Last modified: October 26, 2018

Central California Fishing Piers

Pismo Beach Pier

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.”

<*}}}}}}}}}>< Publicity, but not necessarily the type of publicity the city desired was recorded in 2007 when the city announced plans to trap and kill the pigeons rooting on the pier.

City plans to kill pigeons as way of cleaning up ocean?

The July 19, 2007 online ran an Associated Press report, with information from the Santa Maria Times, on the plans of the City of Pismo Beach to kill pigeons roosting on the Pismo Beach Pier.

It is stated that the pigeons will be trapped and killed by a pest-control firm, possibly as early as August, and then taken to Paso-Robles-based Zoo to You to be fed to the animals there. What means will be used to kill the pigeons is not specified.

Also not specified is what will be done with nestling pigeons, and whether or not any consideration is being given to preventing young fledgling pigeons who can fly, but who cannot feed themselves, from dying of starvation, if they are not all caught in the traps. The article generally makes light of the fate of the pigeons.

The stretch along this part of the beach has been closed due to high levels of bacteria. There appears to be no evidence linking high levels of bacteria in the water to the presence of pigeons, and there has been speculation that there may be a sewage leak, which is causing the problem. High concentrations of E Coli and other bacteria have been found in the water, causing health officials to post repeated warnings.

A new feeding ban ordinance was passed recently, and the plan was originally to wait until November to see whether or not the ban has led to the departure of the pigeons. The plan to hire the pest control firm for six months may cost $30,000.

—Sharon St. Joan, Best Friends Network, July 31, 2007

Pismo Beach Needs Hollywood Pill —The Birds Are Still Flocking To The Pier

The Pismo Beach Public Works Department hasn’t seen any decrease in the plethora of pigeons frequenting Pismo Pier looking for free food since feeding birds at the pier became illegal last month. And on Tuesday, the City Council will again discuss the controversial option of hiring someone to trap and kill the birds, which are suspected of polluting ocean water near the pier.

Public Works Director Dennis Delzeit also said he and his crew of 30-plus employees haven’t seen the individuals who are known to bring large bags of food, mostly bird seed, to the pier area to feed the birds.

City staff believes the “bulk feeders” are contributing to the huge pigeon population at the pier and in the pier parking lot at the end of Pomeroy Avenue as well as at the Cypress Street Bridge. “We’ve been on the lookout” for them, too, Delzeit said about the bulk feeders. “We don’t know if they’ve stopped the feedings or if we’re just not down there at the right time to see them.”

Delzeit added the city has “no proof” that bulk feeders are contributing to an increase in the number of pigeons at the pier, but instead are basing the belief on expert opinions, like those of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Representatives from the animal rights organization that’s headquartered in Norfolk, Va., recently came to Pismo Beach to meet with Delzeit and the city manager after learning the City Council was considering a trap-and-kill program to deal with the pigeon problem. “PETA has confirmed that in other situations, pigeon populations will increase dramatically with just one bulk feeder,” Delzeit said. “We think that’s why we’ve seen such a huge increase in the number of pigeons at the pier (in the last few years).”

—April Charlton, Santa Maria Times, August 19, 2007

<*}}}}}}}}}><  My grandson Adam is a big fan of Sasquatch and gets a kick out of watching the search for the legendary creature on TV. Imagine my surprise to see that Sasquatch had been spotted surfing next to the Pismo Beach Pier. I told Adam we would have to head over to Pismo Beach if he wanted to spot Bigfoot. After reporting the sighting on PFIC one member wrote in “I have seen Santa surfing next to the Seal Beach Pier but never sasquatch. ”The story was reported on

Surfing Sasquatch Takes Over My Fishing Spot

I’ve seen some funny stuff over the years, but when I went to fish off the Pismo Beach Pier in Calif. on Sunday and saw a surfing sasquatch, I had to share. Sure, it didn’t have a whole lot to do with fishing, but it prevented me from doing much fishing on this day (which doesn’t happen a whole heck of a lot, so I had to mention it). While attempting to haul in some surf perch on this Sunday, here’s the scene that I ran into: This guy was catching waves like crazy, which not only was spooking my fish, but was raising all kinds of noise from the fans on the pier. In any case, it was fun to watch, and made me a believer in Satch thesurfing sasquatch.

Brian Milne,, September 30, 2013

<*}}}}}}}}}>< —  For the past two decades the number of great white sharks reported in waters from Pismo Beach to San Simeon has seemed to increase each year. Many are seen from the piers and a few have been hooked — and landed, even though such an act is illegal. It has put fear in the minds of some people and created various conflicts between surfers and fishermen.

Great white sharks seen in Pismo; surfers blast chumming online

Multiple sightings of great white sharks off the coast from Cayucos and Morro Bay to the Pismo Beach Pier have been reported this week, and some surfers say fishermen are creating a potential hazard in popular surf spots by chumming, or dumping fish remains off the pier to attract the sharks.

On Friday morning, fisherman Pete De la Torre of Santa Maria and his 12-year-old son, Eddie, who regularly fish off the Pismo Beach Pier, said they saw a 6-foot shark they believed to be a great white.

“It was dark and was kind of scoping out the area before it swam out to deeper waters,” De la Torre said. “It was shocking to see one up close.”

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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