PFIC Fish Reports — San Clemente Pier
August 1997 — Kamal, at the Pier Tackle shop, reports good fishing on several species. Numerically, lots of mackerel lead the list followed by small perch and salema. However, a few larger species are around. Anglers have landed three yellowtail in the last week on live bait while keeper halibut continue to be caught almost every day on anchovies. Inshore and mid-pier, anglers continue to hook yellowfin croaker and spotfin croaker using mussels for bait. Some sargo, opaleye and buttermouth perch (blackperch) round out the smaller species. Finally, although it has been slow on sharks, quite a few bat rays up to 60 pounds continue to grab squid from angler's lines.
October 1997 — Kamal, at the Pier Tackle shop, reports that the pier had no problems from the storm although there were 7-foot waves and there is still a lot of grass in the water. Most recent action has been on mackerel with a few bonito joining into the fun when they see the anglers becoming bored. Inshore, the regulars continue to pull in lots of yellowfin croaker and spotfin croaker on fresh mussels and ghost shrimp. One angler did pull in a 60-pound black sea bass (which was returned to the water). Shark action has been slow. Finally, lobster season just opened and Kamal says most families are averaging 6-7 spiny lobsters each night.
November 1997 — Vivian, at the Pier Tackle shop, says that a lot of fish are still being caught. Out toward the end, anglers are finding the usual schools of mackerel but are also finding a lot of sardines mixed in with the macs. Bass also are a winner and it sounds like one of the best years for bass. Shark fishermen continue to haul in good numbers of shovelnose guitarfish and big bat rays while the surf area is offering up some yellowfin croaker, spotfin croaker and sargo. An unusual catch this week was a needlefish, while families at night continue to bring in buckets of spiny lobster.
February 1998 — Gil Sperry (who heads up the Professional Surf and Shore Casters Association sent the following note on a mid-January visit to this pier. “Jacksmelt was about all that were caught; most of the fishermen were feeding them to the pelicans that were waiting for their lunch on the roof of the bait shack near the far end of the pier. One pelican bit off more than he could chew (swallowed the fish whole with the tail first) and couldn't make it work. A good lesson for my four year old who tends to have eyes bigger than his stomach (didn't we all, at one time?).” Another note came from Ben Acker who said that his early morning visit was good for white croaker and a “big old bat ray.” He says his brother and a friend have also gotten quite a few lobsters there recently.
July 1998 — Priscilla, at the Pier Tackle Shop (on the pier), says that fishing is unbelievable right now. The day I called (June 27), one angler had landed 14 spotfin croaker that ranged in size from 4-6 pounds; all in the space of two hours. Priscilla said the croakers, both spotfin and yellowfin, are being taken from the inshore area out to the middle of the pier and you should try fresh mussels, ghost shrimp and bloodworms as bait. At the end of the pier, anglers are picking up some good-sized sand bass but the mackerel and halibut fishing has been spotty. Although some halibut have been landed, most are too small to keep. Bat rays are also being caught in good quantity and some are ranging to the near 100-pound mark.
October 1998 — Priscilla, at the Pier Tackle Shop (on the pier), says that fishermen continue to pull in yellowfin and spotfin croaker while fishing the inshore sections of the pier. At the end, the main action is on mackerel and lots of barracuda. Priscilla says most of the barracuda are being caught on strips of squid. Most regulars are waiting for the opening of the lobster season this weekend—which is to be expected since San Clemente is one of the top piers for the tasty crustaceans
August 1999 — Priscilla from the Pier Bait and Tackle Shop, out at the end of the pier, reports that some really nice fish have been taken lately. Included have been a 70-pound black sea bass (that was released), 5-pound horn shark, 3 1/2-pound corbina, several 4-5 pound calico bass, large sand bass and sculpins, and 21", 26" and 28" halibut. She says the action is finally good at the pier but you have to watch out for the seaweed.
July 2000 — Carl Kepner, the new owner of Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle on the pier, reports that fishing has been good. He says a lot of yellowfin and spotfin croaker are being taken in the inshore areas while out at the end results have been very good on shovelnose sharks (guitarfish), bat rays and gray sharks. Anglers at the end are also taking some mackerel and a few bass—both kelp bass and sand bass. In addition, he reports that action has been strong on opaleye at the end of the pier but the unusual thing is that he reports they’re being caught on some anchovies he brought back from Mexico (?). An interesting catch recently was a moray eel nearly 4-feet in length out at the end of the pier. (He also reports the catch of Saratoga perch in the mid-pier area. I have no idea what they might be (sargo?) although he says the coloring and look is like that of a flat blowfish. Says a couple have been caught in the 3-4 pound range.
October 2001 — Brandon, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle on the pier, reports that the fishing is fair for mackerel, herring (queenfish) and jacksmelt while lots of sharks have been landed recently—leopard sharks, shovelnose sharks (guitarfish) and bat rays. He says a couple of sheephead also showed up surprising the anglers.
February 2002 — Brandon, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle on the pier, reports that anglers are catching a few pileperch out toward the end together with some mackerel, small yellowfin croaker, and a few sheephead. The largest sheepie weighed 6 pounds and was caught on mussels.
February 2003 — Cheryl, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle on the pier said there’s been a good run of spotfin croaker in the inshore area. Further out on the pier anglers are picking up a few bat rays, sand sharks (shovelnose guitarfish) and small sheephead. She says it’s been fairly slow but it’s improving
October 2004 — “Several pier rats report that good action on 2-4 pound bonito continues at the pier. Mix in croakers (yellowfins and spotfins) inshore, baitfish (sardines, smelt and queenfish) mid-pier, and pelagics (mackerel and bonito) out at the end, and it’s a pretty full menu on tap. BalboaDude reported his favorite bonito lure as being the Yozuri Hydrometal lure, while dompfa ben said all of his fish were caught on Krocs (Krocodiles), with the blue mackerel being the hot color, and the green mackerel a close second. Dompfa Ben also reported that his cousin Andy “hooked up with a monster bat ray that took him around the pier. Zach did the same thing a few moments later. A short sculpin kept it interesting, especially when I poked my middle finger trying to release it.”
November 2004 —Take your pick: bonito, sculpin (scorpionfish), jacksmelt, sardines, sand bass, thronbacks, leopard sharks and smoothounds. Dompfa Ben also reported a good-sized moray eel one night. Mix in a few lobsters and you’ve got the mixings for a good meal.
December 2004 —Dompfa Ben made an interesting report “Ventured pier-ward yesterday afternoon with brother Dan, cousins Bryan and Capt. Ross, and virtual family-member Rob, and, after a brief 7-Eleven stop, we set up at the end of the pier. My thinking was that with the dropping tide and the recent swell, the end would be the best bet for catching bugs and other critters. Using squid strips and chunks of India mackerel (so labeled at the Asian supermarket), we managed a few short sand bass, two borderline sculpin, and a handful of white croaker. Only tiny swimming crabs found their way into my hoops. Around 9:30, we decided to head back closer to shore, so down the pier we went. On the way, I saw San Clemente Eric and his lovely fishing partner. We also met a few board "lurkers," who shall remain nameless Some of the usual regulars were absent, assumedly due to the impending holidays. Back near the surf, we managed a few more small sand bass, a thornback, a needlefish, a few more croakers, and a few mystery runs that came unbuttoned. We also caught one short lobster in a hoop that proved to be difficult to remove from the net! She had climbed up inside the bait pouch, and was holding on for dear life. I considered soaking her out of there, but wanted to get her out of the hoop. Overall, an interesting night at the pier. There was some guy standing near Schleppy's, his face completely covered by bandanas and a knit cap, that did dance and kung fu moves for over 3 hours. He seemed to be a little disturbed (a little?!?!) but he didn't bother anyone. The outdoor speakers at Schleppy's were still playing music when I walked by, so maybe the guy just couldn't help but groove. I've never seen him before. Also, around 11:40, 4 black and whites pulled up at the base of the pier, and were conducting a valiant search for something or someone underneath the Fisherman's restaurant. We took it as a cue to start packing up, and left exactly at midnight. As we walked by the OC deputies, they waved and drove away, apparently satisfied with their search. Weather was cold but pleasant, partly cloudy, light winds out of the SE. Take your pick: bonito, sculpin (scorpionfish), jacksmelt, sardines, sand bass, thornbacks, leopard sharks and smoothhounds.
May 2006 — 5focus reported to PFIC a visit where he got a couple of white seabass and quite a few queenfish. sdchemist reported a visit where he got several salema and small croakers along with numerous surfperch
August 2006 — Donna, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle on the pier, says that there are a lot of mackerel around and, some days, quite a few bonito. She’s also seeing halibut—mostly shorts—along with some small bass and big sharks (a variety). It sounds like the usual summertime fun.
September 2006 — Donna, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle on the pier, says that there are a lot of mackerel around and, some days, a few bonito. She’s also seeing halibut—mostly shorts—along with some small bass and big sharks (a variety). PFIC reports indicate one angler was nabbed for having a short white seabass. Oh, almost forgot, salema and a few rubberlips were also reported at the pier
May 2007 — Sheryl, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle on the pier PFIC reports that things are slow although some decent-sized sharks are showing up out at the end. Use a smelly bait like mackerel for the sharks. Try inshore for some croakers and a few perch, mid-shore for halibut (but not too many are around as of yet)
June 2007 — Sheryl, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle on the pier PFIC reports that action is OK. Some croakers have been taken, including a six-pound spotfin, along with the smaller yellowfins. There’s also been a few halibut though most are too small to keep.
August 2007 — Brandon, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle on the pier says mackerel action is good along with some bonito, both mid-pier to the end. Inshore there’s lots of spotfin and yellowfin croakers as well as small sharks. Herring (queenfish) and smelt round out the action. Two 100+-pound giant (black) sea bass were caught and released in the past two weeks.
September 2007 — Cheryl, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle on the pier says things have slowed a little this week but action been pretty good. Biggest recent news was the catch of a 27-pound halibut and two more black (giant) sea bass, the latter were good-sized fish and were returned to the water. Mackerel action has been hot out at the end while croaker action remains good from the surf almost to the end. They’re also starting to see big bait balls of sardines around the pier.
November 2007 — Cheryl, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle on the pier says it’s basically a variety, mainly small calico and sand bass along with some mackerel. Some perch are available inshore to the mid-pier area. Of note was the capture of another giant (black) sea bass, I think they’ve seen somewhere around 8-10 of the big fish this year. It’s a good sign but also means anglers need to be careful if they do indeed hook them. Handle them with care (if you handle them at all).
January 2008 — Michelle, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle at the end of the pier, says things are a little slow although right before I called an angler pulled in a 24-inch sheephead. She says the pier is surrounded by kelp— apparently broken free by winter storms, and she’s hoping it may attract some fish. A few mackerel are still showing up along with some perch and a few sharks (leopards) and rays. Inshore some croakers continue to be landed. She say’s it is really cold (down into the 50s) but some lobsters are being taken at night.
March 2008 — Michelle, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle at the end of the pier, says things are still a little slow. Most of the action is on croakers (yellowfin), a few perch, some bat rays, and apparently quite a few eels although she wasn’t sure what the eels were. I assume they’re moray eels.
May 2008 — Sheryl, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle at the end of the pier, says things have heated up. Biggest news has been the shark action with a couple of 4-foot-long 7-gill sharks, an angel shark, and numerous bat rays and leopard sharks. On the top, the mackerel have finally started to hit while the inshore to mid-pier area is seeing increased croaker results.
June 2008 — Sheryl, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle at the end of the pier, says an interesting mix of fish continue to show. Shark action continues strong with a 36-pound angel shark and a swell shark added to the recent hodgepodge of shark species (but no 7-gills or horn sharks this month). Several moray eels were landed this past week along with a 50-pound bat ray, some large leopard sharks, a smattering of shovelnose sharks (guitarfish), and fair numbers of sand bass, croakers and halibut. The mackerel have also begun to show up but not in big numbers as yet. things have heated up.
August 2008 — Michelle, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle at the end of the pier, says fishing’s been good. She says there have been some big spotfin croakers, a 30-inch white seabass and lots of shovelnose sharks and leopard sharks. People have also taken some big spider crabs and lobsters (the lobsters were returned). Another giant sea bass also was taken but she says it was smaller than most of the other ones taken recently.
September 2008 — Sheryl, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle at the end of the pier, says fishing’s been good. There been some big spotfin croakers inshore along with some yellowfins. Halibut action is fair with a 33” fish taken the last week in August. At the end it’s a mix of mackerel, bass and the larger sharks and rays.
April 2009 — Michelle, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle at the end of the pier, says fishing is a little slow. Most of the action has been on the bottom with bat rays and leopard sharks providing most of the action (although a lone angel shark) was taken last week. Inshore is seeing some surfperch and yellowfin croakers. No mackerel!
June 2009 — Michelle, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle at the end of the pier, says there’s been a good increase lately. It’s a mix of perch and croakers inshore with a few halibut mid-pier and the usual sharks and rays out at the end. She says there have also been some barracuda but they come and go. Also, lots of mackerel
September 2009 — Michelle, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle at the end of the pier, said it’s the usual, croakers inshore, quite a few shovelnose sharks, and a good mackerel bite (primarily at night). She’s also seeing quite a few smoothhounds and pinback sharks. The highlight of the month was a 21-pound sheephead taken on a whole, live mackerel.
December 2009 — Thomas, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle near the end of the pier, said it slowed after Thanksgiving due to the high winds, big waves and a western swell. The result is murky water and an absence of baitfish. Nevertheless some croakers and corbina continue to be taken inshore while small bass are hitting mid-pier. The end of the pier is closed for renovation and bird netting, a condition that has shut off the prime shark and ray territory—until May. Lobsters do continue to show at night and it sound like Thomas and other locals are working hard to keep people honest (THANKS!).
April 2010 — Fishing has been slow primarily due to a lack of anglers although some fish are still being caught. (The day I called several calico bass has been caught as well as a bat ray estimated at 50 pounds.) The end section remains closed, the bait and tackle/snack shop is very hard to access (due to the construction going on out at the end of the pier), and the weather has been bad. The weather has improved but the end is still closed and it’s still hard to reach the snack shop. Hopefully things will improve although the city is replacing some pilings and scraping the mussels off the others. That almost always means lousy fishing for a number of months.
August 2010 — Randy at the pier’s bait shop reports good numbers of croakers, mainly yellowfins but also a few spotfins, while the mackerel action is “hot” out at the end. Some shovelnose are also showing up and a “HUGE” sheephead estimated at over 30 pounds was recently landed.
September 2010 — Randy at the pier’s bait shop reports that the fishing is fairly slow even though some interesting fish have been taken during the past couple of weeks. Heading that list was a giant (black) sea bass estimated at 200 pounds that was caught and returned to the water. In addition a ten-foot-long thresher shark was caught and a sheephead at just over 10 pounds. For the most part though it has been a mix of croakers and bass on the bottom, some mackerel along with a few bonito on top, and the normal sharks and rays, primarily shovelnose guitarfish, thornbacks and bat rays. It’s not fast fishing but people should at least catch a few fish.
August 2011 — Stephanie, at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, said anglers are seeing a good inshore bite with some perch showing up but mostly it’s good numbers of yellowfin croakers (and a few spotfins). Top baits have been lugworms and small strips of squid. There’s also good numbers of leopard sharks, shovelnose guitarfish and assorted other sharays. Action on top has not been as good but some mackerel do continue to show (and usually early morning and evening are the top hours).
September 2011 — Hector, at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, said anglers are seeing a good inshore bite on perch, corbina and sand sharks. Fish just past the surf line and use fresh mussels or ghost shrimp. Action at the end seems mainly to be on mackerel (at night using glow sticks and strip mackerel/squid) or on a variety of sharays (again mainly at night). The sharays include soupfin sharks, smoothhounds, leopard sharks, guitarfish and bat rays
October 2011 — Hector, at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, said red tide is a problem although he had gone out the night before I called and seen anglers pulling in fish. Most of the catch was mackerel or a variety of sharays—thornbacks, bat rays and shovelnose. He did see several soupfin sharks (4-4 ½ feet-long) that were caught by anglers fly-lining fresh mackerel
November 2011 — Iain, at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, said that bass, sheephead and croakers are the main fish showing up. The bass and sheephead are hitting on squid and anchovies, the croakers on lugworms.
June 2012 — Iain, at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, reports good water temperatures (65-67 degrees) and lots of fish. Out at the end it’s a mix of leopard sharks, bat rays and shovelnose sharks (guitarfish) most being taken on squid. Mid-pier it’s croaker time with a mix of spotfins and yellowfins along with a few halibut. Use lugworms or squid for the croakers, live bait for the halibut. Inshore there are good numbers of barred surfperch and corbina; use sand carbs or lug worms. He says there are lots of sand crabs in the surf area to catch for bait.
August 2012 — Iain, at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, reports a good increase in the numbers of croakers inshore, including some good-sized spotfins. Try ghost shrimp, fresh mussels, or strips of squid. Some barred surfperch are also showing up inshore, and threshers at the end, while the mackerel are really hit and miss.
March 2013 — Ivan, at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, says surfperch continue to show in good numbers in the surf area, both the larger barred surfperch and the smaller walleyes. Lugworms and Berkeley camo-colored worms seem to be getting most of the fish. Quite a few small two-foot long leopard sharks are also showing inshore; remember to release the small pups if you hook one since they’re illegal at that size. Larger sharays, a variety, are hitting mid-pier to the end with the usual baits being best—sardines, fresh mackerel (if you have some) and of course squid. It’s still slow on mackerel.
August 2013 — Ivan, at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, says there is some real good croaker action going on at this time from the shallows to mid-pier. Yellowfin and spotfins are both showing up and fresh mussels have been the bait of choice. He’s also getting increasing reports on corbina in the shallows and most of those are falling to live ghost shrimp (which he now has) or to sand crabs (which you will need to catch yourself). Inshore, and that seems to be the place to be, is also producing some barred surfperch (on lug worms or Berkeley Gulp worms) and some small walleye surfperch (on strips of squid). Sharks and rays are out at the end but nothing much is showing on the top with the exception of some smelt; the mackerel are holding offshore at the edge of the kelp beds. As for halibut action, it’s slow to dead.
September 2013 — Ivan, at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, says there is still some good perch and croaker action in the shallow water area. Use fresh mussels or worms and fish right under the pier. Mid-pier is seeing croaker; use mussels or squid form bait. At the end it’s mainly sharays—leopard sharks, bat rays and a few 7-gill sharks (recently). It’s pretty much dead on top although some jacksmelt continue to show (chum for them); use cut up bait or cat food ).
October 2013 — Ivan, at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, says there’s a variety of fish available. Right in the surf area some corbina are showing while just past the surf line anglers are taking spotfin croaker; use fresh mussels or lug worms for both. Mid-pier sees small croakers as well as some perch; best bait: lug worms. At the end it’s mainly sharay action—fish include smaller smoothhounds and larger 7-gills. A number of giant (black) sea bass have also been taken and we hope anglers are releasing them properly.
May 2014 — Dave at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, says that anglers are seeing a lot of corbina in the shallows although not too many are being taken. The ones that are being caught have generally been taken on ghost shrimp or lug worms although he did a report of one being taken on a Lucky Craft lure (strange). He says there are a lot of mackerels further out on the pier, which probably explains the recent action on sharks. Regulars with the know-how have been taking the usual sharay species but are also pulling in some small mako sharks and threshers (with mackerel being the typical bait.
August 2014 — Ivan at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, says the fishing is really good right now. Good numbers of mackerel and bonito are hitting out toward the end and anglers are using those for fresh bait for the sharays and the sharks and rays are cooperating. Anglers also caught two yellowtail last week from the pier on lures so it really sounds like this is the time to try the pier. Inshore, anglers continue to pick up some good-sized yellowfin croaker and slab barred surfperch using fresh mussels and lugworms
November 2014 — Mike at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, says anglers continue to pull in good numbers of bonito mid-pier to the end (use Megabaits, Sabikis, Kastmasters, etc.) while inshore, anglers are getting some yellowfin croaker and perch. Big bat rays and leopard sharks have been taken mid-pier to the end of the pier.
February 2015 — Mike at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, says anglers continue to pull in good numbers of yellowfin and spotfin croaker inshore, almost up to the beach, while corbina are in evidence but few are hooked (although an 18-inch corbina was taken in the surf just north of the pier). Small halibut continue to show in the shallow end waters and are taken by those using Lucky Craft lures as well as live bait or just pieces of anchovy. Further out on the pier rays continue to be taken as well as an unusual amount of rockfish, with brown rockfish apparently being the main species. As usual for this time of the year there are also a lot of jacksmelt showing up, primarily in the mid-pier area.
April 2015 — Ivan at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, says anglers continue to pull in a few fish, some croakers and corbina inshore, and some sharks (sand sharks and leopards) and rays (bat rays) out at the end. A few halibut have also been taken, mainly on plastics such as white and brown, grunion-pattern Big Hammers. Ivan said the next few days sees predictions for wind and a very heavy surf. I visited the pier on 3/30 with a friend and a couple of hours fishing resulted in a half dozen small spotfin croakers (on bloodworms) and one sargo (on ghost shrimp). I didn’t see another fish caught by any anglers.
July 2015 — Mike at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, says there’s a wide-open croaker bite going on at the pier with the fish hitting all the usual baits—worms, ghost shrimp and strips of squid. There’s also a lot of bass and one lucky angler, using a whole squid, landed a 25-pound sheephead. Top action includes a lot of mackerel as well as small bonito, most being landed on Krocodiles or Kastmaster-type lures. As usual there are also a lot of sharks and rays available out at the end.
August 2015 — Ivan at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, says the croaker bite continues to be strong in the inshore waters along with some corbina in the surf area itself (use lug worms and light fluorocarbon line). Out at the end, the action has been good on mackerel, bonito and small yellowtail, most of the yellows being midget-sized 2-4 pound fish. Anglers using fresh mackerel are also doing good on sharks and rays—mainly bat rays, shovelnose shark (guitarfish) and leopard shark. There was also a report of a hammerhead shark.
September 2015 — Ivan at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, says the main action has been on bonito and mackerel and there have getting a lot of them (mid-pier to the end). Inshore, by the surf, anglers are getting a handful of corbina using fresh mussels and bloodworm. Two black sea bass were reported, one estimated at 200 pounds, and both were released back into the water. A few halibut are also showing up along with quite a few kelp bass, He says it’s due to the kelp that’s making a comeback in the area. Anglers using fresh mackerel are also doing good on sharks and rays—mainly bat rays, shovelnose shark (guitarfish) and leopard shark.
November 2015 — Ivan at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, says action remains good. Inshore, the anglers are picking up a handful of corbina on bloodworms or fresh mussels while good numbers of croakers, mainly yellowfins but also a few spotfins, are showing up on the same baits. Mid-pier to the end is seeing some kelp bass (to 21-inches) along with some flurries of bonito along the edges of the kelp. Mackerel are also available and lots of leopard sharks are being taken on the fresh mackerel. Good quantities of lobsters are also available but you have to weed through all the shorts to come up with the legal-size bugs. Overall it sounds like the fishing remains good.
December 2015 — Jake at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, says action remains very good. Inshore, the anglers continue to pull in good numbers of perch and spotfin croaker using lug worms or strips of squid while mid-pier to the end yields decent numbers of sharks and rays (on squid) along with a smattering of calico (kelp) bass. Jake says there’s a wide open bite on both mackerel and jacksmelt while quite a few barracuda are also showing up; most of the ‘cuda hitting on lures like Krocodiles or Lucky Craft-type lures. A number of halibut have also been taken. One lucky angler using a Zoom soft bait (baitfish color) managed to land three legal hallies along with a couple of shorts in one afternoon’s fishing. It sounds like this is the time to go the pier.
November 2016 — Josh at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, says there’s been some good mid-day action on bonito when the schools pass through the pier. He says anglers have gotten them on everything from Sabikis to Kastmasters. Mackerel too continue to show but he says there have actually been more bonito than mackerel. Inshore, anglers continue to pick up croakers, mainly yellowfins but also some spotfins (fresh mussels and lug worms), while action on the barred surfperch is improving (use lugworms). Out at the end the anglers fishing for sharays continue to pull I some nice sharks including big leopard sharks (one a 50-inch trophy) as well as a few sevengill sharks (one an 80-pound fish. Overall not super hot action but steady if you know what you are doing.
March 2017 — — Mike at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, says there’s been a really good early-season halibut bite going on with a number of legal-size hallies being taken, most caught on whole frozen anchovies. Inshore, there’s a consistent croaker bite, mostly yellowfins (but some spotfins), with the usual baits, i.e., lugworms, providing most of the action. Mid-pier to the end is seeing a lot of bait, especially of the mini-mack variety, which has translated into some decent shark fishing including some nice-sized leopard shark
April 2017 — Mike at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, says there’s been a pretty good bite taking place at the pier. Inshore, good numbers of yellowfin croaker are showing up along with a few spotfins. Most of the croakers are on the small side but they are fun to catch. Mid-pier to the end is seeing good numbers of mini-macs and they seem to be hitting throughout the day and evening. At the end of the pier the “sharkers” are getting some big bat rays and leopard sharks although they’ve also reported losing quite a few rigs to even bigger fish (not sure what they were). An interesting note is the number of sheephead that have been taken recently from the end of the pier. Most have been landed on shrimp with a mix of sizes being reported.
September 2017 — I was at the pier 8//25-27 and saw a nice mix of fish. Throughout the day and evening small mackerel were present while bonito showed early in the day (and a few at dusk). There were also a lot of salema out at the end of the pier; I also caught a black croaker at night, a fish that likes to school with the salema. Inshore to mid-pier yielded up some spotfin and yellowfin croakers with the hot spot being just inshore from the bathrooms. Anglers using fresh mussels in that area were catching a lot of nice-sized spotfin croakers. Sharays were also present, the mix including thornback rays and bat rays in the mid-pier area as well as some thresher sharks out at the end. Sunday, 8/27 saw a great white shark circling the pier in the morning while wide-eyed anglers kept eye on it. Do arrive early since the parking lot fills early on weekends and holidays.
October 2017 — Josh at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point said there’s been the usual—spotfin croakers and surfperch but the big news is the continued run of bonito, fish that range from a small one-pound size up to some 4-5-pounders. Missing in action though are halibut. As for the sharays, he says there have been a few good-sized leopard sharks taken.
December 2017 — Josh at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point said most of the regulars are concentrating on the croaker fishing that’s yielding up both yellowfins and spotfins with some of the spotties being very nice size. They’re hitting a variety of baits—lug worms, fresh mussels, cut anchovy and even squid. However, unlike the summer shallow-water action, they are being caught in deeper-water, mid-pier to the end. Action on top-water species is basically dead but action on sharays—big sharks and rays has been very good. A 7-gill of around 100 pounds was caught the past week, a 4-4 ½ foot soupfin shark was caught, several large leopard sharks were landed, and many large bat rays were caught with two apparently exceeding 100 pounds in weight. Sounds like a good time to try out at the end in the shark territory.
March 2018 — Mitch at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point said it’s typical March fishing. Quite a few mackerel are being taken mid-pier to the end while inshore waters see a few croakers and perch. Several halibut have also grabbed baits but only a couple were legal size. As for the sharays, it’s been slow although some small leopard sharks and small bat rays have shown up. Biggest news recently was a shortfin corvina taken inshore on the south side of the pier on a “Zoom Fluke” — which really surprised the angler. No information on the size.
September 2018 — Josh at Hogan's Bait And Tackle, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point said the fishing has been EXCELLENT. Inshore to mid-pier anglers are getting “tons” of yellowfin and spotfin croaker and surprisingly a lot of sand bass are being caught. He said he went down to the pier one night and was amazed at the number of sand bass being caught and a good number were in the 15-17-inch range (which is good-sized). Mackerel action remains steady on the top and the sharkers too are getting into some action at the end. Most of the sharks have been leopards and smoothhounds but some threshers are also showing up and that’s what the regular “sharkers” want. Bat ray too make an appearance but lately there haven’t been any of the BIG bat rays. Unfortunately no bonito have shown to date.
October 2018 — Scott at the “Pier Grill” at the end of the pier reports a wide variety of fish and some excellent hooping for lobster during the first few nights of the lobster season. He says there are “tons” of mackerel but they now have also joined by a lot of small bonito. Inshore to mid-pier, the action remains good on sargo and also good numbers of “short” halibut. Bass too are showing up, especially sand bass and several in the 16-17-inch range have been caught. Shark and ray action has been just fair but a couple of good-sized threshers were taken on 9/29. Out of the ordinary fish for the month were two moray eels, two garibaldi (that are frequently seen down around the pilings), and some big sheephead (taken on fresh mussels). As for the opening of the lobster season, he said there were many limits of the bugs. However, typically the action drops off fairly rapidly after the opening nights.
December 2018 — Scott at the “Pier Grill” at the end of the pier reports that there are still a lot of mackerel along with an occasional bonito, all out toward the end of the pier. He’s also seeing quite a few bass, both kelp bass and sand bass, along with a few small white seabass and halibut. Shark and ray action has been somewhat slow although a couple of threshers were taken by the regular shark fishermen. Lobster continue to be taken at night but the numbers have dropped from the opener.
May 2019 — Josh at Hogan's Bait And Tackle (34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point) said it’s been slow but starting to pick up. Inshore there’s been fairly steady action on perch and croakers but you have to work at it. Most are caught using lugworms or fresh mussels. Surprisingly some halibut (to 30”) are also being taken in the shallow water, most on artificial lures like LuckyCraft but also on live bait if you can get it. Inshore to mid-pier waters are also producing small leopard sharks with most being under 3 feet in length and thus illegal. Not much is hitting on top other than an occasional mackerel but out at the end a few of the larger rays and sharks are starting to show up.
July 2019 — Brett at Hogan's Bait And Tackle (34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point) said the croaker action has picked up, especially on yellowfin, and while the mackerel action has been somewhat slow, a few small bonito have been taken as well as some short barracuda. Halibut action’s been dead but Brett did report a couple of BIG sand bass. As for the sharays, no sharks are showing up but quite a few butterfly rays.
September 2019 — Josh at Hogan's Bait And Tackle (34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point) said it’s not hot action but decent action. Inshore a lot of yellowfin croaker are showing up along with lesser numbers of spotfins and surfperch. Most are being taken on lugworms. Mid-pier to the end sees some mackerel but no bonito to date and though a few halibut are taken most are sub-legal size. There are some bass being taken, both kelp bass and sand bass, and most are taken down around the pilings on lugworms or (for the bigger bass) frozen anchovies. Ray and shark action remains slow while one legal-size sheephead was reported as well as a few giant (black) sea bass that were hooked and released. Josh said there is a lot of dirty, green-colored water this year and is seems to have impacted the fishing.
September 2020 — Dane at Hogan's Bait And Tackle (34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point) says the pier’s been producing a TON of mackerel and bonito and basically they will hit anything flashy—Krocodiles, etc. Inshore action on perch and croaker (lug worms) has been slow but mid-pier to the end is seeing some sand bass (squid and anchovies) and an occasional halibut (live bait or an artificial). At the end the sharkers have been doing well with a number of threshers and good numbers of leopard sharks and bat rays.
December 2020 — Skyler at Hogan's Bait And Tackle (34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, said the same kind of thing happened at San Clemente as at Oceanside, fishing remained pretty good, including quite a few bonito, until the mid-month rains and then water temperatures dropped, the bonito moved on, and overall fishing seemed to slow. He says there are still a lot of mackerel mid-pier to the end while perch and croaker (yellowfin and spotfin) action remains decent from the surf area to mid-pier. He says there are also some halibut to be caught but most are showing up in the shallow waters and being taken on lures such as the Lucky Craft lures. Sharay action is mixed with some bat rays still showing and some leopard sharks. He suggests using a whole squid or fresh mackerel for the sharay. Lastly a lot of lobsters are being taken, primarily at night, but an incredible number seem to be ¼ to ½-inch short. Typically the lobster numbers decrease as the season goes on. PFIC received a report from evanluck who said the end section produced mackerel, queenfish and small spotfin croaker (the latter two on the bottom). He said the shark fishermen were there but he was able to fish among them and had no trouble.
January 2021 — We have had several reports this month on PFIC from evanluck who's been catching a really nice variety of fish out at the end of the pier—yellowfin croaker, spotfin croaker, queenfish, blackperch, white seaperch, calico (kelp) bass, walleye surfperch, sculpin (scorpionfish), jacksmelt and good numbers of mackerel. He's had less luck fishing the inshore area of the pier.
March 2021 — Dane at Hogan's Bait and Tackle (34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, said things are still a little slow due to the cold water but fish are being caught. Inshore it’s mainly yellowfin croakers on lugworms and mussel while Pacific mackerel and jacksmelt are showing in the top-water sections from mid-pier to the end. The sharkers continue to pull in some sharays, mainly bat rays, but a couple of white sharks were also hooked and released this month.
June 2021 — Dana at Hogan's Bait and Tackle (34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, said it’s still the normal species. Inshore some croakers are being taken, both yellowfin and spotfin, while mid-pier to the end sees a few calico (kelp) bass and sand bass. A few halibut have also been taken but most are shorts. Mackerel action does seem to be picking up while the sharkers at the end are seeing a few leopard sharks but not much else. A report from fishman fishman dated May 20 said, "Enjoyed beautiful weather, no crowds, and good steady bite today. Fished half day. Caught and released shovelnose sand shark [shovelnose guitarfish?), round rays (round stingray or thornback ray), short sand bass, short calico bass, mackerel, jacksmelt, and salema. Ended the day with a nice spotfin croaker. Fish bit on anchovy, squid and mackerel. The croaker went home with us and was turned into fish tacos. A few mackerel went home as bait for next trip.
August 2021 — Josh at Hogan's Bait and Tackle (34320 Pacific Coast Hwy, said he didn’t have much to report, said everyone is heading out on the local boats to catch tune. He said he has a few reports of spotfin croaker and leopard sharks at the pier, both primarily being taken inshore. Some mackerel should be available at the end. A PFIC report from blfishing on 7/19 who said, “Set up near the surf and fished for spotfins. Caught one and lost another big one busting off. Bait was Asian market cooked mussels... Also got two sargo (on shrimp). Interesting day, guy next to me caught a lobster and didn't know they existed in CA (he fished 20 years there)?? He released it. Another guy walking up and down the pier with an eel.”
October 2021 — Evenluck made a PFIC report on 9/23, “Met my cousin and her husband at San Clemente Pier. I fished from 7AM-11AM. They arrived around 8AM and left at 10AM. They switched off fishing a single rod with a Size 6 Hayabusa Sabiki under a float that was baited with market shrimp. They caught: 8 Jacksmelt, 2 Salema, 2 Walleye Surfperch,1 Black Surfperch and 1 Spanish Mackerel (Jack Mackerel). I fished a high/lo with a size 6 bait holder and size 8 mosquito hook baited with a piece of lug worm and a piece of market shrimp. I caught: 5 Black Surfperch, 2 Sand Bass, 1 small and a 15” (Personal best), 1 13” Sheephead, 1 Yellowfin croaker, 6 Jacksmelt and 1 Walleye surfperch. Probably the best time limited session I've ever had fishing on a mainland pier. While I was cleaning my fish I hooked a good-sized fish on live smelt that ran me under the pier and broke me off. A pretty big triggerfish was hooked by a guy fishing the left corner at the end of the pier but the fish came off the hook at the base of the pier. Some decent size mackerel were being pull in as we were leaving. More mackerel were caught as we hit high tide ~10:30am. No bonito were caught by anyone and did not see any bait boils while we were there.”
June 2022 — Skyler at Hogan's Bait and Tackle (34320 Pacific Coast Hwy. says things are picking up a little bit due, he thinks, to the water warming a bit. He said it’s about 64 degrees (and rising). It sounds like inshore is where most of the action is occurring at this time. Croaker fishing for both spotfins and yellowfins has seen an upsurge while increasing numbers of halibut are also in the shallow water area. Out at the end a few sharks and rays have been landed, including a few small threshers, but it sounds like the mackerel action is still slow. A PFIC report from evanluck on May 26 reported, “Arrive around 7AM and started fishing for bait. Bait bite was sleepier than I remember it ever being here. No mackerel and even the smelt were shy about biting. I did catch about seven good bait-sized smelt. I fished a few on these on a Carolina-rig in various spots around the end of the pier. No takers on the live bait. I also hooked a walleye surfperch, a salema and a small calico bass while fishing for bait. I found a decent bite casting out to the reef off the end of the pier with a hi-lo rig and a combination of size eight mosquito hook and size six bait holder hook with pieces of market shrimp. On the day I caught two short calicos, one very good sized rock wrasse, and two black perch with this setup. I broke off my original set up which had 20-lb leader on some kelp and quickly replaced it with the same hooks on 8-lb leader that I had previously setup to fish for opaleye on another trip. On my last cast, I hooked a decent-sized fish and when I got it to the surface I realized it was a keeper-sized sheephead. Wary of the ability of the 8-lb test to get the fish over the rail, I asked the gentleman next to me who was drone casting to hold my rod while I got my hoop net. Having not been used for many trips, my hoop net rope was tangled so with the help of two other observers I detangled the hoop net rope and netted the fish. Was grateful for the help of three other people to land what turned out to be a 15"-Sheephead. I fished with a buddy of mine who also caught a black perch and a small yellowfin croaker on a Sabiki rig baited with shrimp. Another angler caught a medium-sized spotfin croaker on a dropper loop with mussel. Was able to talk more with the drone-casting fisherman who was mentioned in Ken's previous post. He uses archival photos from Google Earth from 2013 on a day where the water was exceptionally clear to get a sense of where the reef structure is around the pier. He then sends his drone out up to 1400 yards to cast a dropper loop with a grub-style swimbait coupled with pieces of cut bait. Today he was using shrimp. He then slowly retrieves his rig dragging it across the bottom all the way back to the pier. He's caught a number of good fish with this method including a 21" sheephead and some similar-sized bass. In his experience when the fish are biting they will bite right away and he usually gets the bite around 400 yards away from the pier while retrieving. If he is unable to get a bite in the first few casts he leaves. Almost reminds me of the mindset of someone fishing from their own boat. He is just using different methods to cover ground and look for a wide-open bite. Nice to have an enjoyable and productive morning at my favorite mainland pier.”