Short Trip to Six SoCal Piers — 7/14-7/17/2020

Ken Jones

Administrator
Staff member
#1
Headed down to SoCal to see my friend Ed at the Oceanside Pier Bait Shop before he leaves (the shop’s being sold). Naturally, any trip south should include a little fishing...right!

I left Fresno at 8 a.m. Tuesday and it was smooth sailing all the way—even in LA! I stopped in Dana Point at “Hogan’s Bait and Tackle” to pick up some live worms (only lug worms unfortunately) and then headed the final miles to Oceanside. Checked into my motel and then headed down to the small pier in Oceanside Harbor. Midday with a bright sun is not my preferred fishing time but I had a dinner arrangement with my son Mike who lives in Carlsbad so figured I would get in a little fishing before our meeting.

Oceanside Small Craft Harbor Fishing Pier — 7/14 — 3:00-4:45 p.m.

The pier had a number of people, most masked up and relatively good social distancing but no bites and no fish, in fact I didn’t see any fish caught while I was there. Other than spotting a few small garibaldi cruising around the inshore rocks I didn’t see a fish. I left hoping this wasn’t a harbinger of things to come.

Oceanside Pier — 7/15 — 6:30-9:30 a.m.

27 Pacific Bonito
8 Pacific Mackerel
4 Salema

I had heard the bonito were biting at the big pier so wanted to fish a few hours before meeting with Ed. Arrived a little later than I planned and headed out to the end where I found the railings already somewhat crowded; I politely joined the crowd. Soon after, I was joined by Bill from the bait shop. He had supplied the information on the bonito and often gives me the pier’s monthly report.

2020.7_Oceanside.Pier.2.2.jpg

2020.7_Oceanside.Pier.4.2.jpg

2020.7_Oceanside.Pier.5.2.Rules.jpg



2020.7_Oceanside.Pier.8.2.jpg

2020.7_Oceanside.Pier.9.2.jpg

2020.7_Oceanside.Pier.11.2.jpg

People were catching bonito and mackerel and almost everyone was using bonito balls with a trailing feather and that’s what I rigged up. Sure enough there were bonito but they were mackerel-sized, micro-bonito. However, still fun to catch on a fairly light rod so I proceeded to join in catching the fish—mostly bonito but also some mackerel (that were mostly as big as the bonito).

2020.7_Oceanside.Pier.15.2_End.jpg

2020.7_Oceanside.Pier.14.2_Bonito.jpg

My first bonito

I am always concerned with people going over the limit when these small bonito show up but would be surprised. One guy was using a Sabiki and I saw him pull in three bonito and I walked over and said, “looks like you’ve already almost got your limit of five” (of this sized bonito) and he said yes he knew and that he was going to switch over to a ball and feather. I listened to the anglers and watched most bonito being returned to the water and was somewhat amazed. It was the first time I can remember where anglers were catching bonito in quantity and following the no more than five bonito under twenty-four inch rule. Their conversations convinced me they knew the rule and obviously were following it. They kept the mackerel but returned the bonito. Eventually, with my shoulder and arms aching, and wanting some variety, I took a slight break and rigged up a high/low on my light rod. I dropped it to the bottom, cranked up a few feet and sure ‘nuff there were some salema. I continued catching bonito and mackerel and hated to stop at 9:30 but needed to see Ed (the main reason for the trip).

2020.7_Oceanside.Pier.16.2_Bonito.jpg

I headed down to the bait shop where we spend a couple of enjoyable hours discussing what we had done over the years (kids derbies, monthly reports, and advice on several matters). Met the new owner and gave him my opinion about the shop, “basically don’t change anything, you’ve got a money maker the way it is.” I finally left hoping I might get one more chance down before Ed picks up his motor home and heads out to enjoy retirement.

2020.7_Oceanside.Pier.19.2.Beach.jpg

The beach at Oceanside
 
Last edited:

Ken Jones

Administrator
Staff member
#2
The next stop was north at the Dana Harbor Pier where I’ve had some good luck over the years (although I prefer the morning or early evening hours).

Dana Harbor Pier — 7/15 — 3:30-5:00 p.m.

5 Salema
1 Spotfin Croaker
1 Spotted Sand (Bay) Bass

The pier only had a few people and though they were fishless, I figured some fish must be around. I cast out some worms on a high/low rigging and soon after had a good hit that I reeled in almost to the pier when it came off. I saw the silver and it was probably a spotfin but the fight reminded me more of the bonefish I caught there a few years ago.

However, I would catch one spotfin croaker and one spotted bass on the worms along with a few salema that were hanging under the dock adjacent to the pier.

Spotfin.Croaker_Dana. Harbor.1.2_2020.7.jpg

Spotfin Croaker

Spotted.Bat.Bass_Dana.Harbor_2020.7.2.jpg

Spotted Sand (Bay) Bass

Nothing huge but a pleasant visit giving me a chance to relax a little.

I planned to finish the evening at the San Clemente Pier although I was tempted to return to this pier later since there were reports of barracuda being taken on spoons (Kastmaster and Krocodile) at night.

San Clemente Pier — 7/15 — 6:00-7:45 p.m.

12 Salema
7 Pacific Mackerel
3 Jacksmelt

San Clemente seemed its usual self. The parking lot was basically full although I managed to find a spot, the beach was full and people were everywhere.

Surprising was the crowd at the restaurant that sits on the entrance to the pier. The restaurant was totally full of people and a line of people outside was waiting for a seat. Probably 25 people all scrunched together in the line and most without a mask — so much for masks and social distancing.

Walking out I noticed a guy bring up a small fish and I asked if I could take a look at it. He had no idea what he had caught but I am sure it was a Largemouth Blenny, a species new to SoCal and normally found at Catalina. I removed the hook from its mouth and got his permission to return it to the water and then, afterward, kicked myself for not taking a picture of it. I’m pretty sure Dr. Love at UCSB; our fishing resource whenever there’s a question on fish would have loved to see a pic.

2020.7_San.Clemente.Pier.3.2.jpg

Went out to the end where no one was catching anything when I arrived — it was slow. However, mackerel were to be had on pieces of mackerel fished mid-depth while salema were just above the bottom. They mainly hit pieces of mackerel but also were willing to accept a worm as bait. A few jacksmelt, which I didn’t want, also grabbed the worms but sometimes you just take whatever bites.

2020.7_San.Clemente.Pier.2.2.jpg

However, thee pier started to fill up and a small group started fishing next to me and they were bugging me. The guys weren’t bad but a small girl kept talking and asking if she could kill the fish when they caught one. Sure enough when they caught a mackerel she headed over with a knife and stabbed it several times. What in the heck were they teaching this girl? It put me in a sour frame of mind and then, when other knuckleheads started fishing the area and started tangling lines (because they had no clue what they were doing), it just seemed to be a depressing scene. I just decided to leave. The restrooms were closed, I needed to pee, and I was tired.

I could have returned to the Dana Harbor Pier but decided to just head back to the motel.
 

Ken Jones

Administrator
Staff member
#3
Day Three

Balboa Pier — 7/16 — 7-10 a.m. at the end, roughly 11 to 4 p.m. inshore.

13 Pacific Sardine
1 White Seabass
1 Pacific Mackerel
1 Jack Mackerel

I began the morning fishing out at the end and hoping for some bonito. The pier wasn’t too crowded (not a good sign), everyone was wearing masks, and most were using Sabikis. I started out with a bonito ball and feather with no hits whatsoever. Given that guys with Sabikis were pulling in some mackerel, and even an occasional bonito, I too put on a Sabiki (which I don’t like to use). However, I wouldn’t catch anything on it other than five sardines.

I would be pleasantly surprised to have a guy walk up and say, “Are you Ken Jones?” His name is Anthony and he’s a newbie to the site (screen name DiegoGarciaWahoos). He had seen my post the other day and came down to meet me. He would totally out fish me while we were fishing from the end.

2020.7_Balboa.Pier.2.2_Anthony.Mackerel.jpg

Anthony (DiegoGarciaWahoos) and a mac

I was basically catching nothing while he rigged up with a jigpara 7” micro vertical jig and proceeded to catch a few mackerel and eventually a bonito (which was his goal). We had a nice talk and it was obvious he knows fishing and certainly how to use the micro jigs he had. I tried out one with no success but I will learn!

2020.7_Balboa.Pier.8.2_Bonito.Anthony.jpg

Anthony and the bonito he was seeking out.

Eventually I moved inshore to fish with Snookie, since that was the reason I came, but before I left two gentlemen who were fishing the corner with good success on fish—sardines, an occasional mackerel and a couple of bonito, mentioned that they too were PFIC viewers although they don’t post. Always nice to meet people on these trips that know about PFIC.

2020.7_Balboa.Pier.4.2_Bonito.jpg

Snookie and her brother Fred and sister along with another friend Lou were fishing on the second T. They were using Carolina rigs baited with live sardines so I did the same (on one rod). On the light rod I had the usual high/low baited with worms hoping for a croaker or a perch. The corbina would require fishing farther inshore.

There was a large school of sardines that was hanging next to the pier and Snookie said the fish were acting different than usual and she mentioned earthquakes that have taken place when fish were acting this way. We’ll see. It was interesting watching a solitary pelican that would make his patented diving runs in pursuit of the sardines. So too the osprey that was sitting on a nearby light pole.

2020.7_Balboa.Pier.10.2_Osprey.jpg

2020.7_Balboa.Pier.15,2_Osprey.jpg

It would turn out to be a slow day although I did eventually hook a decent-sized white seabass that at 19-inches was only 9-inches short of being legal-size. A mackerel and a small jack mackerel also joined in the fun but given the hours we fished it was slow.

2020.7_Balboa.Pier.16.2_KJ_WSB.jpg

2020.7_Balboa.Pier.17.2_KJ_WSB.jpg

KJ and a short white seabass (usually called a sea trout)

We did lose a number of baits to a sea lion. It would neatly chop the sardine in half and we probably lost at least a dozen baits to the pinnipeds. We also did have several bites from halibut but all were missed even though the marks from their teeth told the story. Snookie was hooking the sardines near the nose while I was hooking them under the sardine near the rear but it didn’t seem to make it any difference. Perhaps a second stinger hook would have helped although I’m not too sure it wouldn’t have hooked the sea lion. Fred caught one halibut shortly after he had hooked a white seabass identical to mine. Other than that it was a day for bait fishing.

2020.7_Balboa.Pier.25.2_Fred.Halibut.jpg

Snookie's brother Fred with a halibut

Although I didn’t get any halibut the visit with Snookie was enjoyable as always with some good conversation. Hope to make it back soon.

2020.7_Balboa.Pier.19.2_Snookie.Anthony.jpg

Snookie and Anthony

2020.7_Balboa.Pier.23.2_Beach.jpg

The plan was to check into the motel and fish the Newport Pier during the evening but it didn’t work out. After checking into the motel and taking a short break I drove down to the Newport Pier. But McFadden Place was crowded just like most summer days and after circling the parking lot three times I said screw it. I probably could have parked blocks away but was just tired to do that. Given the number of times I’ve fished Newport, and the likelihood that the action would have been the same as Balboa, I returned to the motel for a good night’s sleep.
 

Ken Jones

Administrator
Staff member
#4
Day Four

The last morning would be spent at the Huntington Beach Pier, the big, tall concrete pier that can be great one day and dead the next. This day would be relatively dead.

Huntington Beach Pier — 7/17 — 6:30 – 10:30 a.m.

21 Queenfish
5 Pacific Sardine
5 Lizardfish
4 Pacific Mackerel
1 Jacksmelt

I decided to start at the end to see what was going on and then move inshore with my worms to seek out some croaker. The far end was crowded although not so much with fishermen as rods. A group of “sharkers” seeking thresher sharks were hogging one corner and had far too many rods set out. It was a loud and profane group and though possibly nice guys, I wasn’t wild about the rods or the language. Where is the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife? The guys said the pier has been averaging 4-5 threshers a day and eventually one was caught. It wasn’t a baby but also wasn’t a big thresher.

2020.7_Huntington.Beach.P.1.2_Rods.jpg

2020.7_Huntington.Beach.P.5.2_Thresher.jpg

I moved a little closer inshore and my first few casts on a high/low yielded—lizardfish. Hadn’t seen them in several years and wondered if that means the water is cold given they normally don’t show up in warmer water years.

As it turned out nothing was really hitting other than basically baitfish—mostly herring (queenfish) and Pacific sardines. A few mackerel were around and you could take your pick. The lizardfish were on the bottom, the queenfish were mid-depth, the mackerel were from the surface to mid-depth, and the sardines were near the top. For some reason the worms wouldn’t elicit a bite but all of the fish liked a small piece of mackerel.

2020.7_Huntington.Beach.P.9.2_Queenfish.jpg

Queenfish

I did move inshore for a while but the worms didn’t elicit a single strike. So much for the croaker, and this can be an excellent pier for big spotfins.

2020.7_Huntington.Beach.P.10_Velcro.jpg

The velcro rod holder that I use at piers with this klnd of railings.

The beach was crowded, people were 50/50 on masks, and it seemed a typical SoCal day with its mid-70s temperature. I finally decided it was time to head back to Fresno and a little over four hours later I was home in the 101 temperature.

It hadn’t been a great fishing trip although I did catch a few fish (that I had to work for) but I had seen some friends and certainly enjoyed the cooler temperatures.
 

Mahigeer

Well-Known Member
#5
Thanks for the post. Glad you had a safe trip.

Snookie is in a class by herself. I am very happy to see she is wearing a mask.

I really like the Oceanside pier. It always takes me back to the 1920's era.

There is also a "gang" fishermen at San Clemente, with profane language, loud music and way too many rods fishing for sharks.

Luckily, the wardens do check that pier from time to time.
xxx

On a side note, my Covid-19 test result was posted by Kaiser today. Negative as I expected. But most importantly before my trip.

Yuppppppie
 
#9
Day Three

Balboa Pier — 7/16 — 7-10 a.m. at the end, roughly 11 to 4 p.m. inshore.

13 Pacific Sardine
1 White Seabass
1 Pacific Mackerel
1 Jack Mackerel

I began the morning fishing out at the end and hoping for some bonito. The pier wasn’t too crowded (not a good sign), everyone was wearing masks, and most were using Sabikis. I started out with a bonito ball and feather with no hits whatsoever. Given that guys with Sabikis were pulling in some mackerel, and even an occasional bonito, I too put on a Sabiki (which I don’t like to use). However, I wouldn’t catch anything on it other than five sardines.

I would be pleasantly surprised to have a guy walk up and say, “Are you Ken Jones?” His name is Anthony and he’s a newbie to the site (screen name DiegoGarciaWahoos). He had seen my post the other day and came down to meet me. He would totally out fish me while we were fishing from the end.

View attachment 1308

Anthony (DiegoGarciaWahoos) and a mac

I was basically catching nothing while he rigged up with a jigpara 7” micro vertical jig and proceeded to catch a few mackerel and eventually a bonito (which was his goal). We had a nice talk and it was obvious he knows fishing and certainly how to use the micro jigs he had. I tried out one with no success but I will learn!

View attachment 1309

Anthony and the bonito he was seeking out.

Eventually I moved inshore to fish with Snookie since that was the reason I came but before I left two gentlemen who were fishing the corner with good success on fish—sardines, an occasional mackerel and a couple of bonito, mentioned that they too were PFIC viewers although they don’t post. Always nice to meet people on these trips that know about PFIC.

View attachment 1310

Snookie and her brother Fred and sister along with another friend Lou were fishing on the second T. They were using Carolina rigs baited with live sardines so I did the same (on one rod). On the light rod I had the usual high/low baited with worms hoping for a croaker or a perch. The corbina would require fishing farther inshore.

There was a large school of sardines that was hanging next to the pier and Snookie said the fish were acting different than usual and she mentioned earthquakes that have taken place when fish were acting this way. We’ll see. It was interesting watching a solitary pelican that would make his patented diving runs in pursuit of the sardines. So too the osprey that was sitting on a nearby light pole.

View attachment 1311

View attachment 1312

It would turn out to be a slow day although I did eventually hook a decent-sized white seabass that at 19-inches was only 9-inches short of being legal-size. A mackerel and a small jack mackerel also joined in the fun but given the hours we fished it was slow.

View attachment 1313

View attachment 1314

KJ and a short white seabass (usually called a sea trout)

We did lose a number of baits to a sea lion. It would neatly chop the sardine in half and we probably lost at least a dozen baits to the pinnipeds. We also did have several bites from halibut but all were missed even though the marks from their teeth told the story. Snookie was hooking the sardines near the nose while I was hooking them under the sardine near the rear but it didn’t seem to make it any different. Perhaps a second stinger hook was have helped although I’m not too sure it wouldn’t have hooked the sea lion. Fred caught one halibut shortly after he had hooked a white seabass identical to mine. Other than that it was a day for bait fishing.

View attachment 1315

Fred with a halibut

Although I didn’t get any halibut the visit with Snookie was enjoyable as always with some good conversation. Hope to make it back soon.

View attachment 1316

Snookie and Anthony

View attachment 1318

The plan was to check into the motel and fish the Newport Pier during the evening but it didn’t work out. After checking into the motel and taking a short break I drove down to the Newport Pier. But McFadden Place was crowded just like most summer days and after circling the parking lot three times I said screw it. I probably could have parked blocks away but was just tired to that. Given the number of times I’ve fished Newport, and the likelihood that the action would have been the same as Balboa, I returned to the motel for a good night’s sleep.
I was truly in the presence of rarified air that day! What a pleasure it was to meet the Skipper and Snookie!

Like KJ noted in his report, it was a tough outing at Balboa. I managed to catch several small macs and a micro bonito using one of my favorite pier jigs, MajorCraft Jigpara (size-10 grams).

Unfortunately, I missed out on seeing KJ land his sea trout. I was too busy at the end of the pier jigging for bonito. Nevertheless, what a beautiful day to fish and pleasure to fish alongside 2 pier fishing legends!
 

Ken Jones

Administrator
Staff member
#10
This was the lure DiegoGarciaWahoo was using the other day. He had some nice tackle suited for the light lure, obviously knew what he was doing, and had success with it. He was the master that day. BTW, I asked him about his screen name and it turned out he's a merchant seaman who during normal times travels all over the Pacific on ships — and enjoys fishing at the various sites including Diego Garcia Island where apparently fishing is good for both wahoo and large bonefish.

Jigpara_Micro.Jog.2.jpg
 

Ken Jones

Administrator
Staff member
#13
Robert and Brock, Yes a fun trip although the fishing except for Oceanside wasn't really too good. Managed a few fish but most were small and I really had to work for them.
 
#15
that corner shot, even though its a pier, isnt there a limit on how many pole each person has out?? i find it disturbing to be that many poles and few people around. i know they want to catch fish, but dang!!!
 

Ken Jones

Administrator
Staff member
#16
Yes, I was upset about that. On a pier — two fishing rods/reels, two hoop nets for crabs/lobsters or one of each. It's one reason why a fishing license is not required on a pier. Walk off the pier and fish from the surf (with a license) and you can have an unlimited number.