Fort Mason pier access?

Went to Fort Mason yesterday in search of baitfish. When I arrived a woman from the "Festival Pavilion" (the east-most pier) requested that I stay off of the pier and only fish from the rail by the firehouse. This seemed wrong to me but, not wanting any problems, I complied. There was a family of anglers in that firehouse area as well and when they went out on the pier they were accosted by folks from the pavilion. I spoke with the father figure of the anglers and we agreed that the pier was a public fishing pier and there was no reason not to go out there.

Having no luck by the firehouse I eventually went out on the pier, braved the wind, and caught my bait. The end of the pier turned out to be productive for small fish. Interestingly, I pulled in quite a few fish that I thought were herring but turned out to be small shad. I guess they're schooling up and getting ready to spawn up the Sacramento.

Didn't have any further issues with the "authorities" but the wind and complaining from my son led me to head home at 7pm with a small collection of bait to freeze.

Ken Jones

Staff member
Thanks for the report and yes, probably American shad. Unlike Pacific herring, both Pacific sardines and American shad have black spots on their back. The shad typically have a large dark spot behind the operculum (gill cover) followed by one or two rows of fainter spots. Sardines have two rows of dark spots on their sides. Both have the oblique striations on the operculum as seen. Shad are also typically much heavier bodied than sardines.

I don't show American shad on the Fish ID pages but here's the Pacific Sardine and Pacific Herring.