Last modified: October 26, 2018

Central California Fishing Piers

Pismo Beach Pier

Sand Sole

Perch are also found at the middle and end of the pier but here the more common catch is silver surfperch and walleye surfperch. Smaller hooks fished right down around the pilings often work best although the walleyes tend to school mid-depth. Walleyes love a small piece of anchovy while the silvers will also attack a small piece of clam, mussel, bloodworm or squid, as well as anchovy. If the rigging is allowed to reach the bottom, a few white seaperch may engage the angler. Joining the surfperch in the summer months, especially if it’s a warm-water year, will be some queenfish that have moved up from more southerly waters.

If anglers fish around the pilings with fresh mussels or seaworms, especially in the winter or early spring, the result may be a cornucopia of species—good-sized pileperch, striped seaperch, black perch, and even rainbow seaperch. With the exception of the pileperch, all are more common around rocky areas but they do congregate around the mussel-covered pilings.

Jacksmelt are the most common pelagic fish caught at the pier but Spanish jacks (jack mackerel), Pacific mackerel, and Pacific sardines will often also join in the fun. When the smelt or mackerel “are in” hoards will pack the pier and fill buckets with fish. Most of these will be caught out toward the end of the pier and most are caught on the multi-hook Sabiki/Lucky Lura-type bait riggings. I’ve had my best success by casting and reelin’ although at times a rig like these fished under a bobber or float works the best. Mackerel, by the way, seem to be very popular, especially for the Central Valley anglers. Seems the mackerel make great bait for the catfish back home in the Valley.

Jacksmelt — Picture courtesy Sheldon’s Clam Stand

If the schools of small bocaccio are present it will be hard to keep them off your hooks—but try. The youthful little fish may be the easiest fish to catch in the world and there has been a tremendous decline in the number of adult fish along the coast. Since one drop of a bait rig will often bring up three or more fish, and since the limit (as of 2006) is now one fish, with a ten-inch minimum size, the bottom line recommendation is to ignore them and let them multiply. Hopefully they’ll rebound and once again be plentiful

Baby bocaccio were once plentiful but today are illegal

Shark fishing at night is a time-honored tradition here. As long as the weather and tidal conditions are right, the shark “regulars” will visit the pier and often there will be quite a crowd. Anglers who want a little more solitude will move up to the Avila or Port San Luis piers. The most common sharks are dogfish, sand sharks (brown smoothhounds) and leopard sharks, but most anglers are seeking the larger bat rays and thresher sharks.  Mixed in will be quite a few big skates, a few California skates (Raja inornata), and sometimes thornback rays and shovelnose guitarfish, two species more commonly taken south of Point Conception.

Sevengill sharks, although uncommon to the pier, have been reported and some were big. One report to the PFIC Message Board said that a 200+pound sevengill shark was caught from the pier in 1999. That’s a big fish if the report is accurate.

A Shovelnose Shark (Guitarfish) — Picture courtesy Sheldon’s Clam Stand

More common than 7-gills are the thresher sharks. Of interest are the thoughts of Troy Sheldon, from Sheldon’s Clam Stand on the pier. Troy, together with his father, ran the concession on the pier for over thirty years and was generally out on the pier five to six days a week. Troy felt that nighttime (the normal time for sharks) is not the best time for thresher sharks. He says that the best time for the threshers is in the late afternoon, especially when the wind has picked up and the water is a little choppy.

The Pier Rats Speak

Date: March 12, 1998: To: Ken Jones: From: Blaine B: Subject: H-o-l-y COW

 Kapt’n Ken, The perch seem to be back in full force at the Pismo Pier. I went down today on the way home from work and this guy had the biggest perch I ever saw. They say he took it to the concession stand and weighed it at 4 lbs. but I have caught a lot of 4-pound spotted and largemouth bass in my day and I swear that sucker looked a lot bigger than 4 pounds. Anyway, a lot of folks had some decent perch in their buckets. Catch an Oncorhynchus for me… Blaine “Wishin’ I waz Fishin’”

Date: June 28, 2000; To: PFIC Message Board; From: cojoreef; Subject: (In reply to: Advice for Pismo Beach Pier

You might not believe me and that’s O.K., but 2 weeks ago I was fishing and this guy next to me hooked up with a 5-foot blue shark using the head of a Jacksmelt at the very end of the pier. I was about to gaff him and he bit through the line. What excitement! I gave this guy a steel leader and he landed a 3.5′ dogfish shark 30 minutes later. I would try mackerel, jacksmelt, and squid as a third choice for Pismo. This all happened around 12 noon. I don’t know what the nighttime scene is like, but these guys were saying they had caught a lot of sharks and their freezer was full for along time.

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.

One Response

  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?

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