Last modified: November 30, 2018

Fishing Piers Southern California

Oceanside Pier

Ed ushered him out but worried about the bird so he called a number of different animal agencies for help and advice. Unfortunately, no one offered much help but at least Ed could try to feed him and he managed to get a few anchovies down his throat.

Michael (Picture courtesy of the Oceanside Pier Bait Shop)

Birds learn fast — and know a sucker when they see one. The bird kept showing up, kept walking into the shop, and grabbed bait whenever available. But, there was a shortage of anchovies and they were expensive. Ed put out the word that some small fish to feed the pelican would be appreciated and the regulars responded with more than enough fish to feed the bird until it was healthy. Since the bird liked to bob and weave — and dance around — he finally acquired a name — Michael Jackson, and now he’s a star at the pier.

Ed though may have gone a little too far when he decided to paint Michael’s toenails pink. Michael didn’t seem to mind and tourists loved it. Ed would tell them that it was pelican breeding season and he wanted to give Michael an edge up when Michael was out there seeking a little female companionship. One day one of the regulars brought down some glitter but to date it’s still sitting on the shelf and da bird still has his pink toes.

     Michael’s pink toes (Picture courtesy of the Oceanside Pier Bait Shop)

Of course the herons and egrets spotted these freebies for Michael and they too felt they deserved a meal — and Ed obliged.

Ed feeding breakfast to Michael the pelican, Herman the heron, and a snowy egret.(Picture courtesy of the Oceanside Pier Bait Shop)

Herman the Heron (Picture courtesy of the Oceanside Pier Bait Shop

 It’s hard to say how long Michael will stay at the pier and how long the “Oceanside Pier Wild Bird Act” will continue but the cast and audience — the birds, Ed, and the tourists, all seem to enjoy the show.

Special Recommendations. A lot of small, undersized (and illegal), white seabass (generally called seatrout by anglers) are caught on this pier. Please return them to the water and help this species once again become a viable resource.  You may also avoid a large fine and the loss of your fishing license!

Potpourri — some articles and (hopefully) interesting facts about Oceanside’s Favorite Pier

Pier Rats — Garth and Lisa

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — No boats necessary — Dedicated pier patrons are proud and happy to spend their days fishing from California’s shoreline pilings

Basketball has its gym rats, golf has its range rats and, yes, fishing has its very own pier rats. They are a special breed of angler, these fanatics who fish from pilings, whether they be concrete or wooden. Pier rats don’t care. “Our motto is no boats, no kayaks and no freshwater for posts on our board,” said newby pier rat Garth Hansen of Escondido. Their message board is on

In his excellent book, “Pier Fishing in California,” Ken Jones, the modern-day Pied Piper of this new breed of pier rat, leads his cult-like followers to 113 piers, including those in the Carquinez Strait (about 20 miles northeast of San Francisco) and West Delta. In his second edition of the book, Jones includes an enlarged fishing-tips section and also details a history of the piers. There’s an entire section on fish identification, and he tops it with a section called “The Pier Rats Speak,” a dozen classic posts from the “Pier Fishing in California” message board on

At a recent get together at Oceanside Pier, Hansen was joined by John Kim of Carlsbad, Reid Mimaki of San Marcos, Rod Mina of San Diego and Rich Reano, the site’s Web master from Chula Vista, for some early-morning shore fishing followed by a trip to the pier.

Hansen discovered the group while searching the Web one day. “The fishing report is one of the more useful things about the site,” Hansen said. “I’m a beginner, so it helped me with good fishing information and tips. I took my daughter out to the pier the first time. Except for a 16-inch smelt, we got skunked. But since then I’ve landed my first legal halibut, first legal sand bass and way too many croakers.”

Reano fished from the beach early and, like the others, landed a handful of barred surf perch. He used a unique offering, a size 8 Wooly Worm fly with a half-ounce barrel sinker, a standard Carolina rig. Reano has been the group’s Web master since 1997. “We get just over a half million page views a month,” Reano said. “We’re small compared to boards like Allcoast Sportfishing, but for pier fishing, we do OK. We have a narrow focus, but still have a lot of views for that.”

There are 8,000 registered members of the board but, as Reano said, “many more lurking out there.” Mina said the reports and pictures that pier and shore anglers post make the site valuable to those looking for information, tips and places to fish. “Part of it is people want to educate others about pier and shore fishing, but part of it is people want to brag, too,” Mina said.

The group stresses that all pier and shore fishermen follow Department of Fish and Game regulations, a big issue on the state’s piers. Many pier fishermen are recent immigrants who often plead ignorance on fish and game laws. They have a reputation with other fishermen for taking over-limits and fish or lobsters out of season. “We place a huge emphasis on rules,” Reano said.

Ben Acker and Bryan Burch traveled from Pasadena to join the others for the rare get together last Saturday. Acker, a sixth grade teacher in Arcadia, is a veteran hoop-netter and pier angler. “I have five younger brothers, and my mom said the only thing we could ever do without fighting is fishing and singing,” Acker said. Acker converted an old baby jogger into a fishing pier buggy that he loads all his gear on for an easy trek to a spot along the pier’s rail. As Acker was setting up his gear, a tourist passed by and said: “Do you need a fishing license to fish on a pier?” Acker responded, “No.” And the guy winced and said, “I just lost a $5 bet with this guy because I bet him you needed one.”

Anglers don’t need a fishing license, but knowledge of the shoreline structure under the pier is a huge benefit. And knowing how to rig for the various fish is equally important. “It’s a sharp learning curve, but if someone puts the time in, it’s not that hard to learn,” Acker said.

Acker said piers are the best-kept secret for hoop-netting lobsters. “I’ve probably hoop-netted more lobsters from a pier than I have from my kayak,” said Acker, who has his own special way of lowering his hoop net. He cradles it under his arm and tosses it the way someone would toss a discus. He got a good 30 yards on his toss on this day.

Down the pier from Acker, Daniel Elrod of Lancaster, another bona fide pier rat, displayed his invention, the L-Rodholder that he uses for rods and even a pulley arm for pulling hoop nets up from the depths. He sells them for $45 to $59. “I’m 46 years old and I’ve been pier fishing my whole life,” Elrod said. “My dad started me out when I was young.” Elrod said he visited Ocean Beach Pier during lobster season last year and asked a hoop-netter there if he’d like to sample his pulley arm device for pulling up his net. Elrod said the man hoisted up 30 lobsters in two hours before the men were kicked off because there was an electrical problem on the pier. “It was the middle of the day, too,” Elrod said. “I mean every pull, every 15 minutes, he’d have five, six lobsters in there. It was incredible because they were all keepers (legal-size) except for one.”

Elrod had his 14-year-old son, Kyle, along with him, doing his part to pass on the pier-rat tradition. “I’m on that site every day,” Elrod said. “It’s an addiction. I like to read what’s going on in Northern, Central and Southern California, and it’s a great place for that. Everyone has their own style of fishing, their own personality. But by knowing what’s going on along the whole coast helps me plan my own fishing trips and excursions.”

Boyd Grant is vice president of United Pier and Shore Anglers of California. He travels in his motorhome and checks on piers. He’s a mobile pier rat with a shell. “I’m a full-time volunteer and field representative,” Grant said. “I drive the entire coastline and check out the beaches and the piers. I have over 30 years of fishing every pier in California.” Grant said one of the other features of is that it includes a link to Ken Adelman’s The site offers up-close and updated looks at beach access and fishing areas. Grant called “Pier Fishing in California” author Ken Jones “the best piling fisherman I’ve ever seen.” “When we go to Catalina, we get 20 fish. He catches and releases 200 or more,” Grant said of Jones. “I don’t care where it is. Any pier, any piling. He’s the piling master.” Grant said he loves the entire atmosphere that can usually be found on a fishing pier. “There’s a lot more to pier fishing than just hooking fish,” Grant said. “I’ve found that no matter where in the world we go, when we visit a pier we have so much in common with the people there. Within five minutes, we’re talking like we’ve known each other all our lives.”

As Grant spoke, the Flatt family fished behind him on the north side of the pier. Steven and Melissa Flatt were there with Kalyn, 2. It was a family, glad to join the ranks of the pier rats. “He wanted a fisherman, so Kalyn now is into fishing,” Melissa Flatt said. “This is her first time fishing the pier, but she’s caught bluegill and has fished in Yosemite already.”

—Ed Zieralski, Outdoors, San Diego Union-Tribune, January 22, 2005

Pictures courtesy of my son Mike

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — Fishing at a pier can teach many lessons about life. Here we’re presented the age-old question: Is a fish story really a lie?

We Get Hooked on Fish Story

Carlsbad, Calif.—There has been some fishing and some lying, none of it too successful. As is customary, we visit the Oceanside pier from time to time while on vacation here to (as I believe they say it) wet a line, but mainly, I think, to get hot chocolate and doughnuts at the end of the pier. ,

The fishing is secondary. It is nice that way. It’s regulars, the old folks who settle down for the day with sack lunches, folding chairs and battered straw hats, put their lines in, but they are there to visit and take the sun and breeze. Mine just happen to take the hot chocolate.

The sports congregate at the end of the pier, probably 1,000 yards out from shore, and they are elbow to elbow and intense and want the fish to bile. One old girl, about an ax handle across the stern, seemed to be the star performer out there the other day.

She was dressed in jaded blue overalls, with a man’s blue work shirt buttoned at the neck, canvas shoes and a wide straw hat with the trailing edges reaching her shoulders. Probably she was in her ‘70’s but she whooped and hollered every time she pulled in a fish and she truly seemed to have the touch.

As I walked by from the end of the pier with a black coffee “to go,” her pole bent sharply again, waving, and she warhooped again.

Well, this is the serious fishing spot, and I suppose that it is because it is farthest from land, but you can’t fool ‘em about halfway out in. I have caught halibut there, and mackerel, tomcod, rays and small sharks, but the best thing to do is visit the small fish market located there.

The children got bored the other day after about 15 minutes and left me with the poles while they trooped out for chocolate

“Give me two bonitas, please,” I asked the young fellow behind the counter. I dropped them in my sack.

And I was standing there, looking rather unconcerned, line in the water, when they came back and asked what was in the sack.

I told them to look. “Gee, did you catch those?” the young fellow yelled. “He bought them at the fish market,” his slightly older and wiser sister stated. “Let’s tell them we caught them when we get home.”… her brother was enthused with the plan. “Yeah.” He said. “You caught one and I caught one. I get to carry the sack”…

Parents are supposed to teach their children that lying is dreadful, leaving them to pick it up as they mature. “This is not really lying.” I told them, and they nodded.  “This is what they call a fish story, and it is different.” They nodded again.

They went roaring into the house when we got home, displaying their trophies. The big girl looked up from her book. “You bought those at the pier, didn’t you?” she queried, “Yes,” I said. What a know-it-all.

—Bill Sumner, Vacation Report, Pasadena Independent, August 17, 1961

Pictures courtesy of my son Mike

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — Although fishing is the main occupation employed on the pier by anglers most of the year, winter months see people out, primarily at night, in search of the bugs — spiny lobster. Rare is the day when one like the following is encountered.

Persevering twins reap late reward of one giant lobster

It was another marathon Saturday with dad, starting with a 6:30 a.m. tee time and finishing at midnight at the Oceanside Pier. But it turned into a very special day for Blake and Garett Spencer, a pair of 9-year-old twins who teamed with their father, Todd, to catch a lobster of a lifetime.

“Saturday is my day with the boys, and we started with 18 holes at Temeku (Golf Course),” said Escondido’s Todd Spencer, manager of a collection agency. From there, it was on to Oceanside Pier for some hoop-netting for lobsters, an activity the boys later told their dad they’d pick over playing video games.

“This was only our second time hoop-netting,” Spencer said. “We went at the end of last season and fished off Ocean Beach Pier. We didn’t get anything, but the boys loved it.”

Last Friday, the boys asked their father: “When are we going lobster hunting again? Spencer promised they’d go after his golf outing the next day. They packed their rig with items that don’t necessarily go together like ham and eggs: dad’s golf bag and gear, a couple of hoop nets and 2 1/2 pounds of mackerel for lobster bait.

2 Responses

  1. Always  enjoy reading your articles Mr. Jones. I’ve been visiting Oceanside pier for close to 40 
    years, and  enjoy your guide book  for many years. Enjoyed some quiet fishing  after midnight fishing 
    there– it’s too crowded at daytime! I had no idea that there was a proposal to close it down at night! 
    Yes, you’re right– it’s not a cheap place to visit anymore, but it’s still beautiful! Thank you very much,
    and good fishing! With respects– Haik Goomroyan from Las Vegas.

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