Santa Cruz Wharf Fish Reports through the years —
March 1997—Andre at Andy's Bait & Tackle on the wharf reports that fishing is rather funky, good one day and bad the next. About the only thing in good supply is sanddabs and kingfish. Lots of Pacific sanddab are being caught by anglers using squid and cut anchovies, and the same bait is producing some kingfish (white croakers). Although a few halibut have been landed on anchovies, none were keepers, and Andre says he hasn't seen any sharks or rays recently. Inshore, by the surf line, barred surfperch continue to offer good action for anglers using pieces of shrimp or squid. Andre says the amazing action has been on crabs, both red rock crabs, and HUGE spider crabs (see a similar report at Santa Barbara). He said several spider crabs have been landed which ranged between 20-30 pounds, the largest he has seen in his nine years on the wharf. Andre still hasn't been able to find out what the gillfish were that some fishermen were reporting last month. Maybe it was something out of Hollywood?
April 1997— Cintra at Andy's Bait & Tackle on the wharf reports that fishing has slowed down! Most of the current attention is given to small perch, some kingfish (white croaker), and a few halibut. Most of the halibut are under-sized but she did see a 25" keeper the other day. A few sand sharks (brown smoothhounds) have been caught at night and a couple of skates were landed but, as said, things are relatively slow. Inshore, by the surf line, a few surfperch are falling for baits and grubs but it is slower than last month.
May 1997— Andre at Andy's Bait & Tackle reports that fishing is improving although it still is not what he would call hot. Some halibut are being landed inshore, near the lifeguard tower, while there has been a pretty nice run on rubberlip seaperch (up to about 3 pounds in size) near the pilings and in the holes out at the end of the pier. Most of the perch are falling to pile worms. Some bait is also starting to show up at the pier, which should lead to improved fishing. Crabbing continues to be good with the Crabbers getting a mixture of red rock crabs and Dungeness crabs while the run on spider crabs has slowed. Not too much else, not even kingfish.
July 1997— Cintra at Andy's Bait & Tackle says that things are hot! Anglers are pulling in legal halibut almost every day and lots of lingcod, many of which are legal size, continue to be caught. The halibut are being caught near the shallow water end of the pier while the lingcod are out near the end. The flatties fall to anchovies fished on the bottom, or live bait, while most of the lingcod are falling to jigs. One good spot for the lings seems to be out at the end in the fish well, but another hot spot has been near the Dolphin Restaurant, in the corner where the pier narrows. Lots of mackerel, kingfish (white croaker) and perch are also being caught. The kingfish fall to cut anchovies or worms while the mackerel are being caught on bait riggings. The perch are falling to pile worms or pieces of shrimp. There hasn't been any shark action of late but crabbers continue to pull in hoards of rock, Dungeness and spider crabs (with the Dungeness out of season).
August 1997— Andre, at Andy's Bait & Tackle, says that fishing remains very good. Lots of keeper halibut continue to be landed by anglers using live and frozen — as well as live smelt and mackerel (which are snagged with bait rigs). Some perch continue to be caught: barred in the surf area, walleye and silvers further out on the pier, and rubberlip in the mid-pier area as well as out by the end. Perhaps the biggest surprise continues to be the number of keeper lingcod being landed (mostly on live bait) and they've been joined by rockfish, both blue rockfish and brown rockfish. There have also been quite a lot of stingrays (bat rays) landed lately. No salmon have been reported so far.
November 1997— Cintra, at Andy's Bait & Tackle, reports that action is fairly slow. One lucky fisherman did land a 28-inch halibut, and another got a huge stingray (bat ray) but they were the exceptions. Most action is concentrated on mackerel and jacksmelt and there are good schools of both species. I asked if they've been catching any exotic species with the El Nino and she said that one regular did land an extremely colorful fish, which he said was a tropical fish. But what kind? She didn't know.
March 1998— Andre, at Andy's Bait and Tackle, at the end of the wharf, says fishing was terrible until a few days ago. He feels that the tremendous amount of freshwater which came down the nearby San Lorenzo River may have diluted the water around the pier to the detriment of fishing. However, once the rain ended, there was an upturn in the fishing for perch and kingfish. He's also seen a few stingrays (bat rays) — so things may be returning to normal. As for actual damage to the pier from the winter storms, 60 pilings were knocked out and a section of railing was lost one night. Still, considering the fact that the nearly half-mile-long pier has 4,700 pilings, it wasn't the major damage some had feared.
April 1998—Andre, at Andy's Bait and Tackle, at the end of the wharf, says that a few halibut and starry flounder have hit recently; the halibut biting on anchovies and the flounder falling to squid. As usual, there are also a lot of kingfish (white croaker) but he hasn't seen too many perch with the exception of the smaller shinerperch and walleye surfperch. Crabbing has been on the slow side!
June 1998— Andre, at Andy's Bait and Tackle (at the end of the wharf), says it's still kind of slow, hit and miss. Anglers are picking up kingfish, perch, jacksmelt, and for the past couple of weeks, some mackerel. However, he hasn't seen any halibut or salmon. He's hoping it will improve soon! A report from Matt Shockney said that he visited the pier toward the end of the month and was skunked. About the only thing he saw that day were a few jacksmelt and mackerel caught by a couple of fishermen. However, he was told by a local angler that the previous day had seen quite a few fish, including some salmon.
July 1998—Andre, at Andy's Bait and Tackle (at the end of the wharf), says things have started to pick up! He's seeing halibut daily and although some are sub-legal size, others are larger — to 27 inches. There's also been quite a few mackerel and the biggest jacksmelt he has seen in several years. As usual, there are also some kingfish (white croaker) on the bottom and he's spotted a few rockfish and green lingcod recently. Almost all of the lings are being caught out toward the end of the pier on the left side. Biggest news recently was the guy who decided to take some revenge on the sea lions that sleep on the pier's bracing. Seems a guy had his dingy anchored near the wharf and sea lions kept climbing into the boat. Finally the guy had had enough—both from the sea lions and the alcohol he was consuming. He rowed over to the wharf and proceeded to bash in the heads of several sea lions with his oar (and evidently killed at least one pup). People saw him and yelled at him but he told them he had a permit for his actions. Obviously he didn't and soon he was arrested. He's now looking at major jail/prison time as well as a multi-thousand dollar fine. Stupid!!!
September 1998—Andre, at Andy's Bait and Tackle (at the end of the wharf), says things are really slow. People are catching fair numbers of mackerel on bait rigs together with a few jacksmelt but that's about it. He has seen a couple of halibut and striped bass but it isn't something that an angler should expect. What action there is occurs between 6-10 a.m. and the early evening hours, while the mid-day hours are dead. It's even slow on kingfish (white croaker). Andre says a person should just enjoy the weather, which has been beautiful. By the way, the fellow who bashed in the heads of the sea lions (see the July report) received a 6-month sentence and a $6,000 fine.
October 1998— Andre, at Andy's Bait and Tackle (at the end of the wharf), says that there have been a lot of Pacific mackerel and jacksmelt caught recently along with fewer numbers of perch — especially rainbow seaperch. He's also seeing a few striped bass being landed and although the count is not that impressive, all the stripers he has weighed were over 20 pounds in size—nice fish! The mackerel and smelt are being taken on bait rigs or pieces of anchovies while the stripers are generally being taken on frozen anchovies. He hasn't seen any salmon recently. Also a few bat rays but no sharks.
December 1998— Ed, at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (on the wharf), reports that there hasn't been much action recently. It's mostly been some kingfish and sand sole although one lingcod was taken out at the end of the wharf. One lucky angler also landed an angel shark and a few anglers are still picking up rubberlip seaperch using mussels and grubs down around the pilings. Ed said the striper and steelhead action stopped two weeks ago.
April 1999— Ed at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (at the middle of the wharf), says that the continued dirty water and wind has hurt the fishing. Nevertheless, anglers are pulling in some sand sole (to a pound-and-a-half in size), and some perch (mainly walleyes). A few splittail perch and rubberlips have shown up, but only a few. Most of the perch are falling to pieces of shrimp. Last week also saw some flurries of action on jacksmelt and sardines but they come and go. Nothing in the way of skates, sharks, or rays. Andre, at Andy's Bait and Tackle (at the end of the wharf), said anglers are pulling in quite a few sand sole and Andre says they are getting them on anchovies. Ditto quite a few kingfish (white croaker) and jacksmelt with most of the latter being caught on bloodworms.
July 1999— Ed at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (at the middle of the wharf), reports that anglers have been snagging some live sardines, anchovies and mackerel recently and using them for bait. The result has been a number of halibut and quite a few are keepers. The biggest, a fish estimated to weigh 25 pounds, was lost however. Other than the halibut most of the action has been on the bottom with a number of sand sharks and dog sharks being caught. Perch action has slowed.
November 1999—Chuck at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (at the middle of the wharf) reports that anglers have been getting some short halibut and a few perch (mostly small). There was a very good run of herring and anchovies last weekend and the Spanish mackerel (jack mackerel) are on and off again. There have also been a few thornbacks showing up as well as bat rays and the always-present kingfish (white croaker).
January 2000— Chuck at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (at the middle of the wharf), reports that things are fairly slow: mainly a few barred surfperch, some sanddab, and an occasional flurry of sardines. The barred surfperch are hitting both inshore and out towards the end of the pier on shrimp and pile worms; the sanddab are all around the pier on the bottom. When the sardines arrive bait rigs are used to catch them but there hasn’t been any regularity as to when they will show up. Some kingfish and an occasional shark and ray provide most of the rest of the excitement.
April 2000— Michelle at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (at the middle of the wharf), reports that anglers are mainly landing a variety of perch from the pier—walleyes, whites, shiners, and a few of the bigger perch. She’s also seen a few starry flounder recently.
May 2000—Tony at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (at the middle of the wharf), reports that a salmon was caught off the pier the day I called (but that is still rare). Schools of bait have moved into the area around the end of the pier and he’s starting to see a few halibut caught – mostly small fish, but also a few keepers. Snag live anchovies or small smelt and use them as halibut bait. Inshore anglers are picking up a few surfperch.
June 2000— Frank at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (at the middle of the wharf) reports that the anglers with know how are getting a few stripers (on live bait) and halibut (on live bait). He’s also seeing some action on the smaller perch – walleyes and silvers -- but not much else. Nighttime anglers are picking up a few sharks and bat rays including a ray estimated to weigh about 70 pounds last week. Frank says there is tons of bait in the water.
July 2000— Tony at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (at the middle of the wharf) reports that some big fish have been taken recently. He says the wharf was surrounded by huge schools of anchovies the past few weeks and anglers with bait rigs have filled buckets with the small fish. Apparently the bigger fish were also attracted. A 30-pound salmon was taken from the wharf along with several 20+pound striped bass and even a couple of nice halibut. He says anglers with bait rigs are also getting a few mackerel and lots of jacksmelt so this might be the time to head down to the wharf.
August 2000— Paul at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (at the middle of the wharf) says that the normal perch and kingfish are present while a few lucky souls have also managed to pull in an occasional striped bass and halibut. Biggest striper recently was a 17-pound fish while several keeper halibut have been landed. Overall – fair to good fishing.
October 2000— Rick at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (at the middle of the wharf) says that anglers are getting quite a few small perch and a few Pacific mackerel but the real story has been on salmon with fish up to 15 pounds being taken during the past week. Not too many salmon, but enough to keep hopes up. Best bait is live bait, and the anchovies and sardines are apparently thick around the pier so bring your bait rigs.
June 2001—Butch at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (at the middle of the wharf) says that most of the action has been on perch, jacksmelt and kingfish (white croaker) along with a few small ling cods. Jiggers are getting lots of anchovies and sardines while the lingcod are following those baits into the pier. Also some halibut are showing up – about 12 or so in the past week.
August 2001—Larry at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (at the middle of the wharf) says that there are lots of small fish in the water— jacksmelt, sardines and anchovies. He's also seen quite a few striped bass but the action isn't consistent—just a few, but a couple were over 20 pounds. A few halibut are also showing up and out at the end a couple of salmon were landed.
December 2001— Larry at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (at the middle of the wharf) reports good fishing for barred surfperch in the inshore section of the pier. Pileworms seem the bait of choice. He’s also seen a few halibut including a nice 17-pound flattie taken from behind the tackle shop last week. (The key for the flatties is live bait and patience; he says the regulars who know what they’re doing are the ones getting the halibut.) Further out on the pier anglers continue to get good numbers of kingfish (white croaker) and jacksmelt (including some large smelt).
February 2002— Butch at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (at the middle of the wharf) says anglers are getting quite a few sardines on bait rigs along with a few perch. He says there were quite a few sole and flounder landed mid-month but things have slowed with those fish recently. He also says anglers spotted quite a few striped bass in the surf area a week ago but no one was able to tempt them to strike.
March 2002— Butch at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (at the middle of the wharf) says things are quiet. It’s mainly a few walleye surfperch together with an occasional larger surfperch. One angler did manage to bring in a small wolf eel but it wasn’t reported if the creature was tossed back to fight another day.
April 2002— Butch at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (at the middle of the wharf) says a few halibut and sardines are finally starting to show up at the pier. Coincidence that both are there? Although it apparently remains good fishing for kingfish (white croaker) the perch fishing has begun to taper off. Latest Message Board Report: Santa Cruz—Friday nightshift—Posted by snakeman70 on Mar-31-02 12:20pm—Fished Friday night, 2 hours before high tide. Used a variety of different baits and lures. Grubs and cut anchovy seemed to be the most effective. My wife was using the anchovy and had nonstop action with White Croaker and Bullheads. I caught 2 nice sand flatties on motor oil and black grubs, near the shore area. The end of the pier is dead. Every fish went back home safely...Also, FYI: The end of the pier, from Andy's on is fenced off. The city has demolished the bathroom, pulled the benches, pulled the fish cleaning station and only two wells are accessible at this time. Actually, the pit toilets are a step up from the restroom they demolished... LoL HAPPY EASTER, EVERYONE!
June 2002— Larry at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (at the middle of the wharf) says there were a lot of perch being taken but things have slowed. A few halibut, mostly keepers, were also landed, most on white Hair Raisers. He also said there was a decent run on squid out at the end but the 4-5-inch squid seem to have moved on. It’s day to day. He also says there have been a few mackerel showing out at the deepest end of the pier.
September 2002— Larry at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (at the middle of the wharf) says there was excellent action on salmon up until a few days ago. He said the salmon were being caught inshore, between the bait shop and the surf, and fish were averaging about 7-10 pounds each. Only problem was that many of them were silvers that cannot be kept. Some however were kings and they were hitting on frozen anchovies. Some halibut were also being taken by anglers using live bait and even a few striped bass. But, he said it has slowed somewhat. He says there are also a lot of small perch, mainly walleyes, and a few jacksmelt and mackerel (but not too many).
February 2003— Butch at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (at the middle of the wharf) says that anglers are taking a few perch inshore while out at the end there is supposed to be a good run of sand sole (wonder if they are sanddab?). Some kingfish and jacksmelt are also being taken but crabbing has been slow.
August 2004— Noelle, at the Santa Cruz Boat Rentals reports that most anglers are getting baitfish—anchovies and sardines—along with some kingfish on the bottom. A couple of keeper-size halibut were also landed together with a few bat rays. Mombmwi posted on 7/25 —“ The place to fish right now is to the left of the first sink as you come on to the wharf. I caught some nice fish there this week and there have been some halibut caught there. If you want to try for rubberlip perch use worms or mussels and fish near the wharf and under the wharf. If you want to try for jacksmelt use squid and cast out. There was a rumor that someone got a striper there this week too. Fishing has been good there this week and the weather has been great.”
September 2004— Morgan, at the Santa Cruz Boat Rentals, reports that there is lots of bait in the water that has resulted in a few halibut being taken during the day and some stripers in the evening hours (on live anchovies and bobber). Perch are also present but red tide has moved in some days.
October 2004— Butch, at the Santa Cruz Boat Rentals, reports that there is lots of bait in the water (anchovies, smelt, sardines), which has resulted in a few halibut and stripers being taken. The largest striper was 15 pounds. There’s also some good perch action along with kingfish, jacksmelt and sand sole.
November 2004—Butch, at the Santa Cruz Boat Rentals, reports that there is still lots of bait in the water (anchovies, smelt, sardines) which has resulted in a few stripers being taken. There’s also some decent perch action along with kingfish and jacksmelt.
August 2005— Sarah, at Andy’s Bait and Tackle, at the end of the wharf, said she’s been seeing some mackerel, kingfish, jacksmelt, sand dabs and anchovies being taken. A number of cabezon have also been taken out by the end.
December 2005— Gretchen, at Andy’s Bait and Tackle, at the end of the wharf, said it’s the same old same old thing—kingfish (white croaker), smelt and a few perch. Oh, and lots and lots of starfish. She says the main attraction lately has been Dungeness crabs along with a few of the big spider crabs; action on both has been fair. She says a lot of baitfish have returned to the pier in the last week or so which makes it hard to predict what’s going to happen.
June 2006— Philip, at Andy’s Bait and Tackle, at the end of the wharf, said it’s mostly the usual fish—kingfish (white croaker), jacksmelt and a mix of various perch species. Unusual recent catches were two keeper-size halibut caught on shrimp (they must have been hungry).
August 2006—Sarah, at Andy’s Bait and Tackle, at the end of the wharf, said some halibut are being taken inshore on live anchovies but most are shorts. Further out it’s been mostly jacksmelt, white croaker, some small sanddab and an occasional mackerel. Hoards of anchovies are around the pier and available to anglers who want to store up on some fresh bait.
September 2006—Philip, at Andy’s Bait and Tackle, at the end of the wharf, said it’s pretty much the same thing it’s been for a month—jacksmelt, kingfish (white croaker), perch (mostly small), and a few mackerel. A few halibut also enter the mix but most are down at the shallower end of the pier. People do continue to crab and are getting quite a few spider crabs but the main action on the bottom is starfish, lots of them.
August 2007— Christina, at Andy’s Bait and Tackle, at the end of the wharf, said almost all the action is on mackerel and anchovies. However, a hook on the bottom will almost automatically yield a speckled sanddab (small), octopus (small) or bullhead (small). Stick to the mackerel.
May 2008—Christina, at Andy’s Bait and Tackle, at the end of the wharf, says its mackerel and more mackerel but nothing much else.
July 2008— Zack, at Andy’s Bait and Tackle, at the end of the wharf, says things have been slow although there have been some mackerel and jacksmelt showing up out at the end and a few halibut inshore. There have also been reports of small squid being caught on bait rig.
August 2008— Sara, at Andy’s Bait and Tackle, at the end of the wharf, says a lot of Pacific mackerel are showing up along with the usual kingfish. She says there has also been a good bite on big surfperch near the front of the pier and a few legal halibut showing up mid-pier.
October 2008— Christina, at Andy’s Bait and Tackle, at the end of the wharf, says she’s mainly seeing mackerel and some have been good sized. PFIC reports indicate some halibut continue to show inshore (where the wharf widens) and that the mackerel mix includes both Pacific and Spanish. The macs are joined by a few jacksmelt.
January 2010— Sarah, at Andy’s Bait and Tackle, at the end of the wharf, says the crabbing has been fairly good with most of the crabs being either good-sized rock crabs or small Dungeness. She’s seeing some kingfish (white croaker) along with a few mackerel at the end and had a report of one under-sized halibut. Also expect a few small rockfish out at the end.
March 2010— Kayla, at Andy’s Bait and Tackle, at the end of the wharf, says about the only thing showing are kingfish (white croaker) and there are lots of them. She hasn’t seen too many other fish but crabs are also in good numbers. Problem is that most have been shorts. Overall it’s slow unless you’re seeking out kingfish and you can fill a bucket with them.
April 2010— John, at Andy’s Bait and Tackle, at the end of the wharf, says there is a decent kingfish bite taking place but it’s primarily at night so many anglers are missing out on them. And, it says most are good-sized kingfish. Other than that not too much is happening except for an interesting bite on small flatfish He said the small flatties have been reported as flounder, sanddabs and halibut and he doesn’t know which they are. I speculated they are sanddabs but he said some had teeth and those at least would be small halibut. Crabs continue to be taken in good numbers.
July 2011— Christina at Andy’s on the Wharf reports some decent action on mackerel and perch along with a few halibut (mid-pier). She said she’s also seen a few sole landed by bottom fishermen.
May 2012— Matt at Santa Cruz Boat & Bait says he has gotten reports of a few halibut mid-pier near his shop on the SC Wharf; the flatties included one 15-pound fish. Inshore from the shop, anglers are taking some perch. Zack at Andy’s on the Wharf (at the end) reports some sanddab and bullheads along with a few kingfish (white croaker). He says there are a lot of red spotted jellyfish in the water.
July 2012— Brenden at Andy’s Bait & Tackle (at the end of the pier) says things are slow mid-pier to the end. Mainly it’s an occasional kingfish or small rockfish. He did hear reports of halibut inshore. Sam at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (mid-pier) says quite a few legal-size, 23-25” halibut have been taken by anglers using swim baits.
August 2012— Chris at Andy’s Bait & Tackle (at the end of the pier) says things are relatively slow—small kingfish, small sanddabs, and a few crabs. One angler did hook a two-foot long (or so) lingcod in a fish well but it was lost just about the time it got to the top of the pier. Mackerel are missing but some halibut are being taken mid-pier near the boat rental area.
June 2013— Susan at the Boat Rental said most of the action has been on jacksmelt. There was a decent bite going on halibut—and mid-sized squid but both seem to have slowed. She says there are some perch available inshore.
September 2013— Tim, at the Santa Cruz Boat Rentals on the wharf, says there are still a lot of lizardfish to be had as well as small rockcod. He caught a small grass rockfish under the wharf and a sub-legal lingcod and there are numerous juvenile rockfish.
November 2015—Ed, at the Capitola Boat & Bait reports some mackerel have shown, and even some bonito, but mainly it’s jacksmelt and the usual small bottom species.
August 2016— Reports indicate a lot of mackerel and perch are around as well as some striped bass and halibut.
February 2018—Ashley from the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (on the pier) says there has been a lot of bait in the water. She said anglers are getting some jacksmelt, perch, sanddab and a few starry flounder. She’s even seen a couple of halibut.
September 2018— Chris from the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (on the pier) said a variety of fish are hitting. Inshore, as in shallow 7-foot water, anglers are picking up striped bass on both live bait and swim baits. A little further out anglers are also picking up halibut, again on live bait and swim bait. Out at the end of the pier it’s mainly mackerel as well as a lot of anchovies. As for the perch and kingfish, Chris said they slowed down once the stripers and halibut appeared.
October 2018— Ashley from the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (on the pier) said things are a little slow. Some perch are showing up mid-pier (where the pier widens) along with some jacksmelt and an occasional flatfish—sanddabs, starry flounder and halibut. Small rockfish are available in the wells at the end and a cast out from the pier can continue to yield kingfish (white croaker).
October 2019— Chris, at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (on the wharf), said the anchovies are back in around the pier, the red tide is gone, and the halibut bite has started back up. Get some live anchovies for bait and fish near where the wharf widens out mid-wharf. The stripers have gone but there’s apparently a million small kingfish (white croaker) on the bottom. Just remember than kingfish now have a ten fish limit.
November 2019— Liza, at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (on the wharf), said most of the action has been on jacksmelt and kingfish (white croaker) although a couple of legal halibut have also been taken. Most unusual was the catch of a couple of legal-size red rock cod (rockfish), which are more normally found out in deeper waters. She said the pier had pretty rough swells for a few days and she wondered if that brought the fish in.
February 2020— Tina, at the Santa Cruz Boat Rental (on the wharf), said almost all of the action has been on perch, a variety, while a few kingfish (white croaker) also enter the action at times.