HB Pier 10/24 Croakers and Sharks


Well-Known Member
Got to the pier around 5:30AM after stopping at Big Fish Bait and Tackle and loading up on live bait. I got on pack of live ghost shrimp, a bag of mussels and, a pack of live blood worms.

Set up pretty close to the breakers to start with and started fishing the live ghost shrimp on a carolina rig with a small gauge size 2 hook. I tail hooked the shrimp, fed the hook all the way through and put the tip of the hook back into the lower part of the tail of the shrimp on the underside. This was my first time fishing with live ghost shrimp.

I really liked fishing with them! They are big enough to get ignored by the bait fish but so enticing (at least today) that I got a bit within 3 minutes of casting pretty much every time. Out of the 12 shrimp I had, I landed 6 good sized yellowfin croaker and 3 small sharks (2 leopards and 1 spiny dogfish?). I missed three hook sets. I didn't see anyone around me catching anything but smelt and sardines.

Once I ran out of the ghost shrimp, I moved to mid-pier to get away from the surfers and I switched to fishing the mussels and live blood worms on a hi-lo rig. After a bigger fish broke me off, I retied with a dropshot rig with two hooks. I was able to catch 4-6 more small yellow fin croaker but had to contend with smelt stealing my bait.

I also caught a few small smelt and a sardine on a sabiki rig and hooked them to my fish finder rig. I only got one bite on that setup on a very small smelt that I had nose hooked.

I switched spots one more time and switched from fishing the north side to the south side and went a little farther down. I saw a bonito boil while I was there but could not get them to bite on a live sardine that I was fishing.

This was the first time ever at the pier that I could not get a nibble on salted shrimp that is usually my most versatile cut bait. Same went for a guy and his grandson that were fishing next to me. They were fishing fresh cut shrimp and got no bites while my rig with the mussels and live blood worms got constant attention.

I left around 1:30PM. All fish I caught were released as I've been eating lots of fish from my last trip to the jetty with DiegoGarciaWahoos (what's better than a fishing buddy that outfishes you everytime and doesn't really cook fish) and EgoNonBaptizo. Also of all the fish I've prepared food with, yellow fin croaker has so far been my least favorite. But I appreciated catching them today. They put up good fights and made my day exciting.

I'm going to try buying the live ghost shrimp a couple more times and if they continue to produce so well, I'm going to get a pump and try to learn on to harvest them myself. Any tips on that would be most appreciated!

My girl and I are going to rent a skiff on Saturday and head out to the water between the two jetties to fish.



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That’s some fun fishing, nice to see the croakers are still biting. To save some money on bait, try going down to the pilings right by the wash during a low tide and grabbing a couple handfuls of mussels. The mussels at Huntington can be exceptionally large and are of much better quality than what I’ve seen from Seal Beach. A cheap pair of gardening gloves definitely helps.


Well-Known Member
It's a good tip about the first pilings during low tide. The mussels from big fish were fairly cheap. $5 for a good size bag but I wouldn't say they were that fresh. Most of them opened really easy and their shells broken when you tried to open them. They also didn't smell fresh.

My head is spinning around thinking about all the great bait and how to harvest each one. I haven't really fished with all of them yet so I'm not sure how to prioritize. But in my head it goes something like this:

How Desireable is the Bait for Fishing
1. Ghost Shrimp
2. Mussels
3. Sand Crabs

How Easy it is to Harvest
1. Mussels
2. Sand Crabs
3. Ghost Shrimp

How Cheap is the Equipment for "Easy Harvest"
1. Ghost Shrimp (Shrimp pump, make your own for $20 or buy for $38-50)
2. Sand Crabs (Sand Crab Rake $80)
3. Mussel Hook ($150)

I live pretty close to the mouth of the Santa Ana River and that supposedly is a good place to harvest Ghost Shrimp. If this is still true, I think the shrimp pump might be my first purchase.

That’s some fun fishing, nice to see the croakers are still biting. To save some money on bait, try going down to the pilings right by the wash during a low tide and grabbing a couple handfuls of mussels. The mussels at Huntington can be exceptionally large and are of much better quality than what I’ve seen from Seal Beach. A cheap pair of gardening gloves definitely helps.


Well-Known Member
Certain times of year fish refuse to bite ghost shrimp; I personally like to stick with mussels, since it's a more natural food source for these oceanfront fish. However ghost shrimp is a pretty consistent bait in harbors.

Ken Jones

Staff member
Ghost shrimp (when I can get them), saltwater worms (pile worms, bloodworms or lug worms), and fresh mussels have long been my favorite baits for inshore species (as I've often mentioned). All are natural foods for fish like croaker, perch, etc. and the old match the hatch concept still works. As for ghost shrimp, I've never seen a time when fish didn't love them and if I lived near the coast I would once again have my shrimp pumper and pump some up prior to fishing.

Ken Jones

Staff member
From PFIC 3rd Ed. — Ghost Shrimp. Three species of ghost shrimp are found in California and collectively they represent what may be the best inshore bait in California.

The most common species is the bay ghost shrimp, Neotrypaea californiensis (formerly Callianassa californiensis). Other names include the red ghost shrimp, pink mud shrimp, and simply ghost shrimp. It is soft-bodied with a translucent white coloring in which its internal organs (pink, orange, or yellow in color) are visible and give the shrimp an overall pink-and-white coloring. The claws are unequal with one greatly enlarged. It reaches 4.8 inches in size. Its range is from Bahía de San Quintin, Baja California, Mexico to Mutiny Bay, Alaska. It is found in the sand and sandy mud of marine sloughs and bays throughout the state. Burrows can extend down 18 inches.

A second species is the giant ghost shrimp, Neotrypaea gigas (formerly Callianassa gigas). Other names include long-handed ghost shrimp. It is white, cream-colored or almost yellowish in some specimens. Large males are easily distinguished from the bay ghost shrimp by its very long, larger claw, a claw that can be longer than its body. Females and juveniles lack the long claw and can be difficult to distinguish from the bay ghost shrimp. It reaches 5.9 inches in length. They range from Bahía de San Quintin, Baja California, Mexico to Digby Island, British Columbia. Found in the low intertidal zone, typically lower than the bay ghost shrimp but the species may overlap. Burrows usually only extend down about 10 inches.

Southern California is the main residence of the third species, the smaller, tidepool ghost shrimp, Neotrypaea biffari (formerly Callianassa affinis). It has a somewhat crayfish-like appearance with a similar translucent white coloring. It is distinguished by its eyestalks, which have round tips. It reaches 2.6 inches in length. They range from Bahía Tortugas, Baja California, Mexico to Cayucos, California. It is found only in the intertidal zone of protected beaches that have a boulder-covered shore; it builds permanent burrows in sandy gravel between and beneath the boulders. Most burrows are also inhabited by blind gobies, Typhlogobius californiensis.

All three species are simply called ghost shrimp in bait shops and all three make excellent bait. In fact, when used live, they are often the best bait, especially in bays.

In southern California’s bays, ghost shrimp will mainly entice croaker (spotfin, yellowfin and black), bass (spotted bay bass, sand bass and kelp bass), an occasional flatfish (including halibut), sharks and rays. Larger perch, mainly rubberlip, blackperch and white seaperch will also hit the shrimp.

In San Francisco Bay they will entice the larger perch, are good for starry flounder (if you can find them), are excellent for sturgeon and will also entice an occasional striped bass to hit. Although not the best bait, it will also tempt sharks and bat rays.

On southern California beaches, ghosties yield barred surfperch, California corbina, yellowfin croaker, spotfin croaker, sharks and rays. On central California beaches they typically entice barred surfperch and calico surfperch, although striped bass are also known to grab a ghostie or two. In northern California ghost shrimp are gobbled up by redtail surfperch, cabezon, and rockfish.

At Catalina, while fishing from Avalon’s two piers, large ghost shrimp have proven to be one of the best baits for sheephead while small to medium-size ghost shrimp are excellent opaleye bait.

Although there may be nothing like a true juju bait, ghost shrimp will sometimes yield fish when nothing else will work. Several times I have been the only fisherman catching fish simply because I was the only one using ghost shrimp, and it happened in as diverse locations as San Diego, Ventura, Pismo Beach, Bodega Bay and Point Arena. I also was on the opposite end of the spectrum once when I went nearly fishless on the Shelter Island Pier in San Diego Bay while a nearby angler (the only angler with ghost shrimp) pulled in what seemed like an unending string of sand bass and yellowfin croakers, one right after another.

Unfortunately, ghost shrimp can sometimes be difficult to find today, at least as far as in bait shops. They are available in a few bait shops around San Diego Bay, a few shops in beach areas of L.A. (where they are sometimes called saltwater crawfish), and in most shops in the San Francisco Bay Area and Delta. I have never seen them in shops north of the Bay Area. Most of the ghost shrimp sold in Bay Area stores are imported from Washington state.

However, they are readily available in most bays and along some beaches. All you need is a ghost shrimp pump, a device that looks like a long tube with a handle. These are basically hand suction pumps and are sold at many bait and tackle stores. You can also make your own pumper. See the instructions on making a pumper. The Internet and YouTube also show how to make a pumper. The pump is used in the sand/mud near the water’s edge in ghost shrimp areas (the wet zones of sand and mud flats that are exposed at low tide) and, hopefully, ghost shrimp are soon being sucked/pumped out of their burrows.

Low tide or a still low, incoming tide, seem to be the best times. Look for holes in the mud that look like miniature volcanoes, especially ones that seem to have wet sand around the openings. These these are the openings to ghost shrimp burrows. The pump is placed over the hole and the handle is simply pulled up. Sand/mud and hopefully some ghost shrimp are sucked up into the pump. When the handle is pushed back down the sand/mud/shrimp are expelled. Be ready to grab the shrimp for your bucket.

California limit on ghost shrimp: Ghost Shrimp and Blue Mud Shrimp — 50 in combination of species.

Once you learn the best areas and proper technique it is not uncommon to pump 50 shrimp in less than half an hour. They will live throughout the day if kept cool and can live in a cool bucket or the refrigerator overnight for a couple of days. When I am on my fishing trips I keep ice in my small bait cooler at all times and have had ghost shrimp live for about 3-4 days (but do not let the shrimp sit directly on the ice).

Although I have tried various ways to keep them frozen, I haven’t had success; upon thawing out they are simply too soft to cast (although the pieces make an effective chum). As for as the “prepared” ghost shrimp you see in stores, I have had absolutely no success with the bait, I consider it a waste on money. However, given that the bait remains in the bait shops, someone must be able to use it.

Years ago, before pumps were so common, a popular method was to watch for the tell-tale signs of their burrow and then “stomp” the burrow closed. This would force the ghost shrimp to the surface where they could easily be captured by hand or shovel. Advocates of this approach say that there was less damage to the shrimp than in using pumps, and that the bait would stay alive much longer. They could be right although today if you saw a bunch of guys out “stomping around” on a mud flat you just might be inclined to call the guys in the white coats. Of course it could be some over-aged, Berkeley-Mendocino, ex-Hippy, now-mainstream businessmen doing their male bonding ritual. And, after all, that's still more appealing than a bunch of hairy guys standing in a circle under old-growth redwoods, adorned only with chaplets on their heads (naked as jaybirds). But that's another story.

Ghost shrimp, by the way, can also be found near the mouths and estuary areas of north country streams. I used to pump them up in the tidal water areas of the Albion River and Little River in Mendocino County. I used them when fishing the coastal areas between Mendocino and Point Arena. They are also considered premier bait for steelhead. I’ve seen them used by a couple of anglers in Mendocino County and further north, in Oregon and Washington, they are wildly used. In those areas they are commonly called “sand shrimp.”

Hooking the shrimp is easy but done incorrectly the fragile shrimp can fly off on the cast. In most cases you should simply string an entire ghost shrimp onto your hook. Turn the ghost shrimp on its back, insert the hook into the underside of the tail, push the hook through the body, and exit the hook below the head. Some anglers will wrap them with thread to keep them on the hook but I’ve never found that necessary.

I like to use the long-shanked Kahle hooks but most long-shanked hooks (even worm hooks) will work. The size of the hook depends to a degree on the size of the shrimp you’ve pumped; I’ve used everything from a size 8 Kahle hook for very small shrimp to 2/0 for large ghost shrimp. For smaller fish, a small piece of ghost shrimp will also work.

The hooks can be used on either high/low riggings or on Carolina-type leaders (sliding sinker, bead, swivel, about two feet of leader (fluorocarbon preferred), and the hook. Do check to make sure the Kahle hook is sharp, for some reason they often do not seem to arrive as sharp as other hooks.


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Thanks Ken for posting all this great information! It is wonderful that you have acquired such a rich body of information acquired through your love of the sport and your many years of fishing. Better yet that you are so generous with sharing it! Really appreciate you and this resource you have built!
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Ken Jones

Staff member
I am making a third edition which if it is ever gets published will be in color. It also will be broken up into a series of smaller more geographic specific books, i.e., the piers of San Diego County, the piers of Orange County, etc. However, it's a little tougher getting publishers today than once was the case (everything is electronic) and I don't have the money to self publish it. So, we'll see.


Well-Known Member
I am making a third edition which if it is ever gets published will be in color. It also will be broken up into a series of smaller more geographic specific books, i.e., the piers of San Diego County, the piers of Orange County, etc. However, it's a little tougher getting publishers today than once was the case (everything is electronic) and I don't have the money to self publish it. So, we'll see.
Just publish it as eBooks. That is much easier and a much more natural fit to smaller books that are geographically focused.