25 Years of Fish Reports — Today's Pier — Stearns Wharf (Santa Barbara)

Ken Jones

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Staff member
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I'm going to try to post one such report each day if people are interested.

Pier Fishing In California Fish Reports

January/February 1997—Mike at Mikes Bait & Tackle (on the wharf) reports a mixed bag of fish. Best bet at this time might be to try for buttermouth perch (black seaperch); a lot are being caught and some are pretty good size. The bait of choice for the perch is fresh mussels. Some ronkie (white croaker) are hitting cut anchovies and a school of jacksmelt will occasionally sweep by the pier. Halibut fishing is slow; only a few are being landed and almost all of these are "short: fish which you must return. However, there are lots of thornback rays and bat rays for the shark fishermen. Surprisingly, a few mackerel are also hitting and most are running an excellent 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds in size. Best lure seems to be a ½-ounce Snapper Zapper (and you could probably find one at Mike's shop on the pier).

March 1997—Mike at Mikes Bait & Tackle reports a mixed bag of fish. Lots of spotted flounder, many in the 12-14" size category, are being taken by anglers fishing bait on the bottom. These are not common at the pier (Mike calls them a FLUKE - get it, fluke of nature) and I'm not sure what they really are. There is no such listed species in this area but they could be one of several different species - diamond turbot (this gets my vote), honeyhead turbot, C-O turbot, rock sole, spotted turbot (which aren't supposed to get to this size) or something else. I sent Mike some pictures so perhaps we can pen it down. Anyway, these spotted flounder are proving to be a lot of fun, especially since the halibut seem to have deserted the pier lately. A few mackerel, mostly small, are also hitting at the end as are a few Ronkie (white croaker) and sculpin (California scorpionfish). Anglers fishing around the pilings and using mussels are getting a lot of big buttermouth perch (blackperch); REMEMBER, fish as close to the pilings as possible. Inshore, fishermen are bagging corbina on mussels and blood worms even though it is the wrong time of the year for the tasty croakers. Mike also reports that crabbing has been excellent off the wharf. Anglers are getting a mixture of large red rock crabs and HUGE spider crabs (some of the largest he has ever seen at the wharf). But wait, that's not the end of the story. Fish & Game, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that crabbing is not angling (OH!) which to me seems to be a pretty significant splitting of the hairs. In California, the regulations state that a fishing license is not required by anglers fishing from a public pier in ocean or bay waters (period, finito, end of discussion). But what if crabbing isn't angling or fishing? If you restrict the definition of angling to those using a rod and reel to catch fish, then the poor net droppers can be ticketed for lack of a license. That is what seems to be happening in Santa Barbara. The wardens say crabbing is not fishing and have begun to ticket the anglers as well as people who take sea snails (whelks) from the pier. Who is right? We'll try to find out! (Post script—does this mean that a pier angler who scrapes mussels off a piling for bait needs a license, or an angler accidentally catching a crab on his/her line has broken a law? Common sense, where for art thou?)

April 1997—Mike at Mikes Bait & Tackle reports a lot of action at the pier but it's not all about fishing. Lots of "giant" spider crabs continue to be taken (the largest he has ever seen at the pier) but there are really too many of the crabs. People are coming to the pier, dropping down 3-5 crab nets, and then selling the prolific crabs to the tourists. It's all illegal of course but because relations have become strained between the "legal" anglers and game wardens, no one has really reported the activity. Damned if you do, damned if you don't — sort of speak! Poachers are also taking some huge corbina down in the surf area. The large fish are hanging out in the shallows and poachers are using large treble hook snag lines to snag the fish. They bait a couple of hooks with mussels to attract the fish, and then when the corbina are sniffing out the mussels they give the line a quick yank and snag the fish. Again, the wardens appear to be uninformed. Legal anglers meanwhile are using sand crabs, bloodworms and fresh mussels to take a few of the large fish. Mackerel are putting on a good show further out on the pier. The 1-2 pound fish are mainly falling to anglers using light lines and strips of squid for bait. Mike says when he has a chance he takes out a 1/2 ounce silver Kastmaster lure and the mackerel chase each other to the lure. A few small sculpin (scorpionfish) are also being landed but bass fishing is slow; it's still too early in the year. Same with the halibut, a number of short 14-17-inch fish are being caught but few if any legal 22-inch fish. Shark action has improved. Lots of gray smoothhound sharks, thornback rays and shovelnose sharks (guitarfish) are being landed with the shovelnose going to about 4 feet in length. Mike adds that a lot of baby bat rays (which some people call monkeyface rays) are also being landed. In regards to the "great spotted flounder controversy" from last month, Mike checked out my pictures and reports that the fish were probably fantail sole (although bigmouth sole are a possibility). Both species are relatively rare on piers although Mike's anglers were catching lots of the spotted fish during February and March. In all the years I've been fishing on piers, I've only landed two fantail sole; one at the Pismo Beach Pier and one at the Huntington Beach Pier.

May 1997—Mike at Mikes Bait & Tackle says that the halibut are finally starting to bite, including quite a few that are keeper size. There's also been a good run on buttermouth perch (black seaperch) and barred surfperch out near the tackle shop. Both species are running up to about 1 1/2 pounds in size and both are falling primarily to fresh mussels. As usual, tons of ronkies (white croaker) are being landed, most on cut anchovies, while mackerel are still plentiful (and nice sized), but most mackerel are being taken at night. The mackerel arrive each afternoon around 4:30 and hit into the evening hours. The greenbacks are falling to strips of squid. 3-3 1/2 foot-long shovelnose sharks (shovelnose guitarfish), and 20-25 pound bat rays, round out the action, and both are landed on squid. Be sure to know your fish; one angler wanted to show Mike his 18-inch ronkie but it turned out to be an undersized, and illegal, white seabass which was released.
Inshore, a few corbina are still showing up but they are being chased away by the dolphins. Seems that grunion have been making an early season foray to the beach and they're being followed by a large school of dolphin practically up on the beach. When the dolphins show up each morning, the corbina (rightly so) scatter. Finally, the good action on crabs continues; in fact, it may be one of the best years ever. Anglers continue to nab large spider crabs (and I received a picture of Mike with an 11-pound crab that was 33-inches across), lots of large red rock crabs, and even some Dungeness crabs. What are the Dungeness doing down there? Seems a religious group has become active in the area and one of their traits is feeding and protecting wild animals. A few years ago they bought $2,500 worth of Dungeness crabs and stocked them in local waters. Lo-and-behold, anglers are now catching some of the crabs.

June 1997—Mike at Mikes Bait & Tackle reports excellent action on a plethora of different species. Bucket loads of mackerel lead the action but the real news is that sand bass, calico bass (kelp bass), barracuda and even lingcod have been falling to anglers bait. Mackerel are hitting strips of squid while most of the other species are hitting on anchovies although Mike says the barracuda are hitting on everything including artificial lures. The barracuda probably reflect the increase in water temperature while the lingcod are a real mystery fish. What the cold-water, rock-loving lings are doing around the pier isn't clear, but a number of lings have been caught in the past few weeks. Most, unfortunately, are under the legal size limit. Halibut are somewhat of a mystery too. Quite a few of the flatties have been landed, including some legal fish, but most are falling to salted anchovies while overlooking fresh and frozen anchovies — go figure. Shark fisherman aren't getting many sharks, but they are getting a lot of shovelnose guitarfish (up to about four feet in size), as well as thornback rays, even though it's early in the season for both.

July 1997—Mike at Mikes Bait & Tackle reports that a couple of nice halibut were hooked in the last few days. One 25" fish was landed right behind his shop while a fish that looked like a twin was lost right in front of the shop. Mike says the one that was lost continued a recent unusual trend. Most halibut he has netted in the past tended to try to head away from the wharf when brought to the top of the water. However, several recent fish have headed right into the pilings where they are sometimes able to cut the line. Are they learning new improved escape methods? There continue to be a lot of calico bass (kelp bass) caught but the majority are under the 12" legal size and one angler was arrested Sunday for possessing the illegal fish. Mike also netted a 100+ pound bat ray this past weekend for an angler who then released the large fish. He said he just wanted the thrill of the fight (even though bat rays are delicious eating) — bravo! (By the way, I visited the pier on the 15th of the month and saw a few kelp bass, sand bass and mackerel being caught - mostly on squid).

August 1997—Mike, at Mikes Bait & Tackle, reports that the mackerel have disappeared. The water temperature dropped an amazing 15 degrees (from 74 to 59 degrees) and when it did the mac attack retreated. Anglers however continue to catch lots of Ronkies (white croakers), good numbers of buttermouth perch (blackperch), and sharks. The buttermouth perch are hitting on fresh mussels while most sharks (smoothhound sharks, guitarfish and bat rays) are hitting on squid or mackerel. One lucky angler recently landed a 5-foot long leopard shark that was promptly taken over to the Sea Center Aquarium on the wharf. So far it seems to be enjoying its new home. Biggest mid-month excitement was provided by a young lady who was fishing by the bait shop one morning. Her line started to head out, and then it continued to head out and head out some more. Finally it snapped and a baby gray whale surfaced just past the wharf. It is really late in the season for the grays and this one must have been lost. Mike told the girl that it was a good thing she hadn't landed the whale since they're out of season. Another angler on the pier that day, Boyd Grant, also e-mailed me the story about the 15-foot whale. Boyd said that by the end of the day the lady was reporting that she had hooked a 30-foot blue whale. Typical angler exaggeration. By the way, Boyd reported that he was getting lots of small calico bass (kelp bass) and mackerel before the water temperature dropped. He also caught a shovelnose shark (guitarfish), some Ronkies and a senorita.

September 1997—Mike, at Mikes Bait & Tackle, reports that things are slow. Mostly mackerel and "short" halibut. Anglers do continue to get some Ronkies (white croaker), a few perch, and sharks. A 5-foot leopard shark was landed recently but most of the sharks are smaller gray smoothies (gray smoothhounds). (I fished off the pier for one mid-morning hour on July 28th. The result was 3 small kelp bass, 1 senorita, one jacksmelt and 3 perch, nothing worth keeping.)

October 1997—Mike, at Mikes Bait & Tackle, reports slow fishing. A few small bonito, mostly small mackerel, short halibut, and lots of small, illegal kelp bass. The only thing of decent size has been large yellowfin croaker and they're being caught all around the wharf. There are also quite a few big buttermounth perch falling to fresh mussels fished around the pilings. At night, anglers are catching bat rays, smoothhounds and leopard sharks but again, most are small. Mike continues to drop a crab net by his shop but says even that is producing babies -- 4-5-6 baby spider crabs each drop.

November 1997—Mike, at Mikes Bait & Tackle, reports a mixed bag of fish. Leading the list is BIG, bonito-size mackerel that sweep by the pier periodically, especially in the morning and late afternoon-evening hours. Good size guitarfish are also hitting (and Mike said he netted a 15-pounder just before I called). Some nice perch are also being caught: barred surfperch, buttermouth perch, and BIG, BIG pileperch. The key seems to be fresh mussels, and for the pileperch, remember to fish straight down, as close to the pilings as you can get. An unusual occurrence this past week was the discovery of a Maine lobster inside the lobster trap of one of the commercial spiny lobster fishermen. It is now a resident of the aquarium on the wharf. Mike sent me an interesting message mid-month that said: “Yesterday afternoon a young fellow came out to Stearns Wharf with a light rod and reel. He purchased a bag of salted anchovies from me and went out toward the end of the wharf. About one hour later someone came into the shop and said that they needed my landing net out there. I grabbed the net and took off to see what was up. A 32”, 14-lb. halibut was what was up! Six pound test line, two little split shots and a number 4 hook at the end with a salted anchovy on it. The fellow said that he was used to fishing in lakes and streams in the mountains and had never fished the ocean before.” Another message, sent last week, said "Ken, the bonito are finally showing up at Stearns Wharf. This morning - first cast - 2 lb. Mackerel. 2nd cast with 1/2 oz. Silver Kastmaster - 4 lb. Bonito."

December 1997—Mike, at Mikes Bait & Tackle, reports lots of big mackerel, short halibut, and juvenile white seabass. The weather and wind have been iffy but action has remained good; anglers also continue to catch a lot of white croakers and yellowfin croakers.

January 1998Mike Katz, at Mikes Bait & Tackle, says the water temperature is down to 62 degrees but BIG mackerel continue to hang around and please the anglers. There are also lots of BIG jacksmelt and some small calico bass (kelp bass), sand bass, and white seabass (illegal size). Mike also reports many, many baby monkeyface rays (bat rays). On the 23rd, Mike sent me the following e-mail message: “Had a gray whale surface in front of my shop around 7 a.m. this morning. Scared the heck out of the fishermen!” He later told me that the whale actually brushed a couple of the anglers' lines so they could almost say they hooked a whale.

February 1998—No answer on the 31st from Mike Katz, at Mikes Bait & Tackle (so the wharf may have been closed) but he did send me the following E-mail message on the 27th of the month. "Ken: They are in midst of repairing the wharf (as they do every winter) and all of their cranes, trucks, pilings, stringers and lumber are piled all around my shop and the end of the wharf so fishing and fishermen have been limited. Also, we seem to be having an underwater storm. There were huge swells all day today that rocked the wharf. Great for surfers but bad for fishing! The most fish I've seen lately are huge (and I mean HUGE) sardines and very large piling perch. One fellow walked by my shop holding up a plastic bag filled with what I thought were medium sized mackerel. They were sardines! Cute one I read last week: Teacher asked her grammar school class to write a paper on the effects of oil on fish. One kid wrote, 'Last night my mother opened a can of sardines. The can was full of oil and the fish were dead!'"

March 1998Mike Katz, at Mikes Bait & Tackle says that he has been out of business since the first of February. The pier lost about 50 pilings and 150 deck boards as well as the NOA shack at the end and the foghorn. His shop wasn't damaged but everything holding the pier together underneath was damaged. Mike said he "was out there the day after the big one on Feb. 2nd and it looked like a scene from "Jaws." The deck boards were sticking up in the air with their long spikes sticking out like shark's teeth." Repairs are underway and were supposed to be finished by now but obviously work is still continuing. Good luck Mike. Zoy Hann visited the pier on March 1 and reported that "the pier was under repair and only about 50 foot of the Pier is open for fishing. Water was a little bit polluted, but green and a reasonably clear. Some surfperch caught, but mostly lots of white croaker. The croakers were suckers for a piece of salted anchovy right on the bottom, caught so many I never did get to the Santa Barbara harbor breakwater to check for corbina."

April 1998—Mike Katz, at Mikes Bait & Tackle, says that all the news this month is bad. The work on the pier that was supposed to be done by the end of February is still not done. The end of the pier is closed to anglers as pilings and boards are replaced and basically Mike is out of business. The wharf is allowing fishing in the inshore areas and in some areas that are marked "no fishing" but the confusion is simply forcing most anglers to go elsewhere. Mike says things SHOULD be back to normal by mid-April but don't hold your breath. In addition, it's been almost too windy to fish!

May 1998—Mike Katz, at Mikes Bait & Tackle, said the weather and seas remain rough. On the first of the month anglers were mainly catching tiny mackerel and perch -- buttermouth and barred. A mid-month note from Mike had reported the reopening of the end of the pier and that anglers were catching a lot of buttermouth perch, some short halibut, and small red rock crabs averaging 6-7 inches across. Mike himself managed to latch on to a 9-pound spider crabs. Fishing should improve if the weather ever calms down.

June 1998—Mike Katz, at Mikes Bait & Tackle, reports that halibut are back in numbers but that most, but not all, are illegal-sized fish. He says there are lots of small mackerel and large sardines (which may explain the halibut). Also lots of barred surfperch and buttermouth perch (try fresh mussels). He says tons of guitarfish are showing us plus (naturally) Roncadors (white croaker) and large jacksmelt. Finally, quite a few large leopard sharks have been taken lately including one five-footer, but an even larger fish broke one anglers line. He says the weather was good for Memorial Day but it has since turned windy — white caps to the beach all day long. So take along a windbreaker and some hot chocolate. Robert Karapet visited the pier mid-month but didn't catch a fish. He said the only thing he saw were "beautiful women."

July 1998—Mike Katz, at Mikes Bait & Tackle, reports that the halibut are making a nice showing. Recent fish have included a 36-inch, 19-pound fish that Mike labeled a "fat female." Most of the halibut, for some reason, are latching on to salted anchovies. He's also seeing LOTS of leopard sharks in the 5-6 foot range, which provide excitement for the pier anglers. Fishing straight down around the pilings is producing 18-19-inch sand bass (on salted anchovies and don't even bother trying for them on squid). As usual, ronkies (white croaker) are available, as are some big pileperch (which are hitting shrimp and mussels). As for the mackerel, they show up each day around 3:30-4 p.m. and stay around till it gets dark.

August 1998—Mike Katz, at Mikes Bait & Tackle reports that the halibut are making a nice showing. Recent fish included a 29-inch, 9-pound halibut, and a 36-inch, 19-pound halibut. He also saw a couple of large corbina caught out by his shop, which is unusual, normally they’re in inshore shallower water. He's also seeing quite a few yellowfin croaker and LOTS of bass. One two-hour, early-morning visit by myself resulted in 11 fish, mostly small kelp bass and sand bass. Included though was a 17-inch mackerel that the aggressive pelicans tried to steal while I was trying to remove the hook. Had to practically fight the dumb looking birds. Also, be cautioned to put away any bait. If you leave your bait out the birds will grab it. MIKE SAYS THE FISH AND GAME HAS WARNED LOCAL ANGLERS NOT TO EAT ANCHOVIES OR SARDINES WHICH THEY HAVE CAUGHT. SEEMS THAT THOSE TWO SPECIES CARRY A RED TIDE-ORGANISM IN THEIR GUTS THAT ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RECENT DEATH OF SEA LIONS AND BIRDS. THE ORGANISMS DON'T HURT THE FISH BUT CAN BE POISONOUS TO HUMANS. SO, DON'T EAT THEM! IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE ME AND STILL WANT TO EAT THEM DO AT LEAST MAKE SURE YOU COMPLETELY CLEAN THE FISH AND REMOVE ANY INTERNAL ORGANS.

September 1998—Mike Katz, at Mikes Bait & Tackle, reports that there are some sea lions hanging around the wharf and fishing has slowed because of it. There are still lots of foot-long mackerel being caught on bait and bait rigs, some short calico bass and short halibut, but not much else. He says he has seen a lot of huge corbina in the shoreline waters but no one fishes for them.

October 1998—Mike Katz, at Mikes Bait & Tackle, reports that the mackerel bite is fast and furious. Most of his regulars are trying for halibut, and an occasional short fish comes up, but the mackerel are just too easy to catch and too tempting not to fight. Some of the macs are running 1 1/2-2 pounds. Mike said the pier also had a visit from the Game Warden. "They are getting very upset because the mackerel are running thick and fast and my wharf is jammed every day with people who are taking as many as four and five five-gallon buckets per day filled to the brim. I mean each and every person and there are at least twenty of them every day. Fish and Game know they are smoking and selling the fish but can't prove it.

November 1998—Mike Katz, at Mikes Bait & Tackle, says that someone “turned off the faucet” the day before I called. He said the mackerel fishing had been unbelievable for about six weeks which attracted hoards of semi-commercial (illegal) fishermen from Los Angeles and Fresno. Most of the so-called anglers would fill up five to six (or more) 5-gallon buckets daily with large mackerel and then sell them for up to $3 a pound (while driving Fish and Game crazy). But, the day I called saw only a few small mackerel. Mike says people are still catching halibut but almost all are short, while they're also catching some fair sized calico (kelp) bass. He says anglers are getting good numbers of shovelnose sharks (guitarfish) and monkeyface rays (bat rays).

December 1998—Mike Katz, at Mikes Bait & Tackle (on the wharf), is no longer in business. A huge fire burned the last three hundred feet of the wharf on the night of November 18. Included in the loss were two restaurants, the bait shop, and the prime fishing area. Mike says it will be approximately one and a half years before the end and the bait shop are restored.

June 2001 — Mark, at The Bait Shop, on the wharf, reports that anglers are catching lots of small perch – walleyes, on bait rigs together with sporadic attacks of mackerel (usually at high tide). There has also been many legal-size halibut lately – from 24” to 31” and, with bait showing up, he expects the halibut bite to continue. As usual there are also lots of small calico (kelp) bass along with a few legals, and quite a few pinback sharks (thornback rays). Last, but not least, anglers have been getting quite a few red rock crabs along with lots, and lots, of spider crabs.

July 2001–Mark, at The Bait Shop, reports that anglers are catching lots of mackerel but primarily only after 3 p.m. In the morning, short calico bass rule along with some short sand bass, short white seabass and short halibut (mainly off of the finger extension of the wharf). Sounds like a lot of shorts. There are also lots of perch—mostly short (couldn't resist it) shinerperch and some larger pileperch down around the pilings. Finally, some shovelnose and bat rays are showing up. Anglers also continue to harvest fair numbers of rock crabs and spider crabs.

August 2001—Mark, at The Bait Shop, reports good action and lots of variety. Anglers fishing on top are getting smelt, sardines and mackerel. He says you can set your watch on the time the mackerel (a mixed school with Spanish and Pacific mackerel) will show up every day—2 p.m. As usual there are lots of small calico (kelp) bass and quite a few halibut. A 31" flattie was landed and two bigger flatties were lost at the net. He's also seeing lots of BIG pileperch down by the pilings but they're hard to catch (as always). He said the red tide put a stop to action for a few days but now it has cleared and the good action has returned.

April 2002—Paul, at The Bait Shop, says things have been really slow. About the only action that is steady is that on crabs – mostly spider crabs up to 7-8 pounds. The water is still cold and the bass and mackerel are still absent.

June 2002—Easy, at The Bait Shop, reports that things are still slow. Most of the action has been on ronkies (white croaker) together with a few bat rays and some halibut (mostly under-sized). He says the calico bass (kelp bass) are finally starting to bite but it’s been windy and rough. Mackerel are still few and far between.

August 2002—David, at the new Angel’s Bait and Tackle says things are still slow. He’s seen a few short halibut, a few 40-inch or so sharks, and quite a few lizardfish. It’s still slow on kelp bass and the mackerel have been absent. He’s also seen a few bat rays.

September 2002—Angel, at Angel’s Bait and Tackle says there are tons of mackerel and sardines being caught both day and night. He’s also been seeing quite a few halibut (22-27”), a 52” sand shark (shovelnose), and a 63-pound bat ray. He says there are a lot of sand sharks and bat rays. He’s also seeing jacksmelt but not many kelp bass. Says there will be a 2-day halibut tournament this weekend and another tournament on 9/21. All species are eligible and it will be televised live from the pier with lots of prizes

October 2002—Angel, at Angel’s Bait reports that most of the action has been on mackerel and sardines -- along with some spider crabs. The mackerel have been hitting bait rigs while the spiders are taken with hoop nets. Lots of bait in the water but things have slowed down.

December 2002—Angel, at Angel’s Bait reports that most of the action is centered on sardines, jacksmelt and some decent crabbing – both for rock crabs and spider crabs. Notable fish for the month included a 15 & 20-pound sand shark, a 25-pound leopard shark, and a 13 1/2-inch buttermouth perch (blackperch).

January 2003— Angel, at Angel’s Bait reports that most of the action is centered on jacksmelt, walleye surfperch, and a few yellowfin croaker. He said the largest fish for the month was a 70-pound bat ray. I was down there for a very short visit on 12/13 and managed to catch some queenfish, jacksmelt and one small shinerperch.

February 2003 —Angel, at Angel’s Bait reports that things are fairly slow but in the past week he has seen one salmon, five steelhead, and an 8-pound spider crab. The salmon and steelhead were taken on strips of squid and all were returned to the water. Other than that it’s been mostly perch and jacksmelt.

March 2003— Angel, at Angel’s Bait reports that some jacksmelt are available as well as walleye surfperch and barred surfperch. He’s also seeing some rainbow seaperch, some spider crabs (to 6 pounds). Shark action has been slow.

April 2003 —Angel, at Angel’s Bait reports a few barred surfperch, rainbow seaperch, jacksmelt and halibut (the biggest at 24”). The crabbing has also been very good with 7 and 13 pound spider crabs being taken the past two days.

June 2003—Angel, at Angel’s Bait reports that things have been good recently. Big fish in the last few days included 37 and 25 pound shovelnose sharks, three halibut in the 8-9 pound range, and two large sunfish, one that weighed approximately 25 pounds and one that weighed 87 pounds. Of the latter sunfish, he says an angler saw a flash, tossed a lure out into that direction, and the sunfish hit it and made a long run. He said they are pretty strong beasts. There have also been lots of mackerel and sardines but they come and go. Unfortunately he’s also seeing some dying dolphins and sea lions on the beach.

July 2003—Angel, at Angel’s Bait reports that things have been up and down recently with sardines coming and going, lots of short kelp bass, decent sand bass action using cut anchovies, slow halibut action and a few short white seabass. Biggest fish recently – 6/23 – a 14-pound spider crab; 6/26 – a 33-pound angel shark and a 78-pound thresher shark. A few rock crabs are also being taken by anglers.

October 2003—Joe, at Angel’s Bait reports good action on mackerel and sardines with most of the mackerel running 12-16 inches in length. Under the pier that are lots of calico bass 8-13 inches; they’re there but be sure to only keep legal fish. He’s also seein quite a few sand sharks and some decent rock crabbing but not much else.

November 2003—Angel, at Angel’s Bait reports slow action due to red tide and dredging being carried out in the harbor. Most action has been on sardines and herring (queenfish) using bait rigs. Biggest fish recently have been a 36” halibut, a 39” sand shark, a 12-pound sand shark, a 24” halibut and several bat rays. Sounds slow. He also says it’s been no lobsters and slow on crabs.

January 2004—Angel, at Angel’s Bait reports continued slow action with some jacksmelt showing up but few other fish. He says there is good action on red rock crabs —keeper size crabs—but not too many people are seeking them out.

May 2004—Angel, at Angel’s Bait reports that things are fairly slow with perch providing most of the action along with a few jacksmelt, sand bass and spider crabs. Big news of course was the potential record setting bat ray that weighed 205 pounds (see the Message Board for the full report).

June 2004—Jerry, at Angel’s Bait reports good action on small (and some legal) bass, both calico (kelp) and sand bass. The biggest have gone around 16 inches. Inshore there are lots of halibut (to 25 inches), while further out on the pier good numbers of bat rays and shovelnose sharks (guitarfish) are also being caught.

July 2004—Angel, at Angel’s Bait reports that action has been fairly slow. Biggest fish recently were a 27” halibut, 17’ sand bass, and a 12” calico (kelp) bass. Baitfish — sardines and Spanish mackerel (jack mackerel) — are in and out so you just have to be lucky, while bat rays and sand sharks (shovelnose guitarfish) are fairly reliable, especially at night. Three baby bonito were also landed but, as said, action’s been fairly slow.

August 2004—John, at Angel’s Bait reports that action has been fairly slow. Most people are concentrating on a mix of sardines, mackerel and jack mackerel. A couple of halibut have also shown up (inshore) and a few bat rays.

September 2004—Joey, at Angel’s Bait reports that action has been fairly slow but that anglers are picking up mackerel, short halibut, some kelp bass and lots of 2-3 foot long shovelnose sharks (guitarfish). A bat ray estimated at 80+ pounds was also recently taken.

October 2004—Angel, at Angel’s Bait reports good action continues on mackerel and sardines along with lesser numbers of halibut (mostly shorts) and bonito. Angel did nab himself a 100+pound bat ray the week of the 20th and has seen quite a few gray smoothhounds showing up.

November 2004—Chris, at Angel’s Bait, reports there are tons of mackerel along with a few halibut and a good number of bat rays. It’s been slow on perch and bass. Several thresher sharks have also been landed from the wharf in the past two weeks, most on live mackerel fished under a balloon. Rock and spider crabs are also being netted at the wharf.

January 2005—Angel, at Angel’s Bait, reports people are concentrating on the crabs and that the red rock crabs have been plentiful. About the only thing the fishermen are getting are sardines.

June 2005—Angel, at Angel’s Bait, reports mackerel and sardines are showing at the pier. Inshore, in areas marked off limit to pier anglers, anglers in tubes and kayaks are catching halibut.

July 2005—Angel, at Angel’s Bait, says the fishing has been dead. Mainly it’s just a few jacksmelt and shinerperch. One 36” sand shark was taken.

August 2005—Jerry, at Angel’s Bait, says the fishing has been slow although anglers are getting some mackerel and sardines on bait rigs along with some small perch. Shark anglers are getting some sand sharks (smoothhounds) and bat rays. Halibut are available but most are inshore in the area restricted to anglers; most are being caught by tubers or yakers.

September 2005—Frank, at the Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, at the end of the pier, says the mackerel bite has been amazing. Most everyone is catching mackerel and all would have their limits if there was a limit. Most of the other action has been on shovelnose guitarfish and on bat rays; both are abundant. Not much else.

December 2005—Frank, the new owner at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, at the end of the pier, says things have been fairly slow although some days have been good. Mackerel are still around and there are lots of jacksmelt to offer action along with lizardfish on the bottom. Some big leopard sharks and bat rays have been taken but it’s only a couple per day.

January 2006—Frank, the new owner at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, says things have been fairly slow. The main fish to be caught are ronkies (white croaker) together with a FEW calico (kelp) bass, walleye surfperch and thornback rays. There are quite a few people crabbing and they are getting some red rock crabs.

March 2006—Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, says he had 24 days of slow action and four days of great action. The mackerel made an appearance about four days ago and it’s been a mac attack ever since. A few perch are also making an appearance along with decent crabbin’ action.

April 2006—Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, says things are pretty slow. Walleye perch have been the main fish for the last week or so with a few other perch varieties also showing up; not much else other than a few baby bat rays. He said there has been GOOD action on the crabs from the wharf.

May 2006—Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, says there have been tons of mackerel lately but not much else other than the “mac attacks.” Some big bat rays are showing up lately with the largest being a 110-pound beauty weighed last week.

June 2006—Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, says the mackerel are still around and now they’re being joined by sardines. Shark anglers are catching some big bat rays (two over a hundred pounds recently and a 4-foot-long soupfin shark was taken last week. Not much variety but some fish. Frank says there will be a “Father’s Day Fishing Derby” this year sponsored by the Sea Center and local businesses including the bait shop.

July 2006—Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, says the mackerel action remains hot and heavy while sardines are joining in the fun. Not too much on the bottom although an occasional halibut shows up along with some sharks and BIG rays.

September 2006—Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, says the mackerel and sardines have been thick with anglers filling buckets. Anglers recently have also take a white seabass, black sea bass (released), and are starting to see bonito. Sounds like things are picking up. He says it has been pretty much dead on the bottom except for some spider crabs and Dungeness(?) crabs.

October 2006—Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle says that mackerel and sardines continue to be thick with a few bonito showing up now and then. Other than that it is slow — a few bat rays showing up but not too many other sharks or rays. He’s waiting for lobster season.

December 2006—Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, says there are still tons of sardines being taken at the pier along with lesser numbers of small mackerel and an occasional bonito. Action on the bottom species has been almost dead.

April 2007— Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, says it’s fairly slow with the main action being on mackerel (that move in and then out) and shinerperch. There does though continue to be good crabbin’ at the pier.

May 2007—Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, says it’s about the slowest he’s seen it in all the time he’s been on the pier. He’s seeing more crabs (rock crabs and spider crabs) being pulled in than fish although last weekend he saw some sanddabs and some perch. He reports the water at a chilly low ‘50s.

June 2007—Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, says the mackerel finally turned on Memorial Day; the numbers had been growing daily for about ten days but they just went crazy that Monday. Add in the ever present roncadors (white croakers), a couple of five-foot-long leopard sharks, and several small needlefish and it’s probably the best report he’s had in months.

July 2007—Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, says the mackerel action has slowed a little but there are lots and lots of sardines to take up the action. A few halibut are being landed, including one legal-size fish, as well as quite a few small bat rays and smoothhound sharks.

September 2007—Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, says things slowed this week. About all he’s seeing is sardines and there are a lot of them. A few bat rays have been taken on the bottom.

October 2007—Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, says its great action if you want sardines but that’s about all you will find at the pier except for the crabs, which always seem to be available at the pier. He hasn’t seen a single lobster.

November 2007—Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, says things are pretty slow unless you want shiners, ronkies or lizardfish. Ronkies is the local name for white croaker, which I guess, is still better than one of the other names—Pasadena sewer trout. Rocks crabs are available at the wharf although lobsters are few and far between. He says the water looks like coffee, it’s the worst he’s ever seen it.

December 2007—Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, at the end of the pier, says mackerel are still making a showing although they come and go. A few sardines also show but it’s been dead on the bottom. Rock crabs are available.

Feb. 2008 — Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, at the end of the pier, says there are still some mackerel being taken although it’s primarily an early morning/early evening bite. They’re gone during the day when jacksmelt and sardines provide the action. Action continues very good on rock crabs.

June 2008 — Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, steady action on mackerel and sardines along with a few barred surfperch. Nothing much else. The crab action (spider crabs and rock crabs) continues to be strong.

July 2008 — Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, reports the best halibut fishing in the past three years with multiple legal-size fish being taken every day. There’s not much else hitting on the bottom but mackerel and sardines are available on the top. The crab action (spider crabs and rock crabs) continues to be strong.

October 2008 — Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, reports good action on Pacific mackerel and Spanish mackerel (jack mackerel) along with a few shovelnose sharks (guitarfish) and a very few bonito.

November 2008 — Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, reports good action on sardines and Spanish mackerel (jack mackerel) along with smaller numbers of Pacific mackerel. He’s also seen at least one thresher shark taken every day recently. On 10/26 one angler caught (and released) a 27” salmon while several other salmon cruised near the wharf but refused to bite.

June 2009 — Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, said there had been a good bite on sardines, mackerel, small perch, and anchovies. Apparently the baitfish are also attracting bigger fry since he’s also reporting that shovelnose are hitting at a steady pace, halibut at a somewhat slower rate. Apparently a nice-sized lingcod was also hanging around the pilings and making a regular appearance but it had resisted being hooked, at least at the time I talked to Frank. Crabs are also still available.

November 2009 — Jeff, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, said the bonito and mackerel have shown up and they’re being taken on Krocodiles and Sabikis. A few short halibut and a few shovelnose have also been taken.

December 2009 — Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, reports a mix of sardines, jacksmelt and lizardfish along with a few halibut. The day I called a 6-year-old-angler had hooked and fought a 23-inch halibut that was netted by Frank. Locals were just a little envious. Not much else is showing.

January 2010 — Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, reports action is fine if your goal is small lizardfish (on the bottom) and sardines (on top); other fish are missing. The wharf does however continue to kick out big numbers of crabs, mainly rock crabs.

April 2010 — Jeff, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, reports that there’s a mix of mackerel, sardines, queenfish and “ronkies” (white croaker) at the pier although it’s still a little slow on halibut. Action has slowed on most bottom species, including rays, but crabbing continues to be excellent (both rock crabs and spider crabs).

July 2010 — Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, reports that the pier continues to kick out big number of mackerel with some of them reaching 16” in length. Good action is also seen on sardines but the number of Spanish mackerel has dropped. Halibut to 24”, a few sand bass, an occasional senorita, and a few small bat rays show on the bottom. Although the mackerel are numerous, the action can vary depending upon the time of the day. Some mornings are strong while it can be dead during the day. The mac action at night though is consistent.

September 2010 — Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, reports good numbers of mackerel still showing up although he’s says it’s mainly a late afternoon bite. Unusual has been a fairly big run of bat rays and a hot “senorita” bite one week. What would make the always in residence senorita start biting is still an unanswered question.

April 2011 — Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, said the baitfish have moved in and there are big numbers of Spanish mackerel (jackmackerel), jacksmelt, Pacific mackerel and sardines. He says everyone is catching fish.” But, nothing is showing on the bottom.

May 2011 — Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, said good numbers of baitfish—sardines, mackerel and jacksmelt—were making an appearance until 4/27. That’s when the city replaced four old, mussel-encrusted pilings with four new creosote-soaked pilings. He says it’s only anecdotal but the fishing turned off almost immediately. He say’s there is bait further inshore, away from the new pilings but at the end (where his shop is located) it is dead. He’s hoping things pick up soon.

August 2011— Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, said the action has been excellent on mackerel and sardines and apparently the thresher sharks have followed the baitfish in. Five threshers were taken just before I called, all on live mackerel, and all between 3-8 PM. This confirms what I have said many times: the best thresher hours seem to be during the afternoon when there’s a little chop on the water. Frank said a lot of senorita fish are also showing up for some reason.

December 2011 — Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, said it’s 80% jacksmelt with a smattering of mackerel, lizardfish and shiners making up the rest of the fish. He hasn’t seen any halibut lately or any sharays.

May 2012 — Frank, at Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle, said it’s all about the jacks, macs, and dines (jackmackerel, Pacific mackerel and sardines) and not much else. He did say some whales were so close to the pier the day before I called that four different anglers accidently hooked (or entangled) them with their lines. Luckily in every case the lines were broken before the rods/reels were lost.

February 2013 — Frank at the bait shop on the wharf reports most of the action is on large jacksmelt, lizardfish and small sanddabs. A week ago the sardines and anchovies were so thick around the pier that the newspaper came out and did a story on the action but now they have disappeared.

June 2013 — Frank at the bait shop on the wharf says almost everything is showing up except sardines and mackerel. The most unusual catch lately was a monkeyface eel (caught on a Sabiki baited with squid) while a number of Johnny bass (olive rockfish) have also been taken. Some small bat rays and small shovelnose have also been taken (and released) but no halibut.

September 2013 — Frank at the bait shop on the wharf says fishing has exploded. For the past week or so the mackerel and sardine bite has been great—morning, noon and night. Go figure. On the bottom a couple of halibut and bat rays have been taken but not much else. The lizardfish are still there but the mackerel are beating them to the hooks.

November 2013 — Frank at the bait shop on the wharf says action is pretty slow, most of the action has been on jacksmelt and lizardfish with a LOT of octopus also being caught. The morning I called the entire end of the pier was closed by a film company much to the chagrin of Frank. The city had not even told him about the filming and he had not had a sale all morning.

April 2014 — Frank at “The Bait Shop” on the pier says the main catch is jacksmelt followed by lizardfish (which are getting big). Schools of mackerel move in and out while big schools of anchovies are pretty steady around the pier. When the mackerel are in you’re also likely to see some leopard sharks. As said, the mackerel are in—and out. One day two youngsters caught 146 mackerel. Next day they were out again at the crack of dawn—and caught four for the day. There’s no guarantees in fishing.

May 2014 — Frank at “The Bait Shop” on the pier says it’s really been windy. The day I called, he said four baseball hats and two trash cans had already gone in the water and the number of fishermen was down to one. However, when it’s not windy they’ve been getting a lot of mackerel and sardines, medium to large sized mackerel and BIG sardines. Not much on the bottom but the macks and ‘dines are keeping the people happy.

September 2014 — Frank at the pier’s bait shop reports legal-size halibut three days in a row. Apparently munching on the lizardfish and other baitfish.

October 2014 — Frank at the pier’s bait shop reports the best fishing for mackerel this year while good numbers of bonito are also making an appearance. Legal-size halibut have been taken; apparently munching on the lizardfish and other baitfish.

November 2014 — Frank from the Stearns Wharf bait shop reported that the bonito are still around although they’re not hitting like earlier. He got a 16” fish on Saturday so even if there are fewer bonito they are running larger. He says the mackerel are still around as well as jacksmelt, lizardfish and once in a great while a small halibut.

March 2015 — Frank, from the Stearns Wharf bait shop, says things are slow. The choices are jacksmelt (a lot), mackerel (some), and lizardfish (too many).

April 2015 — Frank, from the Stearns Wharf bait shop, says there are a lot of ronkies (white croaker), a tons of mackerel, and a lot of leopard sharks. There’s also a TON of people.

August 2015 — Frank, from the Stearns Wharf bait shop, says he’s never seen as many kelp bass as recently—tons of them. Unfortunately they are almost all undersized and he’s fighting the anglers every day to put them back (winning sometimes and losing the other). There are also good numbers of mackerel showing up as well as bat rays, some of pretty decent size. I asked if there were any unusual warm water fish seen recently and he said he went night fishing a couple of weeks ago and for the first time ever (in over ten years) he caught a round stingray off the pier. The round stingrays are more common to the southland waters. Usually they are caught further south.

September 2015 — Frank, from the Stearns Wharf bait shop, says the fishing has been great. Daily there are good numbers of mackerel, some small and some good-sized; daily there have been good numbers of small kelp (calico) bass; daily there have been fair numbers of jackmackerel (Spanish mackerel). Every other day the bonito show up, mostly 16-17” fish and those that know what they’re doing catch good numbers. He says a 1-ounce Krocodile is good although some are also taken on the Sabiki rigs.

June 2016 — Frank, from the Stearns Wharf bait shop, says it’s been pretty much dead although there has been a late afternoon bite on mackerel most days (after about 4 PM). The day I called one lone regular had finally left the pier after totaling four lizardfish. On the other hand, one angler a few days before had thrown out a Sabiki and landed four baby barracuda, each about 12 inches long.

July 2016 — Frank, from the Stearns Wharf bait shop, says it’s mainly mackerel and jacksmelt on top with a lot of small kelp bass on the bottom. He does see an occasional halibut but all are small and he did see an angler catch a small 16” yellowtail off the end of the pier last week. Not much else.

September 2016 — Frank, from the Stearns Wharf bait shop, said that the day I called (Friday, Sept.2) was the best day of the year by far. Bonito, several barracuda, lots of mackerel, two thresher sharks and a mess of other fish. He hoped it would stay the way through the holiday weekend.

October 2016 — Frank, from the Stearns Wharf bait shop, said that things are a little slow although the mackerel are still around as well as some bonito (1-2 pounders). Not much on the bottom excepting bat rays. The threshers were hitting until mid-September but seem to have slowed.

March 2017 — Mike, from the Stearns Wharf bait shop, said action is fair but a variety of fish are being caught. Mackerel are showing up in good numbers, small ones in the morning and during the day, larger ones in the evening. Lots of bat rays have also been showing and some are really good size; one weighing 90 pounds. People using Sabiki’s are getting fair number of jacksmelt and quite a few small 6”-long, ‘throw-em-back’ lingcod. Inshore, past the Sea Center, some barred surfperch are making a showing. As for crustaceans, a lot of crabs are also present, both rock crabs and spider crabs and some are good sized.

April 2017 — Mike, from the Stearns Wharf bait shop, said there’s a mix of fish to be had. Small croakers (white croakers?) lead the list along with small calico (kelp) bass (although he said a few larger bass are also beginning to show). The mackerel are missing but sardines are showing off the back of his shop so I imagine some can be snagged for live bait. Small, baby lingcod (5-6-inches long) are too plentiful and I hope they are being returned to the water. Lastly there are the bat rays that are showing at night but apparently most of the anglers really don’t know what to do with them.

May 2017 — Mike, from the Stearns Wharf bait shop, said the wind has been tough on the fishing. There are more BIG jacksmelt showing up along with a lot of bat rays (most lost at landing) and a continued number of small lingcod. When the winds are calm they’re also getting some sand sharks and thresher sharks.

June 2017 — Mike, from the Stearns Wharf bait shop, said there’s been a lot of mackerel and kelp bass caught lately with about one in ten of the kelp bass being legal size. Good numbers also on big bat rays (50+ pounds) along with increased numbers of leopard sharks and shovelnose sharks (guitarfish).

September 2017 — Mike, from the Stearns Wharf bait shop, said there’s been a nice mix of fish. He says there are a lot of mackerel and a lot of bat rays (he says many, many, many). He says there’s also a lot of nice-sized shovelnose sharks (guitarfish). As for bonito, they show up one day and then they are gone for a few days before showing up again; it’s hard to predict. As for halibut, the regulars who know what they are doing are catching them. A lot of shorts and about 1-3 legal-size fish a day.

January 2018 — Mike at the Stearns Wharf Bait Shop said the shop has finally reopened. Due to the huge fire in the area, and the associated smoke and ash, basically all of the businesses on the wharf were closed except for restaurants. Given that the water had so much ash in it, it was almost impossible to fish (and certainly uncomfortable for those trying to fish). It’s quite possible that the fish also moved to cleaner offshore water. The fire is now 95% contained and things are returning to normal. As for the fishing, it is mainly mackerel and jacksmelt during the day and bat rays at night. Anglers are pulling in a LOT of octopus, both the small red variety and the larger gray-yellow variety but Mike says very few anglers keep them even though they are considered good to eat. Mike does say more and more people are also crabbing and they are getting a mix of crabs, mainly rock crabs along with a lot of whelks (sea snails—conch in Florida) in the nets. Again few keep them although they too are considered good eating. He said a few people are also hooping for lobsters at night but hasn’t heard much on the results.

March 2018 — Mike, at the Bait Shop on the pier, said it’s been fairly slow—a few mackerel, some jacksmelt, some piling perch, and a few barred surfperch. He says a lot of corbina are showing up inshore but it’s hard to fish for them from the pier. He says what is doing really good is the crabbing. A lot of big rock crabs are showing up.

May 2018 — Mike, at the Bait Shop on the pier, said there’s been a lot of wind lately that hasn’t helped fishing although things seem to be calming and the fishing seems to be improving. He says the mackerel have been scarce but they’ve been good numbers of sardines, both small and large-size variety, and people have filled buckets with the baitfish. He says the best time for the sardines is around the high tide. There’s also been a good run on sharays with shovelnose sharks (guitarfish) showing to 4 ½ feet in size, many, many bat rays, both big and small, and quite a few big skate some that would hardly fit in a net.

June 2018 — Mike, at the Bait Shop on the pier, said the fishing has been decent as long as the wind stays down. Unfortunately the spring winds are still a problem some days. When it’s calm expect some decent action on top—mackerel, jacksmelt and jack mackerel. Down around the pilings expect some calico (kelp) bass and increasing numbers of perch. Try some live bait and you’ll have a chance at halibut (and a few legal-size fish have been taken). Sharay anglers are getting quite a few bat rays, some shovelnose sharks (guitarfish) and angel sharks. Last but not least are the crabs and an increasing number of rock crabs and spider crabs are showing up.

July 2018 — Mike, at the Bait Shop on the pier, says fishing was fine until about a week ago when the city began to install railings all around the end of the wharf. The construction (noise and vibration) seemed to scare away the fish — although the last couple of days have seen things pick back up. He says a lot of croakers are being taken along with good number of calico (kelp) bass, both undersized and legal-size fish. Some halibut are also being taken and some real nice sized ones have been in the mix including 33” and 36” fish. There’s a lot of bait in the water—mackerel and sardines— and that’s probably why the halibut and sharay action has been so good. A number of big shovelnose sharks (guitarfish), angel sharks, and bat ray have been taken.

September 2018 — Mike, at the Bait Shop on the pier, says fishing has been up and down. The water is warm and the crabs seem to have disappeared but there’s been good numbers of halibut (one to three legal-size fish per day) along with HUGE number of big jacksmelt. Most days also see schools of mackerel hanging under the jacksmelt so anglers can let their Sabikis drop down deep for the mackerel or keep them mid-level to the top for the jacksmelt. Mike says they are also getting good numbers of leopard sharks (4-4 ½ feet long) and a lot of shovelnose sharks; bat rays on the other hand have slowed.

October 2018 — Bretzel, at the Bait Shop on the pier, says fishing has been fairly slow although a number of species continue to be caught. Mackerel action remains fair along with quite a few jacksmelt and some small bonito are also starting to show up at the pier. A few croakers (mainly roncadors aka white croaker) and halibut are being caught on the bottom along with a few shovelnose sharks (guitarfish). Quite a few people are hooping for lobsters and they are getting lobsters as well as quite a few spider (sheep) crabs.

December 2018 — Mike, at the Bait Shop on the pier, says the water temperature has dropped which has affected fishing and the number of fishermen somewhat but that fish are still being taken. He says quite a few barred surfperch are being taken by anglers fishing near the Sea Center with mussels and shrimp while out at the end of the wharf mackerel continue to come and go. He says fair numbers of leopard sharks continue to be caught along with a few bat rays and thornbacks.

April 2019 — Bretzel, at the Bait Shop on the pier said action really improved stating last week. Quite a few halibut have been taken, including some legal-size fish, while schools of mackerel come and go. Steady has been the word on good-sized spider crabs and rock crabs along with some whelks (sea snails). Throw in some jacksmelt and small croakers and it sounds like summertime action may be on its way.

June 2019 — Bretzel, at the Bait Shop on the pier, said the halibut are finally starting to hit, mostly small ones but a few legal size. Top action continues to see some mackerel and jacksmelt while those fishing on the bottom are picking up a few yellowfin croakers and small leopard sharks. The water temperature dropped during the rains but appears to be slowly coming back up. She also reports decent action on rock crabs and “whelks.”

September 2019 — Mike at the Bait Shop (on the pier) said it was the best August he’s seen in ten years. Leading the hit parade was thresher sharks with over a hundred for the month. Every day saw at least three threshers. Biggest was a thresher with a body of 6 ½ feet, which with the tail would be about a 12-foot fish. In addition to the threshers were an amazing number of shovelnose sharks (guitarfish) and angel sharks in the 3-5 foot range. Last but certainly not least was great halibut fishing with 2-3 legal-size fish a day and many more sub-legal size fish. He said a couple of college-age guys using swim baits limited out several days in a row. Surprisingly, the mackerel fishing although decent was not anything great but he said the mackerel were accompanied by small-sized smelt — perfect live bait for the bigger fish. Kelp bass too were plentiful, mostly under-sized fish but 3-5 legal fish per week. All in all a GREAT month BUT he said things were starting to slow.

October 2019 — Mike at the Bait Shop (on the pier) said things have slowed down to a degree although part of it is simply less anglers. The mackerel has really slowed although there are tons of small smelt in the waters so lots of bait for halibut and some continue to be taken; he say’s 50% on bait and 50% on lures. The threshers are apparently still around but most are being lost, he says 40-50 have been lost in the past few weeks. As for lobster — slow to date although crabs are available.

November 2019 — Mike at the Stearns Wharf Bait Shop on the wharf reports the water temp has dropped and fishing has slowed down a bit. He says the mackerel are in and out during the day although the “sundown” bite is pretty consistent. Some halibut are being taken but not many and mostly by the regulars. What has been good is the sharay action on the bottom, a combination of leopard sharks, angel sharks, 7-gill sharks (4-5 feet in length), shovelnose sharks (guitarfish), and bat rays. Lastly, Mike reports good crabbin’ is starting to take place for both rock crabs and spider crabs.

January 2020 — Mike at the Stearns Wharf Bait Shop on the wharf says the water has cooled and most of the action is on bottom species. Action remains fair to good on sharays — shovelnose shark (guitarfish), leopard shark, brown smoothhound, 7-gill and horn shark — especially at night. During the day most anglers are concentrating on large jacksmelt (on the top) or small croaker on the bottom. Bait has been squid and anchovies. The mackerel are largely missing in action although there’s an occasional “sundown” bite (but most days they do not show up).

February 2020 — Bretzel at the Stearns Wharf Bait Shop on the wharf says it is windy but some fish are still being caught. The main action is on jacksmelt and (some) mackerel in the top-water areas while a few short halibut, calico (kelp) bass, and bat rays have shown on the bottom. Most unusual fish recently was a blue rockfish, a fish more common in deeper waters. She said crabbing remains good and an occasional octopus also shows up.

September 2020 — Mike at the Stearns Wharf Bait Shop on the wharf says it’s been a wild summer with generally good fishing but he thinks it’s starting to wind down. It was a big year for thresher sharks as well as a lot of leopard sharks and angel sharks but surprisingly few shovelnose sharks (guitarfish). What’s still hitting are the mackerel that seem to show up every night about 7 pm. During the day it’s a mix of calico (kelp) bass, sand bass and jacksmelt along with an occasional perch or opaleye. He says when the temperature goes up he gets some good fishing but as soon as the temperatures drop and the wind picks up things seem to slow.

October 2020 — Mike at the Stearns Wharf Bait Shop on the wharf says the weather is good but the fish are hit and miss. Mornings do seem to see quite a few bat rays while some halibut show up during the day. Thresher shark fishing continues to be decent with the sharks showing up almost every day but strangely they are showing up at the end of each day just before dusk. Mackerel and bonito show up every other day but most are on the small side. Baitfish, smelt and sardines, are abundant and they too are on the small side, perfect for bait but too small to eat. A final fish are the kelp bass, which are still showing in decent numbers.

November 2020 — Mike at the Stearns Wharf Bait Shop on the wharf says the pier is surrounded by sardines and the sardines are keeping the thresher sharks biting, as many as 5-10 per day during some weeks. Unfortunately the threshers are small, baby-size threshers mostly 3-4 feet long. Mackerel and Spanish mackerel are also in abundance but not so with the bonito which are few and far between. He has seen some good halibut caught including fish that were 29, 30 and 34 inches in length.

December 2020 — Mike at the Stearns Wharf Bait Shop, on the wharf, says the water temp has dropped to 58 degrees and there has been a corresponding drop in the fishing. What’s still there? Early morning hours and nighttime hours (until the pier closes at ten) see a good bite on sardines and small to medium-size mackerel, both Pacific mackerel and Jack Mackerel. That’s about it on top-water action. Down around the pilings, anglers pull up potato-size perch, mainly shinerperch and some walleye surfperch, along with small, 10-inch size or so, calico (kelp) bass. Little is showing on the bottom with the exception of an occasional halibut and small to medium-size sharays (bat rays, thornbacks, leopard sharks, etc.). What is showing up in fairly good numbers are spider crabs, which have been low in numbers the past couple of years. Mike says he is also seeing more and more rock crabs and thinks the winter months are going to be good for both species. What it sounds like is that some fish are still present but it’s going to be the anglers who know what they are doing that are going to be taking those fish. Newbies are going to have a tougher time.

February 2021 — Mike at the Stearns Wharf Bait Shop, on the wharf, says things have been very slow with few fishermen fishing. Most businesses on the wharf are closed (only two restaurants open) and the recent rains didn’t help things. As for the fish, there are lots of sardines, huge bait balls but they are getting worked over by the sea lions and dolphins. Surprising has been the number of perch and he says it is several varieties including barred surfperch. Bat rays are steady, everything form 10-pound babies to 100-pound mama bat rays. Lastly he’s seen quite a few halibut but he’s also seen three lost in the past few days to anglers not having nets.

December 2021 — Ben Miller at Hook Line & Sinker at 4010-5 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, said anglers have been getti9ng some halibut and though most are shorts a few legals have also been taken. A few mackerel on top and lots of bat rays in the bottom. Lobster action is slow while action on rock crabs is good.

May 2022 — Ben Miller at Hook Line & Sinker, 4010-5 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, reports a really good bite on mackerel at the pier along with lesser numbers of sardines. Sounds like it’s non-stop on the mackerel. However, he says it is slow on the bottom species, [perch and halibut). There do continue to be good numbers of crabs taken at the pier. Boyd Larson at Hyun’s Tackle, 3695 E Harbor Blvd. in Ventura, said the afternoon bite has been on fire for sardines and mackerel while jacksmelt, shinerperch and sanddabs are available throughout the day. Halibut are available but mainly on the finger pier behind the Sea Center. He says if you want a halibut use live bait or drag/troll an anchovy along the bottom. Crabs also remain in high numbers, both rock crabs and spider crab.

July 2022 — Boyd Larson at Hyun’s Tackle, 3695 E Harbor Blvd., says Stearns is also seeing the baitfish—Pacific mackerel, Spanish mackerel, sardines, and anchovies and is also producing good numbers of fish. Expect some kelp (calico) bass all along the pier as well as barred sand bass. Expect some halibut on the bottom. Also expect to see shark fishermen and possibly a thresher shark or two since they’ve been hitting (eight in one day). By the way he says the Pacific mackerel are big which makes for fun angling. Kai at Hook Line & Sinker, 4010-5 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, feels that things have slowed down a bit with the exception of the thresher shark fishing that’s been going up. The bait for the sharks? Live mackerel, frozen mackerel or sardines. She hasn’t had many other reports with the exception of a variety of sharays on the bottom. Crabbing has seemed to slow a bit.
 

Ken Jones

Administrator
Staff member
#2
Would people like to see the accumulated records for the various piers? If so, what piers would you like to see?
 

moonshine

Active Member
#3
What a great resource. Just scrolling down is such a detailed descriptive history and even gives me a pang of nostalgia.
I'd like to see Balboa and Newport to remind me of what it was like when I took the kids.