Last modified: September 13, 2018

Central California Fishing Piers

Pacifica Pier

The numbers, as expected, are dominated by the schooling species—perch (shiner, walleye, silver, white, striped and barred), top-water species—jacksmelt and northern anchovy, and two bottom species—white croaker and Pacific sanddab.  Striped bass were recorded five out of the six years while the king salmon were counted only one year, 2004. Surprising to me were the fairly high number of striped seaperch (recorded four years) and sharpnose seaperch (recorded two years). Very surprising to me was the low number of calico and redtail surfperch that were recorded (both only recorded for one year) and the absence of any  staghorn sculpin (that have always been among the most common fish at the pier).  It’s simply hard to explain some of the numbers.

<*}}}}}}}}}><— How dumb it this?

Pacifica Pier Vandalism — The vandals who pried up concrete benches from the Pacifica Pier and possibly tossed them over the side into the ocean cost the city nearly $6,000. That’s the estimated cost to replace the benches, which were discovered missing July 20. The culprits also pried up a steel plate from the floor of the pier.

Police Beat, Pacifica Tribune, August 1, 2007

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — Most piers seem to appear in a movie sooner or later. The Pacific Pier was seen in the 2003 film “House of Sand and Fog.”

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — Although the following fish wasn’t caught by hook or line it was found by the pier and could have been caught—right?

In the category of the weird, slimy and mysterious, a denizen of the deep washed up — still writhing, mind you — on the beach near the pier. The fish, which was over four-feet long, was identified as a longnose lancetfish, which the Peterson field guide describes as a toothy (named for its lancet-like teeth) scaleless, voracious deep-water predator with a dorsal fin like a sailfish who also happens to be a hermaphrodite. The fate of the critter, who occasionally washes up on beaches for no apparent reason? A picture was hastily taken before it found its way into a crab net to be used as bait. So much for science.

—Brian Hoffman, The Fishing Report, San Francisco Chronicle, June 13, 1996

<*}}}}}}}}}><— A short distance down the shoreline from the pier is Laguna Salada, a freshwater lagoon and marsh area fed by Sanchez Creek, a creek that serves as a tributary of the larger San Pedro Creek.

Records show that the water in the creeks was once home to steelhead and silver salmon. A 1912 letter indicates San Pedro Creek was stocked and over the years it was noted that steelhead spawned in the creek. In 1968 the California Department of Fish and Game reported there were about 100 steelhead in San Pedro Creek and that the steelhead resource was both viable and important. However, it also reported that continued sedimentation, the construction of culverts, water diversion, and urbanization was affecting spawning habitat and leaving “the long-term survival of the steelhead resources in question.”

Urbanization of Laguna Salada itself dates in large part to 1931 when the City of San Francisco built the Sharp Park Golf Course golf course over the wetlands (and eventually a seawall was built to protect the area). This has led to considerable debate and lawsuits. The lagoon area is home to two endangered species—the California Red-Legged Frog and the San Francisco Garter Snake, and a “Save The Sharp Park Wetlands!” movement emerged. People want the area restored, want the seawall removed, want the golf course removed, and would like to have the land turned over to the National Park Service to become part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. To date, San Francisco has refused.  It’s unclear if the steps mentioned would result in a return of the steelhead and silver salmon.

History Note. The Rev. Herschell Harkins Memorial Pier a.k.a. the Pacifica Pier (“Dedicated to a fisher of men”) was built in 1973 and designed in part to serve as a support structure for sewage pipes that stretch from the shoreline out a short distance past the pier. Almost immediately after opening, the pier began to attract a devoted legion of anglers (including myself).

Big Crowds at Fishing Pier

Pacifica’s future as an ocean fishing center for the Bay Area seemed assured this week as opening of its 1,060-foot Sharp Park fishing pier continued to draw daily crowds of fishermen — of all ages.

Winners of the first annual fishing derby to be held at the pier was announced by Recreation Division Administrative Assistant Walter Kohnert. Some 300 persons entered the derby Saturday while another 700 just strolled around the pier, during the intermittent rainfall. The pier was not over-crowded.

Biggest fish caught was a four-pound leopard shark, reeled in by Dennis Niebuhr, followed by a 41-ounce flounder, caught by Hillard Sims. The two men won first and second place trophies in the adult division. Other winners were: Junior Division (6-9 years old): First, Rene LaForge, 13-ounce perch; second, David Navarro, 8-ounce smelt. Junior Teen Division (10-13 years): First, Eric Lindstrom, 20-ounce skate; second, Pete McGrath, 18-ounce perch. Teen Division (14-19 years): First, Mike Kent, 18-ounce catfish; second, Steve Bode, 17-ounce perch…

After a malfunction opening day, the lights for the concrete pier have been burning day and night, despite protests to City Hall over energy waste. Lights will be turned off during days when city workers are satisfied that they are working all right.

Some $20,000 worth of vandalism was inflicted on opening day, under cover of darkness, but City Mgr. Dave Thompson believes that the combination of lights and police checks will reduce vandalism.

The pier thus offers 24-hour a day fishing. It includes benches, strollers, and fish-cleaning tables. A bait and refreshment shop, at the foot of the pier, will be open on Dec.1.

Elmo J. De Deaux, who will operate the shiop, advises that the most common lind of fish to be found will be jack smelt, perch, kingfish (croaker), cabezon, flounder, halibut, shark, eels, crabs, and California skate (small stingrays). In addition, from June to October, striped bass and salmon can be found.

San Mateo Times, November 16, 1973

In the winter of 1992 engineers warned that the sheet pile bulkhead supporting the first span was corroded. The city quickly closed the pier—and then reopened it a week later. Meetings were held, letters streamed in from throughout the United States, and the mayor and council debated what should be done. Eventually it was closed again. In July, just in time for the main summer fishing season, the pier was reopened after a five-month closure; anglers quickly began to catch salmon, kingfish, perch, jacksmelt, sanddabs and some mackerel. Although most people agreed that it was safe enough to open, all agreed it still needed additional repairs. The repairs were finally started that October and the pier was declared “fixed” a few months later. However, major problems still exist.

Pacifica Pier Facts

Hours: Open 4 A.M. to 10 P.M.

Facilities: The pier has lights, fish cleaning stations, some benches, restrooms at the base of the pier, and a bait shop/snack bar at the front of the pier. There is free parking on adjacent streets; although not enough when the salmon are “running.”

Handicapped Facilities: Handicapped parking. The surface of the pier is concrete with a ramp leading to the south side of the pier. The concrete siding on the pier is approximately 40 inches high and provides safety for both children and wheel chairs. Not posted for handicapped.

How To Get There: Take Highway 1 to Pacifica, take the Paloma Avenue-Francisco Boulevard exit, take Paloma west to Beach Road, turn left and follow the road to the pier

Management: City of Pacifica.


4 Responses

  1. One of the best fishing pier. Got a lot salmon, stripers, perch on this pier. Go there early.

    1. In general, open-ocean areas like Pacifica have perfectly safe and delicious kingfish populations. We fished there in June and caught several large kingfish (among 9 species of fish and crabs caught) that were clean, healthy, and free of the commonly found small worms.

  2. I enjoyed your description of fishing at Pacifica Pier and the pictures. Well done. Very interesting with lots of information.

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