In "Pier Fishing in California," Ken states that it is a good sign when birds are in the water around a pier. What about seals? Right now Port San Luis Pier at Avila Beach is surrounded by lots of seals and I wonder if that affects the fishing. Thanks.
The presence of both birds and seals is an indication that there are schools of smaller fish around. These are good conditions for fishing although the birds and the seals make it tricky when fishing with larger baits or especially using live fish as bait. They grab the baits and you are often left having to cut your line or raise a hooked bird up to the pier and remove the hook.
The main problem with birds is with cormorants, they will grab both bait and some fish. I've seen both sea gulls and pelicans also grab live bait or fish but typically they are not too much of a problem. Having said that I've seen some really greedy pelicans grabbing hooked fish.
Sea lions can be a problem. Many times I've seen them take after hooked fish and it was a battle between the angler and the bird as to who would first get to the fish (especially when mackerel runs are taking place). We also had a problem recently at Balboa when we were using fairly large sardines for bait and the bait kept being chomped in half by sea lions. Snookie said sh could always tell the difference between a sea lion taking part of the bait and a halibut. So yes indeed the sea lions can be a problem (as can be seals).
I always figured spotting a roaming sea lion basically means it's time to pack up and move as the bite always dies down when they're around. I got into a tug-of-war with one when I was a kid when my dad took me to SF Muni pier. We were using salmon heads and bones for crab bait in a hoop net. During one pull the darn thing surfaced with the hoop and gave me the worst rope burn when it tried to rip off the bait pocket. Good times...
Yeah, I’ve heard others who think the same thing. My feeling is the pier is huge and so long as people aren’t intentionally feeding them, they can’t dominate an area for too long. There is almost always one or two around while we are fishing and I never noticed it affecting the bite.
I did have one take my live smelt I was using as halibut bait and took off screaming drag off my new reel. I tightened the drag and the line snapped and didn’t have any other problems that evening. Just rerigged, baited and got back to fishing
It's a mixed bag. One of my favorite places to fish is in the wells out at the end of the Santa Cruz Wharf. I've caught many fish there including some big perch, kelp greenling and even a lingcod. Almost always the cross beams down near the water are covered with sea lions. Ditto the Monterey Coast Guard Pier that often sees sea lions covering many of the the shoreline rocks while fishing remains good just a few feet away. They rarely bother the lines. I don't think I've ever left a pier due to the sea lions although, as said, I've seen them fight anglers for fish on the lines at Balboa, Newport, the Cabrillo Mole and other spots.