Pier 7

Started the day off at San Francisco's Pier 7 around 11am and fished till 2pm. I took the ferry from the East Bay and made the short walk over to the pier. I was taking to heart the principle of fishing for the fish that are there...not necessarily the fish you wish were there (although I did a little bit of that too). Pretty sure I was the only fisherman there who spoke English, so I got all the questions from curious tourists; it's fun to chat with people from all around the world.

Getting there at high tide, I threw out 2 crab snares and immediately caught 5 crabs on about 10 casts - all sub-4" red rock crabs. They're devilishly good at stealing bait from snares. Interestingly, I only caught one of them in the snare loops, the rest just wouldn't let go of the squid. Lesson learned - bring some type of crab pot next time...snares weren't very effective.

There were around 8-10 other fishermen out there, all fishing large bobbers. Nobody was catching, so I can only assume they were targeting jacksmelt. Many appeared to be subsistence fishermen, but everybody was nice. I eventually threw out anchovies on one pole hoping for a halibut and whole squid on the other hoping for a shark or ray - no takers, unless you count the crabs (or ???) that devoured my bait.

Downsides: Pretty much every bench there, and the pier itself, smell strongly of urine. There were some homeless flopped-out on some of the benches, and a guy hanging out smoking pot and blasting music (I'll give you a hint: it wasn't Wagner).

Given all the negatives, it was still a reasonably pleasant day by the water.


Red Fish

Senior Member
Nice to get a report from SF Waterfront. The last time I fished Pier 7, Ken was doing a travel show, “Hooking Up” with bass master’s Bob Mizuno’s daughter. I got skunked that late day in August (and it rained for a few minutes too.)

I am figuring those piers out (7, 32, 14, 2)more after having skunked mostly. Guys with big bobbers fishing for smelt has been going on on all the wharf piers including Muni for years. Guys were catching sardines (only am hours) by hanging long shank gold hooks on the inside of the pier in the moving water. Off the end seemed to be the place for sharks.

For me, what I have learned from fishing Pier 2 (Sinbads) enough is that a long leader of 6’ works for me to keep the crabs off (even for sharks/rays). The first hook starts 4’ up.
Although I haven’t caught any halibut there, some sort of suspended rig seems to be the way to go. Whether it be a trolley of some sort or just hanging straight down with the rig reeled up off the bottom a few feet.
Smaller baitfish many times are near the beginning of the pier and can be taken with bait rigs or cast nets.

Yeah, when I first fished the wharf piers with my friend Rich, who was an SF resident at the time, there were quite a few homeless around the waterfront piers with people sleeping on the pier benches. This was 2002,3,4,5,6. Newsome cleaned it up for awhile. Haven’t fished there much in the last (10 years). Seems like the conditions has reverted to what they used to be.

Thanks for the report!

Ken Jones

Staff member
The maintenance and cleaning up of piers is certainly not high on the list of SF everyday projects. Then again, the streets in some areas are basically open sewage pits with excrement and urine common (not to count the needles). For a city that is one of the main tourist destinations, it's hard to believe they don't put a little more effort into cleaning up the various areas, especially at tourist areas like Pier 7.
I'm starting to appreciate how technical pier fishing can be - thanks for the tips Red. I definitely need to branch out from my go-to rigs (hi-lo & carolina) and dust off the slip-bobber for this pier.

Agreed, Ken. I will probably take my own chair next time I go and I recommend everybody else do the same.
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