Last modified: October 26, 2018

Central California Fishing Piers

Pismo Beach Pier

Date: December 22, 2000; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Got_Em; Subject: (In reply to: Seeking advice re Pismo Beach Pier

Cast out as far as you can at the end of the pier on the right side. I mean FAR. Chances are good for Dogfish Shark, Rays, Skates, and occasional Blue shark (lost one on the gaff). Smelt is most common live bait so be Sabiki ready. Chunks of Smelt, Mac, and squid produce well.

Date: May 20, 2002; To: PFIC Message Board; From: baitfish; Subject: Pismo Pier 5/18 5:30-7:30

Celebrating our 2-year anniversary we decided to head up to Pismo Beach and Hearst Castle for the weekend. We got in on Fri and walked around town for a bit, but when Rebecca saw me looking at the water like a forlorn puppy, she agreed that we could do some fishing WhhoooPeeee!!! 🙂

So we headed over to the pier in the late afternoon and the tide was just peaking out. We picked up some anchovies and clams at the bait shop on the pier and stopped off at the middle, to give it a shot. The wind was blowing reminding me of Berkley and I kept wondering, how do you nor cal folks put up with it??? Well the middle was not seeing much action so we headed over near the end and cast towards shore on a Sabiki rig tipped with small clam chunks.

I set that rod down and began setting up my larger rod when Rebecca is yelling at me that I have a hit. I set the hook ant in comes a gorilla Jacksmelt, the opposite of Joe’s rat corbina. This thing was at least 2.5 pounds. Then Rebecca hooks up with 2 one the same size as mine, and one a little smaller…Show off:-)

Of course she kept getting doubles and I was with my singles, but the second usually fell of before it got up to the pier. Sorry hon, doesn’t count unless you touch the leader or land it:-) hehehe  We got around 8 of these bad boys and then the fishing died. No hits on my high low anchovy rig and Rebecca was shivering, so it was definitely time to go in:-)

Date: June 13, 2002; To: PFIC Message Board; From: pismo; Subject: Pismo Beach Pier

Fished from 6:30 pm to 8 pm. Caught 4 bat rays, all on squid (high/low). Others were also catching lots of jacksmelt. Also, Sardines, some quite large, have been around the last week or two. The Thornback bite seems to have tapered off quite a bit. John.

Date: July 28, 2002; To: PFIC Message Board; From: pismo; Subject: Pismo Beach Pier

Went out from 9 to 10:30 pm. Saw three dog sharks caught (one was mine), and a pretty big bat ray lying on the pier. I caught my dog on squid (high/low with size 2/0 hooks) and at least one of the other two were caught on squid as well. All released. Dog sharks, bat rays and thornbacks continue to be around in good numbers. John.

Date: June 12, 2003; To: PFIC Message Board; From: thepubliceye; Subject: Pismo Pier

Hello all, this is my first posting and report so please work with me! Went fishing from Pismo Pier from 6pm until 9:30 pm tonight, the wind (10 mph sustained) died down around 7:30 and the sky was clear and the moon was beautiful. From the start jack-smelt and sardines were biting on jigs with no bait until dark. I switched from my jig too a two hook leader with a slice of sardine on both hooks. It wasn’t 30 minutes later and I caught a halibut about 8 inches long. Just minutes after taking a picture it went back into the water. More to come Saturday night! Larry (thepubliceye)

—[Actually, the board decided it was a sand sole, not a halibut. KJ]

Date: September 12, 2003;  To: PFIC Message Board; From: EddieE; Subject: Pismo Beach Pier Yesterday 9/11/03

 Fished Pismo yesterday trying for a thresher but no luck there. I did manage to get 3 bat rays (2 ft or under), 1 leopard (lost in he pilings 5 to 6′), 1 dog shark 38”, lots of sardines, a few perch, a couple of jacksmelt, and one 12” mackerel.

Bait: Used unbaited Sabiki for baitfish and the sardines I caught for everything else.

Date: October 13, 2003; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Dscoots1; Subject: Pismo Beach Pier 10/13/03

This morning I got up at around 5:30am and went to make my morning pot of coffee. It felt a bit warm out so I walked out on the patio and could not believe it was about 74 degrees this early in the morning, especially here in Santa Maria. I thought to myself what a great morning to go fishing! 15 minutes later Coffee was in the thermos and I was off to Pismo Pier. 15 minutes later I was parking at the pier and rigging up my poles. You know the summer tourist season is over when there are only 4-5 surfers in sight. Ahhh this is going to be a great morning. No overcast, crystal clear views but wait a minute, HUGE SURF! Seawater occasionally sprayed up thru the cracks in the pier. Well, at least there is going to be lots of food in the water. Had my Carolina rig ready with a 1 1/2 oz egg sinker and about 18″ of leader.

With my #6 hook and my Kalin’s 1 1/2″ Perch Power lunker grubs ready, I threw out into the surf. Tangle after tangle I thought it was too rough. So, I moved out farther on the pier to 2 benches past the fish cleaning station. This is where the waves were breaking. And those waves were big. You could really feel the pier shake with each breaker. I sent out my lunker grub and before it even hit the bottom I had a bite. I landed a nice 1 1/2lb Barred Perch. I was getting bit on every cast and bringing in lots of the typical smaller barred perch. I just kept sending them back and hoping when they get bigger they will forget how untasty a Kalin’s grub really is.

Then like some-one turn off a switch the bites just stopped. The surf was calming down and I wasn’t getting a bite. I moved to the end next to the cleaning counter and sent my grub flying. While reeling in my pole bent and the drag started going out. I thought it was a big jacksmelt on how hard it had hit. It was fighting a good fight and I kept bring it in. Then I saw it flash. I nice big juicy Barred Perch! About 3 lbs! I had to handline it up. Ahhh dinner is served! Pulled in one more keeper about 5 casts later and called it a day. Gosh, I love fishing!

Date: November 23, 2004; To: PFIC Message Board; From: FakeFisherman; Subject: Pismo Beach Pier 11/22

So while making the drive down to SoCal from the bay area for Thanksgiving this week, I had to hit up at least one pier on the way down. Decided to visit the Pismo Beach Pier since I had passed it so many times and never fished it.

Got there around 5:30pm (just missed the sunset!). Threw out 2 poles between my friend and I using hi/lo’s with bloodworms and the first 15 casts or so resulted in one to two barred surfperch every cast…all released. They were no bigger than 7″ but still a lot of fun. Another guy there had what looked like his limit of nice-sized ones using shrimp and mussels—I think he got them right before sunset. Some other fishermen grubbing, but didn’t see them catch anything.

Potpourri — More Than You May Want To Know About The Pismo Beach Pier

<*}}}}}}}}}>< In April of 1991, I took a fishing trip along the California coast. Conditions were wrong but it was the only time I could take the trip. Tides were poor, the weather was iffy (as in cold and overcast), and the water was very dirty with plumes of sediment poking out into the ocean all along the coast (because of torrential March rains which had followed several months of drought conditions). I had fished at 11 different piers between Imperial Beach and Gaviota and the fishing was poor, in fact, not just poor, but terrible. It was sort of a bad hair day times five, every day seeing failure on a different set of piers. On my way home I almost decided to skip the Pismo Beach-Morro Bay area piers, an area where I normally would stop to fish. But I still had some bait left ncluding some ghost shrimp I had purchased in San Diego. Why not give it a shot? I stopped at Pismo Beach and headed out to the end of the pier. Huge waves were breaking out toward the end of the pier, shaking the pier. Evidently the waves had convinced most anglers to call it a day since not too many people were fishing. Soon I was fishing and once again repeating my lack of success. Nothing would bite on anchovy or mussel. Finally, I tied on a whole ghost shrimp and immediately started to get bites but no fish. Wondering if the bait was too big, I cut a ghost shrimp into three pieces. Now I began to catch fish, one or two on every cast on my hi/lo rigging. The fish were fat little barred surfperch and very good-sized walleye surfperch. Unfortunately I only had four ghost shrimp left but I caught 12 fish on those shrimp.  No other baits worked but those shrimp saved that trip to the pier for me.

Barred Surfperch — Picture courtesy Sheldon’s Clam Stand

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — One day I was calmly gritting my teeth and nodding approvingly as my doctor stun-gunned my face and asked if I was OK. The ”this might sting a little” routine had out lived its usefulness but I would show my manliness and toughness by refusing to show the pain (and there was pain). Following the masochist session we talked of fish. She asked if I had ever heard of dog sharks? “Yes, but they are actually called dogfish sharks, so called because they travel in packs like dogs.” She said she had been at the Pismo Pier in August (2013) when she had seen 50-60 dog sharks, most around three feet in length, laying on the deck at the end of the pier. Anglers were bringing more sharks up every few minutes. It was dark and as she had looked down into the waters she said she could actually see the sharks massed below. I asked if the anglers had said what they intended to do with the sharks and she said they were going to eat them. “Good thing,” I said, “since I hate to see fish wasted.” No wonder a lot of guys like to fish the pier for sharks!

Barred Surfperch

<*}}}}}}}}}>< In 1950 papers reported the capture of a strange pier from the Pismo surf:

Rare Wolf Fish Caught In Surf At Pismo Beach

A vicious killer of the sea, a rare wolf fish, one of 14 recorded as caught in California waters since 1892, is under study by marine biologists at the California Division of Fish and Game at the marine laboratory, Terminal Island. The rare deep-sea fish, known officially as Alepisaurus aesculapius, was caught in the surf at Pismo Beach recently. One other was caught in the surf at Redondo Beach in 1938.

Capture of the Alepisaurus aesculapius at Pismo Beach made a story in itself. A little girl, playing in the breakers first spotted the wolf fish and screamed when it snapped at her. Harold Foster of Pismo Beach, digging clams nearby, grabbed the fish by the tail and hurled it up onto the sand…  The wolf fish, according to John Finch, biologist in charge of the rare fish division of the Bureau of Marine Fisheries, gets its name from its wolflike head filled with saberlike teeth and its sleek appearance.

Measuring more than four feet long, the specimen caught at Pismo Beach carries a guge fin on its back similar to that of a sailfish. It is believed to be a deep-sea fish, although all of those caught have been found in the surf. Marine biologists believe that fish come into shallow water to rid themselves of parasites. They are more common from Washington to Alaska.

The fish apparently has a voracious appetite, according to Fitch. One specimen had the following in its stomach: one 10-inch long eel, 5 ribbon fish, 21 small Pacific mackerel, 53 rockfish, 7 small flatfish, 1 pipefish, 66 small octopuses, 5 squid, 20 unidentified fish and numerous shrimp, tunicates, amphipods and capepods.

The fish has a long barracuda-like body, but when it comes up from deep water its muscles apparently relax and bones of the back separate, Fitch said. Skin of the fish is a bluish-green color with the big sail fin a dark blue…

Los Angeles Times, February 23, 1950

<*}}}}}}}}}><   Although perhaps little remembered today, Pismo Beach was once a famous destination for Bugs Bunny. In several films good old Bugs was headed to “Pismo Beach and all the clams you can eat!” when he failed to take the correct turn at Albuquerque. Eventually he would emerge from a tunnel asking, “Is this the way to Pismo Beach?”

The reference reflected the fact that the city was once known as the “Clam Capital of the World” for the numerous Pismo clams found on the beach. Today, the tasty mollusks are largely gone even though there is still a large concrete statue of a clam on Price Street (near the entrance to town), and a “Clam Festival” is held every October— complete with a clam chowder competition and a clam-themed parade. But the number of clams has dropped, clamming itself is restricted, and the clams used in local restaurants are mostly brought in from other venues.The argument as to why the clams are gone, and who is most to blame, seems unending—and it’s a toss up among locals between the resurgent numbers of protected sea otters (that go giddy over clams) or over the clammin’ by clam-hungry clammers. Take your pick (although Note #4 gives evidence of the tremendous numbers taken during the early days).

Bugs & Pismo Beach —

Confirming the decline in the number of clams was the California Fish Bulletin #96 from 1953 that said: “The town has been famous for its long stretch of beach but especially for the delicate flavor of its clams. Pismo clams, once unbelievably abundant from Monterey Bay into Mexico, made their last stand in the United States against practical extinction at Pismo. In early days the clams were uncovered by a horse-drawn plow and carted away in farm wagons. Later a clam cannery operated at the edge of town (1902–1914). As tourist and commercial digging decreased the clam supply, more stringent protective laws were passed till finally the sale of clams was prohibited in 1947. The town has a fishing pier but there are no other facilities. The records for Pismo show little else than clams. The average annual take figure was about 85,000 pounds but the peak year of 1937 showed 172,000 pounds. There have been no fish landings of any kind since 1949. Sport fishing is chiefly clam digging with pier fishing and some surf casting.”

3 Responses

  1. Is the Pismo beach pier open this month, March 2019?

    Is there a local store where I can rent fishing poles, reels, bait for pier fishing?

  2. The recent renovation has been completed and the Pismo pier again open all year. Rods, tackle and bait are available at the shop which is located at the base of the pier. The shop is open on weekends and most weekdays. However, at times it does not open until 11:00 AM.

  3. What type of fish are people catching? What type of bait are the using? Is the pier close to the camping area? 

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