4 Trips in One Post San Clemente (12/22, 12/23, 12/27), Huntington (12/25)


Well-Known Member
12/22 San Clemente
Got there early around 4:15AM and headed out to the end. Fished two poles. Hi Lo with size 6 bait hold and size 8 mosquito and single hook dropper loop. No action on the bigger setup that was going for sheepshead with a big piece of market shrimp. On the smaller rig I ended catching a octopus, two calico bass (the larger one being my personal best from shore), and a few smaller black perch. Interesting story about this day was as I was preparing to leave I left my pole in the water until the very last minute. Just as I was getting ready to reel it in a big calico bass bent my rod and I ended up reeling in 13" Calico which is my personal best from shore. I left around 9AM.

12/23 San Clemente
This was my first experience acting as somewhat of a guide for new fishermen. I offered to fish with my cousin and her husband. Neither of them have fished since they were kids. And my cousin's husband had never actually caught a fish. I got there early at about 4:10AM and got the rods rigged up and dropped two of them in the water. Before there arrived I caught a small spot fin which had interesting juvenile colorations, a yellowfin croaker and a black perch. (Upon further research I think this fish is a black croaker).

They arrived around 5:30AM and I showed them how to cast the poles and all of us were fishing hi lo rigs with size 6. I had the rods rigged with bells and we had the pier to ourselves for the first hour. A perfect warm up as the bells would go off and my cousin and her husband enjoyed feeling the bites and trying to hook the fish. This part of the session produced a double hook up with a yellowfin croaker and a queenfish as well as a small black perch. My cousin's husband was visibly excited when he reeled in those first three fish. I had another rod rigged up with a float and a sabiki rig and I told the two of them think of that rod as one of the axes behind glass that says "Break in case of emergency." I dropped that rod in just to show them and immediately hooked a good size mackerel.

At that time other people started showing up and I could tell this was a holiday crowd. Many more people than usual and lots of inexperienced people. Someone crossed my brother-in-laws line and he lost his sinker. After that I could tell he was getting uncomfortable being too close to other lines so I told him to grab the float rig and go to the side of the pier where there was more room. He immediately started hooking up on mackerel. Often times two at a time, all good size. I think we counted 20 fish in 45 minutes and it could have been more except for the fact that they were slow to unhook the fish and rebait. I kept 7 fish and dispatched them ikejime style. My cousin was content acting as a deckhand, helping her husband dehook and rebait the fish. After the first seven that I was interested in keeping, they started giving away fish to everyone else fishing at the end of the pier. Very few other people were catching mackerel because everyone was fishing on the bottom and the mackerel were biting just under the surface.

In the end, it was a successful trip. They had a blast and immediately booked a follow-up trip next Christmas when they are back in town again. Just before I occupied myself process the fish they were catching, I caught a white perch on my high-lo rig.

There was a father fishing with his two sons and they were catching fish on sabiki rigs. They caught a calico, and a 15" halibut. I think this is the first halibut that I've seen caught near the end of this pier.

12/25 Huntington
Slow day. Got there at 5:15 and started fishing near the end just to the left of rubies. Some bites on the bottom but small nibbles. I caught three small mackerel, a sardine, and 10 smelt. The most exciting thing that happened was I baited the sardine on a high lo rig and dropped it to the bottom. I saw a big tug and then no more action on the rod. I reeled it up to find half of the sardine missing. Originally when I had caught the sardine I considered rigging up a fish finder rig to fish it but took the lazy way out.

12/27 San Clemente
Slowest day at San Clemente so far but still decent. Fished a bigger setup with a fish finder and a big head on shrimp with a bobber near the hook to try to float the bait. Some nibbles on this setup, had to rebait a few times. Also tried fishing a live smelt on this setup but no action on that. On my smaller hi lo setup I was fishing shrimp and lug worms. Today the lug worms were the more popular bait. I ended up catching 1 blue perch, 1 small yellow fin croaker, 1 small spotfin croak, 1 black perch, 5 walleye perch, 10 smelt, and a mackerel. The worst thing about this day was that red kelp was everywhere. The key to having success today was reeling in often when there was no bites and removing kelp. Other than the fish I was catching, a father and son caught a medium sized rock wrasse. The left side of the end of the pier seem to be where you get rock wrasse. I haven't fished on that side in a couple weeks and I haven't caught a rock wrasse since.

Lots of bird drama today. There was a osprey hanging out perched on the light poles at the end of the pier. A group of kids from the shark crew were trying to throw a fish up to the bird to feed it. The fish end up going over the edge of the pier and the osprey took off to get the fish and got snagged on someone's hook. They were able to grab the bird with a hoop net and successfully release it. Almost immediately afterward a formation of pelicans came flying just off the end of the pier. One of them hit a shark line and tangled itself in it. The bird was reeled in and untangled but one of its wings was damaged from the accident. Fish and game was called and the guy who untangled the fish left warning the shark crew kids to leave the bird alone until fish and game came as they were contemplating "assisting" the bird over the edge of the pier.


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Ken Jones

Staff member
You're getting the kind of variety I've experienced at that pier and it's one reason it's one of my favorites. It's hard to tell from the coloring but the picture marked baby spotfin may be a black croaker


Well-Known Member
You're getting the kind of variety I've experienced at that pier and it's one reason it's one of my favorites. It's hard to tell from the coloring but the picture marked baby spotfin may be a black croaker
Yes Ken, I believe you are correct!
San Clemente in ruining me for the other piers in OC. Hope it stays this good as it gets colder.


Well-Known Member
"Very few other people were catching mackerel because everyone was fishing on the bottom and the mackerel were biting just under the surface."
Seems a lot of folks come out to fish just one set-up. It takes more planning, gear, and effort to be able to present the variety of methods that you routinely exercise on your pier trips, but that is why you rarely get skunked. Good work - especially with your cousin and her husband. You are a good ambassador for the joy of pier fishing.