Last modified: September 3, 2018

Fishing Piers Northern California

Lucas Wharf — Bodega Bay

Private Pier — Fishing License Required

The Lucas Wharf is the first wharf encountered by most visitors heading to Bodega Bay from inland areas and sits just up the road from the Tides Wharf.  An attractive restaurant and fish market await the visitor, as do areas for the pier fisherman.

Environment. Water depth here is fairly shallow and the bottom is mud with thick beds of eelgrass covering many of the areas; pilings are covered by barnacles, but very few mussels. The eelgrass can be an attractant when perch come into the areas to spawn but it can also present far too much salad when you’re trying to fish on the bottom. Two main areas can be fished, the main wharf itself, adjacent to the restaurant and processing room, and the pier off to the left, across the small harbor area. If boats are few and activity is minimal along the main dock, you might want to fish that area. For myself, I typically fish the pier to the left that is marked public access. I do not interfere with the operations, have more open space and open water, and have more room to land a fish when the occasional large fish is hooked (although boats do occasionally tie up at both docks).

Fish. Fish caught here are primarily the schooling species such as jacksmelt, Pacific herring, and perch of several different varieties. Much of the year will see schools of medium to large size jacksmelt cut through the area. Spring and summer is usually best for the herring.

Wintertime can see a few large pileperch schooling around the pier while late winter/early spring (February-March) sees a variety of perch enter the bay to spawn. Included will rubberlip seaperch, black seaperch, striped seaperch and a smattering of calico and redtail surfperch.  Spring through the fall will mainly see white, walleye and silver surfperch. Much of the year will see way too many shinerperch with the little ‘uns stealing the bait aimed at the larger perch. Vast concentrations of the bait stealing little perch is not an exaggeration.

Bottom fish will also be caught occasionally. Wintertime is the best time for starry flounder, summertime the best for a few sole, mailnly sand sole as well as California. Wise anglers will give a try for halibut using a shiner as a live bait.

Late spring through the fall is prime time for the sharays — bat rays and sharks (primarily leopard sharks). Bodega Bay and Tomales Bay are both excellent for these species.

Fishing Tips. Match your tackle to the season. In the winter (or actually much of the year) try a commercial multi-hook bait rig (Sabiki, Lucky Lura, etc.) for jacksmelt or simply tie on several small hooks to your line. Fish the rigging near the surface of the water with a large bobber or Styrofoam float and put a small piece of pile worm, market shrimp or fish on each hook..

In spring and summer try the same rigging without the float for herring (and some years sardines). Sometimes both jacksmelt and herring/sardine will be present, usually with jacksmelt in the upper water and herring underneath. At such times forget the float. You can pick which fish you want to catch by deciding how deep you want to let your rig sink when you cast. Let the rig drop to the bottom and then retrieve for the herring, stop the cast just after hitting the water and you’ll have more of a shallow water retrieve for the smelt.  At times, primarily in the summer, schools of anchovies may also be present. Although it seems ridiculous to waste good fishing time jigging for anchovies, you can quickly load up on high quality fresh bait by using these rigs  with smaller hooks. You’ll also have some live bait to use while you’re fishing for the bigger game, i.e., halibut.

In the winter through spring months try a high/low rigging using number 4 or 6 hooks baited with pile worms, small pieces of market shrimp or ghost shrimp (for the bigger perch). Fish the rig on the bottom and be prepared to catch some perch—a wide variety.  Straight down among the pilings is often best for the larger perch but low tide can see them move farther out from the wharf.

Later in the spring and summer, similar rigging can be used on the bottom for black perch and white seaperch while schools of walleye surfperch and silver surperch can also enter the picture. The smaller perch are usually caught on high/low rigs with small hooks or on the bait rigs.

Late spring to early fall is best for flatfish on the bottom. Possible species include starry flounder, sole (usually sand sole) and of course California halibut. The flounder and sole can be caught on high/low rigs while all three species will fall to a Carolina live bait rigging or a fish finder rig (remember those live anchovies)

Try at night for sand sharks (brown smoothhound sharks), spiny dogfish, leopard sharks, bat rays, skates and (once in a blue moon) angel shark. For all of these use squid, ghost shrimp, clams, anchovy or mackerel. Be sure to use a fairly heavy line and leader, have a net., and try to have a friend along to help you land any really large trophies. This is an EXCELLENT area for large bat rays.

Crustaceans. Crabs are the main  focus of attention for many people here and luckily crabs are available most of the year. Three types of crab are found here, rock crabs, red (rock) crabs and Dungeness crabs. The first two can be caught year round while the Dungeness have a definite season. Locally the Dungeness season usually starts the first week of November and runs to June/July (check the regulation booklet since dates can change). However, here the Dungeness take a backward seat to the other two species at this pier — and some of the red (rock) crabs are large.

<*}}}}}}}}}>< This is a private wharf that is primarily used for commercial fishing operations; it doesn’t have to allow anglers the right to fish. Stay out of the way, clean up after yourself, and purchase bait or food at the wharf when possible. This should help to keep the wharf open for other anglers.

Lucas Wharf Facts

Hours: Open 24 hours.

Facilities: Restrooms on the wharf, free parking adjacent to the wharf, food is available at the Lucas Wharf Restaurant or at the Lucas Wharf Seafood Bar (a snack bar) and bait is available on the wharf at the fresh fish market. There are no benches or fish cleaning stations but there are lights for night fishing.

Handicapped Facilities: Handicapped parking near the entrance to the restaurant and handicapped restroom facilities. No railings.

How To Get There: Take Highway 1 to Bodega Bay, the wharf is at the south end of town; the parking lot fronts onto the highway.

Management: Privately owned and managed.

One Response

  1. Ken, I would love to see some photos of fish caught at this pier. Last time I went to this pier, it was falling apart and I carefully walked on amidst loose and falling floor boards. Rich did not enter the pier, rather casting to the left from the base of the pier. I didn’t have any success. Actually, I might have seen the glistening of a smelt or shiner at the top of the water on the inside.
    Perhaps when you come up to the Bay the next time I will meet you up there at the Lucas Wharf and we can fish there, the Tides (if possible) and Nick’s Cove.
    I would like to see pictures of actual fish caught at these places on the blog. I know Dustin and Monte had bat-ray and leopard shark photos from the Tides.

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