The Judge John Sutter Pier, part of the larger Judge John Sutter Regional Shoreline Park and Pier, is one of the newest piers in the state opening in October 2020. I’ve only fished it once so these are preliminary notes/recommendations mainly based on reports from others and my knowledge of the area but it certainly is a beautiful area to visit and seems one of the best areas if you are seeking out a big ‘ol mud marlin—the big old old mama bat rays.
Environment. Talk about an urban pier. The pier is located near the eastern entrance to the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge and sits almost directly under the bridge. It means you have some great views of the bay and the “City” as well as hearing fairly constant noise from the thousands of cars and trucks up above.
The pier itself is a 600-foot-long by 40-foot wide “public observation pier” built atop six remaining piles from the old Bay Bridge while the park includes walking paths, bathrooms and many interpretive panels describing the history of the area and the history of the park (as well as who Judge John Sutter actually was and why the pier is named after him).
Water depth here ranges from very shallow at the entrance to the pier to fairly deep at the end. Thus those seeking out striped bass would probably concentrate on the inshore areas. Those seeking out perch or jacksmelt would concentrate on inshore to mid-pier areas, those seeking halibut would be mid-pier to the end, and those wanting the larger sharays (sharks and rays) would probably concentrate on the deepest waters at the end.
Given the area and depth at the end, anglers can expect to see some heavy currents, which at times may require larger sinkers, especially at the end.
Not too distant sits Treasure Island/Yerba Buena Island.
Fishing Tips. Decide what fish you are seeking and fish the appropriate area with the appropriate bait or lures.
For perch anglers (pileperch, blackperch, white seaperch, walleye surfperch) fish the inshore to mid-pier area with a high/low rigging and size 6-4 hooks baited with pile worms, grass shrimp (or pieces of market shrimp), ghost shrimp (if you can find them), or fresh mussels.
For jacksmelt fish the same area but use the high/low fished under a float of some type and use pile worms, strips of squid or small pieces of shrimp. Keep the hooks about six feet under the surface of the water. A Sabiki can be used but only three hooks can be used in the bay area waters.
For striped bass fish the inshore areas using bait (cut anchovies or sardines, pile worms, grass or ghost shrimp) on high/lows or use a Carolina rigging. All manner of artificial lures will also work.
For halibut use swim-type lures or use live bait with a Carolina rigging—shinerperch, small smelt or small perch.
For the sharks, and you can catch everything here from small brown smoothhounds to large leopard sharks to huge sevengill sharks use bloody and oily fish such as sardines and mackerel or catch a perch and use the fresh fish for bait.
For the strong bat rays, aka mud marlin, especially the large females, use a strong line (minimum 30-40 pound test) and squid or the aforementioned oily fish baits.
For the halibut, sharks and rays be sure to have a hoop net (and preferably a friend) to help you land the fish.
Handle gently and return all unwanted fish to the water to fight again another day.
Pier Fishing In California Message Board:
Date: October 23, 2020, To: PFIC Message Board, From: Skyhook, Subject: New Pier
Has anyone had a chance to fish this pier yet?
Posted by nolandw
Going to try and go today, I’ll report back.
Posted by Rusty
Dang! I lived in E-Ville for 12 years, 20 years ago. Why did they have to wait so long?
Posted by Skyhook
If the legend in the map is correct, it looks like parking is going to be about 2/3 of a mile from the pier. That’s a long walk, especially if you’re carrying a lot of gear.
Posted by Red Fish
What I want to know is if anyone has fished Pier e2 that is at the end of the bike path? It looks like it can be accessed from Yerba Buena Island but I’m not sure.
Posted by Nolandw
I said I’d try and go today and I did! Pierfishing.com has given a lot to me (I only started about a year and half ago) so I hope this report is valuable to others. Skyhook is right…the parking is 2/3 mile from the pier. There is some sort of access road with “closer” parking but a little trickier to get to. I think it’s an unofficial entrance? It’s not on the actual map but I saw a fisherman drive out from there. The park itself is open from 5am-10pm. There was a sign that mentioned “Fishing from the pier at night” was prohibited so I assumed day fishing was OK
I got to the pier and there were three anglers there near the first 100-ft of the pier. I decided to head all the way to the end to see what was up. Because of the way the pier is constructed, the end actually is just a full concrete face and doesn’t have concrete bridge pilings…so I went about 50 feet from the front on the side facing the bridge. At the end, I also saw another somewhat reassuring (although disappointing) sign: “No fish cleaning on the pier.” That meant that catching was at least OK…right?
The pier is actually situated very close to the bridge, with the bridge towering over. It’s a bit further spaced out than Dumbarton (or what I remember of it…haven’t got there this year yet). The super close view of bridge is pretty neat, but with a strong and long cast, your tackle can actually get caught in the railings of the bridge! I nearly snagged myself up there once…must be scarier for the bikers and pedestrians along the actual Bay Bridge bike trail.
Fishing wise, I rigged up a 3-way with some frozen anchovies as well as a shrimp Sabiki just to see what was biting. The Sabiki didn’t get any hits on the side facing the bridge, but I got an anchovy on the side facing away from the bridge jigging up and down. Woohoo, first “fish” of the pier for me. Further jigging of the Sabiki proved unproductive, however…
Eventually, my 3-way rig got a nice bite, but nothing hooked. I rebaited to a hi-lo and a few minutes later, the drag started screaming. A definite ray. But this one was HUGE. It literally dove out of the water when it first got hooked and I thought it could’ve even been dolphin at first. The fight lasted about 15 minutes of back and forth…I had never seen, much less caught, such a huge ray before. The thing must’ve weighed at least 120lb…it was a crazy fight. It honestly looked bigger than the 54” wingspan bat ray in the bat ray article on this site! The mouth was ajar as it was brought up to the surface and looked like I was peering into a great white from the pier…
Netting it was a huge challenge, as no fisherpeople were near me. Usually I can get a ray by myself at Emeryville or Ferry Point…but this one wasn’t happening. I had to try and enlist the help of two women who weren’t fishing (the only chance I had), but the ray had done a couple more dances and wrapped around the hoop net I’d brought to the pier. It was nearly impossible to get it in the net as it was just simply too big (the wingspan dwarfed it, and the ropes of the net made for an impossible crevice) and the drift of the water and the height of the pier made it even more difficult. After one more great effort to get it in the net, my 20lb mono on the 30lb hi-low snapped, and the ray was on its way. My adrenaline was pumping from the fight, and I wish I’d taken a picture…guess my hands were too occupied!
A few minutes later, same outcome— another ray, but smaller. Still, netting it was difficult due to the big height drop-off at the pier. Eventually it was netted and returned back to they.
Later on—ANOTHER huge ray. By now, night had fallen, and this was smaller than the other one, but still would’ve been a PB for me. The fight on this one was significantly tougher—I was now using my other rod, which was set up with 20lb mono on a medium action rod. I’ve never spent so long fighting and it probably took about 20 minutes just to bring the damn thing up to the surface. Luckily, there were a couple fishermen who had joined the pier and I asked for help netting the fish. However…same outcome. I was able to bring it up to the surface (arms and back thoroughly tired), but it snapped with one great heave to try and get it over the hoop net that was in the water. And AGAIN, no pictures! Sigh.
After that, I decided to move closer to the shore as I was tired of the ray. The water was much shallower there, probably about 2-3 feet. But I noticed a striper swimming by…and later on fish were jumping all over the place! I assume it was one of those striper “boils”…so I rigged up a sinking slider rig w/ anchovy and started using another rod for lures. I threw a Kastmaster, curly tail grub, swimbait, and bucktail lure but had absolutely no luck. Frustrating! The anchovy rig eventually did get two more bat rays…sigh. Does anyone have any other tips to make the most of these “boils?” Or could it have been something different than striper?
At 940pm I decided to leave, and made the long walk back to the parking lot. Just like in Ferry Point Pier, the entrance gate to the parking had closed, but the exit was open—I was the last car left in the lot, leaving close to 10pm.
As far as facilities go, there are bathrooms near both the pier and in the parking lot. No fish cleaning stations at the pier, nor rod holders. Some benches on the pier, but many places to sit. Lighted at night at the end and in the beginning. Didn’t see any other big fish landed during my time there, save for one striper that seemed to have been thrown back and caught closer to the shore. Another angler said he caught some REALLY short halibut that were released.
In all, an exciting day, even if it ended with no trophy catches. (I have some photos of the pier and park as well, although the message board is saying the files are too large.) I’m glad to have a new pier option in the East Bay.
Posted by Skyhook
Thanks for a great report!
Posted by Redfish
Very comprehensive report, thanks. Reminds me of the walk to Port View Park/7th Street/Oakland Army Base Pier. From the parking lot, about 2/3 of a mile. I am imagining they have cameras on the parking lot for safety.
I fished the area years ago, under the bridge from the Cal Trans turn around on the bridge. The pier looks much more comfortable than fishing from the rocks under the bridge in the past. The other access you mentioned is probably if you drive through the Cal Trans yard on Burma Street.
The depths are what I am curious about. Port View is about 20’ I believe (without looking at a NOAA map). If you witnessed an actual boil, most any lure would work if you throw right in it. Perhaps add a crank bait to your collection. The boils where you see anchovies gathering at the surface as a big wall of bait and moving parallel to the rocks inside the bay with stripers visibly diving threw them is what I call a boil on full blast. Perhaps live bait to cut down on the rays and a shorter cast. Thanks for the 411.
Posted by Westcoastdave
Someone posted pics on social media of a salmon and stripers caught on the new pier. So it’s probably going to get really crowded now
Posted by Red Fish
I don’t know Dave, it’s still a long walk from the parking lot. Seems like there might be more bicyclists. The pier seems to be 1/8 of a mile in length.
Date: October 26, 2020, To: Ken Jones, From: Red Fish, Subject: John Sutter Pier
Hay Ken, at Judge Sutter now. Walleyes, juvenile herring, and smelt on Sabiki. I lost perhaps a small striper at the surface. Landed a bat ray that I didn’t want at the end.
Hooked a 7-gill all of 6 to 6.5 feet (lifted in the net and got halfway up). Actually didn’t want to gaff it. If it was better than 7 feet I would have gaffed it. The 7-gill cracked the hook with its jaw when it fell hoisting up, thus 2x/3x strong hooks.
(Later) Gotta go home now. Did get this guy (leopard shark) that went in the net. Caught on salmon belly. Leopard sharks are a walk in the park for me. I think better shark fishing than 7th Street ever was as I’ve never seen a 7 there.
Last note: 25” down to water that is 15’ (approximately same depth as 7th). Reminds me of the old Oakland Pier that you mentioned from long ago/long wharf.
BTW, I think the salmon thing is a hoax. Someone said spinners by the radio station KDIA (old). Could be but let me see some video. Otherwise the shore is over there…would be crowded.
Bathrooms locked after sunset. At the base of the pier is where I used to fish at the Cal Trans turnaround.
Ken, at the parking lot. Funny, where my cart is, you could drive up the sidewalk and down the pier. About eight of Cal Trans workers there at the station down from the pier when I walked out. When I went to the Cal Trans spot years ago, I drove my little truck all the way and under the bridge. Okay, I just saw a security vehicle that looked just like my RAV 4 go down the road, so they’re not going to play with someone that wants to drive down to the pier via riding over the sidewalk.
Date: October 29, 2020, To: Ken Jones, From: Red Fish, Subject: John Sutter Pier
Ken, the fishing can be much, much like the 7th street without the dredging at John Sutter. And on a low or poor moon phase, the fishing can be bad. I was skunked on my return trip yesterday. Shark bait went untouched off the front. Others caught some small stripers to 19” (even a group of three off the front that brought live anchovies.
BTW, there is one porta potty ½ way down the 2/3 mile walk (that feels the same distance at the end of Berkeley) on the paved trail that is always open.
Date: November 3, 2020, To: PFIC Message Board, From: nolandw, Subject: John Sutter Pier
Thanks for the sage advice Red Fish. You are right, I should really get a crank bait. I did upgrade my lure selection after the first trip. As far as depth goes, the inshore area can be quite shallow…you can see the sand off the rocks at a low tide and the depths of the inshore area of the pier feel like 5-7 feet at a low tide if I had to guess. Port View definitely feels a lot deeper. I haven’t fished as much at the deep end of the pier. By the way, I think we’ve actually fished near each other on a pier at one point based on your reports. I’m not sure if you remember a night a couple months ago in one of the North Bay piers where you hooked a striper near your chum bucket; I was the last angler there. I’ll introduce myself properly next time.
I’ve now been back to the Observation Pier three times since my first visit:
The second visit was quite slow until the evening. I had been fishing a Sabiki with shrimp to get baitfish as well as using frozen anchovies in the interim. No such luck. I switched up my approach and landed three stripers with a lot of other bites. It was a big confidence booster for me as typically I prefer bait to lures. A lot of fun on this evening. None were keepers, all released. Others caught striper that night as well.
The third time, I fished the outgoing tide during the day. There were a ton of small anchovies in the water — I’d never seen so many before. A cast net would do one well…unfortunately they weren’t hitting my Sabiki. I went with a couple of friends, one who was using my swimbait reel the whole time, so I wasn’t able to plug for stripers. Had another rod rigged with sardines to see if we could get a leopard or a bat ray—got a few strikes but nothing big. We ended up focusing on Sabiki with shrimp (friend’s first time saltwater fishing) and brought up several huge jacksmelt and one large walleye perch. My largest one measured at 15!” All were released and we headed back around sunset. I did not see any other fish caught on the pier other than smelt.
The fourth time, I went to exclusively target stripers. I was casting lures the entire time, but only got one solid bite but set the hook too early and the lure popped out. I saw a lot less activity than other nights and saw no other fish landed on the pier. One angler said he’d gotten two bat rays before I came. While plugging, I had another reel out with a sinking slider but wasn’t paying much attention to it. After not getting a bite on stripers for a while, I decided to pack up and head back. As I reeled up my sinking slider rig, I noticed there was something on the line…a crab? A hali? It felt like dead weight. As I brought it up in the shadows, it started to look like more and more like a crab…and then I saw that it was a starry flounder! I’d never seen one before at a pier, much less caught one myself. I know that they’ve been more of a rarity in the bay. I was tempted to keep it but knowing the declining population I dropped it back into the water using my hoop net. It was a nice 13.”
Some other notes: It looks like the parking lot closes around 5pm or sunset, which is a bit of a bummer as it makes after-work fishing difficult. I had to park closer to the cul-de-sac/turnaround. It’s closer to the actual pier but doesn’t necessarily feel as safe. You can walk down the fire trail access road and eventually reach the pier, cutting the walk down a bit.
I haven’t seen frozen anchovies do well here other than the first time I hit multiple rays. I had them on a rod while the stripers were boiling and the bait literally remained untouched for over an hour. Maybe it’s also presentation…these were fairly fresh anchovies as well, home-brined.
The variety of this pier makes it interesting. Within two weeks, not one of my trips has been the same as the other.
I had a good reminder to always clean up after the pier during one of my visits. A woman had brought her dog, which was unleashed. It eventually picked up a small hook and line from someone else’s tackle and the hook got caught in its mouth and tongue. I found myself having to do impromptu surgery and cutting off the eye of the hook before she took the dog to the vet.
<*}}}}}}}}}>< — Special Bay Area Regulations:
- A perch closure exits in San Francisco and San Pablo Bay from April 1 to July 31. No perch may be kept other than shinerperch (20).
- In San Francisco and San Pablo Bay a fishing line may not contain more than three hooks.
- A sturgeon report card and tags are required for anyone fishing for or taking sturgeon. (a) The card must be in the angler’s possession; (b) a tag must be used for any sturgeon retained by the angler; (c) the angler must record information on the Sturgeon Report Card immediately after catching and keeping or releasing the sturgeon.
- White sturgeon can only be kept from 40-60 inches; larger and smaller sturgeon must be released.
- Green sturgeon may not be taken or possessed.
Hours: Listed hours are 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Facilities: Restrooms near the front of the pier, benches on the pier, and a parking lot approximately 2/3 of a mile from the pier. Bike parking is available adjacent to the pier. Lights but no fish cleaning stations.
Handicapped Facilities: There are handicapped parking spaces in the parking lot. The surface of the pier is wood concrete and the railing is approximately 40 inches high.
How To Get There: (Google directions) From San Francisco: From the Bay Bridge take I-80 E toward Oakland. Use the right lane to take exit 8A toward I-880 S/Alameda/San Jose/Airport. Keep right to stay on Exit 8A, follow signs for West Grand Ave/Maritime St. Turn right onto Maritime St. Turn right at the 1st cross street onto Burma Rd. Continue straight to park. From Sacramento and points east: Take I-80 W toward San Francisco. Keep right to stay on I-80 W, follow signs for San Francisco. Take exit 8A for West Grand Ave/Maritime St. Turn right onto Maritime St. Turn right at the 1st cross street onto Burma Rd. Continue straight to park. From San Jose and points south: Take I-880 N to 7th St in Oakland. Use the 2nd from the right lane to take exit 44 for 7th Street toward West Grand Ave. Turn left onto 7th St. Turn right onto Maritime St. Turn right at the 1st cross street onto Burma Rd. Continue straight to park.
Management: East Bay Park District.