Last modified: September 11, 2018

Fishing Piers Southern California

Redondo Beach Pier

Inner section

I might add that I too have caught several nice yellowfin croakers while fishing the early evening hours in the inner section of the horseshoe pier, and surprisingly these were caught on cut anchovy. Although most anglers seem to want to automatically fish the deepest water and cast out from the outer railings, don’t be afraid to try the inner waters.

Pelagic species—mackerel, jack mackerel, jacksmelt, sardine, bonito, barracuda and yellowtail. For the mackerel, fish the Monstad section or the end railings. Use a Sabiki or similar-type bait rig or use bait—pieces of mackerel (or strips of squid) and fish the mid-depth area. Typically the mackerel hit best early morning or in the evening (till sometimes late at night) and when the macs are running the railing is lined with anglers and the sea is aglow with different colored glow lights. During a “mac attack,” it’s common for people using bait rigs to catch 4-5 mackerel at a time and anglers will be keeping bucket after bucket of mackerel.

By the way, Fishing for mackerel at night on the wharf isn’t exactly a new idea as seen in the following:

Moonlight mackerel fishing is all the craze in Redondo now. Scores of anglers, with rod and line, may be found upon the wharf from twilight till midnight landing the beautiful shiny fish.

Los Angeles Times, June 30, 1893

One trip saw a lady standing next to me with two Sabiki rigs tied end to end on her line. The eight foot long or so rig was almost impossible for her to cast (especially since you are supposed to use underhand casts) and she nearly hooked several people. Luckily, she finally snagged her rig on the piling (which made her boyfriend very unhappy) and things became a little less chaotic. I’m still not sure why she would have needed a dozen or so mackerel at a time? The question is are all those fish really going to be used for food? Fertilizer? Who knows?

Anglers using bait rigs may also encounter schools of jacksmelt, sardines or jack mackerel. They’re usually in the same mid-depth or upper-water levels and again big numbers can easily be caught. The only difference is that usually smaller size hooks should be used. As with the mackerel, there are no limits but how many do you really need to keep?

When the hard fighting bonito make a showing the pier will again be jammed with anglers! The bonito, mostly in the 1-3 pound class but occasionally including some large 4-6+ pound fish, generally hit during the day (especially at dawn and dusk) and two main techniques are used for the hard fighting boneheads—live bait or artificial lures.

Live bait (anchovies or sardines) can be great if you can get them. If not too crowded, try live bait under a split-shot sinker. However, here it is often way too crowded for that approach. A second live bait option is to slide a live bait leader down your line using a snap-swivel and about a 2-3 foot leader with a live bait hook.

Most bonito though are caught on lures and historically most have been caught on splasher-type rigs—a Cast-a-Bubble, a wooden “bonito egg,” or a golf ball, with a feather trailing behind a 3-4 foot leader. Feathers come in several colors but green and white or green and yellow seem to be the favored colors.

Spoons like Kastmasters, Krocodiles, and Megabaits have also become increasingly popular for the boneheads. A few friends who have fished up north have also had luck using Crippled Herring and Buzz Bombs. I think the main idea is to make commotion at the top and the lure looks like a fish fleeing the commotion.

At times, the bonito will be micro-sized young ‘uns and they’re perhaps not quite as sharp as their elders. They will hit Sabiki and similar-type bait rigs, often several at a time. But why, since you are limited to five small bonito (in the overall limit), use a bait rig? One cast might yield your limit. It’s clear though that when the bonito are running too many people will be keeping too many fish. Poaching is alive and well at Redondo!

When barracuda show up be ready with some gold or silver-colored Krocodile or Kastmaster spoons (although MegaBaits and Rebel Fast Tracks are increasingly popular).

Yellowtail are the trophy fish. Their appearance can quickly galvanize the pier rats into a state of apoplexy. Pier rats are soon tossing out whatever metal creations happen to be found in their tackle boxes, hoping to lure the ‘tails into their coveted section of water. The yellows for their part usually show just enough ‘tail to entice and tease the excited anglers. Then they disappear. Still it is fun while it lasts and adequate numbers are caught most years to keep the hope alive.

Several methods are time proven for yellowtail: (1) Live bait, a still lively Spanish mackerel (jack mackerel) or Pacific mackerel (small) that you’ve caught with a bait rig. Use a sliding leader or a leader with a float. (2) A leadhead jig that has a strip of mackerel 1 1/2 inches long by 1/2 inch wide attached to the hook. (3) Artificial lures such as Crippled Anchovies, MegaBaits, Rebel Fast Tracks and Buzz Bombs.

Sharays. Nighttime is often the best time for mackerel and is almost always the best time for a variety of sharks and rays. The sharay fraternity typically includes several medium-sized sharks and rays—leopard sharks, gray smoothounds, spiny dogfish, thornback rays, shovelnose sharks (guitarfish), and bat rays. Less commonly caught, but still a possibility, are horn sharks and swell sharks.

Of course there are also the big sharks and rays. Thresher sharks and 7-gill sharks can top a hundred pounds and are fairly common as well as the really big bat rays (always an old mama bat ray). Blue sharks wander in from deeper waters about once in a blue moon and I’ve have been told, but can’t verify, that both hammerhead sharks and mako (bonito) sharks have been landed at the pier.

Best bait for most sharks is a bloody fillet of mackerel or a similar oily fish; if you’re seeking the big ‘uns, a whole live mackerel is hard to beat. The best bait for bay rays is almost always squid.

Shovelnose guitarfish

An interesting technique that I first heard about at this pier concerns squid and bat rays. On a Message Board discussion concerning the best techniques for large bat rays, one communicant, YTail Stud, said he used squid and live bait. He said you first catch a small sardine or smelt and then place it in a bucket. Next, using a whole thawed squid, cut an opening in the squid and place the live bait inside the squid body. Hook the live bait through the squid body. The result is a squid that appears to be life-like as it moves about because of the enclosed fish. He recommended using this with a heavy rigging near the breakline on an incoming tide.

Remember to bring a net or a treble hook gaff and strong rope to heft the prize up to the pier. Only use a gaff if you intend to keep the fish!

A shark still fairly rare, but becoming more and more common in the area, are great white sharks. Remember that the great whites are protected and illegal to take. If one is hooked the line should be cut before bringing it up to the pier.

Horn shark

Halibut. Although mackerel are the main fish caught at the pier, the prize catch for most anglers is California halibut. One of the arguments I used to have with a few of my southland pals concerned halibut and the best piers for catching the prize flatties. We tended to agree that Crystal Pier was best in the San Diego area and Goleta Pier was the best in the Santa Barbara area. The argument arose over the Los Angeles-area piers. Some preferred Redondo Beach, some claimed Hermosa was better, and a few gave votes to Seal Beach and Malibu. I voted for Redondo.

At the time my vote was simply a hunch based on a few visits to the pier; I had no data to back up my claims. Then, in 1982, I spent some time interviewing one of the men who worked at the bait shop on the pier. One statistic that he mentioned stood out: a recorded halibut count of 1,266 fish the prior year at the pier. This was not the number caught, but the number of good-sized fish brought to the bait shop. The actual number of halibut would have needed to be several thousand. That figure clinched my vote.

I believe those numbers will never be repeated since live bait is no longer available. The halibut numbers, especially legal-size fish, have plummeted over the years. Nevertheless, there is still tremendous pressure on the species. Most summer days see anglers lining the rail at the Monstad section of the pier (the preferred, mid-water depth spot for halibut) and most of them are fishing for halibut.

Daniel’s first keeper halibut

Fishin’ is easy but catchin’ is sometimes a little more difficult. Most of the regulars, and they are the ones who typically know what they are doing, use live bait for halibut. At Redondo that usually means small smelt, shinerperch, sardines or baby macs that you’ve caught yourself. A small-hook bait rig, i.e., Sabiki rig, will catch all of these. A drop net is better since it will not harm the “live bait” but it will primarily only yield smelt or perhaps a small perch.

Once you have some live bait use a Carolina-rigged leader with the live bait for the halibut, a slider rigging, or a two foot or so long leader tied up above the sinker (see the book Pier Fishing in California, The Basics). Traditionally the seats along the Monstad portion of the pier have been considered the prime halibut area, especially the inner portion of those seats.

The Monstad section of the pier

Recently I ran across an article that discussed the Monstad section of the pier that pretty much confirmed what I already felt about the best area to fish on the pier. The nearly 40-year-old article also mentions the dilemma that still confronts “pier rats” and the cities that maintain the piers: the cost of the upkeep of the piers. How to balance the space needed by the fishermen versus providing space to businesses that can produce revenue for the upkeep of the pier. Without the money to maintain the pier there would be no pier and no one would be happy.

 Restaurant Proposal Angers Fishermen

The Monstad and Municipal pier at Redondo Beach is the most visited coastal pier complex in California, according to Richard W. Parsons, harbor director.

For years, local fishermen have peacefully coexisted with commercial developers on the pier but a recent city revenue-producing proposal to build a restaurant on the south side of the Monstad pier has infuriated the rod-and-reelers.

“This is the best halibut fishing pier in the state,” contends Ray Amys, leader of a drive to stop approval of the restaurant in the Coastal Commission hearing.

The city proposes to relocate the fishermen to a 212-foot promenade joining the Monstad and Municipal (horseshoe) piers but fishermen scoff at the idea, saying that they won’t catch any halibut there, only much less desirable fish like perch, mackerel and bonito.

“People come from Long Beach, San Diego and all over the state,” Amys says. “On the Long Beach pier, it’s a big thing to catch a 14-pound halibut but here it’s an everyday occurrence,” George Whalen, fisherman from Long Beach, said offhandedly.

Fishermen who have been fishing the piers for decades say they have learned that one section on the south side of the Monstad pier is where the good fishing is. They’ve seen excursion boats go out near the pier and have seen they don’t catch fish.

There is scientific reason for it, according to Rimmon C. Fay, a controversial member of the Coastal Commission. “I know from firsthand experience diving down there that the Redondo submarine canyon comes into shore right along the south side of Monstad pier,” Fay explained.

People fishing on the end of the Monstad pier don’t catch fish like those on the south side, Fay said.

The canyon attracts the fish from off the coast from its 600-700 foot depth offshore (compared to the surrounding 80- to 90-foot depth). Beside the pier the water is 50 to 60 feet deep, compared to the surrounding 20- t0 30-foot depth, Fay added.

Wishing to maximize the city’s revenues, harbor director Parsons approached the State of California Wildlife Conservation Board about funds for construction of additions to the existing Redondo piers.

There is no environmental issue here, according to local fishermen. It is rather a classic confrontation over the access of low- and moderate-income people to coastal areas.

The pier is used by fishermen who don’t have money to go out on boats and fishermen do not generate revenues for the city while the developers do produce revenue, Fay explained.

Estimated to cost $300,000, the proposed fishing promenade would join the Monstad and horseshoe piers, giving an additional 400 feet of fishing rail space…

It is common knowledge among fishermen that live bait, specifically anchovies, are needed to catch halibut. The developers and the city say that a 30-foot open platform will be provided for the bait boat to land but bait boat operator says “no way.”

“The plans call for me landing 100 feet behind where I do now—the water is too shallow—I would run aground. I’m not going to risk a $200,000 boat going in there,” Myers said flatly. Myers said the developers don‘t realize how much water bait boast draw when they’re full.

Compounding the problem, the boat would have to land in ocean swells between the two buildings, Myers added, “Without live bait, the pier would be dead, “Myers affirms…

The fishermen argue that the retail complex will destroy the view to seaward, while the city and developers say that will be more than offset by the new vistas created by the proposed promenade.

The fishermen have rallied around a statement by former Coastal Commission member Fay, who said “you can put a restaurant any place but you can only catch fish in the ocean.

Responding to the pressure, the city presently has a consulting engineer studying the feasibility of constructing a low-level fishing rail below the proposed restaurant on the south side of the Monstad pier.

Harbor director Parsons feels that the whole controversy is ironic because progress is part of the reason a lot of fish are attracted to King Harbor. Through offshore conduits, Southern California Edison absorbs water, filters it before using it and discharges it back into the ocean cleaner than it was before, Parsons explains.

4 Responses

  1. Who thought of making peir bridge drop fishing net

  2. Now, how can we stop fishermen from OVERHEAD CASTING? YES, there are the signs, but on my, almost daily
    Walks, I see people violating the overcasting rule

  3. I wish I knew the answer to that. Been trying to teach people not to do that for over 30 years but there’s still a lot of knuckleheads out there.


  4. The Bounty , the Polynesia. Horse shoe. Beach. Diving. For. Change.

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