A short fishing trip to Pismo Beach, Ventura, Stearns (Santa Barbara), Goleta and Port San Luis

Ken Jones

Staff member
Last weekend I went to Goleta to attend the send off for Boyd Grant (Pierhead). Given the distance and location, I also decided to visit a few piers to and from the area. My expectations were somewhat low given the recent heavy rains and run-off along the coast. I could remember similar winter trips that were, to put it mildly, poor as far as fishing. But, you just never know what you might find.

Day 1 saw a drive from Fresno to Ventura. It’s about a two hour drive to Paso Robles from Fresno and then, heading south on HY 101, about another 45 minutes or so to Pismo Beach where I planned to stop, fish a couple of hours, and take pictures of the rebuilt pier. I would then proceed south to Ventura where I would spend the night. Unfortunately, I had come down with a really bad cold the previous night and was miserable (health wise) during most of the trip but wasn’t going to let that stop me from fishing.

The initial drive from Fresno is on HY 41 through Kettleman City and a lot of open range territory. Eventually the highway merges with HY 46. Just past where it merges (the site where the actor James Dean crashed his sports car and died), is the memorial to James Dean.


A small and simple memorial sits next to the Jacks Ranch Café in Cholame and it’s where I stopped for a cup of coffee. Took a few pictures and headed on to Pismo.


Unlike summertime and/or busy weekends, my arrrival at Pismo Beach found a mostly empty parking lot at the foot of the pier. Pismo Beach has totally rebuilt the pier and it looks great.


Unfortunately the fishing wasn’t as great as the looks of the pier. I was trying for some barred surfperch, which usually are abundant this time of the year, but couldn’t coax a single one into biting. I think I saw three barred surfperch on the entire pier and all were small. I had to settle for 8 silver surfperch.




Although the pier facilities were great, there was a problem with the surfers. They populated the inshore waters adjacent to the pier. The would paddle out to their spots between the pier’s pilings and then, when riding a wave would head in close to the pier swatting away fishing lines as they came. I don’t understand why the city doesn’t have a mandatory 100-foot clearance around the pier and am fairly sure they are going to have some problems down the road.



Parking fees at the lot adjacent to the pier also seemed to have gone up, they are now $2 an hour (which can be paid by credit card).

Pismo Beach Pier — 11:45-2:45
Tackle: the normal high low with size 6 hooks and a one-ounce sinker on the light rod, high low with size 4 hooks and a heavier sinker on the heavier rod.
Bait: some left over frozen mussels and market shrimp.
Fish: 8 silver surfperch

After the short three-hour visit to Pismo Beach I headed on down HY 101. Fifty miles later I was in Buelton (near Solvang) and stopped for an early dinner at the venerable but aging Pea Soup Andersen’s.


My friend and fishing buddy Mike Granat and I used to stop there and we would usually get the “Traveler’s Special” — all the pea soup you can eat along with a milk shake. Nothing fancy but filling. I ordered the same but ate only one bowl of soup. It just isn’t the same eating alone as eating and discussing fishing with a friend. I then headed down to Ventura. Little traffic until Santa Barbara and then heavy and slow traffic from Santa Barbara to Ventura. The 70-mile drive turned into an hour and 45-minute drive.

Ken Jones

Staff member
Day two saw me drive down to Hyunn’s Tackle (3695 E Harbor Blvd. Ventura) in hope of procuring some better bait. As it turned out, I was able to get some live bloodworms AND was able to get the name of a person who may start giving us monthly reports for the Ventura Pier.

Headed over to the San Buenaventura State Beach and the Ventura Pier. It’s now a steep $10 entrance fee at the beach (or $9 for us old timers) but I had little choice. As for the pier, the physical structure hasn't changed much BUT the hours certainly have. It now opens at 6:30 in the morning and closes at 10 PM at night which, given its status as a great summertime pier for sharks (at night), is, I am sure, a real downer for some anglers.


No one was fishing inshore, which is always a bad sign, but I wasn't too surprised. The beach had been heavily pounded by recent storms, high waves had forced a closure of the pier for several days, and the beach was now cobblestone rocks instead of the normal sand. In all likelihood the surfperch had probably moved out to slightly deeper water. I decided to head out to the end and test the waters in the cut-out section of the pier. On the way out I encountered a returning angler. Hows the fishing? "It's no good, the water's all fu.... up." Another bad sign. However, it was a beautiful morning with little wind and the Channel Islands in the distance made for a scenic view.





But, the fishing was slow. Even at the end I didn't have a bite for the first half hour. Action then began to pick up slightly with some walleye surfperch making an appearance. Finally, I landed a decent-sized fish, a 14” spotfin croaker.

Spotfin.Croaker_Ventura.P_KJ_2019.1 .2.jpg

Nevertheless, it was still somewhat desultory action. I only saw four other fishermen on the entire pier (which at 1,958 feet is the longest, all-wooden fishing pier in California ) — and they did not have a single fish. Although pessimistic, I decided to head inshore to at least try out the surf area for some barred surfperch. But no fish excepting one small walleye surfperch. I finally headed back out to the cut out section at the end where a bite started up on queenfish, some fairly good-sized ones, along with more walleye surfperch. However, I finally decided to stop at noon. I needed to head west since I wanted to fish for a while at Stearns Wharf, visit Mike at the pier's bait shop, and photograph the new railings that recently were installed.



Ventura Pier:
End section: 8:30-9:30; 3 walleye surfperch, 1 spotfin croaker
Surf area: 9:40-10:40; 1 walleye surfperch
End section: 11-12; 2 walleye surfperch, 7 queenfish, 2 shinerperch
Tackle: High low set-ups with size 6 hooks and a one-ounce sinker on the light rod, size 4 hooks and a heavier sinker on the heavier rod.
Bait: bloodworms, pieces of market shrimp and frozen mussels

Ken Jones

Staff member
Day Two Continued — The drive from Ventura to Santa Barbara is only about 30 miles but I made a stop at Carpinteria to pick up some cold medicine (that only seemed to make me feel even more sick). I thought about looking for “Pier Street,” Boyd’s old address in Carpinteria, but decided to move on.

Santa Barbara and Stearns Wharf haven't changed much over the past few years, it just seems to get a little more populated each year (both the pier and the roads). Luckily this was a Friday in January so the wharf was only “busy,” not overrun with people as on most weekend and summer days.


My first duty upon arriving at the wharf was to take some new pictures of the wharf. I walked down to the entrance, took a few shots and then walked back out to the end to see the new railings. I will enter the new pictures into the PFIC article on the wharf.





Next up was a short visit with Mike at the “Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle” shop near the end of the wharf. Mike gives us monthly reports and is always an interesting guy to talk to. It turned out fishing had been slow. I did pick up a soft drink and some “fresh” frozen mussels to augment the worms and shrimp that I was using.


I next walked out to the end and checked out the anglers who were already fishing. None had a fish and that wasn’t a good sign. However, many were newbies using Sabiki rigs so that didn’t give a good picture of what might really be available. I finally began to fish and, as at Ventura, I decided to fish the cut out section at the end of the pier.


Here it is a small section, but it has often yielded a number of fish, mostly small kelp bass but also rockfish and perch. This day would be different. Not a single nibble.


I then moved over to the corner where I cast out my heavier rigging into deeper water and used my light set-up to fish under the pier and next to various pilings. But, to no avail; not a single bite. I rarely am skunked but this trip would prove that the old stinkeroo can happen to anyone.

However, it wasn’t a wasted time. I struck up a conversation with a young man, Desmond, who had some interesting stories. He was in the area to accompany the remains of a friend back to Seattle. He had been a commercial fisherman working on the boats in Alaska and the tales of long-line fishing for cod and what they did with the miscellaneous catch — mainly pollock, halibut and skates. was something you do not hear every day. Nor the tales of orcas grabbing the halibut from the lines. Nor what happens when the boat doesn’t find cod and the crew actually loses money on the trip (since they have a contract and all share in both the expenses and profit). A hard life but he said when the fishing is good he made some good money.


I also spotted a beautiful old car that turned out to be a 1949 edition of a car that actually had wood as part of the frame. Not wood over metal but just the wood itself. I talked to the owner for a few minutes and then he drove off.

Stearns Wharf: 2:45-5:00
No fish
Tackle: High low set-ups with size 6 hooks and a one-ounce sinker on the light rod, size 4 hooks and a heavier sinker on the heavier rod.
Bait: bloodworms, mussel, pieces of market shrimp, strips of squid and anchovies.

Ken Jones

Staff member
Day Two continued — The visit to Stearns Wharf was finished off by a lovely sunset and picture of sailboats and the distant islands. It was finally time to head to my motel in Goleta.







Ken Jones

Staff member
Day Three — Day three saw a morning trip to the Goleta Pier and as I walked out to where I wanted to fish I was checking the buckets—no fish. After the previous day’s skunk I wasn’t too optimistic.



I set up a short ways down from the old angler center and cast out to the pipe-reef area with no bites. After half an hour with no bites I moved further down to the hoist area where I have always managed to pick up some perch, bass or rockfish down around the pilings. I fished the hoist area with my light rod and set up my heavier rod at the other side of the pier where I cast out, again, to the pipe-reef. I did not get a bite by the pilings but finally the heavier rod showed a bite from the pipe-reef. I pulled it in and it was a just legal-size 12 3/4 –inch sheephead that had bit on the mussel bait (one hook had a worm and one hook mussel). I then cast out both hooks baited with mussel and was rewarded in a few minutes with another smaller, 6 ½” sheephead.


Although the Goleta Pier is near the top of my piers in regard to number of different species, these were the first sheephead I had caught at the pier. Eventually, I also pulled in a small brown rockfish, the mainstay fish on the pipe-reef, but nary another fish.


Around 10 o:clock I saw Mahigeer (Hashem) approach. He had driven up from Los Angeles for Boyd’s service and he would be staying the night. He had his rod and reel but no bait and though I offered him some bait he said he would just try a Sabiki for a while.

I finally had to stop and return to my motel room for a shower before attending the service for Boyd. The fishing had been slow but it really didn’t disturb me. Throughout the morning I was thinking of Boyd and the time we spent together at the pier. It was eerie at times. It was a beautiful morning, clear and devoid of fog or wind, but time after time I would look down the pier as anglers were approaching and swear that I saw Boyd. It’s funny how the mind works, and perhaps it was due to my cold medicine, but the visions I had were strong and, at times, made me a little misty-eyed. Boyd’s body may no longer be with us but his spirit certainly seemed to be alive and present that morning.


Goleta Pier: 7:45-10:15
2 sheephead
1 brown rockfish
Tackle: High low set-ups with size 6 hooks and a one-ounce sinker on the light rod, size 4 hooks and a heavier sinker on the heavier rod.
Bait: bloodworms, mussel, pieces of market shrimp.

Ken Jones

Staff member
Day Three continued — The service for Boyd was at the restaurant at the foot of the pier. It was simply a gathering with no speeches but a lot of relatives and friends discussing how Boyd had touched their lives. Gordo Grande (Ross) made it to the service and he had put together a really nice video of Boyd’s pictures. Mahigeer (Hashem) was there as well as Q3fishboy (Roy Q) and fellow pier rat Bigworm (Hugo Jacinto). Not a lot of people from PFIC but at least a few. The service was simple and, I think, the way Boyd wanted it.

Gordo Grande (Ross) and Boyd's widow Elaine​



Bigworm (Hugo Jacinto)and his son


Q3fishboy (Roy Q) and his girlfriend


Gordo Grande (Ross), Mahigeer (Hashem), and KJ




Ken Jones

Staff member
Day four would see the return trip to Fresno.

My first stop was at the Gaviota Pier to see what the status was on its repair. No good news as the rangers said they expected it to be at least two more years before the state would restore it (it’s already been closed 4+ years).


I had hoped to stop and see Santa (Mike Spence) in Santa Maria. It was his birthday and I hoped to fill him in about all that has been going on but when I arrived his wife said he had had a bad night and was still asleep. We agreed his rest was more important than seeing him that day and I hope to travel over to the area again soon and see him.

I did still have some bloodworms left and debated upon stopping at Pismo once again or heading on to Morro Bay and fishing the T-piers. Instead, I decided to stop at Port San Luis which would not be much out of my way, finish off the worms, and possibly catch a fish or two.

I was able to drive out to the end of the Port San Luis pier and find a parking space (always an iffy proposition). Two hour free parking and I figured that would be sufficient time to finish off the worms. I fished at the end and soon after managed a small white seaperch. My hopes were now high. However, shinerperch began to swarm and grab the bait (and probably prevented the larger perch from biting). It was hot, the sun’s glare off the water was strong, and I still felt sick from the cold and the medicine. I decided to call it quits after 90 minutes. I still faced a 2 ½ hour drive home so took off and was back in Fresno by 3:30.

Overall, it was a slow but still fruitful trip. I had not filled the larder with fish but the visit to the coast, the piers, and a nice send-off for Boyd had made the trip worthwhile. I had been able to refresh the soul.

As Boyd had said, “There is more to fishing than catching... slow down and enjoy the whole of creation.”
Dude! You caught a spotfin at pismo? GREAT CATCH!!! BOY Mahi looks "OLD" (sorry brotha) halfta tell it like it is, you look the same Ken, wish I coulda made it down there for Boyds thing, life gets in the way ya kno, Marty.


Well-Known Member
Interesting. I don’t remember but I think I was only 1 or 2 years old the last time I was at Pismo Beach pier.


Well-Known Member
Yea, the pier looks pretty sharp. I think I saw some old pics where the round railings were orange or faded red. I really couldn’t make it out exactly.

Red Fish

Senior Member
Thanks for documenting the trip and the service Ken. I was hoping (and was going to suggest) that you’d incorporate the memorial service into the post with your fishing report for the journey. Good documentation. I have a feel for what the trip would’ve been like had I made it. I am surprised Pier Rat locals from Goleta like “Green Rag” weren’t present at the memorial and if they still exist?
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Ken Jones

Staff member
We hoped to have Green Rag and some of the other regulars who knew Boyd be there but had no way to contact them. One local who knew Boyd was just outside the gathering but didn't want to come in.

Ken Jones

Staff member
Unfortunately, I've been stuck in Fresno too much this past year. Hopefully 2019 will see more trips along the coast. — and hopefully I can meet a few more of you pier rats.