herring also, as the previous day’s run was over with people with an average (12) herring for a couple hours of net throwing. I gave out a bucket-and-half because I always keep some for friends but they could not come out and get them, so I dispensed them to a few fishermen (three of which knew) that only had a handful. I fished using Pacific herring and a hi/lo surf-leader and only hooked into a single bat ray. A lot of crabs, thus fished an extra-long leader of about 6 feet. That was it. A very peaceful evening of solitude.

Date: August 7, 2018; To: Ken Jones; From: A friend; Subject: Ferry Point Pier

Forgot to mention that the Ferry Point “fishing allowed without a license” sign has been painted over.  As the paint color matches the classic brown of the EBRP folks—and not the nearby graffiti creeps’ work—there is room for speculation. The parks people there are lackluster and do a terrible job cleaning up. They are equipped with those pickers rather than push brooms, and they barely pick up anything. I witnessed two crew members throw a 12-foot galvanized pipe into the water rather than haul it away.  Others saw this too.  Can’t fish that spot now. But no one cared when I visited HQ. Small wonder the local constabulary are issuing tickets around the Bay that the DFW would not. Municipalities in these parts are, bluntly, anti-fishing at best.

Date: June 6, 2019; To: Ken Jones; From: A friend; Subject: Ferry Point Pier

I think you are the only one who could appreciate this.  I learned about this fish years ago from the “orange edition” of Pier Fishing In California.  Still have that book; albeit held together with packing tape.  A few days ago I caught a diamond turbot in my cast net at Ferry Point. Naturally everyone told me it was a short halibut, but I knew better. Couldn’t keep it: the rules are in place for a reason (and if I had caught it on hook and line, I would indeed have dined on it). It was huge. Close to the upper end described in your book. But I did not measure it. Just enough time to admire it, show one guy the blindside lateral line and lack of teeth, and then return it to the water. Beautiful specimen! Dark. It has been a score of years since I’ve seen one in the Bay. Next cast was a striper, possibly legal, who also got splashed. If I hadn’t been pretty successful at halibut angling lately, I’d have been irked. Still a lot of shorties on that pier, and, sadly, more than a few going home. The people who do it know the rules, but that’s the same old same old.

Date: June 18, 2019; To: Ken Jones; From: A friend; Subject: Ferry Point Pier

Pier pressure (pun intended) does help with cheating. The other day on Ferry Point, three halibut came in, two for me and one for another guy. Mine measured 21.5” (ouch!) and 20.” The other guy was 21.75.” We encouraged him to measure several times and thwarted his attempt to go to the end of the tail fin with the tape (which is illegal). Grudgingly he released a fish he would have kept if we were not present. But no rancor. It is difficult to know when to step in and when to step back. If you fish a place often, you don’t want to burn bridges and piss off those you will see again. When the wardens show up, they are conspicuous and the cheaters cover their butts (literally!) by the time the officers get to the pier. But it is kind of futile. I am the only one who uses a three-hook Sabiki. I’ve been laughed at, but it stops when my bucket is populated and theirs are not. People work way too hard to cut corners and seek shortcuts. I know I did the right thing, but I still wish I’d kept that turbot

Potpourri

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — This is the only pier that I fished before its official grand opening. I had been eagerly awaiting its opening when I received an e-mail early in 2002 announcing that yes indeed, the pier was finally open. Soon after, I headed down to the pier to try it out. What I found was unexpected: a smallish pier devoid of fish cleaning stations, adequate trash cans, bait cutting stations or even well designed railings. The pier was a major disappointment even though I was glad it was finally open. Overall it gave the appearance of an ill-conceived, hastily constructed, Mickey Mouse job. It surprised me because the East Bay Regional Park District normally does a good job with its piers.

What was expected was a group of anglers fishing and they already had a few perch to show for their efforts. However, upon leaving I noticed a sign laying face down near the entrance stating that the pier was not yet open. And upon arrival back home I received another e-mail message, this one stating that there was some confusion about opening dates and that anglers might possibly receive tickets if they fished from the pier.

3 Responses

  1. Good fishing tips!  I like that included local history as well.

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