Huntington Beach Pier-8/23 (Post-Hurricane Hillary)

Immediately after a rainstorm is probably not the most ideal time to go pier fishing, but having just had to cancel a trip because of the storm and hearing recent reports of Bonito from the Venice Pier, I decided to make a trip to Huntington Beach Pier to hopefully see some Bonito action and see the effect of Hurricane Hillary on the fishing.

After some slight delays, I left later than I wished and arrived at the pier at about 6:30 PM. My setups consisted of two light Cajus baitcasting reels (I do not know the exact model) with 10 lb spectra, a 10 lb fluorocarbon leader, and a triple dropper loop rig with size 10 treble hooks and a 2 oz coin sinker, baited with squid strips. As I was not fishing alone, I also brought my PENN Fierce 2 spinning rod and reel combo with 65 lb spectra and a 25 lb fluorocarbon leader, and a Carolina rig with a 3 oz egg sinker and a 2/O live bait hook. I was hoping to catch a baitfish, but none of my catches were small enough for live bait, so I used a chunk of mackerel. I brought my Promar hoop net to see if I could catch any crabs and use up some extra bait in my freezer. In the hoop net, I used 2 Pacific Chub Mackerel that I caught aboard the Party Boat Enterprise from Pierpoint Landing in Long Beach a couple of weeks ago, a Bonito carcass from Seal Beach Pier from exactly one year prior, and 3 Salema from the Dana Point Harbor Pier on the opening night of the 2021-2022 Spiny Lobster Season. In case any Bonito made a showing, I brought a light Okuma setup with 8 lb mono and a 2 oz Jig Rock metal jig from Daiso Japan, which would only be used when my other poles and hoop net were out of the water.

I arrived at the pier to an incoming, but still low tide. The pier seemed to be less crowded than usual, possibly because of the hurricane, but also because of the closure of Let's Go Fishing. Without a place to stop for snacks, many did not stay on the pier as long. The fog was somewhat thick, to a point where I could barely make out the silhouette of the Newport Beach Pier, and I could not see the Balboa Pier, Santa Catalina Island, or Long Beach Harbor. Inshore anglers using a variety of baits, from mussels to anchovies to bloodworms were having no luck. The evening was extremely windy, and I moved to my usual spot behind the bathrooms mid-pier to set up, but several other anglers had the same idea, and none of them were catching fish.

I moved to the end of the pier to set up, to the left of the new restaurant, the Broad Street Oyster Company. This restaurant only plays music through the speakers in front of the building, which although still bothersome, is not as bad as the former Ruby's Diner which played music around the entire building (which is why I rarely fished the end of the pier). However, they do not post their menu in front of the restaurant. The restaurant wants its customers to order at the takeout stand and receive their food inside the bar, but I did not see anyone ordering takeout food. I did not have time to try ordering any food before the restaurant closed at 8 PM.

Beneath the pier, I saw a massive school of Topsmelt, which appeared to be too small for a hook and line. I tried to use my bait net, but the waves and currents were too strong. I walked behind the restaurant to search for action, and through the crashing waves, I saw a couple of birds flying in a circle and the unmistakable splashes of a boil. I cast my jig out a few times and found that it was far more difficult than expected due to the pier's height above the water, the wind, and the waves, which caused my lure to fly out of the water. Nevertheless, I still managed to make a few decent casts and landed the first fish of the night, a Jack Mackerel at 7 PM. This was quickly followed by a Pacific Chub Mackerel a few minutes later. Soon after, the birds began to disperse and I no longer saw the splashes of the boil. I walked back to my spot, which was sheltered from the wind, glad to have had some pelagic action, even if it wasn't Bonito.

As I began to let my setups descend into the deep, I talked with another group of anglers who set up next to me. They had a PENN Jigmaster with a Carolina rig and cut mackerel and were targeting stingrays, in addition to some lighter setups with Carolina rigs and 1-3 oz weights. One of the anglers mentioned that he overheard one of the people on the pier mentioning an approximately 3 ft California Halibut caught behind the bathrooms earlier in the day, although he could not confirm this. We exchanged some fishing stories, and he told me of his trip to Ensenada at the beginning of July and showed me photos of a fish bag full of assorted Rockfish, Lingcod, Barred Sand Bass, Ocean Whitefish, and Mahi Mahi that he caught. He also showed photos of some impressive Barred Sand Bass that he caught aboard the Party Boat Native Sun from 22nd St. Landing in San Pedro a few weeks ago. The anglers left after only about 45 minutes without any fish, but they were very fun to talk to.

While attempting to pull up my hoop net, I found that the current had been so rough that my net had been blown away onto one of the pilings. I hadn't thought to bring extra weights for my hoop net because I had never had this happen before, but it did. Luckily, I was able to retrieve the net and catch a few mussels from the piling inside. The same happened to my heavy setup, but I was able to save the rig. The bait had been eaten by the Topsmelt though. At the same time, I caught a Pacific Chub Mackerel on one of my light setups on the top hook on the dropper loop. That would end up being my last fish of the night at about 8:30 PM.

I stayed for another hour, but no luck. I packed up at about 9:30, hoping to leave before my parking ticket expired at 10:00 PM. The wind had begun to die down, and more anglers were arriving, with some using the glow-stick sabiki rigs, although I am unsure how successful they were. I gave away my hoop net bait, remaining squid, and mussels to the newly arriving anglers. On the way back, I saw one inshore angler who had a couple of Pacific Sardines in his bucket. He told me that there had been a wide-open Sardine bite earlier in the day, and he was using the Sardines live on Carolina rigs hoping to target Halibut. The other surf fishermen also didn't land anything.

Overall, it was a nice night of fishing, and I was glad to be back on the water again. I'm grateful to have seen some action, as the storms usually dull the inshore fishing for me.

-Bring extra weights, even if you don't think you'll need them
-Treble hooks are effective at keeping bait attached to the hook but are less effective at attracting the attention of small fish
-Having a lure to cast can provide some entertainment on a slow day
-Experimentation with different setups can sometimes make all the difference

Fish Count (Personal):
-1 Jack Mackerel
-2 Pacific Chub Mackerel
-7 California Mussels
3 Total Fish
7 Total Shellfish

Fish Count (Rest of the Pier):
~20 Anglers
-1 California Halibut (unconfirmed)
-At least 2 Pacific Sardines
~25 California Mussels
3 Total Fish Observed
Approximately 25 Total Shellfish Observed