Seal Beach Pier 6/20

After more than 10 months of no fishing (and missing the great Mahi-mahi run this past fall and the entirety of the 2022-2023 Spiny Lobster Season), I was finally able to head out to Seal Beach Pier yesterday for the evening.

I had originally planned to fish at Huntington Beach Pier, but on my way to the pier, I noticed the end of the pier is closed for maintenance on the new restaurant that was formerly Ruby's Diner. Although it was a high tide, I did not have any mussels to fish in the inshore area, and the vast crowds of people convinced me to turn around and head for Seal Beach. I considered fishing at Newport or Balboa, but I decided to head north instead to avoid the congestion on the Balboa Peninsula.

I thought about going to Belmont, but I was getting hungry and remembered the delicious El Burrito Jr. restaurant that sits at the base of Seal Beach Pier. For convenience, I decided to fish Seal Beach Pier instead, even though I did not see much fish during my recent stroll down the pier. I arrived at about 6:30 PM. After ordering an Asada Burrito, I began my walk down the pier.

My setups consisted of two Cajus Baitcasting rod and reel combos, each with 10 lb spectra, and a triple dropper loop rig with a 6 lb fluorocarbon leader and a 2-oz torpedo sinker. One setup had size 10 mosquito hooks, and the other had size 6 baitholder hooks. Each was baited with squid strips. I also brought a PENN Fierce II spinning rod and reel combo with 65 lb spectra and a 25 lb mono top shot. This, I set up with a Carolina rig with a 3-oz egg sinker, a 12 lb fluorocarbon leader, and a 2/O live bait hook. I also brought a Promar non-collapsible lobster hoop net for crabbing and brought a couple of Jacksmelt that I caught at the Huntington Beach Pier in January of 2022, and a couple of Salema from the Dana Point Harbor Pier in October of 2021. I was not fishing alone and could have a maximum of four rods or nets. While I had confidence in my setups, my bait was over a year old, and I did not have any preservatives such as salt to keep it fresh. However, I did want to use up some of my old bait rather than discard it.

I walked past the inshore to a high tide. The pier had much more anglers than on Friday. About three groups of fishermen were fishing inshore. The surf fishermen were using mussels on dropper-loop rigs, and I saw one angler land a small Topsmelt on a mussel. I continued my walk down the pier while being blasted by the wind, and remembering why I initially wanted to fish Huntington Pier, as the buildings on the pier provide shelter from the wind. I saw anglers scattered throughout the pier, most of which were using Sabikis or other bait-catching setups baited with either squid strips or cut fish with no success. There were also a couple of kids using small swimbaits (probably Big Hammer brand), casting outwards, but had no luck. The end of the pier was no different, with about 4 groups of anglers using sabikis with cut bait and no fish.

I decided to set up just before the end of the pier on the left side, believing the current of the water and the structure of the pier would create a perfect feeding spot for the fish. It was about 7:00. I tied my rigs and cast out. During this time, an angler at the end of the pier directly facing Catalina Island landed two fish that I could not get close enough to identify, but were some type of pelagic fish (likely either a Jacksmelt or Mackerel), on his sabiki. After I had rigged up my Fierce, preparing to pin on a whole squid, one of my Cajus rods began to shake and I pulled up a medium-sized Topsmelt (my first fish of the year). Immediately, I collar-hooked the Topsmelt and cast it out. As I was casting on my Fierce, the line constantly became stuck on the knot that connected the braid to the mono top shot, which although did not affect my trip to the pier, will likely pose a problem later on if I go offshore with this setup.

After re-baiting my Cajus, I soon landed another fish: a Jack Mackerel. The poor fish had gotten its tail wrapped around the bottom dropper loop on the setup and had not even been hooked. While I was still untangling the Jack, my Fierce began going Bendo! I sprang for the Fierce and quickly began cranking, initially believing I had a stingray or a small shark. I grabbed my hoop net with my free hand in case I would need it, while the fish, although unable to pull line, swam for my other Cajus setup and got itself tangled. Still, I cranked, not wanting to lose the fish, and as it came near the surface, I saw it was a massive Barred Sand Bass. I did not need the hoop net to land the fish and pulled the bass up and over the rail, much to the spectacle of onlookers. The fish had spit out the hook (which is probably a sign that I should switch to Circle-hooks for pier fishing) but had swallowed the smelt. I grabbed my scale and tape measure, and the bass came out to be 16 inches and 1.16 lbs. I was beyond stoked to catch this bass, after not being able to fish for such a long time, this was an amazing comeback! Unfortunately, the Jack Mackerel was a little too big to cast out live, and I sent my Fierce back out with a frozen smelt. The Fierce did not see any action for the rest of the trip.

After untangling my line and re-casting, I loaded the hoop net and dropped it down, pulling at 20-minute intervals. However, the hoop net would see no action. As the sun began to set, and anglers began to leave, I donated my bass and the Jack Mackerel to another group of anglers who were unsuccessful. I felt bad, especially because he had a couple of kids with him and they had been out for far longer than I had been, and I remembered how other anglers often helped me when I was first learning to fish.

A few minutes later, my rod began to vibrate and I landed another Topsmelt. Nibblers and bait thieves would be a nuisance for the rest of the trip, as I would watch the rod vibrate, but not bend. Eventually, I landed a Salema, which would be the final fish of the night.

The nibblers were scared off by the returning Oil Service Boat, the Nautilus. Curiously, the boat did not even stop at the dock and instead drove in front of the pier, made a U-turn, and immediately steamed away toward Platform Esther. Perhaps something had happened at the platform or something had been forgotten?

At about 9:30, I packed up, not wanting to be escorted off the pier at the 10:00 PM curfew. However, I noticed some anglers were beginning to arrive, which puzzled me. I donated my hoop net bait to another group of anglers who were just arriving and saw a Salema landed by one of the sabiki fishermen. As I was walking back, an angler fishing the surf had hooked up on a small Bat Ray, that had gotten itself tangled around a piling next to the lifeguard tower. I managed to land the ray using my hoop net, although the line had become tangled in the net and I had not actually netted the ray. The angler was using a double-dropper loop setup with two Carolina rigs in place of the drop loops, which, although effective, is probably extremely prone to tangles. I could not tell what bait was used to land the ray.

After landing the ray, I noticed it was about 10:05, but nobody was enforcing the curfew. The police were patrolling the beach, but the pier was alive as it had been during the daytime. Perhaps the curfew isn't enforced?

The trip was successful and extremely fun. I'm surprised and stoked that I not only catch a decent amount of fish on year-old bait but also land that huge bass. I'm hoping to go out fishing more often now that I have more free time, and I still have lots of bait in my freezer to use up.

-Sabikis should only be used in a wide-open bite
-Small hooks will almost always catch fish
-Fluorocarbon line can make a difference when fishing in a highly-pressured spot
-Using techniques from different types of fishing can overlap (such as collar-hooking live bait, which has been successful at catching Calico Bass in the past)
-Fishing in spots sheltered from the current can often yield the best results
-A lot of people mistake Salema for Striped Bass
-Seal Beach Pier doesn't seem to have very good crab fishing, not sure why; In my records of fishing, 6 trips to Seal Beach Pier in the past three years have only produced one Spider Crab

Fish Count (Personal):
-2 Topsmelt
-1 Jack Mackerel
-1 Barred Sand Bass
-1 Salema
5 Total Fish

Fish Count (For the Pier-excluding myself):
~18 Anglers
-1 Topsmelt
-2 Unidentified Fish
-1 Salema
-1 Bat Ray
5 Total Fish Observed

I still can't post pictures and I'm not sure why. When I figure it out, I will post a picture of the Sand Bass.