25 Years of Fish Reports — Today's Pier — Balboa Pier

Ken Jones

Staff member
PFIC Fishing Reports — Balboa Pier

February 1999 — We've got a new reporter for the pier, Snookie, who says, in her own words, “I fish Balboa two times a week, every week of the year. I have done so for 55 years. Yes, I'm a fishing addict.” Welcome aboard Snookie! Her first report, on January 19th, said, “today was awful. It's typical a January. There's not much in the way of live bait. The fish being caught are small mackerel and sardines. One thornback and one barred surfperch were the catches today. At least the city is replacing the missing pilings from last spring. Once that is done, we will have peace on the pier again. Balboa Pier is one of the best whale watching piers. It has deep surf and they come in to shore regularly. If the fishing isn't good, the whale watching is.” A later report said much the same—“as to a report from the Balboa Pier this month, it is not going to be encouraging. There have been the usual mackerel and big sardines, but the halibut and the surf fish have been far and few between. If you like thornbacks, there are plenty of those. It's just that time of year. The live bait situation has been terrible. There have been some smelt in the surf area. They were small schools of a dozen to two dozen. Hard to get them excited about the chum to get them into the net.”

March 1999 — Our reporter, Snookie, filed two reports this month. On the 23rd, she reported that the fishing was “the best since the first of the year. The live bait (smelt) has returned en mass. There are all sizes as well. They were very near shore. All that was caught though was a 20-1/2 inch halibut by Noble, but at least there's now a chance with the good bait. To have the bait return certainly lifts the spirit and the possibility of catching something. We were graced with the presence of a bat ray that was well over a hundred pounds. He was in about three feet of water just paralleling the shore. What a beautiful sight! A couple weeks ago one fellow caught a bucket of small yellowfin croaker using mussels... We have been getting the small yellowfin croakers too, plus some nice big barred surfperch. Those were hitting the bloodworms. We are seeing lots of corbina in the surf, but we are not having any luck catching them. The ‘snaggers’ caught some when the water was clear enough to see them. We are still watching the whales coming north now. We had a small pod of common dolphins through today with one very small baby. That was very interesting as they stayed around long enough for us to observe the baby. The mackerel fishermen have not been doing well on the end. This will improve soon. I hope by next month I'll have an interesting report for everyone. March can be an exciting month. With the water the coldest in at least five years we'll see what happens.” Very interesting was Snookie's second report where she said, “Here's one for the books. Thursday, February 18, I caught a bonefish at the Balboa Pier. I was fishing the surf area with bloodworms when I caught him. He is definitely a bonefish (Albula vulpes)… I have the fish in my freezer. None of my fishing friends ever remember a bonefish being caught locally. According to the books they only grow to one and a half feet here.”

April 1999 — Our reporter, Snookie, says, “things are beginning to pick up a little—finally. Our bait situation is sometimes iffy, but most of the time we are getting some smelt. My group is spending our time in the surf area because of the grunion being there. Naturally the halibut come to where the good food is. We are getting some undersized halibut fairly regularly but not in any quantity. On the 18th I caught two keepers that were seen by all. Each one won its freedom. One shook the hook loose, and the other shot out of the water and up the pier and around a piling before I could catch up with him. That did let us know that the halibut are here and almost ready to be ours. Our biggest thrill that day was because of the clear water we saw a ‘barndoor’ halibut swim out from under the pier. She must have weighed around thirty or more pounds. She was in about two feet of water just paralleling the shore. We all have plans for her even if she did thumb her nose at us. We know they are territorial, and that she lives here. I and one other person in my group have each hooked her in the last year or two. There are lots of corbina in the surf in the spawning mode but not the biting mode. One morning when I was getting bait there was a Pacific cutlassfish swimming just under them. I was helping him catch his breakfast. They are a beautiful fish to watch, especially if the sun is shining on them. The weather is still giving us some problems. None of us are crazy about fishing in the winter rains. Apparently the mackerel fishermen aren't either. They are not doing well with the mackerel as yet.”

August 1999 — Our reporter Snookie, says “up until this week, we had warmer water which was helping the fishing. The small queenfish arrived and the halibut loved it. Of my group I was the only one to catch a keeper (26 inches). Yours was 27 inches. Another fellow caught a 29-inch halibut last week, and his friend caught a 26-incher July 5th. The smelt for bait have been sporadic. At least when they weren't here, we could catch queenfish. Today a few sardines showed up. We have also been using walleye perch and shiner perch and deep bodied anchovies. The oddball fish was my 4-pound giant sea bass on a live queenfish. I also caught a 48-inch shovelnose guitarfish. The interesting fish being caught are the sargo with some size to them. Also some beautiful big barred surfperch and corbina. All of these were on mussels and sand crabs. Of course we are catching lots and lots of small halibut up to 21 inches As of Sunday, we have a red tide condition. We had the warm water then it dropped almost 10 degrees. That certainly will contribute to red tide conditions. At least it is still mild. We also lost a piling (shore corner from the sink). No one knows what happened, but it is obvious it was literally ripped out. It had to have been a boat."

June 2000 — Snookie reports, “We are still having trouble getting this season started. The halibut are there when you can get live bait. The live bait is being elusive most of the time this month, but if you work real hard up by the telephone, it is possible to get some. Don't throw back the very large ones because the BIG halibut will try for them. I know as I had the use of some 10-inch smelt under the pier close to the surf, and both were hit quite hard. It was a lazy fish, and she didn't finish her meal. I pulled up shredded smelt. I have had some undersized halibut though. The surfperch, especially walleyes (that are very tasty), are now available. The baits for them are mussel, ghost shrimp, and bloodworms. The yellowfin are there too with the same menu. So far even though the corbina are around and easy to spot, they are not cooperating. I am seeing some baby leopard sharks being caught on the surf rigs, and the large leopards have made their appearances in the surf. Did you know that those 5-foot leopards chase and probably eat corbina? Interesting to watch. This past week we had numerous jellyfish come by in all sizes. Sounds as though we are going to have cold water for a while longer, which by the way is staying around 57 to 59 degrees. Yes, we are still seeing a few Grey whales heading north. The mackerel catching still seems to be on the slow side, but I am not there at night to see if it is better then.”

Date: June 21, 2000
To: Pier Fishing in California Message Board
From: Ken Jones
Subject: Fish Report

I fished Balboa most of Tuesday morning and afternoon. Bright and early tried out at the end; nothing but jacksmelt were around. Didn't see a single mackerel, or other fish for that matter. Joined Snookie and her charming group about 9:30 and had a delightful time listening to stories and the wisdom accumulated by a group of true experts over many, many years. Also managed to catch five halibut and one queenfish using the small smelt that Snookie provided. Saw one small blacksmith, an unusual crab, and a sickly barracuda (dark colored and estimated by myself at 4-5 pounds) that was hanging around the surf area until someone finally snagged it. After looking at the fish, the angler decided to return it to the water where it continued to patrol the shallow water for the next several hours. Thanks again to Snookie and the “gang” at Balboa for a great day.

October 2000 — Snookie reports “it has been a good month at the pier with quite a few keeper halibut caught. The bonito have been showing quite regularly although they are on the small side. I have seen some beautiful sargo near the surf being caught on fresh mussels. I myself have two keeper halibut this month. I released a 20-inch white seabass last week. Have also caught several calicos (kelp bass) near the surf all of which were legals. I did release the calicos. They were not on my menu for that night. Have also caught several shovelnose guitarfish with good size to them. Have seen some very small ones as well. There have been some bigger fish on the surface a few evenings for those that fish the surface on the end. For some reason they were lost bringing them in, but those fishermen who had them are some of the better fishermen, and they said they were on the large size for whatever they were. A few days this month have been very hot at the pier to the point of almost not being bearable. Other times have been much better than inland. For the surface fishing it has been important to have a southeast breeze or wind blowing. We have also had some “big” water conditions from the storms off Baja. That does not help the halibut fishing, but the other fish don't mind. As of the last two days the yellowfin tuna and the dorado have been only three miles out. Could this be a year they would dare to wander close to our piers? There is certainly a large amount of bait around the pier, and as of yesterday there are sardines as well as little Spanish Jacks.

March 2001 — Snookie reports “The few times I have been fishing I used bloodworms—fresh and old. I am beginning to catch more barred surfperch with some nice sizes to them. There are birds close to shore diving for bait including the pelicans, but the water is so murky that I can't see the bait. I am not getting any live bait either. The end of the pier is on again/off again. Nothing is cooperating, especially the weather. With the cold water (down to 52 and 53) we should see the salmon come in. Of course the season does NOT start until April 14th. That will be a Saturday. With March coming up this week we should soon see a good change in our fishing. Now if the weather will allow us to fish. A week ago after a strong wind/storm we had an episode of lots of shells appearing on the beach. They must have covered an area 10 or more feet wide as far up and down the beach as one could see. There were all sizes including some Pismo’s, sand dollars, and scallops, etc. It was spectacular. However, with good things come bad things. The tiny midges came with the empty shells. We have never had a bug infestation like that, that I can remember. They were there the next time I went down too. That was a time a wind was a welcome happening. It blew them away for a while. We found out—THEY BITE!”

September 2001 — Snookie reports “Well, I am back to fishing the pier again. I feel like I have come home. This month has been good for the mackerel fishermen although it is an off and on thing, but that's the way fishing is. There has been some quite large mackerel in amongst the medium ones. The halibut are there en masse, but they are undersized. For fun they are great though. What little fighters they are. One of my friends, Noble, caught a 26-inch halibut this month in the middle of the pier on a smelt. Another friend, Randy caught a silver salmon about 12 pounds, but he knew better than to land it. He also caught a green jack about 14 inches long. They are not common to the pier, but we occasionally see one. There has been lots of bait, but it has not been easy to catch. They won't take the snag-line easily, but they have been nettable. There have been afternoons that the sardines have come in thick. Those were easy to catch on the snag-lines. There are also some queenfish of all sizes plus some very small mackerel. Those have all been good baits for those little halibut. I know that there was another large shovelnose caught, but I have not seen any other rays, although my friend Randy had a large ray on last week. He just tightened the line too snap it because it was heading out to sea and he was being too lazy to complete the process of bringing it to the pier. The snaggers have been there regularly and catching some fish. The days have been great on the pier plus the water has been very cooperative with no strong currents. There are still a few jellyfish passing by. This is the time of the year fishing improves.”

August 2002 — Our reporter, Snookie, reports “I have been taking my grandkids to the pier to learn more about fish and fishing. They love to catch bait, and they are good at it. The bait situation has been very good as far as being there to catch but catching them is not always easy... As to the bait we have had queenfish, anchovies of all sizes, sardines, small mackerel, smelt and grunion, and small walleyed perch and Spanish Jacks. What more could you ask for in bait? As to fish well, I think they are full of bait. Strikes are hard to come by unless you are fishing mackerel farther out. I did get a 12-inch Zebraperch on the snag-line. The halibut have been small although some keepers have been lost. I have seen some thornbacks caught and some yellowfin croaker. One early evening we had a time with the barracuda hitting our bait, but they were also a little undersized, but fat. The jumbo or Humboldt squid were here for a while. Although some were caught off the pier, some were also picked up on the shore while walking. As long as the grunion are still here the squid will most likely keep making appearances. A squid jig is a necessity. These squid are delicious to eat and they make good bait as well. They must be prepared soon after catching to be good. Don't overcook them or they become tough.”

September 2002 — Our reporter, Snookie, reports, “This month has not been very good. Even the smaller halibut have been tough to come by for me at least. I do know of a few keepers being caught. There have been some good-sized shovelnose guitarfish caught. The yellowfin croakers are the big thing right now. Today there were lots of them in the surf area. Most of them were caught on squid. The squid bait was from the squid catches of the past few weeks. The Humboldt or Jumbo squid have been making nightly appearances for several weeks now, but are almost gone. It was a show in itself to watch as the pier was lined with elbow-to-elbow fishermen waiting for that magic hour when the squid would appear. They ran all the way to the surf following the grunion and other baits farther out. Those were happy people while the squid were there. The mackerel are around but not necessarily plentiful. Perch have been showing in the surf area. Oh yes, the mighty California Lizardfish has made an occasional appearance. The weather has been comfortable even with some big swells showing now. Just remember to not fish under the pier when the swells are big.”

May 2003 — Our reporter Snookie says “Not too much to report this month. The weather has not cooperated at all. Have heard of some keepers being caught. There are some mackerel and some sardines as big as the mackerel. Also saw the lowly lizardfish make its way back into the catches. Guess that is what happens when the water gets cold. The water is consistently the coldest this month that it has been for over nine years (have kept my weather diary that long). The biggy now is the influx of Velella velella a beautiful blue 4-inch hydroid with a sail that is all around the pier area now. It has also been seen in Crystal Cove today. Back in the late 50’s there was a major invasion of these creatures to the extent that you could see them as far as your eyesight would allow you to see. Some old fishermen used to say these meant good fishing ahead. Hope they are right.”

June 2004 — Our reporter Snookie says, “it has been fun this month. We've had so many white seabass it has been unreal. Wish they had been bigger though. They did run up to 24 inches. It has been windy and cool but nice to fish. The water is up to the high 60’s, which is warmer than it has been for quite a few years for this time of the year. We are getting keeper halibut now at a fairly consistent rate. Of course we have to weed through the smaller ones first. We've had some leopard sharks from babies up to 5 feet. There has been some nice sized bat rays and very large shovelnose guitarfish. The bait has been cooperating most of the time with a catch of smelt, sardines, Spanish jacks, queenfish and perch. The crowds are picking up with Memorial Day and summer coming soon, but there is plenty of room to fish. The tourists that see us catch fish immediately ask where they rent a rod and reel so they can do that too. Sounds easy doesn't it.”

August 2004 — Our reporter Snookie says “this month at Balboa Pier has been getting more exciting by the day. We have had a run of tiny bonito. The problem with that is that people can't seem to remember that five is the number of legals when they are under 24 inches fork length. The halibut have been around with some of them quite large such as a 26-pounder and the rumor of a 35-pounder off the end. The yellowfin croakers have been around to participate in our catches. Those are good eating fish. This past week we have had some legal barracudas upward of over 30 inches. They have been running all the way into the surf as well as the little bonito. There were some 1 1/2 pound bonito and a 2 pounder caught last week. The bait has been unbelievable in quantity. We have had smelt of all sizes, a few Spanish jacks, a lot of queenfish and small mackerel. It seems every day about noon the sardines come in all the way to the surf and hug the pier for protection. You really don't need a bucket. A snag-line on a small rod and your rod to transfer the bait to is about it they are so thick. It is very busy right now because of the summer season and the nice days and as a result it is very noisy as well. It would be nice if the yellowtail would come in, and right now it is a strong possibility. It is fun fishing right now.”

September 2004 — Our reporter Snookie says “It has been repeatedly bonito, bonito, bonito for over a month now. At least they are growing bigger. The biggest so far have been around 24 inches. The water is full of bait being sardines, smelt, small mackerel, and Spanish jacks. You could say that the water is literally alive with fish all around the pier. We have four resident pinnipeds that included a bull sea lion, a pup sea lion and a female plus one harbor seal. They are eating their share of the bait as well, although we don't have too much trouble with them so far. There are no halibut because of the bonito around. With an increase in the small Spanish jacks we could see the yellowtail come into the pier in the next month. Oh but that would be fun again.”

October 2004 — Our reporter Snookie says “what a warm month this has been in Balboa. The fishing has been great if you are after bonito. As to the bait there has been an abundance of everything including sardines of various sizes, small mackerel, smelt of various sizes, queenfish occasionally, walleyed perch, and lots of grunion about 8 to 10 inches long and Spanish jacks. The bonito have been hitting almost anything that moves. They are all the way into the surf all day long. This makes it difficult to get the halibut to strike. They don't like those juvenile acting fish bothering them. There have been quite a few shovelnose guitarfish and thornbacks caught. For a few nights there were Humboldt squid caught. One person caught as many as 14. It does help to know that they squirt ink when you bring them onto the pier. If you aren't ready, you will look a mess when they get through squirting you.”

June 2005 — Our reporter Snookie reports, “Fishing has picked up considerably this month. We are catching lots of halibut and some keepers. The bait situation has been good and bad, but at least we can always get a few baitfish. Most of the bait is smelt, but I have seen some nice Spanish jacks for bait. The halibut have been caught on the end as well as the surf areas. There are lots of mackerel and wall-eyed perch. There has been several nice shovelnose guitarfish caught and lots of thornbacks. There was a nice legal leopard shark caught on the end and a baby leopard shark caught in the surf area. An unusual catch in the bait net last week was a pipefish about eight inches long.”

September 2005 — Our reporter Snookie reports, “It's been an interesting month. We've had the “black” jellies and the purple-striped jellies along with the red tide. At least the fish didn't quit entirely. We've had some keeper halibut and a lot of undersized halibut. The mackerel have been around a lot. The yellowfin croakers and the corbina have made a good showing as well as the barred surfperch and wall-eyes. A friend caught six barracudas off the end, but they were only about 20 inches each. The bait has been good most of the time with queenfish being the easiest to get and next is smelt, but the sardines came in again last week along with a few anchovies.”

May 2008 — Our reporter Snookie reports, “At least this month is better, and it keeps getting better. Our bait situation is not always good. We have to work to get bait almost every time. We are persistent, and it pays off in small amounts of smelt. Sometimes there has been a sardine or two. Each one of us has gotten a keeper halibut up to 29 inches, sothat is encouraging. We have also gotten quite a few small halibut. The interesting part of this month was the Big Skate that was caught. It was about 6 feet in diameter and very spotted. That was a first to see for all of us. That is a beautiful fish. It was released. There are a few mackerel around at the end and a large shovelnose guitarfish was caught but not landed. It took a big live bait. The walleyed perch are appearing in larger amounts now. They are small, but they are good eating. The red tide has been coming and going a lot as well this month. There are some jellies and lots of kelp going by. Had another first last week. A Jelly called Polyorchis haplus which is a small unusual jelly that was caught on the snag-line. It was only about 2 1/2 by 1 1/2 inches. The ocean is coming to life.”

July 2008 — Our reporter Snookie says, “The ocean is still unsettled, but the temperatures have risen to 72 degrees. Lots of kelp is passing through every day. There is lots of bait to be had. Most of the bait is from the middle tee to the end. It is smelt of all sizes and some Spanish jacks. We are catching quite a few undersized halibut, shovelnose guitarfish and nice-sized yellowfin croaker. Some of the shovelnose guitarfish have been almost 60 inches in length. There were two keeper halibut caught today by one person in the middle of the pier. There have been several white sea bass caught, but of course all undersized. There has been little “pencil” barries caught on our snag-lines but no legals yet. The halfmoons (blue perch) were there today in various sizes and very hungry for the snag-lines.

June 2009 — Our reporter Snookie says, “It has been better this month although some of the days brought us nothing like halibut. There has been lots of bait lately such as sardines, queenfish of a decent size, and Spanish jacks plus smelt and a few anchovies. Can't ask for much more with those baits. The interesting thing this last week has been the thresher sharks. The boys on the end of the pier have been hooking up with some nice-sized ones although the one they did land was 80 pounds and 8 feet long. The others were bigger at about 200 pounds they say. Landing them was the problem, but they finally got a good gaff rig to successfully do it. It took live mackerel on sliders to attract the sharks. They are beautiful to watch jump. There has been several keeper halibut caught and lots of undersized ones as well. One lobster was caught in the surf area on a dead anchovy, and several legal-sized calicos have been caught all over the pier.

October 2009 — Our reporter Snookie says, “This month hasn't been too bad. Although we haven't seen a lot of keeper halibut, we have seen a lot of 21 inchers and smaller. They have been healthy looking too. Of course there are lots of mackerel. Bonito have been showing with the catches being on splashers mostly. The bonito haven't been large just nice-sized. There are a lot of shovelnose guitarfish in the surf area. Most are young ones but fun to catch. Have been some leopard sharks too. The water has been nice and the bait has been great everywhere. There are a lot of jacksmelt around as well. Oh yes, and that dreaded thing the lizardfish is here too. We had a young whale visit us last week. He is quite late going north, but I think he had an injury that may have detained him. His flukes had met up with a prop or a great white. He’s moving now though. The snaggers have been getting a lot of mullet this past week. At least I haven't seen any corbina caught by them lately. Although there aren't a lot of people around now, watch your equipment because we have spotted couple young men that are trying to steal our stuff. At least we caught them in the act of trying last week, so we all know what they look like.

August 2010 — Our reporter Snookie says, “This month is better. Have had some halibut, shovelnose guitarfish, yellowfin croaker, corbina, perch (barred and walleyed), a bonito, some small barries, and of course mackerel...We have gotten good bait most of the month. We even had anchovies one day with a school hanging out around the surf area of the pier. The sardines, smelt, Spanish Jacks and queenfish are showing regularly. You just have to figure out what the favorite is for the fish that day. Have had a variety of jellyfish coming through. The nettle jelly has shown up several times lately. There are about three others that I couldn't identify except for one. It was the Fried Egg Jellyfish. That is a definite id. Easy! All those were observed near the shore, so be careful those of you in the water.”

October 2011—Our reporter Snookie says “Although this month hasn't been the greatest the past two days have made up for it. Humboldt Squid arrived en masse. They were chasing our big bait schools of sardines and little mackerel. Thursday we started getting the squid about mid pier. Just my group was. They started out smaller at about 2 to 2 1/2 feet, and then they got bigger up to about 4 feet. Of course you have to remember those tentacles stretch out quite a ways. Thursday I got four of them in the time I was there. Came back Friday morning about mid-morning and got four more plus I got two small market size squid. Finally the sun came out and that ended the bite plus it got too hot to stay. I did get squirted in the back by the squid caught by the man next to me. What a shock, but it at least didn't have ink in the squirt. We did get a good laugh out of that happening. Friday morning the pier was a mess. There was ink everywhere even down to the surf. We need a good rain now. The people needed big bags so all the bags were missing from the trash cans on the pier. The night was of course the best time to catch the squid, and hundreds went to new homes. My friends and I haven't had that much fun in a long time with “catching.” Oh, and my calimari dinner was excellent if I do say so.”

June 2012—Our reporter Snookie says, “It has been awful this month unless you wanted more sardines or mackerel. I did see a lot of small walleyed perch being caught. Those that are catching them aren't paying attention to the amounts they can keep. Fish and Game is going to have a blast when they come out to see what everyone is catching and the amounts they are keeping. Sardines and mackerel don't have a legal amount, but perch do. There are some thornbacks being caught and a very few shovelnose guitarfish. Last week a snagger caught a 28-inch halibut in the surf area. The next day we saw four more big halibut, a big shovelnose, a very large white sea bass and a large school of spotfin croaker all in the surf. Nothing would take live bait. We have had lots of bait, mainly smelt of all sizes and baby walleyes. The young queenfish are starting to show up the past few days too. The water is much warmer now at 64 to 66 degrees. Hopefully soon!”

August 2012—Our reporter Snookie says, “There were two keeper halibut caught this month. One was 31 inches and the other was 23 inches. The bigger one was caught on a small lizardfish. At least we found out that they do work for live bait. There have been a lot of walleyed perch caught of all sizes, some yellowfin croaker and some undersized white sea bass. The live baits have been sardines, smelt, Spanish jacks, and a very few queenfish. The water temperatures are up to 68 degrees at times. Those that have gotten some sand crabs have caught some nice corbina lately. There have been some big strikes in the surf with live bait such as sardines, but they got away. They probably were big leopard sharks. I saw one bluefin tuna about 35 pounds in the surf area. He was healthy but lost. Most unusual! Have seen a lot of Salps in the past two weeks. Also close to the biggest Black Sea Nettle jellyfish came by. Don't need a lot of those. The Salps are fine though.”

September 2012—Our reporter Snookie says, “I've seen a couple keeper halibut caught this month, but the snagger got the biggest which was about 25 inches. Another snagger has been getting some corbina, mullet, and spotfin croakers. We haven't been getting much...

April 2013—Our reporter Snookie says, “If you like sardines, it was a great month for them. There were thousands if not millions of sardines caught. All were down at the surf area. We are now also getting smelt of all sizes. Some are jacksmelt. We want the smaller smelt for halibut live bait. Are we getting halibut-NO, but we are still trying. There are some mackerel being caught in with the sardines, but they aren't big. We are seeing quite a few whales heading north. The sea lions are chasing the bait all day long. The sardines that are being brought in on the snag-lines are being chased by the sea lions. That is a humorous thing to watch. Perhaps it is a good thing we are not getting a decent halibut with those sea lions around. Animal control picked up a baby sea lion resting on the beach last week. Right after she left with the baby, the mother sea lion came up to the shore and was looking for the baby. I think animal control needs to learn more about the habits of these creatures.

August 2013—Our reporter Snookie says, “Things are better at the pier now. We have been getting lots of halibut although they are undersized. At least they are around and there should be some mothers and grandmothers in amongst them. My fishing buddy and I each have two keepers since the first of the year, and we expect more keepers. The bait is there for them as well. There has been some large yellowfin croakers caught up to 4 pounds. The white sea bass are around, but their sizes aren't big enough. There was a 38-1/2 inch one caught in the surf by a snagger. We have seen some larger ones go through. Don't know how we would land those that looked like 60 pounders. The mackerel are there towards the end of the pier. Saw one small bonito. The snaggers have gotten some corbina off and on. The water has been nice most of the time with 68 to 70 degree water.

November 2013—Our reporter Snookie says, “Part of the time this month was okay, and part of the time it was awful. We had lots of smelt of all sizes most of the time, but the fish just didn't want to eat. I did get 4 halibut and 2 another day, but no keepers. There were thornbacks, stingrays, and yellowfin croakers. Of coarse there were mackerel that were small and we did have a few small bonito. There was an 18-pound spotfin croaker caught in the surf area. Yes! I said 18 pounds!” [We are checking on how the fish was weighed and have asked for a picture since the state record fish was only 14 pounds.]

January 2014 — Our reporter Snookie says, “We have been getting quite a few jacksmelt for the past few weeks. I have been eating them and do enjoy them. They are so mild, and easy to clean. I fillet them. They are good smoked as well. We have had some good sardines for bait, but nothing really wants to eat them other than crabs. Well, after all it is winter, and we really can't expect too much. There are some thornbacks around. The water has been crystal clear for several weeks now. Makes it interesting to watch the bottom for future reference as to snag areas. This week we watched several blue whales spout and show their backs. They were out a ways, but it was a very calm day water wise and wind wise, so we could see those extremely high spouts at a distance and the sun shining on their backs. Friday we had a large mola mola come into the pier by the pilings and stay about an hour. It was about 10 feet long and probably about 500 pounds. That was the biggest one we have ever seen. With the water as clear as it was it made viewing the mola mola very interesting. Our water is staying at 60 degrees which it normal for this time of year. There are lots of tourists from everywhere coming out on the pier. It is fun to hear their comments. They thought the mola mola was a manta ray... Oh, by the way, you may not have known him personally, but we lost an important person in the fish world last week. It was Art Mello. He had the bait boats for years here, such as the Mona Lisa, Mello Boy, Mello 2, and several others. He delivered bait to Newport Pier when I fished it and before. I know his son, Sam, from Dana Harbor. I attended the funeral yesterday at Pacific View. On his casket there were fish at each corner of the casket. I now plan to have four halibut on mine. (no hurry!) How about you?”

September 2014 — Our reporter Snookie says, “Interesting past two weeks. Had big water last week and lots of big water this week. The white sea bass liked it although they were far from big enough. Saw a couple of BIG halibut following the small halibut that were caught. We now know there are some biggies there when they are ready to bite. There have been quite a few bonito in the mornings early. They have been decent sizes. Also, there are a lot of mackerel too all day. The bait situation is great with small mackerel, Spanish jacks, and smelt of all sizes. Unfortunately the lizardfish have been quite prevalent with an appetite for all the baitfish. A couple of very large white seabass were seen in the surf last week. These were 60 pounders. Oh, that would be quite the excitement to get one of those. We had to fish out towards the end of the pier because of the big waves. At least they weren't as big as a few years ago when they broke over the pier in the surf area. That ocean gets out of control at times.

November 2014 —Our reporter Snookie says, “It’s been a better month. We have had more bait than we can use. The bait consists of smelt of all sizes, sardines, Spanish jacks, Pacific mackerel and grunion. A 10-inch grunion got a 39-inch white sea bass in the surf last week. We have been catching lots of undersized halibut with a 24-1/2 inch halibut in the surf on a smelt. There are lots of bonito around after the bait. They are not hard to catch even all the way into the surf. They are getting bigger too. Someone caught a very small yellowtail as well. Of course the mackerel are there too. We are having a good time now. It would be nice if the bonito fishermen would follow the DFG rules and only keep the legal five bonito instead of a bucket full.”

July 2015 — Our reporter Snookie says, “This month is better, but we are still looking for a big halibut. The small bonito were around a lot off and on. A lot of people don't pay attention to the law that says you can only keep five of those small ones. I did get one on my snag-line yesterday. I took him home for my supper. The small Spanish mackerel are around which is a good sign for yellowtail if the Spanish mackerel stay another month. Right now the white seabass and halibut love them and there are lots of them. I've seen quite a few nice spotfin croakers snagged in the surf, and some corbina too.

September 2015—Our reporter Snookie says, “This month at the pier has been quite interesting. I told you about my 30 pound halibut that was lost in netting it. Two days later my brother had her on briefly, so she is still there. That day I caught a 15-pound yellowtail in the surf in that 72-degree water. His teeth cut the line in the little waves he got into. Lucky him! We have had bonito en masse off and on for several weeks now, but Tuesday and Wednesday this week they were everywhere from the end to the edge of the surf. Needless to say I did enjoy one meal Tuesday night of fresh bonito. Wednesday we had an 8 ½-foot hammerhead shark show up in the surf. One of my friends yelled to the lifeguard that he might want to keep an eye on it, but the lifeguard thought he was just being friendly and ignored him. Then the swimmers saw the shark and hightailed it out of the water. They told the lifeguard about it and he promptly closed the beach. We used to have quite a few hammerheads around years ago, but we just haven't seen any for a while. They usually came in small schools, so that shark probably had a few friends with him. So far they have never attacked anyone at Balboa. There has been a few threshers seen off the end, but no one has managed to catch one yet. The bait has been excellent. We have had many sardines, Spanish jacks, smelt of all sizes, a few grunion and small macks. Thursday the bonito disappeared. They knew to get out of there before they became a meal for that shark. Last Tuesday we had a humpback whale about a half-mile out that breached three times before it went for its deep dive. That was exciting.”

November 2015—Our reporter Snookie says, “It has been a great month. We have had lots of yellowtail and bonito in the surf area as well as around the pier. We are using small grunion, and that is what they want. The yellowtail are smaller lately, but some are decent size. There was a beautiful 7-pound striped bass caught last week. There are lots of small halibut, shovelnose guitarfish, butterfly rays, thornbacks and stingrays. Out farther there were five turtles seen, two of which were caught and released. The biggest was a 6-footer, which we think because of its head size that it was a loggerhead. There are still lots of humpback whales around. Guess there is a lot for them to eat. The bait situation is fantastic everywhere. I have been going down everyday for the morning hours. Yes, we are eating a lot of good fish. Keep El Nino coming!”

January 2016 —Our reporter Snookie says, “Fishing has slowed again now that the water has cooled. It is 60 degrees now and the water is crystal clear. The only fish lately have been small mackerel on the end of pier and nice-sized jacksmelt in the surf area. The jacksmelt are there just off and on, but they are easy to see since the water is so clear. Bait is a problem, but we have gotten some. That is when Gulp comes in handy. Yesterday we observed an 8 to 9-foot great white shark about 10 feet from shore on the west side of the pier. What a beauty!! We also have seen a few humpbacks out about a mile. They love to jump and show their pectorals. One gray went by last week heading south.

June 2016—Our reporter Snookie says, “It is slowly getting better, but very slowly. Bait has been our big problem. Now its is coming, but it is 2-inch smelt and anchovies. You have to use at least two of them at a time. As of last week we are beginning to get a few herring (queenfish), but so far no takers. The mackerel are still going strong farther out. The red crabs are swimming about everyday now with lots on the beach. It was quiet yesterday for the fishermen on the pier as the shark attack in Corana Del Mar kept all the swimmers out of the water from Crystal Cove to Balboa Pier.”

July 2016—Our reporter Snookie says, “It is finally beginning to pick up. We have had big water for over a week now, but we are making do even in the surf area. We have been catching lots of nice yellowfin croaker, kelp bass, and halibut although the bass and the halibut are small. We have been using extremely small live baits such as anchovies and smelt. Once in a while we get a queenfish some of which are big, and some are very small. Randy got a 22-inch white sea bass today on a regular-sized smelt. My kelp bass was only 13-1/2 inches. Getting close. We have been eating a lot of yellowfin croaker this week. There are lots of small mackerel. The big story this week is that the bonito have returned. They aren't big, but they are bigger than some of the mackerel. Yesterday there was a mola mola right under us. He was close to 500 pounds. He was at least 6 feet long.

August 2016 —Our reporter Snookie says, “It is getting more interesting at the pier lately. We are getting lots of good bait. There are smelt of all sizes, Spanish jacks, little mackerel, some queenfish, and an occasional grunion. There were thousands of sardines one day, and joining them was a 10- foot salmon shark in the surf area. He has teeth like the great white, so the lifeguards closed the beaches for a while. Those people in the water weren't sardines, so he [the shark] wasn't really interested. There was a yellowtail caught in the surf a few days ago that was decent-sized. Maybe we'll have them again this year. There were several bonito caught off the end on snag-line outfits. Those bonito were about 2 pounders. I got two halibut last week an hour apart. One was 22-1/2 inches and the other was 29-inches. Both were caught on smelt. Delicious!! Haven't seen any other keepers since, but they are there.

October 2016—Our reporter Snookie says “the water is cooler than last year at this time. It is running about 66 to 69 degrees. I think the fish want it warmer. We do have a lot of bait all around the pier, which includes smelt, sardines, Spanish Jacks, anchovies (pinheads). We have had a lot of bonito this month. Some have been nice-sized, but right now they tend to be smaller. There are lots of mackerel as well. The halibut have been very small, but easy to catch in the surf. Out about midway there have been some thresher sharks, which are always fun to catch. One day about a week ago the bonito came in fast and furious. We were fishing the middle tee. All you had to do was put bait in the water and the bonito were there instantly. They are more selective at the moment. Yesterday I caught a 14-inch Spanish jack on my snag-line. He went home for supper with me.

November 2016—Our reporter Snookie says, “Fishing has not been great at all. We still have lots of bait. There are lots of very small halibut in the surf area on small baits. I did catch a 21-inch halibut, and some smaller but good sizes. Then there was the hand-size ones which I caught a lot of. There were three stripers caught within 24 hours. One was caught on a blue and silver Krocodile lure. Another was snagged, and the third one was caught on a plastic. They were all about the same size from 29 to 30 inches. The bonito are still around, but there aren't as many. Of course there are mackerel, sometimes into the surf. The jacksmelt have shown up now in the surf area. The snaggers are getting mullet, but they aren't big.

December 2016—Our reporter Snookie says, “Things are slowing with the water cooling, but we still have lots of jacksmelt and sardines around. I did get a 23 1/2 inch halibut a week ago on a sardine in the surf. It took me five tries to get her, but I was persistent. There are some mackerel around and some thornbacks and stingrays. The water has been clear for quite a while now, and we know there is a BIG halibut lurking in the surf area, because we have seen her. Saw our first gray whale of the season yesterday.”

June 2017 — Our reporter Snookie says, “There was one big halibut caught this month. It was 35 inches on a sardine in the middle tee. It was a friend of mine that caught it. Randy netted it and filleted it therefore he got to take a beautiful fillet home for several suppers. My biggest has been 20 inches as well as my daughter's halibut was 20 inches too. We have a big halibut lurking about from the surf to midway. We have seen "her" and she is big! I have had her on 4 times. Talk about frustrating! Yesterday the mackerel came in late in the day along with the sardines en masse. I hope they, the sardines, are there tomorrow. Other than that it has been slow, but it looks like it will be picking up soon. There is a movie being made next to the pier this week. They say it is a remake of Valley of the Dolls. They should be doing a remake of JAWS. Meek company is fixing the bad parts of the pier also this week, and it has been very noisy.”

July 2017 — Our reporter Snookie says, “Bait is easier to get now with some sardines in the mix. The mackerel have disappeared for a while, but there are 5-inch ones for bait. We are getting some undersized halibut. There has been several large shovelnose guitarfish caught lately. One was 54 1/2 inches and another was 51 1/2 inches. The smaller one was mine. Of course there was that 41-pound white sea bass caught by a snagger. Also a friend traded me a nice spot finned croaker for my shovelnose. We had one incident of a great white off the end caught on a large piece of mackerel by a friend of mine. It spooled him of his 20-pound test on a conventional reel, but not before they saw him. Things are looking up. At least I have had fresh halibut this month thanks to my daughters. A sea lion got one keeper, and we lost one to the net as it was too hot to net. The next one we got, and it was 24 1/2 inches. It was delicious!”

August 2017— Our reporter Snookie says, “I wish catching would pick up faster than it has. We are catching some bonitos, some small halibut, and we are waiting for the yellowtail because there are small grunion here which it what they like. We got three needlefish last week about 3 feet long. They bit on our sliders which had smelt on them. They sure have a set of teeth! Bait has not been a problem for us. We even were getting some more sardines and anchovies. Now to find something that wants them. We have found out that the bait stay livelier if you have two aerators on one bucket. The snaggers in the surf have been getting some nice corbina and spot finned croakers. The mackerel are still here but small. Looking forward to September. Sometimes it is a magical month.”

November 2017 — Our reporter Snookie says, “November got ahead of me. Yesterday we caught a lot of jacksmelt. My friend used salted bonito, and I use the size 6 Sabiki. There were a lot of mackerel on the end as well. We fished the surf. Our halibut have been small. We are still seeing some good-sized halibut in the surf area. The snaggers are getting a lot of mullet now and some corbina and spotfins. Sunday we had a turtle in the surf. He was about a 50 pounder. That was quite a sight as he was about two feet from shore. Yesterday we left early. It was cold and windy. Wish I could say things were looking up, but I can't. By the way this last week we also had a young (probably) gray whale come through the surf. Not the right direction or the right time of year for him. He was also very spotted with brown spots. Very unusual.”

April 2018— Our reporter Snookie says, “This month hasn't been great, but the whales sure entertained us. As of now they have slowed down their appearances. We are still getting bait, but nothing seems to want them. Even got some beautiful sardines today. I had one great strike, but it didn't take the bait. The mackerel are still in abundance at the end and sometimes almost to the surf. There have been a lot of people on the beach and the pier just using the area. I know it's because of Easter Vacation. The lifeguard was even at his post today. One of my snagger friends caught a giant sheep crab on Thursday. It had a nine-inch plus carapace. It was the biggest I have seen yet. My big one was only eight inches in the carapace. Boy are they good eating one you get through the shell. That one was over four years of age according to what I have read.”

December 2018— Our reporter Snookie said: “No more big halibut [KJ—she caught a 12-pound halibut on November 18], but some little ones are showing up now. All of these are in the surf area. My buddy got a 36-inch butterfly ray, which I netted in my 28 inch net. That was a trick, but it worked. I net them and have someone else lift them. That one was 26 pounds. Have seen a few others but smaller caught since. We have been getting lots of sardines for bait. That is great for the fish, but the birds also love them. The loons, cormorants, and the Western grebes are just sitting there waiting for us to cast our lines out. They are getting too smart, but we will figure out something. The best being a slingshot is illegal. Darn! The jacksmelt are in to some degree, but they seem awfully small so far. Our most interesting thing the past few weeks has been a great white shark. I and my buddy saw it a couple Sundays ago in the surf area, and he (or she) was eating something. Boy, can they thrash about. I figure if they love stingrays when young this had to be a big bat ray. Oh, this shark was at least 10 plus feet long. The shark detector didn't work because it came along the shore from Newport Pier area. Their new system is geared to show big fish coming in from outside. Don't know what they can do about that yet. This week we had two shark alerts about 10 in the morning each day. They sent out a drone, but apparently didn't discover anything. They came Friday and watched again, but nothing. Interesting! By the way the shark was in the same area we saw the big one."

February 2019— Our reporter Snookie said: “Well, this month hasn't been the best for catching, but the bait situation has been great. We have had lots of sardines. Evidently the fish have eaten well as they are not taking our bait. Had some strikes and some small halibut, but no big ones have been caught. There are still some jacksmelt being caught and some mackerel on the end. One butterfly ray was caught by my friend. It was at least 40 inches in diameter. At least they are fun. We are now entertained but he gray whales. Usually have about 3 a day come by. Some are going down to Mexico, and some are already coming back. Have had a few mothers and babies. Those make it into shore so we get to see them quite well. Our main concern is the fact that the Newport Legacy and the rib boats are not abiding by the law. Tuesday they got within 20 feet of the mother and calf. That is not right! Will keep an eye on this.

July 2019— Our reporter Snookie said: “the fishing has picked up some. The mackerel are doing their thing. The halibut are around, but they are small now. That is good though. It means we have some adults here. Even had a few undersized barracudas this week. A big turtle came by. When I asked for a description my friend said just turtle. Saw a blue whale at a distance last week. Those are easy to spot because of their spout heights. A friend got a 32-inch white seabass on the snag this week. Its' belly was full of sardines. Yes, we do have sardines around a lot now. We also have a homeless encampment at the foot of the pier by the restroom. It is a mess. The city won't do anything about it because they are afraid of getting sued. At least they don't bother us on the pier. The Jr. Lifeguards are about again now. At least they haven't bothered us yet. Summer is upon us!”

September 2019— Our reporter Snookie said, “I have been fishing three days a week again now that my knee is okay again. We have been catching lots of keeper halibut. Most have been about 23 inches, but that is okay. We have some white seabass too, just not big enough. The bonito have been around some of which have been fairly big, but most are in the smaller range. This week we had two guys that were getting thresher sharks at the end of the pier in front of Rubys. I watched them on Tuesday and they threw back two that they had gaffed. That made me mad, but I did not say anything. They also overhead cast right in front of the no overhead casting sign. These two are what we used to call Shark and Ray Club People. They used to be quite dangerous. Anyway, they took the two sharks that they had kept and went to Davey's Locker and tried to sell them. They got arrested!!! Sometimes things work out well.

November 2019— Our reporter Snookie said she was in Virginia most of the month but upon her return she went fishing at the pier: “I went fishing at the pier the day after I returned. At least we got bait. Nothing else was interested. Saw some mullet caught by the snaggers. The little bonito were around on the end of the pier along with the small mackerel. A whale went through going the wrong way. Looked like a small male. Lots of bait balls being eaten by the sea lions and pelicans. Those were sardines in those bait balls. We got some of them, but it didn't do any good. I hope it improves shortly.” A few days later (11/3) she reported the sighting of a bluefin tuna at the pier: “Yesterday at noon in the surf area was a beautiful bluefin tuna just swimming around quickly. Am sure he is wondering where he was. That is the second time in the past years we have seen a tuna come into the surf area, swim around and then leave. Makes you wonder. He was beautiful with the blue colors showing up because of the clear water and bright sun. No it was not an albacore or a skipjack.”

January 2020 — Our reporter Snookie said “this month hasn't been great, but at least we had lots of bait. I know of one nice halibut caught by a friend. It was about 27 inches, and he had to jump off of the pier into the sand and retrieve it. His net wasn't with them that day. We have also caught some small leopard sharks about 24 inches long. The jacksmelt are still going their thing, but they are on the small side. There are some mackerel. Should be seeing some whales soon. That will keep us entertained.

February 2020 — Our reporter Snookie said “Not much to tell about except lots of sardines and some topsmelt. They are not doing us any good catching other things. It has been nice weather this week. No whales yet. Those people who were getting as many jacksmelt as possible are now trying to get as many sardines as possible and not for bait. Maybe this next month will improve.”

August 2020 — Our reporter Snookie said, “Things are trying to get back to normal finally. Have been fishing Tuesdays and Thursdays, but not Sundays. Sundays are still too crowded. The bait situation is great. I haven't caught a keeper halibut yet, but my buddy has a 25 incher. There have been some nice halibut caught this last week. Yesterday a friend got a 24 inched. Another friend caught a 35-incher towards the end. A 28-incher was also caught in the surf area. The big white seabass are around. One was caught and lost because of catching it in the tail area. It struggled and succeeded in releasing itself. There have been a lot of good strikes. We have seen some big seabass swim by, thirty pounds and up. The mackerel are bigger lately, there was a small bonito caught this week. The surfperch are big and beautiful. There were some sargo caught last week too. You can tell the fish are finally there again. We wear our masks all day. Trying to be safe!”

September 2020 — Our reporter Snookie said, “As to the pier fishing well it is improving. We are getting some big bonito, just not many. There are lots of mackerel. The halibut have been small, but there are some big ones around. There have been a few keepers caught. There are quite a few thornback being caught, yellowfin croakers and little white seabass. There are a few shovelnose guitarfish being caught too. Some are quite small. There are some butterfly rays, stingrays and bat rays also being caught. Have seen some thresher sharks around. Our supply of sardines is plentiful and the threshers like them. We have a lot of smelt and grunions too and queenfish for bait. The water got to 78 degrees which is almost unheard of in that close. Maybe we will get some yellowtail in the surf area like we did in 2015. It is almost time.”

October 2020 — Our reporter Snookie said, “Yes, things are picking up. Can't say we caught a lot of good fish, but we did get a lot of good strikes. My 12-pound halibut was the only keeper caught this month, but some good size bonito are being caught. There was a horn shark caught yesterday. I hadn't seen one of those for a long time. Lots of butterfly rays are being caught, probably because of the rugged water. Saw some yellowfin croakers and small white seabass caught. Of course the mackerel are being caught, and thornbacks. Yesterday it was supposed to be a hot day, but the pier was cold enough for a jacket because of the wind. We have had lots of bait such as smelt plus a few sardines. Some days it is all sardines, but it varies.”

March 2021 — Snookie reports “The few times I have been fishing I used bloodworms --fresh and old. I am beginning to catch more barred surfperch with some nice sizes to them. There are birds close to shore diving for bait including the pelicans, but the water is so murky that I can't see the bait. I am not getting any live bait either. The end of the pier is on again/off again. Nothing is cooperating, especially the weather. With the cold water (down to 52 and 53) we should see the salmon come in. Of course the season does NOT start until April 14th. That will be a Saturday. With March coming up this week we should soon see a good change in our fishing. Now if the weather will allow us to fish. A week ago after a strong wind/storm we had an episode of lots of shells appearing on the beach. They must have covered an area 10 or more feet wide as far up and down the beach as one could see. There were all sizes including some pismos, sand dollars, and scallops, etc. It was spectacular. However, with good things come bad things. The tiny midges came with the empty shells. We have never had a bug infestation like that, that I can remember. They were there the next time I went down too. That was a time a wind was a welcome happening. It blew them away for a while. We found out --THEY BITE!”

June 2021 — Snookie says “It is time to go fishing on the pier! Although I was gone a few weeks the first part of May, it was all the pier fishing needed to get it started. This last week upon my return, the bait and the halibut returned or at least got interested in what we had to offer. Have seen one keeper, 25 inches, caught and many other smaller ones. All were caught on live smelt. The live smelt were caught in deeper water although on the surface. A small amount of bread chum was all that was needed, and a snag-line picked them up quite readily. There were a few queenfish mixed in as well as an occasional sardine. The pier surf fishing was quite productive with mussels and sand crabs. Saw some nice walleyes and barred surfperch caught. Thornbacks were caught in unwelcome abundance with live bait or dead bait, but at least they wiggle. The mackerel weren't plentiful, but the mackerel fishermen were happy with what they got. Someone caught a very nice scorpionfish (big enough to eat). There are some jacksmelt being caught from the surf on out. Last Thursday was the coldest day of the year-at least so it seemed. My group each had TWO heavy jackets on to endure the 12 knot East wind all day. We were quite comfortable then. Always have a heavy jacket in your car because once you set foot on a pier you will find it is a different world, weatherwise. The weathermen cannot forecast what it will be like on a pier unless there is absolutely no wind. With summer coming on and fish being here the next problem will be finding the parking spot so that you may get to the fish. Come early-before 9AM, and good luck.”

July 2021 — Snookie says “Well I can say that the fishing has picked up enough to keep us all happy. You can now catch halibut, mostly undersized, mackerel, perch, sharks, jacksmelt, small barracuda, scorpionfish and a few other types. With some of the mornings we have had lately it is possible to have a salmon approach the pier as well. It is time for them too. The bait situation is mostly good now. If you can't get them to attack the snag-lines, the nets seem to be the alternatives with success. Summer is finally underway. We have people, fish and more people. The Junior Lifeguards have started their program for the summer as of today the 26th. It will go to August 14th. They make it very difficult to use the parking lot on the east side of the pier as that is their drop off place for the parents to bring them. Since they have two sessions each day, there are two times they get dropped off. If you have ever been near a elementary school at beginning or ending of a school day, you will know not to go near that lot. I and several of my group are going to give up using the pier this year during the Jr. Lifeguard sessions. We will return August 16th. The instructors have not been easy for the fishermen to get along with over the years, and although we have gotten some safety rules instilled into their heads, it is too much trouble to keep trying to do this job for them or to them. They have tried to teach marine biology right under us. They have had the kids swim under the pier right out between our lines. So! this year it is theirs! Fishing is supposed to be fun not a battle. We will be going down early to Ruby's for breakfast once in a while, so I will try to keep track of what is happening on the pier. Also I have some friends who will keep me posted.”

September 2021 — Snookie reportsWell, I am back to fishing the pier again. I feel like I have come home. This month has been good for the mackerel fishermen although it is an off and on thing, but that's the way fishing is. There has been some quite large mackerel in amongst the medium ones. The halibut are there en masse, but they are undersized. For fun they are great though. What little fighters they are. The snaggers have been there regularly and catching some fish. The last few weeks the crowds have been bigger than usual. Lots of people want to fish this year. They may not know what they are doing, but they are having a lot of fun doing it. The days have been great on the pier plus the water has been very cooperative with no strong currents. There are still a few jellyfish passing by. This is the time of the year fishing improves. September and October are sometimes our best times. We will see what happens.”

October 2021 — Snookie says“ we are getting lots of mackerel. There have been many small halibut, but we have also gotten some keepers lately. I myself got a 26 inch halibut today, Tuesday, September 25th. Another friend caught a 25 inch halibut last week. There have been some yellowfin croakers caught and quite a few small bonito. Although I hate to say it, the lizardfish are in deeper water too. The bait situation is good. With a net you can catch lots of smelt of all sizes. The snag-lines are catching anchovies and sardines. The sizes are quite varying on them with some very large anchovies being caught. It's work to keep up with the bait schools as they run back and forth, but it is well worth the effort. It was a small sardine that my halibut wanted in the surf today. The other halibut ran between 18 to 20 inches except for one that was about the size of a normal hand. The water temperature took a 4 degree drop yesterday down to 60 degrees. That is 10 degrees less than last year on the same day. With that big of a drop the fishing should not have been anything today, but it was. The wind was very strong most of the day, but this afternoon it became about 20 knots. That is when we gave up and left. Considering how hot it was in the parking lot and inland the temperature on the pier was welcome until it got through you then you needed a light jacket. One other treat today was the view of San Clemente Island as well as Santa Catalina Island. It was another beautiful day to be fishing.”

November 2021 — Snookie says “I wish I could say this has been another great month at the pier, but it hasn't. We have worked like crazy to try and catch decent fish. I have seen very few halibut caught this month. There has been an occasional flurry of good bonito catching, but they are small. The small ones are excellent eating, but people have to remember that the smaller ones may only be kept up to 5 in number. There have been a few thornbacks caught, a nice sized octopus, a lot of mullet by the snaggers, and a few surf perch, yellowfin croakers, and small corbina, plus the good old standby mackerel. The bait supply is great. There are grunions, smelts, sardines and a few Spanish jacks. To be remembered is that in January the Balboa Pier will close for a month (won't be surprised if it is more) for repairs. They are getting new decking, railings and a few pilings. The restrooms will be torn down and replaced sometime in the near future to the tune of $531,000. The piers money comes from the oil spill about 10 years ago. Newport Pier will have the same thing done to it in February and will be closed then.”

December 2021 — Snookie says “As to the pier, things did pick up off and on. We started getting halibut again even though they were undersized. The bait situation has been fairly good most of the time. The Jacksmelt are in now, and you will see a number of Jacksmelt fishermen on the sides of the pier. The snaggers have been doing very well with the larger mullet, and I have seen them get as many as four in a short period of time. Always wondered how they prepare them because they keep coming back for more. The mackerel are there off and on in various sizes. Some days you won't see many and other days there are lots of them. The restrooms at the foot of the pier are now closed. The city is going to tear them down and build a new bigger restroom. In the meantime there are about 14 port-a-potties in the park area in front of A lot. Just one more month and the city should be closing the pier for its makeover. Since it is January then, it shouldn't be too bad to wait for the reopening which should be in February. Until then there are many piers or public docks in the harbor that offer good fishing this time of the year.”

June 2022 — Our reporter Snookie says the halibut have been biting. The day I called, a Wednesday, she said she had already caught three keepers that week as well as several shorts. Other members in her group had also caught halibut. Bait? Live smelt and live Spanish mackerel (jack mackerel). Not too shabby. Some small mackerel are still available out at the end and she’s seen several white seabass but all were small. Biggest news of the day was the supposed hooking of a huge striped bass but it was lost and with no pictures it’s hard to verify that it was indeed a striped bass. On June 4 we had a PFIC report from bilfishing, “Needed bait. Decided to try Balboa. Took me 40 minutes to find parking. Yup, summer is here. Swell is ripping good...no sardines anywhere. Did get non-stop smelt, a few mini-macks. Pin one of them on a c rig and 10 minutes later, got a 20-incher butt. Threw him back and went home to watch the fight.”

July 2022 — Our reporter Snookie says, “It's been a much better month of fishing. We have caught a lot of halibut and White Seabass. We have caught four keeper halibut. Yesterday my friend caught a 52-inch shovelnose guitarfish in the surf. It was very hard to net as it wasn't ready to be out of the water. We have had lots of Spanish Mackerel for bait as well as the smelt and a few herring or queenfish. A report from Angler67 on 6/29 said, “I popped in at Balboa on Monday evening about 6pm (27th) to escape the heat and check out water conditions and it was DEAD. A few sardines being caught on Sabikis. No mackerel or anything really and pier was pretty busy. I got 0 bites on jigs, no visible bait in water, not even smelt. One little unattended rod next to me doubled over and started to fly over the rail and I grabbed it mid-air, now with a rod in each hand. Owner ran over from the shade of Ruby's and cranked it in it was a nice little flounder [probable diamond turbot-KJ], pretty rare in my experience. Took a stroll hoping for a swim but water was still pretty cold so strolled the surfline. Endless sand crabs! Solid for the 30 min we walked away toward Newport, variable sizes from tiny to pretty big [Great bait for barred surfperch and cobina in the surf area—KJ]. Escaped the heat for a bit anyway.”