Last modified: October 4, 2018

Central California Fishing Piers

Monterey Municipal Wharf #2

Santa Cruz Evening News, September 4, 1941

<*}}}}}}}}}>< I previously mentioned the pesky, bothersome, bait stealin’ senorita and I wasn’t kidding. An early June day in 2002 saw me make a visit in pursuit of perch. I hoped to find some big perch and, if I was lucky, I hoped to run across a school of the elusive sharpnosed seaperch. I’d gotten an Email message from AvidAngler that the perch were hittin’ so traveled down on my birthday to make a visit.

But I would have to deal with the senorita first. I had my rigging set, my pile worms were fresh, and I dropped the line into the water. Many times perch are on the bottom but sharpnose perch and rubberlips, the two species I was targeting, are often found mid-depth. That’s where I dropped my line, down about eight feet or so next to a piling and I immediately began to get tap after tap.


Perch will often tap the bait but usually the second or third tap will result in a hookup. What was happening here was an assault on my bait, a quick stripping of the hooks, and a need to rebait. After this happened a few times my suspicions were confirmed as to the assailants when I hooked and pulled in an 8-inch senorita. Senorita love pile worms and find them especially easy to remove from a hook. In fact, they find any soft bait easy to steal. Nevertheless, when I did manage to pull in a sharpnose seaperch a few minutes later I felt confident as to my bait and technique. But, I also knew that the small pieces of pile worms would attract the senorita along with the perch. I guess it was sort of an occupational hazard if I wanted to be a perch hunter.

Eventually the worms were gone and I switched to strips of squid (which were also attacked by the senorita) but I did manage to land two of the sharpnose perch along with two-dozen or so senorita. I also checked out the bottom and it seemed as the morning progressed, the senorita went from being primarily at a mid-depth region to covering the water from the bottom to the top (perhaps they were simply adjusting their normal pattern because of the bait I was feeding them). I did manage a good-sized rainbow seaperch using the squid on the bottom, along with a small kelp rockfish, but the senorita made me work for the “better” fish. Some say senorita are tasty but all were returned to the water. Perhaps they will get a taste test some other day?

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — The yin and yang, bad or good nature of the pier, really stands out in a sequence of visits that saw two 0 fish, skunk days, sandwich between two 100+ fish days. The first day (October) saw Pacific mackerel and jack mackerel running at the pier and saw a total of 150 fish caught in just two and a half hours. The next two trips, in July and November the following year, produced no fish. In fact, not even a bite. However, those fishless days were followed by a July visit the next year when the sea’s floor seemed to be covered by lizardfish and assorted other species while mid-depth waters were saturated with small rockfish. The result was 154 fish in just under seven hours of fishing. I’ve averaged 12.2 fish per hour at the pier due to the large schools of small and medium-sized fish that sometimes visit the pier—Pacific mackerel, jack mackerel, Pacific sardines, juvenile bocaccio, and lizardfish, yet if you visit the pier when schools are absent you can go fishless in Monterey. You just never know although if the pier is devoid of anglers when you arrive, the fishing is probably slow (or dead). When fish are present, word seems to get out very quickly and the pier will be filled with anglers (darn cell phones).

<*}}}}}}}}}>< To really get to know a pier, and to have the opportunity to experience a “big” day, it pays to fish the pier often. The following comes from the autobiography of avidangler (Robert Ford), once a regular at this pier and a reporter for the PFIC Message Board. Most Memorable Pier Fishing Trips (and Why): “One year the stripers came to Wharf #2. They were so thick you couldn’t miss, for about a month. One evening I hooked nine in a row off Pencil Poppers, one of the best days I have had anywhere! Last year we made front-page news when salmon showed up in incredible numbers. I landed 20 one day (no kidding). Everybody was hooking fish. It was much like Pacifica. But I would have to say that my first steelhead rates as the most memorable. The 1/2-ounce Krocodile spoon has since been my favorite pier lure. It works.”

<*}}}}}}}}}>< From the CA Fish and Game Dept., Administrative Report No. 82-9, Species Composition and Catch per Unit of Effort of Monterey Bay Surf, Pier, and Skiff Anglers in 1979: “In 1979, Monterey Bay sport anglers were sampled for species composition of the catch and catch per unit of effort. A total of 4,150 surf, pier, and skiff anglers were interviewed.

Fish per hour was… .58 for piers. The species composition of the pier catch was dominated by juvenile bocaccio, Sebastes paucispinis; white croaker, Genyonemus lineatus; and the walleye surfperch, Hyperprosopon argentum… Monterey Wharf No. 2 (1.55 fish per hour) was the best public fishing pier. However, a small privately operated pier inside Moss Landing Harbor had the best catch rate (2.44 fph) of all piers sampled… Santa Cruz was the poorest fishing pier with a catch rate of 0.32 fph.”

However, the report goes on to state that a DF&G study in 1968 by Miller and Odemar had almost the opposite results: Santa Cruz was the best fishing pier (1.25 fph) and Monterey Wharf #2 was one of the poorest (.50 fph).

The contradictory results reflect the nature of Central Coast piers that can have a very high or poor catch rate dependent upon the arrival of certain schooling species—sardines, jack mackerel, Pacific mackerel, jacksmelt, walleye surfperch, shinerperch, bocaccio (nobody knows for sure if these baby rockfish will ever reappear in their once substantial numbers.), and increasingly, lizardfish The DF&G results by the way differ substantially from my personal results (1975-2014): Monterey Wharf #2 (12.2 fph), Santa Cruz Wharf (8.33 fph).

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — Poaching is something that goes on at piers and especially at piers that see as much use at Wharf #2. A natural question that arises is when poachers should be confronted—and how. The following was sent in by one of my friends, James Liu. James was a longtime member of the United Pier and Shore Anglers Board, an excellent fisherman, a Boy Scout leader, an intellectual giant (two PHD’s in nuclear physics), and one of the finest men I have ever known. James was a large man with a large heart and was not hesitant to confront poachers. James was born in Taiwan and he especially objected to poachers who were Asian because, as he once explained to me, he had personally had to face discrimination so many times growing up due to the poor actions of others. He hated the perception by many that all Asians break the angling rules and he tried to teach as many people as possible the proper and legal ways to fish.

My first exposure to his “power of persuasion” occurred one night when we were fishing at the Green Pleasure Pier in Avalon and two young (Asian) men were illegally hooking and keeping lobsters. Other people tried to get them to stop with little success while James got them to stop and got them to return the lobsters to the water. How? By explaining to them how their actions made him look bad. James was a person who was always willing to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. James died in 2013 and will always be sorely missed.

Date: August 2, 2003; To: PFIC Message Board; From: gyozadude; Subject: Monterey Municipal Wharf — Poacher’s Tale

I found myself groggy, but awake at 5am this morning trying to finish some work, only I was in Monterey, staying not far from the Wharf. So I got off some email and headed out for a short walk at 6am this morning. I thought I’d try to catch the slack low tide in the early morning.

Well, I tossed a chromed Buzz Bomb with a single shank barbless hook for about an hour off the east side of the pier and hiked up and down. A few regulars there cussin’ to themselves or using it to pick up some down-n-out ladies hanging out in their beater cars on the wharf.

Passed by a bunch of Vietnamese fishermen with 9-ft Ugly Stiks fishing Sabikis without much luck near mid-pier. More hung back in their minivans, smoking and watching for any signs of fish. I asked the guys standing outside if they were seeing any runs. No, one guy responded with a smile. But they were watching for anyone, smiling at me. One guy commented that it had been dead for the last few days. No bait, no big fish. The guy cussin’ profanity every sentence said he’d, “What da f—sh–yu tellin’ ‘im? I seen 3 already right here… F—!”

They gave my gear the once over and took notice of the chromed Buzz Bomb, but didn’t say anything.

I walked on toward the end of the pier and fished close to the zone that had a sign that read, “No Fishing Beyond This Line.”

I passed by a middle-aged Filipino man fishing pile worms on a hi-lo, and saw two Vietnamese guys fishing, one of them on the other side of the line in a “No Fish” zone. A younger guy, a mixed Caucasian/Asian guy, around 20-something and maybe just short of 6 ft tall was fishing the west side of the wharf.

Nothing but seals and sea lions, and weeds for the hour I tossed.

Finally, the Filipino man hauls up a 5” rockfish. The young guy and I walk over and see what it is. From a distance I already suspected it was a small bocaccio. It was throat hooked. The old Filipino man complains that it’s throat hooked. The younger guy offers his multi-tool (Leatherman style tool) for the hook extraction.

I commented to the Filipino, “Sir, that’s a bocaccio, and currently restricted. No bocaccio can be kept. Since it’s throat hooked, the standard procedure is to cut the leader as close to the hook as possible and release the fish.”

The young guy looks at me and asks, “how do you know it’s a bo-ka- what?”

“BO-ka-CHEE-O,” I emphasized. “See, the brownish tint, large mouth lip plate that extends back behind the eye, and the prominent lateral line that is curved up and back. Bocaccio are one of four rockfish closed to all take by Fish and Game regulations section 26.85.”

I walked away from the two and went back to tossing my lure around. A Young kid walked to the end of the pier and was asking anyone if they caught anything. He stopped for a while to observe the two guys doing the hook extraction. They hadn’t listened to me. They still took the hook out. And at that point, the older Filipino man bagged the bocaccio.

So back I went toward the man, and I pulled out my dig-cam and snapped a shot of the guy. He had that puzzled look on him.

In clearly stated terms, I spoke to him, “Sir, Fish and Game regulations prohibit the take of Bocaccio. I told you that before, and you knowingly broke the law.”

“What law?!?” he demanded vehemently. “I, I throw it back, okay?”

I said to him, “Section 27.82 of the regulations define rockfish closures and, Sir, section 1.87 prohibits the waste of fish. You may throw the fish back, but it was gut-hooked and now, its chance of survival is quite low since you ripped its guts out extracting your hook.”

The young kid started to pay some interest, as we were getting a little loud.

“What are you going to do with the picture?” he demands in a threatening tone.

“Oh, the picture? I’m going to send it to DFG.” I tell him.

“You violated my privacy… you can’t do that. I didn’t know the law! … Hey, where you live? I find your address… and you watch out! This is Bullsh–!!! You are full of bullsh–. I know no laws. You violate my privacy… I’ll get your license plate…” he threatens.

So I stepped up to him and clearly asked him. “Sir, is that a threat? Are YOU THREATENING ME?”

He was fuming at this point and I had my hands in my pockets on my cell phone. But he didn’t know that. “Uh… no… but you have no right to take my picture.”

“Sir, you’re standing on public property in the open. Anyone can take your picture…” I explained.

“You bullsh–… and stop calling me sir… go ahead call the cops. I take your picture TOO! You’re in violation. You bullshit too. You in violation. I don’t know the law…,” he yelled at me… (and I’ve paraphrased some statement which would be inappropriate for this forum.”

“Well, sir, ignorance of the law is no excuse,” I told him.

After a minute of his nagging, I walked away and back toward the foot of the pier to head back to the hotel. He shouted at me as I walked away, “You think you smart? You da one ignorance. You bullsh–!!! You da ignorance… I find your address.”

Anyway, I walked back down with the young boy who was asking me about more details. His dad had a boat and he was waiting to head out with him fishing, but they weren’t ready yet. We stopped about mid way and I called 1-888-DFG-CALTIP. Wow! A human answered, and I filled out a report. Didn’t think they would scramble any units, but I did my duty.

The young man asked why bocaccio were closed and I explained that they’re closed so stocks can rebuild for fishing, so folks like my kids, and him can grow up and still have bocaccio to catch. Then it was his turn to look puzzled. Well, why did that guy have to steal fish? I just love it when kids can figure out that poaching is wrong!

Epilogue: The poacher took off in a hurry. Paul Gaske from DFG enforcement called me and we talked for quite sometime, and he might show up on this website. I told him about some UPSAC activities and we’re hoping to have another person involved in our education efforts! Not all skunked this morning.

P.S. Picture of poacher to be posted later when I get the USB cable for my camera or the adapter/reader (both of which I left at home)

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