Orange County Piers - Favorites and Why?

evanluck

Well-known member
#1
I started a conversation with @josh about favorite OC piers and he gave such a cool and detailed answer I thought we should share our conversation and open it up to everyone else.

I'm curious about everyones experiences at the Orange County piers and how you choose which one to fish at.

For me, Huntington is the closest to my house and is the most comfortable as far as being clean and having lots of area to fish. Huntington has a good reputation for variety but I think that has to do with how good the inshore fishing is there (Spot fin, yellow fin, sharks/rays, barred surf perch, corbina, halibut and white sea bass). For some reason I prefer fishing in deeper water. I did have one killer session in shore where I hooked up on 8 good size yellow fin croaker in 40-50 minutes plus 3 small sharks fishing live ghost shrimp.

Newport and Balboa are interesting at the end especially in the summer. But it gets crowded there at the ends and most people are fishing really long sabikis with as many as 10 hooks. Don't like crossing lines with someone fishing like that. So recently when I think water conditions favor the Newport/Balboa area, I hit the jetty. Less people and more options to target specific structure like rocks, kelp, sand etc.

I've heard halibut fishing is good at Balboa but I've never targeted Halibut there. I did catch a 19" Halibut off the pier in Huntington, pretty close to shore.

San Clemente is my new focus. I've seen pictures of people landed very good size Sheephead there and I caught a 14" one and hooked up on a larger one that broke me off on the rocks. Also they get good size sand and kelp bass there. Plus there is a reef within reasonable casting distance from the end. This makes for a unique environment as you have a rocky reef environment that is a medium distance cast away from the end of the pier with a deeper water environment as you get closer.
 

MisterT

Well-known member
#2
I visited Huntington Pier and find it quite spacious with a lot of convenience factors (restrooms and cleaning stations). I did not fish when I visited but it is a long pier which I expect offer lots of variety. I did see lots or corbina by the piling areas of the pier so I can agree the inshore fish are certainly there.

Perhaps something I'd want to know is the interaction between surfers and anglers. (Manhatten Pier is a pier I went to often this year over the summer and the surfers honestly run the place there. The surfers get within casting distance of the pier. Additionally the pier itself is small leaving you only perhaps around a third of the end for actual fishing.)

I went to Newport Pier a few times too manly fishing the end. A big plus is the short rails which is preferable to my GF allowing her ease of casting as she is short. The end does get very crowded which I do not like and as you've mentioned crossing sabiki lines is something I'd rather avoid. The environment can feel a bit intimidating at times because of crowd at the end. I did see an individual trying to sell mackerel which puts a bad taste in my mouth as an angler.

I have not been down to San Clemente so I'd like to definitely check it out.

If I ever go to OC for fishing I'll be sure to hit you up.
 

evanluck

Well-known member
#3
I visited Huntington Pier and find it quite spacious with a lot of convenience factors (restrooms and cleaning stations). I did not fish when I visited but it is a long pier which I expect offer lots of variety. I did see lots or corbina by the piling areas of the pier so I can agree the inshore fish are certainly there.

Perhaps something I'd want to know is the interaction between surfers and anglers. (Manhatten Pier is a pier I went to often this year over the summer and the surfers honestly run the place there. The surfers get within casting distance of the pier. Additionally the pier itself is small leaving you only perhaps around a third of the end for actual fishing.)

I went to Newport Pier a few times too manly fishing the end. A big plus is the short rails which is preferable to my GF allowing her ease of casting as she is short. The end does get very crowded which I do not like and as you've mentioned crossing sabiki lines is something I'd rather avoid. The environment can feel a bit intimidating at times because of crowd at the end. I did see an individual trying to sell mackerel which puts a bad taste in my mouth as an angler.

I have not been down to San Clemente so I'd like to definitely check it out.

If I ever go to OC for fishing I'll be sure to hit you up.
I feel like the surfer situation at HB is manageable. Of course there are lots of surfers but the lifeguard tower is fairly assertive about keep them away from the pier. The time when it becomes an issue is that the smart surfers know that paddling out alongside the pier is the best way to get out without having to fight the waves. That is when they can hit the lines.

Yes for sure! If you head out this way, hit me up!
 
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#4
My reasoning may not be entirely rational.

Because of the freeway layout, Huntington and Balboa are less than a mile different in distance from my house. Newport is slightly more, but it's trivial. San Clemente is way farther, and Dana Point Harbor is about 50% of that difference.

The following should be considered knowing that tactically, I'm a mid-pier kind of guy. I like to fish past the surf zone but not all the way to the end, and I'm usually working a hi-lo with cut bait on a big rod and a sabiki or some kind of soft plastic, Kastmaster, or Krocodile on the lighter rod. If I score a small enough smelt or anchovy (haven't seen chovies in a while), I'll throw it on a sliding sinker rig on the big rod. I do fish the whole pier from time to time (I was all the way at the end at Huntington this week) but probably 70% of the time I'm in the middle where the species diversity is highest. Especially when it's crowded. I hate fishing a pier like it's a party boat and I think if you know what you're doing and there are fish to catch, you will catch them on the part of the pier that isn't under crazy pressure with fifty people saturating the area with bait and noise.

I'm 33 and I've been fishing Balboa since I was about fourteen - not even sure why I picked Balboa back then except I fished there once and had a good outing, so I kept going back. I think the fact that we could fish late into the night in the summertime and nobody kicked us out helped as well.

The diversity of species was a big bonus, it is different now, seems that everything is less common, but if the topwater fish weren't around, I could usually pull something midwater or off the bottom, and vice versa. I recall a lot more people out in the summertime at night using glowsticks and jigs for big mackerel, and there was a killer El Nino year when we got slammed by huge Humboldt squid that lasted for weeks. That was a madhouse in the best possible way. I ate some and salt cured the rest which being thick chunks got me some great Leopard sharks at Surfrider in Malibu later that summer.

Speaking of bait, having Davey's Locker a short walk from the pier is nice. I miss the days when they'd sell live bait but I can still get squid and anchovies on demand rather than finding it up here and transporting it.

The fact that it was relatively clean and safe was and remains a big bonus. When I was a youngster I'd fish with my mom and later I'd sometimes go with girls. Been with the current one for nine years and she appreciates the feeling of safety and decent bathrooms vs a lot of the LA county piers. That said she's also a big fan of Redondo and Malibu.

A lot of the above also applies to Newport. I fished that less over the years but it was pretty similar. Mostly sandy bottom, benefited from the same Newport Canyon species as Balboa, similar drive time, cleanliness, etc...

Huntington I've fished the least. My girl is in Covina and the fishing buddy I go with most is in Arcadia so if I'm linking up in their area Huntington is closer. The action seems a little poorer though and the pier strikes me as more of a circus. Positives are a good bait shop on the pier and the best restroom access of any of them.

Dana Point Harbor is a completely different experience, I'd describe it as lake fishing in saltwater. There's parking 30 feet from the pier, there's Hogan's Tackle down the street which has everything I could ever need, and there's ample really good food all around the harbor. If I want a fun, laid back experience or I'm fishing with people that aren't sold on the idea, that's my go-to. If I fish Dana Point with my girl it's a date, if I fish Balboa it's a fishing trip. Which sometimes she prefers and sometimes not.

San Clemente seems like a very interesting pier, with more in common with the San Diego piers even though it's geographically closer to the OC piers. I haven't fished there in many years but I'm trying to talk my buddy into heading there soon. I'm not opposed to making the drive myself either, it's an intriguing spot and I like novelty.

To that point, even though Newport and Balboa are my standbys, I make an effort to hit a different pier if I've been working that area a lot just to keep things interesting. Sometimes we'll go up to Santa Barbara for the weekend and fish Goleta, which is still one of my all time favorites, or one of the LA area piers like Santa Monica or Redondo.

That's all a very long winded way to say I'm basically a creature of habit and over the past 20 years or so I've kind of settled into Newport and Balboa as they are good, known quantities that are reasonably (about 50 miles) close. I could go into more detail but this has already turned into a ramble. If you have any specific questions I'll be happy to answer.
 

Rusty

Well-known member
#5
Ive been to most piers in the southland, but I always prefer Balboa, so please stay away lol jk. I like Belmont 2nd if im at that side of town. To me, Balboa is the nicest, not just the pier, but the people seem to be nicer and more easy going, and most follow rules and laws. The views of the ocean, Catalina, dolphins and whales, and of course my little friends the sea lions are spectacular! Im also familiar with each spot on the pier and different currents and eddys, holes in the floor, small rocks where the sardines hang away from the smelt.
The pier being a little further from Newport pier helps a bit with the crowds, i think a lot of people (tourists and unfamiliars) dont know its down there and they just end up stopping at Newport pier instead.
 

Makairaa

Well-known member
#6
San Clemente is alway my favorite with Balboa a close second. I like to fish the surf zone and the snaggers at balboa are a major turn off. The main reason for my love of San Clemente is the atmosphere there. Its not as crowded when I fish as other piers and the people are more polite. The drive is the main turn off.
 
#7
I like Belmont 2nd if im at that side of town
Belmont is a very interesting and underrated pier. It has produced some of the best surf species I've caught anywhere, especially croaker, but considering the location you would expect it to be more of a bay species kind of spot.

I haven't fished it in a long, long time but it is another one of those piers that makes me want to go back just to see what I can come up with. I actually thought it was closed for the long term even before covid but I will take a look when the LA county piers open back up. If it's still like the old days, fishing motor oil red flake grubs in the daytime close to shore on a classic perch rig (egg sinker, bead, swivel, fluoro leader 2-3', single hook and grub), or at night, the same rig but with a single strip of squid, will pretty much guarantee a good time.