Last modified: December 22, 2022

Fishing Piers San Francisco Bay Area

Judge John Sutter Pier — Oakland

Public Pier — No License Required

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.

Oakland, the bay, and San Francisco

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).

The Bay Bridge and San Francisco Bay

         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.

Leopard shark caught by Robert Gardner aka Redfish

         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.

A mid-sized bat ray

         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. 

The parking lot is a long ways from the pier
The restroom by the parking lot

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! 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?

Fishing at night

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!

The long but colorful trail to the pier

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.

4 Responses

  1. Man what useful information you have provided. I really enjoyed your article thank you so very mush new to pier fishing this will be my first outing there. Must appreciated for all the information shared.

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  3. Why would anyone fish for a leopard shark? Aren’t they endangered?

  4. The marlins are my favorite too when I am going to fish and your detail is good for the people who love catching fishes. When I first started doing this adventure I love to go to the people where people share their experiences.

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