Last modified: January 19, 2024

Fishing Piers San Francisco Bay Area

San Francisco Municipal Pier aka “The Muni”

Public Pier — No Fishing License Required

The San Francisco Municipal Pier is currently closed and it’s unknown if the federal government is willing to spend the money for restoration (especially given the fact they never spent the money to make needed repairs.)

There are times when I don’t particularly like people to know that I am “The Pier Fisherman.” That’s generally true when I’m out on a pier and my fishing skills are stinking up the joint (in other words, I’m not catching fish). It’s especially bad if others ARE catching fish. If you’re the so-called expert, people expect you to catch fish! Luckily that scenario doesn’t occur too often. I normally catch my fair share of fish and sometimes lead the hit parade. However, I’ve fished long enough, and experienced enough of the former situations, that I would never gloat when doing better than others.

Still, I’m proud when I’m able to catch fish because I know that I’m a good pier fisherman (and I paid my dues to reach this point). And sometimes the good fishin’ does happen when others are having little “luck.” That happened one morning down at this old pier, a pier which is simply called the Muni or Horseshoe Pier by most locals. I had arrived shortly before 8 a.m. on the morning of my birthday in 1999 and walked down to the pier through a maze of movie trucks and technicians setting up for some type of filming, a fairly common experience on California piers. The sun was shining, there was no fog or wind, and it looked like it might be a nice day.

Although the tide was out, I planned to begin fishing inshore by the rocks which line the shoreline area. About a half dozen anglers were fishing on the south side of the pier and they were having little luck. I decided to try the other side. I baited up my light pole and cast out near the pilings of Transport Wharf #4 that sits near this pier. I dropped a cast about two feet from the fourth piling and set my pole down. Before I could bait my second pole I had a fish on. It turned out to be a striped seaperch.

Immediately, a wizened old Chinese lady, age unknown but definitely elderly, rushed over. She really couldn’t speak English but we were somehow able to communicate. What had I caught, what bait was I using, where was I fishing? Since I didn’t want the fish, I offered it to her and the offer was immediately accepted. Another cast and soon another fish, identical to the first. This time a second lady rushed over and an almost identical scene took place to the first. When a third cast yielded a third fish, I was beginning to become a center of attention. Anglers were coming over to check out the bait and several were now fishing from my side of the pier. For some reason, they weren’t catching the fish.

Striped Seaperch

Soon after, I hooked a good-sized rubberlip perch and now I really became the center of attention. Not only were the anglers anxious to inspect my bait but so too were several crewmen from the film company. Was it a movie or perhaps a Nash Bridges episode? Nothing so exotic, they were filming a commercial for First National Bank. Still, it gave a little extra excitement to the environment. It also gave me a chance to discuss my book and web site with several interested people. I certainly wasn’t nervous about being “The Pier Fisherman” that morning, I was catching most of the fish and seemingly proving myself the expert.

Rubberlip Seaperch

Since I needed some pictures for the web site, I asked one lady to hold up my fish. She was a natural model and full of enthusiasm. She quickly let me know that people called her “Miss Good Morning Vietnam” because she was from Vietnam, always wore her Vietnamese hat, and looked like a character in the film (although her real name was Kim Nga). Always smiling, she told me the story of how she came to America during the war and soon thereafter lost her husband. Since then she had survived some hard years but never missed coming down to the pier when she had the opportunity to go fishing. I continued to catch fish and give them to her, and she continued to tell me tale after tale of her years in Vietnam.

Striped Seaperch

After a couple of hours she had a full bag of perch and one lone cabezon, while I had experienced a truly beautiful birthday morning.

The San Francisco Municipal Pier was built in the early 1930s as a recreational pier. Today it continues to be heavily used by anglers but also is heavily trafficked by joggers and tourists visiting the area. Listening to the conversations of passing strangers is like being in Babylon, or wherever the Tower of Babel was located. A veritable United Nations of languages. The pier is a short walk over the hill from Fort Mason past picnic areas and gardens. A short distance up the street from the pier is the San Francisco Maritime Museum and Aquatic Park. On a sunny day people will be sunning themselves on the steps and perhaps even putting a toe into the chilly water at the small beach. Ghirardelli Square, its chocolate, its ice cream, and a plethora of shops and restaurants filled with tourists sits just up the hill from Aquatic Park. Less than three blocks away is Fisherman’s Wharf. There is obviously plenty to see for everyone.

Unfortunately, the pier itself is not in the best of shape. Not only is it filthy at times but it is also in severe need of maintenance. Nevertheless, it remains one of my favorite spots on the waterfront. (Perhaps due, at least in part, to the fact that it was the first pier I fished in San Francisco. Way, way back, in 1966, I managed a short visit to the pier during a trip to The City. Three silver surfperch were the sum total of my catch that day. The surroundings as much as the fish remained a beacon for many years.)

There is also the already mentioned smaller pier that sits near the foot of the Municipal Pier. That pier, formerly known as Transport Wharf No. 4, and informally known as the Black Point Pier, angles off to the left toward Black Point. The pier is currently closed; prior to closing it was primarily used by those crabbing or fishing the inshore area for seaperch.

Environment. The 1,850-foot pier is built over clay, sand, and mud, but considerable material has built up under it over the years. As a result, a great number of different species of fish have been caught here. Department of Fish and Game studies showed more than 45 species of fish caught at the pier in a single year. The vast majority of the fish that are caught are the old standbys for this area: white croaker, walleye and silver surfperch, striped seaperch, black seaperch, white seaperch, pileperch, shinerperch, jacksmelt, Pacific tomcod, sand sole, Pacific sanddabs, starry flounder, English sole, California halibut, brown rockfish, black rockfish, striped bass, brown smoothhound sharks, leopard sharks, California skates, big skates and bat rays.

The largest striper from the pier that I’ve been able to authenticate was a 41 1/2-pound fish taken back in June of 1954.

Fishing Tips. As is true at most Bay Area piers, the best time to fish for large perch (pileperch, blackperch, rubberlip perch and striped seaperch) is in the winter and spring. Fish inshore along the shoreline rocks or cast toward the Black Point Wharf (Transport Wharf #4). Use pile worms, mussels, or small pieces of shrimp, and small hooks, size 6 or 8. A few redtail surfperch and rainbow seaperch will also enter the census as may a few eels—monkeyface eels and wolf-eels—although neither is a true eel. Unfortunately for perch fishermen there is now a perch closure in the bay from April 1 to the end of July—and it’s enforced.

The winter months may also produce a few starry flounder but fish further out on the left side of the pier; use pile worms or anchovies, and a sliding sinker rigging. Wintertime also seems to be the best time for Pacific sanddabs. Some years will see runs of the ‘dabs and when they show up, almost any bait and rigging will work for the tasty little flatfish. Although they will bite throughout the day, they seem to bite best right at daybreak. Ditto the Pacific herrings which sometimes swing close to the pier during their spawning runs; when they do, it can be easy pickins’ for anglers with bait rigs

Brown Rockfish

Although summer is generally the best time for kingfish (white croaker), I’ve heard of tremendous winter-time catches during some years, especially at night. February through March is considered the best time for Pacific tomcod, even though I’ve made some good catches during the summer months. Unfortunately their numbers, as well as the number of starry flounder  seem to be decreasing.

Summer is definitely the best time for the smaller perch — primarily silver and walleye surfperch, although white seaperch are also common and shinerperch can be over abundant. The shiner perch can be kept year round but remember that the other perch can’t be kept April-July. All of these can be caught with small hooks, size 8 or 6, and pile worms, strips of anchovy or pieces of shrimp. Fish for the perch and tomcod at mid-depth and the kingfish on the bottom. Casting away from the pier during the summer months will almost always guarantee a bullhead (staghorn sculpin) if you’re using small hooks and pile worms. The small fish are truly pests but they do make great striper bait.


Although they’re rarely targeted by anglers, the pier may also be one of the best in the state for dwarf perch, a small species resembling shinerperch. Most are taken near the shallow inshore area and occasionally a reef perch may also make an appearance. Both perch are primarily inter-tidal herbivores (vegetarians) so not particularly easy to catch, but a few are generally taken each year.

Fishing around the pilings can provide several different rock-frequenting species such as black rockfish, blue rockfish, olive rockfish, grass rockfish, kelp rockfish, cabezon, lingcod, kelp greenling, giant kelpfish and buffalo sculpin. For children, the summertime can provide non-stop fishing for small brown rockfish. They are really too small to keep, but a size 8 hook, with a small piece of pile worm, mackerel, or even squid, fished directly under the inner side of the pier, at almost any spot, will yield a fish on nearly every cast. Occasionally you may hook one of the aforementioned rockfish, perhaps one large enough to keep, but it will be the exception to the norm. Some years will also see schools of juvenile bocaccio enter the catch but their numbers have diminished greatly during the last decade and you can only keep two of the fish (with a ten inch minimum length).

Scalyhead Sculpin

Flatfish such as sand sole and English sole are a frequent possibility most of the year and late spring to the early fall may also see a few halibut landed. Sole will often hit cut anchovy, grass shrimp or a strip of squid fished on the bottom, while the larger halibut prefer live bait (a small anchovy, smelt or shinerperch which you’ve snagged) used with a sliding sinker rigging.

Almost any time of the year can be a good time for large schools of jacksmelt and topsmelt. Three small size 8 hooks attached a few feet under a float, and baited with pile worms or sometimes pieces of shrimp or anchovy, will often yield buckets of the tasty smelt.

Summer and fall are the best times for sharks, skates and rays, although some big runs of bat rays have been recorded in the spring. For these, use squid (the best bait), mackerel, anchovies, or ghost shrimp and fish at night.

Late summer and fall is the best time to catch striped bass; use a live bait such as a shiner or small smelt. If it isn’t too crowded, try a lure.

Ditto on the summer and fall times for salmon. Whole anchovies fished several feet under a large bobber or float offer the best chance for a salmon but the chances are still fairly slim. Surprisingly, I have never seen a sturgeon caught off this pier even though they are common throughout much of the bay.

This is another of the San Francisco piers that offers better than average crabbing for rock crabs, some red crabs, and Dungness crabs (which again, are illegal to keep in the bay). The abundance of crabs is one reason why so many anglers use squid as bait. Even though the squid isn’t as good as some other baits, it will generally withstand the “attack of the crabs.” As for myself, I usually use the other baits unless specifically seeking sharks and rays. It sometimes means that I am almost constantly casting, getting a bite (from fish or crab), pulling in my line, rebaiting and casting out again—but I usually catch fish.

Fringehead — 2007

Special Recommendation. Bring a jacket as the wind comes up almost every afternoon.

The Pier Rats Speak 

Date: March 28, 1999; To: Ken Jones; From: James Pan; Subject: Fishing report

Hi Ken, Went fishing yesterday at the SF Muni. Pier. The weather was beautiful, albeit somewhat cold and breezy. Caught one tiny bullhead (4″) and one giant sea anemone attached to a piece of rock weighing over 3 LB! My bait must have just landed right above its mouth. Managed to catch one small kingfish in the afternoon, and an unknown fish. The fish is about 6″ long, looks like an eel, has a very slimy body, and disproportionately large mouth with very sharp teeth. I will let you know the name of the fish once it’s identified. There were some twenty anglers scattered over the entire pier. Neighbors caught a few kingfish, bullheads and perch. Many were also crabbing. I am no exception. Caught ten crabs while fishing. Take care and have fun fishing.

James, Thanks for the very interesting report. Sounds like you might have caught a fringehead which are really mean little critters with mouths full of sharp teeth. But you never know what you’ll catch on a visit to the Muni Pier. Best wishes, Ken

The following is undoubtedly the most negative report I have ever received regarding a pier and unfortunately some of the thoughts are right on the mark. The message engendered quite a bit of discussion on the Message Board after I listed it and led to (I believe) a considerable number of letters to the authorities. Improvements? Still waiting.

Date: October 29, 2000; To: Ken Jones; From: Harukan; Subject: Monthly Reports

Well, here’s a report for Muni Pier that you can use this month, next month, and forever: MUNI PIER SUCKS. I’ve been reading fishing reports from various piers all over California for months now, and it sounds as though every pier in the state has better fishing than Muni Pier, whose fishing sucks because the sea-lions at Pier 39 gobble up every decent fish in the entire area.

Aside from the fishing being pathetic, Muni Pier sucks in every other respect. The pier receives no maintenance or repair and is crumbling away—there are lots of places where big chunks of concrete have broken away and never been repaired. The pier used to have lights all along it, but the lights were removed at some point, leaving only the useless lamp-posts sticking up like concrete stumps. The bait shop/snack bar at the foot of the pier has been closed for a good ten or fifteen years or more. There are no fish-cleaning facilities or water, although there used to be—you can see water pipes in places where the concrete curbing has broken (and, of course, not been repaired). Restroom facilities are completely inadequate, especially in view of the fact that hundreds of people come onto the pier each day—joggers, tourists, etc., in addition to crabbers and fishermen.

The pier is also filthy. Since the pier is open at night (but not lit or attended), it acts as a magnet for drunks and derelicts who go out there at night to drink and party and leave trash all over the place, including broken beer bottles. People also use the areas behind the concrete benches as urinals, and the areas around the benches generally reek so strongly of urine that they’re stomach-turning and you can’t go near the benches, much less sit on them. It also isn’t unusual to find a pile of human crap lying about.

All things considered, there’s NO reason to go to Muni Pier, at all, ever, and every reason NOT to. The only reason I’ve been going there now and then is that it’s close to where I live and since I don’t have a car, going anywhere else is very inconvenient and time-consuming (if not completely unfeasible), but I’m not going there any more. The decrepitude and dirt and lack of amenities might be bearable if the fishing were good, but it isn’t. If there were a contest for “worst pier in California,” Muni Pier would be the winner.

Quite naturally, the post engendered a lively thread of follow-up posts.

Posted by Scooterfish

Is there anything we can do? Just wondering if there is something we can do about the situation/conditions at this pier. Is there somewhere we can write? who manages (or -DOESN’T- manage) the piers in SF? Just curious, because it does seem like Muni is just fading away.

My opinion on Muni and SF pier fishing (from the POV of a current city dweller and former country boy who like his space) I tried Muni for while and ended up at least as frustrated as Harukan, for many reasons. I work days, like most folks, and fish weekdays in the afternoons. Muni is one of the most exposed and unpleasant piers I’ve ever spent an evening at. Extremely windy (3-4pm on), dark, dirty, smelly, cold and miserable. A disgrace. The fishing is not so hot either, although I agree with Ken that I have had a few oddball OK days there. I do own a car, but anyone who lives here in SF knows you can’t move a car after everyone’s off work because there is NO PARKING (I’ve spent up to two hours trying to park in my neighborhood before giving up and parking illegally on a sidewalk). Unless you are one of those rare and lucky souls in SF that has a garage, this situation limits most of us to Public Transportation, and that SEVERELY limits the piers that are within a reasonable distance. I regularly (1-2 times a week) get on a standing-room-only Muni bus with my 2-piece 11-ft surf pole, a 6-ft one piece casting rod, a bucket and a duffel with all my gear. People look at me like I’m some kind of freak or something. The only piers I can really get to and back from in a reasonable amount of time are Pier 2 and Pier 7. I guess I’m a bit frustrated too. Hey Harukan… lets hooks up at a pier and fish/gripe for a while! Maybe we’ll get lucky and catch a few fish.. haha   Scooterfish

Posted by stinkyfingers

Now let’s see what happens… Ken, I was seriously put out by what I read here about this pier. I have copied and pasted the report into an Email that I have sent it to Willie Brown, asking him for comment and intentions. I have also copied Holly Bundock of the National Park Services with my transmittion. Now let’s wait for a response…

 Posted by harukan

Nothing—wrong target. Complaining to Silly Willy won’t do any good, because the City of San Francisco, oddly enough, has nothing to do with Muni Pier. Muni Pier is under the aegis of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which, like all national parks, is suffering from shortages of both funding and staff, which no doubt accounts for the deplorable condition of the pier.

If you want to complain about the pier, complaints should be directed to:

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Fort Mason Center, Building 201

San Francisco, CA 94123

Attention: Brian O’Neill

The phone number is: (415) 561-4720

In complaining, do keep in mind that funds and staff are already stretched to the max, and that the REAL fault lies with the politicians who throw money at entitlement programs and the moronic “war on drugs” while letting everything else go to hell.

Posted by harukan

San Francisco Municipal Pier. I sent in that report because I wanted people to know how bad Muni Pier is so they wouldn’t waste their time going there. I’ve heard lots of stories about how good the fishing USED to be at Muni Pier, but invariably, when I ask the person WHEN he/she experienced this great fishing, the answer is that it was years ago, before the sea-lions moved in and set up permanent camp at Pier 39. Yeah, maybe once in awhile somebody has a sort-of good day at Muni Pier, but in my experience, it’s about as rare as the proverbial blue moon. About 99.999% of the time, the fishing sucks. That being the case, I haven’t bothered to complain to Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) about the poor maintenance and other problems with the pier. Even if GGNRA could spare the funds and manpower to fix and clean up the pier, they still couldn’t do anything about the rotten fishing.

Posted by Mike. C

Hey Ken! Harukan is right on the money in regards to this pier. It sucks. The only reason I go ever go there is to catch anchovies for bait during the summer. Among his legitimate gripes he left out the all the damn swimmers in the morning that scare off all the ‘chovies making it take longer to catch sufficient amounts of bait thus prolonging an already miserable experience. I won’t even bring my dog out on the pier with me when I go (By the way Ken the dog’s name is Raider) since he’s so much closer to the ground I fear he’ll pick up some kind of bacteria or viral infection from all the urine and fecal waste. It’s truly a shame because I have fond memories of this pier when I was a kid. Getting hamburgers, fries and coke with my dad and grandfather while taking a lunch break from fishing and crabbing for huge Dungeness, it was legal to take them out of the bay back then. I caught my first striper when I was about 7 or 8 out there on Muni Pier. He was a beauty, or at least I think he was, when you’re that small fish look bigger. Between Muni and Berkeley Pier I learned all my fishing basics before I was ten. It’s truly sad to see that pier in the condition that it’s in now.

Posted by Kyle

Why don’t they build some type of underwater reef below muni pier? And for the wind, build some kind of windbreaker, blocking the wind that hits the pier. Maybe just a huge tarp can do the job

Posted by Ken Jones

Although I agree overall on the conditions, I really have had several excellent fishing days at the pier. Last year on my birthday I went fishing and caught one big perch after another (rubberlip perch, striped perch, rainbow perch and blackperch) as well as some small cabezon. There has also been some good action on kingfish, jacksmelt, small perch (primarily silvers), sharks and small rockfish. And although I imagine the fishing was better back then, whenever “back then” was, my first trip to the pier, on July 6, 1966, was not really that great—just a few silver surfperch. So although there is a tremendous job to do for the right agencies on cleaning up and repairing the pier, I do believe you can still catch some good fish from the pier. Oh, and I do agree the wind in the afternoon can be murder while the parking is almost always terrible unless you get there really early in the morning).

Date: December 3, 2000; To: PFIC Message Board; From: cchiou; Subject: Piers in the city (SF)

 Hey guys — I’ve been reading your posts and they’re all very helpful, however there seems to be pretty sparse info on people who fish off of the Fort Mason and Municipal Piers. Unfortunately, I don’t have a car so those are the only ones I have access to. I have a general idea as to what kind of fish are in the bay and what types of bait, etc. I should use. However, it seems like these piers aren’t very heavily fished — or I’ve missed the posts. In any case, I’ll be heading down there next weekend, but thought I’d troll for any help or advice that people might have. Thanks! Carl

Posted by Ken Jones

A lot of people fish from both of those piers although the Muni Pier, because of its size and shape, can really handle more anglers.

Fort Mason is a good place to go when the wind comes up because you can find some spots where most of the wind is blocked. You can also generally find a spot to park unlike the Muni Pier which, at times, has no parking available. Most of the fish I have caught at Fort Mason were perch, kingfish, bullheads and sharks. Crabbing can be good at times but the problem at Fort Mason is that on most of the pier (really two piers) the railing is quite a way from the edge of the pier making it hard to crab or to pull in larger fish (like sharks or rays). It’s also easy to tangle your line on the pilings if you are fishing straight down for perch. But, as said, at times it is preferable to the Muni Pier or Fort Point. For info on the Muni Pier consult the Pier Archives.

 Posted by cchiou

Awesome! Thanks for the info. I live 5 minutes away and have been going all the way to the Delta to fish without knowing I could fish so close to home. Great site. Carl

Posted by harukan

Not to rain on your parade or anything, but you might be better off going to the Delta. The fishing at both Muni Pier and Fort Mason is extremely poor because of all the sea-lions from the colony at Pier 39. In all the dozens of times I’ve been to Muni Pier over the past several months, I’ve NEVER seen anyone catch anything more impressive than the occasional croaker—and I do mean “occasional”; most of the time, most people catch nothing at all. On a “good” day, you might catch a few shiners and an anchovy or two.

For more details on Muni Pier, read my “rant” in last month’s pier reports. Everything I said then still applies: the pier is still filthy and poorly maintained (or rather, not maintained at all).

The Fort Mason piers are much cleaner, but only because hardly anybody goes there. There are no restrooms nearby, not even a Port-O-San, which could be why nobody goes there. The fishing is the same as at Muni Pier: rotten.

Posted by sroynelson

Fishings not so bad… I’m an SF local and I’ve had good days at the Muni Pier, especially in the winter, fishing around the pilings of the main pier, about a third of the way out on the inside, and from the cliffs just to the west before the hill up to the park. I’ve mainly caught perch — some pretty decent sized ones, and a few small rock cod. And if the sardines are running in the winter, it’s a blast. Large fresh grilled sardines are a real treat, but I don’t know if they are running now, or if they even run every year. The guys down at Kaplan’s sporting goods on Market always seem to know when and where the bite is happening on a day-to-day basis. Also, at the Muni Pier, at night, you can feed the raccoons any fish you don’t want to keep. I’ve also done some crabbing there and it can be good as well. And the view is “awesome.” And the bus takes you right there. -Good luck, and somebody email me if the sardines sweep in. I’ll post it if I hear of it. -Steve.

Posted by Ken Jones

Although I agree as to the deplorable conditions of Muni Pier, I continue to say that there are fish there to be caught. I just rechecked my records of the piers in the area and was a little surprised to see that I have averaged more fish there than at Pier 7 — although less than at the Ferry Building Pier (Pier 2). And the little piers just to the left of Pier 39, about as close to the sea lions as you can get, also yield fish, in fact a lot of kingfish and perch. So sea lions have not chased all the fish away. I’m not saying every trip is great but there is usually something around to catch—perch inshore, jacksmelt in deeper water on the top, sharks and rays on the bottom, small brown rockfish around the inner pilings, etc.

Posted by scooterfish

Try taking Muni, it can easily get you to any of the SF city piers, not just Fort Mason and Muni. I live in the Lower Haight and take the bus to Fort Point, Fort Mason, Muni Pier, Pier 7, Pier 2 and Pier 70 (I just discovered Pier 70 this weekend, report soon!)

Fishing Pier 2 tonight. If you are near Municipal/Ft. Mason piers or over that way, I would just take the F-line train (the old streetcar kind) from the Fisherman’s wharf area around to the ferry building or Pier 7. Piers 7 and 2 (ferry) are located within 1/2 mile of each other. The ferry building is at the base of Market Street, so any bus that goes down Market will work fine… I’ll be fishing Pier 2 tonight, probably from 7:00 till 10:30 or so as long as it’s not raining… Maybe meet up? Scooterfish

The next spring, when word began to circulate on the Pier Fishing in California Message Board about good catches of fish at the Muni Pier, the pier rats began to flock to the pier and its esteem rose once again—at least in regards to fishing. It still remained (and remains) a fairly dirty place to fish as well as a pier in which the fetor can offer a full, frontal attack on the olfactory nerve (it stinks).

Date: January 13, 2001; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Scooterfish; Subject: Actual Muni Pier Report (really!)

 Friend Richard and I started out at Pier 70 at 7:00am, fished till 11:15 there… nothing but nibbles from shiners, a pair of weird blennies and one striped perch that we released. Saw Readership there (how did you do at the Dumbarton?)

We ended up bailing to Muni Pier of all places… weather was nice, a little windy. I had picked up two-dozen pileworms from Oyster Point and scavenged a bunch of baby crabs from under rocks at Pier 70. We picked up some frozen grass shrimp at the bait shop near Muni Pier and got to work… Fishing was generally slow, but we noticed that this one elderly Chinese man was nailing cabezon, blue rockfish and kelp greenlings. We moved over to his spot (inside of the horseshoe, halfway out) and started catching fish… I caught an 8” cabezon first, released. A bit later I caught two kelp greenling, 9.5 inches 270grams and another 10.75 inches 380grams. You may be wondering why I know this; it just so happens that we were actually SURVEYED by a DFG guy… YES, an ACTUAL DFG officer was walking the pier and checking out peoples catches, and surveying those who were willing to answer the set of questions. He measured, weighed and recorded our fish, asked about our average catch and release rates, etc. We also caught a couple of striped perch which we released, although they were certainly eating size. I did keep the two kelp greenling (fish of the month after all!!) and fried them up as soon as I got home…YUM!!!

Also saw someone with a nice big rubberlip perch that was at least 15” long and FAT. Fished until 3:30 and called it a fishing day. All fish caught on the frozen grass shrimp, although I had several solid hits on the whole baby crabs…ripped em right off the hook! Pileworms proved useless today for some reason.

I CAN’T BELIEVE I HAD A NICE DAY OF FISHING AT MUNI PIER !!! About time…(and I actually got to see a REAL, LIVE DFG officer, a rare sight indeed….) Scooterfish —Sorry for the long post…some of us have actually been FISHING lately instead of “chatting” incessantly on the message board heheheh 😉

Posted by marv

A week and a half ago I saw a real DFG officer and his SUV at Fort Baker. He came out and checked our catches. He asked the fisherman what the differences were between the Rock, Red, and Dungeness crabs. WTF! He returned to his SUV to consult his book. Marv

Posted by harukan

Excuse me while I have a heart attack… I don’t know which to be more shocked at—the fact that somebody actually caught something besides baitfish and trash-fish off Muni Pier, or the fact that a DFG officer actually showed up on the pier. But both in the same day? My God, where’s the defibrillator?

Posted by Dan V.

Careful: UNDERSIZED FISH! Sort of surprised Fish & Game did not cite you for your under-sized greenlings as there is a size limit of 12 inches on them. Oh yeah, also a size limit on cabezon, 14 inches! Good luck with your fishing but be careful of the laws, most F&G wardens won’t let you slide.

Posted by Songslinger

Yeah, surprised me too. Guess the DFG official wasn’t too bright to let you get away with keeping undersized greenling. For shame!

Posted by Red Fish

They wear a DFG patch… on their shirts in this area. The guy in this area (S. F Bay) of No. Cal (big guy named Robert ). I have been interviewed by him numerous times last summer at various piers. Yeah, his research might have been for NMFS, but he was employed by DFG. No, he does not give citations or carry a gun, but he will tell you if you’re breaking the law. I always ask him where they are biting and he gives me good tips. A really nice guy.

Date: January 22, 2001; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Scooterfish; Subject: Muni Pier (Late Report 1/20)

Had my best day at Muni Pier ever…. Fished with my friend Richard actually started early (6:30 a.m.), purchased 3/4 lb. of live grass shrimp at Oyster Point, then fished Agua Vista Pier near Pier 70 for an hour and a half. Nothing there, so we moved over to Muni Pier.

First tried our “secret” spot on the pier for rockfish and sea trout and cabezon, caught one tiny cabezon with a HUGE belly, almost baseball sized, very strange, but no other bites, tide was outgoing strong and not easy to fish the pier.

We moved to the other side of the small abandoned pier that is just west of Muni — 30 feet or so. There is a nice ledge on the other side of the concrete wall that is fishable if you have a license in possession. We got to this spot around 11:00. Richard tosses out his line and gets a 1.75 lb. pile perch first cast, it fights like a little banshee… we got it up to the pier and tried hand lining it up to the ledge, but the line broke and it landed on the ledge that is 10 ft. below us, so I had to run down and grab it and throw it up to Rich… pretty funny, we were NOT going to lose that fish! No way. Met Joe (aka Fishsniffer) out there, and his buddy Ali also… Perch bite was pretty good… I got one of the biggest pile perch I’ve ever caught, just a hair under 2-lbs. on my scale, 15” long and 2.5” thick… gave me a great fight on my ultralight bass rod, actually pulled some line out… had to work him hard away from the pilings… tres’ cool…. Caught five striped perch 9”-12” and one rubberlip 9”… Fishsniffer caught a fat cabezon that was a few inches short, released (sorry you guys farmed that big perch!)… Rich and I went home at 4:30, cleaned all the fish, ended up with over 5 lbs. of meat and immediately fried up the biggest pile perch… damned tasty! When cleaning the big pile perch, I noticed the stomachs were PACKED primarily with crushed mussel shells, with some crushed baby crabs and barnacle bits mixed in… This gave me the idea that I might be better off using a slightly crushed WHOLE mussels for bait for these larger perch… anyone have any experience using them whole in the shell? Hit ‘em hard n fast…. and tight lines to all… Scooterfish

Posted by aafrench

We use a rig we make up and use a mussel cut in half. It is killer for perch. I have caught 20-30 perch off the pier when nobody else is catching anything.

The rig uses a metal “clamp” that is generally used to hold a stack of paper. Can be bought at the major Office Supply stores. I drill a hole in a flat 1-2-ounce sinker and use a nut and bolt to secure it through the bottom hole in the clamps handle. I secure the line on my rod to the eye of the sinker. I then attach two leaders to the top hole of the clamp. I use the clamp to hold a mussel that has been cut in half, be sure to get all the meat is in this half. Use the leaders to put the hooks in the meat.

This seems like a long process to catch perch, but I have had many days when I was the only one catching the fish, and others were trying to see what the heck I was using. Good Luck and tight lines, Andrew

Posted by harukan

Clever idea. Do you mean those black binder clips with the silvery handles, or is there another type of paper clamp you’re talking about? Thanks

Posted by aafrench

Imagine that you get one without the magnet, and you attach a weight just like the magnet is attached. You attach your leaders to the top hole, and clamp the mussel shell and attach the hooks to the meat in the mussel.

Posted by harukan

Ahh, Acco bulldog clips! That’s neat. However in the world did you happen to come up with that idea?

Posted by Songslinger

That Big-Bellied Cabezon. Could have been a Buffalo Sculpin. They are caught at Muni Pier and other spots on the SF or Marin side.

Posted by harukan

Wonder if you could use a tea ball? Your paper-clamp device got me to thinking. I wonder if you could use a mesh tea ball as a chum device? Fill it full of mussel flesh, and attach it to your line, maybe with a Slider, to attract the fish? The wire mesh is fine enough to hold the soft mussel flesh, yet would let the juice and scent disperse in the water. Has anyone tried anything like that?

Posted by ron

harukan… I would think that the contraption would probably work. However, I can imagine, since the tea ball is made out of metal, that the mussel chum plus the weight of the tea ball and a hooked fighting fish all together can put a strain on your line and/or rod. Perhaps using a small cloth or tightly woven nylon bag with a draw-string may be a “lighter” solution. Also, you may increase your chances of getting snagged in rougher terrain than that of a sandy open bottom. Otherwise, it’s a clever idea to attract fish to your baited hooks.

Posted by cchiou

I think someone else on this board posted a novel idea a couple weeks back: panty hose. It’s meshy so it allows scents/liquids to flow freely, light, and if you use a few layers its pretty strong. Carl

 Posted by oljo

Some time back I clipped an article by a charter boat skipper out of Saltwater Sportsman Mag. His surefire chum rig is made from 35 mm film containers. Drill a bunch of ¼” holes thru the barrel part, and one thru the top and bottom. Run the sinker end of the leader thru the lid and bottom then attach the sinker. The lid pops off; fill with your favorite chopped bait, Snap on the lid and you are ready to go with a real compact and neat chum system. Also, you can use a little less weight on the sinker. (I made up about a dozen of these. I haven’t been out to try them out yet, but I can’t believe they would be any less than that skipper claims them to be). Good Luck

Posted by Songslinger

Chum’s the word. This has been a fascinating thread. As someone who fishes for perch often, I have been intrigued and edified by the discussions. I don’t often chum, but when I do (on piers) I just use my wire fish basket, the same one I have on hand to keep my fish alive so I can decide whether to keep or release them. I’ll just take the mussel halves and throw them in the basket, lower it down, and fish. Seems to work okay, and I like to think I’m providing a free meal for my “prisoners” as well.

Posted by harukan

A question regarding perch and tide. I keep reading/hearing that the best time to fish is the two hours before, during, and after high tide, yet Scooterfish, et al., had their run of fish a good three hours AFTER high tide (which was around 8:20 a.m. on the 20th). So does tide really matter that much? Or is just that your chances of catching fish are SLIGHTLY better at high tide than at other times? From what I’ve personally observed, it seems that the fish bite when they damn well please, and the tide doesn’t have all that much to do with it.

 Posted by Songslinger

All saltwater species are tidal dependent. There is a difference between fish that are just biting and fish that are feeding. It is true that you can catch fish during different periods of the tide, but that’s more than likely because you and they were at the same place at the same time (always important—and I never scorn good fortune!). However, it is also true that your chances of catching fish are better when the fish are feeding—and this is where the tide is crucial. For perch, there are two periods of the tide when the fishing is the best: the change of the tide at the top or bottom. I prefer the very beginning of the tide for ocean perch, and the two-hour window (the last hour of the incoming through the first hour of the outgoing) at the top for bay perch. Of course, I can catch them during other parts of the tide, but these parameters have always worked best. Remember, Scooterfish didn’t start out at Muni but wound up there later on. My feeling is that he would have done even better during the peak tide cycle.

Date: February 14, 2001; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Scooterfish; Subject: Muni Pier

Fished today for a little over two hours at Muni. Used fresh live pile worms on size 8 hooks on hi/lo setup. Caught a bunch of smallish striped perch, all released. Met Songslinger out there, he had a couple of decent perch in the bag already… Weather was pleasant, company was great… Great to finally meet you ‘Slinger… Hope to see you out there again! Scooterfish

Posted by Songslinger

Modesty all aside for Scooterfish, the man put on a clinic on how to fish the bay rocks. If you see him at Muni, watch closely and learn. Few people know how to work the shore this well, when to wait and when to reel in.

As for me, well… first time there in at least a decade. Because it’s important to pay dues and/or homage, I donated tackle and frightened fish for the first two unwholesome hours, working up and down the pier. I caught a white perch and didn’t pursue any possible schools because I didn’t have ultra light tackle; white perch aren’t much on line over 8#, in my view. Then I found Scooterfish’s spot and caught a nice pile perch, which I mistakenly identified as a rubberlip. Foolish me, but it’s been that long since I caught a pile perch in that range. Another normal sized pile perch followed and was placed in the wire basket—and somehow escaped within ten minutes. Then it was a bunch of small buffalo sclupins, bullheads and cabezons before Scooterfish showed up and showed me how it’s done. I got two striped perch, which I kept to go along with the pile perch for tomorrow’s dinner, and also some more small sculpin types. And Scooterfish just kept bagging striped perch after striped perch. If he wasn’t such a nice guy I would hate his guts! But all in all a nice day on the SF side, something I haven’t done for at least six months.

Posted by harukan

Hey, Scooterfish, care to share your secrets? If Songslinger’s that impressed, you’ve surely got some good pointers to offer. Mind telling us some of them?

Posted by Scooterfish

I keep expecting to run into you one of these days at Muni… Maybe we should meet up there some afternoon and catch a couple of fish? I’ve found that Muni isn’t that bad if you don’t focus all of your time ON the pier… do you have a license? If so, there is some good fishing to be had for sure. Regardless, there are fish to be caught from the pier and where are these 600 sea lions you keep talkin’ about? I’ve only seen a few, and in my opinion, they only screw with the crab nets this time of year. There ARE fish in there… Scooterfish

Posted by harukan

Yes, it seems that the fishing at Muni IS somewhat better now than it was this summer. As for the 600 sea-lions, that’s how many there supposedly are in the colony at Pier 39, according to an article I read about the “World-Famous Sea-Lions at Pier 39!” (exclamation mark in original). Also, male sea-lions migrate in the winter, starting in September or so, so there are probably somewhat fewer lions in the area now.

Posted by harukan

Sometimes ya see ‘em… sometimes ya don’t. I was looking at Pier 39’s web site and they have a live web cam, with a blurb that says something to the effect of, “Here’s a stunning view of beautiful San Francisco Bay, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background and Pier 39’s WORLD FAMOUS SEA LIONS in the foreground!” Well, on that particular day, the background, bridge and all, was entirely concealed by fog or rain, and there wasn’t ONE single sea-lion to be seen. TOO funny.

Posted by Scooterfish

Awww. I’m flattered. Thanks for the kind words Slinger! To be honest, I really don’t know if there’s much to it except for just paying a lot of attention to detail (where rocks are, keeping a mental database of places I’ve snagged repeatedly, where the deeper holes and kelp strands are located). “Feeling” the bottom with your setup is important also (lighter tackle advantageous here). I’ve been fishing that particular area heavily for a couple of months, and you really start to get a feel for what the fish *might* be doing under there… kind of like the “think like a fish” mentality. I also think that it is incredible valuable to visit a spot like this a few times at an extreme minus tide to get the maximum read on what structure is lurking out there. I’ll be out there this afternoon from 2pm until 7pm or so plunking pile worms… Same perch time, same perch place…. Scooterfish

Posted by stinkyfingers

If I didn’t have to work…I’d be there with you, man. I’ve wanted to come out there since back in fall, remember when we were gong to try and hookup for some sharkin’? I’ve yet to catch a single perch. Just haven’t tried it yet! Well, maybe one of these weekends…

Date: January 19, 2004; To: PFIC Message Board; From: RaidersFan1; Subject: Is Muni Pier legal for crabbing?

Posted by Tchli_88

If you’re talking about SF, I think its legal for… rock and reds but no Dungees.

Posted by RaidersFan1

Yes, for San Francisco… I took a stroll out there with my nephew the other day and we saw lots of people dropping both snares and hoop nets down. I asked one guy off in the corner what kind of crabs he was going for, his reply was ‘anything that has meat on it’ when I mentioned Dungy he said ‘if it goes in the net it’s a catch.’ I wasn’t sure about the legality of Dungy crabbing since the pier is just inside of the Bridge, so I thought I’d check with the board before drawing my own conclusions as to the legality of possible poaching. Thank you, Tchli, Mike, RaidersFan1

Posted by ron

I believe it’s ILLEGAL to keep… a Dungie caught within the SF bay area during this time. This applies to any pier within the boundaries of the bay. The guy was lucky that a warden wasn’t around ‘cause the fine for one Dungie would’ve been steep! Red and Rock crabs would’ve been good to keep as long as they are past legal size.

Posted by lucy

There’s a sign right at the entrance to the damn pier that says what crabs are legal to keep. Obviously the jerk never looked at it. These idiots come in two flavors: those who don’t know what the law is because they don’t care enough to find out, and those who do know what the law is but don’t care because they think it shouldn’t apply to THEM. Both flavors of idiot would make good shark food.

Posted by gyozadude

That’s the Lucy I remember. Long time no hear M’Lady. Are you still alive? The board hasn’t been graced by your likes in a long time.

Posted by Ken Jones

Yes, Dungeness are illegal in the bay… and the Bridge is the basically the boundary line for piers. So, at Fort Point Pier, Fort Baker Pier, and the SF Muni Pier, people can keep red and rock crabs but no Dungeness crabs.

Potpourri — Possibly More Than You Want To Know About The Muni Pier

<*}}}}}}}}}>< There are a lot of sea lions in these waters and it pays to keep an eye on them. The following story comes from Gyozadude (real name James Liu), one of the most honored  “pier rats” on the Pier Fishing in California Message before his passing. (It’s in GDude’s autobiography on the PFIC site). Most Memorable Pier Fishing Trips (and Why): Muni Pier, early spring 1999. Tagged along with my mother-in-law and some co-workers to Muni Pier. Rumor had it that people were catching rock crabs using crab nets and a piece of chicken wire-tied to the center of the net. Weather was cold and bleak and I was freezing. I brought a couple of poles and caught some small perch off bits of shrimp. Lost a lot of bait to unseen thieves below. Back near the entrance to the pier, the rag tag crabbing crew were watching over their two nets… a bunch of ladies who’d be better off playing Mahjonghh than crabbing. Then screams. Both nets and the long ropes had been dragged into the water. In the distance, some sea lions surfaced with pieces of chicken still in their mouths.”

<*}}}}}}}}}>< As mentioned above, a wide variety of species have been caught at the pier. One day I had an interesting conversation with Kirk Lombard who, at the time of our talk, was doing fish surveys for the Fish and Game Department. He mentioned that during one visit to the pier (around 2004) he saw a strange fish in a bucket of an angler.

Kirk and his California record monkeyface eel

Unable to identify the fish, Kirk asked if he could take it over to the Steinhart Aquarium for identification. Sure, no problem. There it was identified as a Stripefin Ronquil, Rathbunella hypoplecta. In a later conversation, Dr. Iwamota (the head of icthyology at the aquarium) informed Kirk that it was the first stripefin ronquil donated to the academy since 1963. And where was that one taken? At that same SF Muni Pier! In 2007 Kirk spotted a bucket at the pier containing more of the ronquils. Sounds to me like we’ve found their secret hiding place! Kirk’s response: “Strange to think there may be a community of those odd little buggers living down there, or perhaps just migrating through.  Either way it’s kinda cool.”

By the way, Mr. Lombard is the proud holder of the California record for monkeyface eels (aka monkeyface prickleback) and even publishes the Monkeyface Eel News made out of eel skins. Now that’s impressive!

[Update — Kirk now runs the very successful website  — — leads tours showing where and how to catch various fish and other critters — and has a plethora of YouTube videos that are both instructional and entertaining.]

Rubberlip Seaperch — 2004

<*}}}}}}}}}>< Fish surveys done by the Department of Fish and Game in the mid-2000’s showed the following fish at the pier (in order of number caught): jacksmelt (more than double the next fish), shiner perch, white croaker, white seaperch, walleye surfperch, Pacific sanddab, brown rockfish, black seaperch, silver surfperch, striped seaperch, cabezon, kelp greenling, monkeyface eel (prickleback), grass rockfish, bull sculpin and Pacific tomcod. Not sure why a few sharks and rays didn’t turn up although I imagine no fish surveys were done at night. Also not sure why the stripefin ronquil mentioned above wasn’t on the list.

<*}}}}}}}}}>< Some old Fishing Reports:

Fourteen year old Ed Sachs of Burlingame tangled with a 15 pounder at the Van Ness avenue pier in San Francisco, and landed him after a half hour fight. —Fish Flashes by Cliff, San Mateo Times, July 12, 1934

The striped bass are biting well over the entire lower bay area from the Carquinez Bridge down to the ocean. Some fine bass have been taken from the ocean in the past week and Baker Beach and the Municipal pier in San Francisco continue to yield big fish. —Fish Flashes by Cliff,  San Mateo Times, July 26, 1935

The long list of catches in bait stores show stripers to 31 pounds taken at Roberts, at the San Francisco Yacht harbor, at Fulton Street, and around 20 nice fish were brought in at the Municipal Pier. —A Line On The Sportsman, Bob Dwyer, Oakland Tribune, June 13, 1941

<*}}}}}}}}}>< Back in the 1930s the pier had its own bait shop (more or less) — the Muni Pier Bait Shop, 987 North Point. In those days there were several tackle shops/bait shops in S.F. —  Golden Gate Fish & Bait Co., 2770 Taylor; Henry’s Tackle Shop, 1674 Geary; Jerry’s Bait & Tackle Shop, 1675 O’Farrell; Modern Bait & Tackle Shop, 2969 Mission; Pioneer Bait Shop, 1646 Market; Sam’s Bait Shop, 1757 O’Farrell; Kahn’s Tackle Shop, 1431 Polk Street and probably others.

<*}}}}}}}}}>< I turned on the TV the other day to an old Dirty Harry Movie—The Enforcer. What’s the first thing I see? Harry (Clint Eastwood) talking to a fellow detective on the Muni Pier as someone is tossing a crab net over the side of the pier. Great location for a movie.

<*}}}}}}}}}><   Special Bay Area Regulations:

  • A perch closure exits in San Francisco and San Pablo Bay from April 1 to July 31. No perch may be kept other than shinerperch (20).
  • In San Francisco and San Pablo Bay a fishing line may not contain more than three hooks.

Sturgeon Regulations:

  • A sturgeon report card and tags are required for anyone fishing for or taking sturgeon. (a) The card must be in the angler’s possession; (b) a tag must be used for any sturgeon retained by the angler; (c) the angler must record information on the Sturgeon Report Card immediately after catching and   keeping or releasing the sturgeon.
  • White sturgeon can only be kept from 40-60 inches; larger and smaller sturgeon must be released.
  • Green sturgeon may not be taken or possessed.

History Note. Plans for a recreational pier and an adjacent Aquatic Park were in existence by 1920 (when a Bureau of Engineering picture shows the “Aquatic Park” which was designated for development in the cove at the end of Van Ness). Nevertheless, it would be more than a decade before the pier was constructed and nearly twenty years before Aquatic Park itself was finished.

Deeds Exchanged for S.F. Aquatic Park

San Francisco, Aug. 18.— Work on a new aquatic park at the foot of Van Ness avenue, to cost $350,000, will commence in a few days, following exchange of land deeds yesterday between the city and the war department. The city gave the government a deed for the land occupied by the new wharf built for the government near Fort Mason, and in return the government deeded frontage for the aquatic park, which calls for the building of a pier and breakwater, a white sand beach, pleasure and automobile drives, and provisions for swimming and boating in semi-heated water. The area enclosed will occupy 15 or 16 acres, and will be something unique in the way of aquatic parks, city officials said.

Oakland Tribune, August 18, 1931

The Municipal Pier was built between October of 1931 and May of 1933. It was a single pier even though the 1929 plans (developed by the firm of Bakewell and Brown) had called for two identical curving piers.

The second pier was designed as an amusement pier but was never built. Initially most people seemed to have called it the Aquatic Pier or Aquatic Park Pier. This was true even though Aquatic Park itself wasn’t finished until the late ’30s (it was dedicated on January 22, 1939). However, by the early 1940s, most residents simply called the pier the Muni Pier.

Auto Ferry Crash Damages Four Cars

San Francisco, Jan. 8.—Four automobiles were damaged by falling timbers and dozens of passengers and the crew were endangered when the Southern Pacific Golden Gate automobile ferry Golden Bear crashed into the aquatic park pier last night. A rip tide was blamed for the crash. The boat left Berkeley at 9:30 o’clock, bound for the Hyde Street slip. The tide was running swiftly and the boat could not be docked in its proper place, officers reported. They said that the aquatic park pier was not lighted, and that the side of the ferry crashed into the pier. Boat boat and pier were splintered by the collision.

Oakland Tribune, January 8, 1934

San Francisco’s newest recreation center was built by the WPA… The landscaped park spreads along a semicircle of beach on a cove in the lee of Black Point. The municipal pier, circular in shape, encloses a half-mile stretch of water for swimming, boating, and racing. Inland rises the white Casino, four stories high toward the sea, with ends rounded like a ship’s stern, and stories, or decks, semielliptical in shape. Its seaward face is almost entirely of glass. On the lowest floor are bathing facilities to accommodate several thousand persons a day…  the central lounge room on the second floor is decorated with murals by the Federal Art Project, picturing marine and undersea life; elsewhere are statues of St. Francis and Sun Yat Sen… On each side of the Casino are stone bleachers and a promenade running the length of the beach.California, A Guide To the Golden State, Federal Writers Project, Works Progress Administration, 1939


In 1942, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the pier was placed under the management of the federal government where it stayed throughout World War II. The government continued to allow fishing off the pier but it was restricted at night. During the war years the pier did suffer some damage, but it wasn’t from the Japanese, it was from a local tugboat that backed into the pier.

After the war, the pier reverted to the city, but by then (1947) the pier itself was in need of repair. Portions of the pier’s surface had apparently dropped by as much as a foot, there was considerable scouring between the pilings, and many of the pilings themselves were broken or damaged (by culprits like tugboats and wood eating Toredos). The immediate result was a prohibition on motorized vehicles (which had been allowed to drive onto the pier); the longer term result was repairs which took place in 1948. Repairs included the installation of riprap along the pier to lessen future scouring around the pilings.

The Ancient characters who sit every day, rain or fog, on the debris-littered “beach” at Aquatic Park—the “playground for the people” that turned out to be a cemetery for broken bottles and dreams to match… —Herb Caen, Baghdad-by-the-Bay,1949

On February 3, 1953, the freighter Harry Luckenbach, inbound during a “soupy ground fog,”  rammed the pier and cut a large, 12-foot pie-shaped wedge out of the pier. The pier itself was repaired but the electrical wiring for the lights, which had also been damaged, wasn’t repaired. The pier still doesn’t have lighting (and nearly 70 years seems like somewhat of a long time to wait for repairs).

To this day the pier remains a popular attraction but one which definitely shows its age. It is, in fact, threatened with closure. A survey in 1979 estimated a $2 million bill to repair the pier. Then, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake hit, damaged more than 30 pilings, and severely weakened the pier’s ability to withstand horizontal stress. Today the estimated bill is more than $4 million and the Throttlebottoms entrusted with maintaining our park lands simply throw up their hands and say there isn’t any money. Hopefully someone will figure out a plan before it is too late.

As mentioned, it’s an interesting area even if you don’t fish. Up the street, a short distance from the pier, are the railroad lines of the State Belt Line Railroad, lines that eventually disappear into a tunnel under Fort Mason (and proposals were once made to run an old-time excursion train from the Presido to the Ferry Building). A little further up the street, on the bay side, is an area favored by sun seekers, and as they gather in their bathing suits it almost doesn’t feel like San Francisco. But just a short distance further up the street brings you to the bocce-ball courts which are almost always busy with practitioners of the sport (mostly elderly Italian gentlemen, at least when I’ve watched). Continue up the street and you’ll see a building shaped like a ship, this is the National Maritime Museum, and worth a visit anytime. On the other side of Aquatic Park sits the Hyde Street Pier and a number of old-time ships and ferries.

Transport Wharf No. 4, the small pier that sits to the left of the Muni Pier also has an interesting history. At one time it was used as the wharf to transport prisoners to Alcatrez. Al Capone, the Birdman of Alcatrez, and other prisoners were whisked away to the island, that for many, would serve as their final home.  Today it is closed but fishing around the pilings can be excellent for perch.   

San Francisco Municipal Pier Facts

Hours: Open 24 hours a day.
Facilities: There is considerable free parking near the entrance to the pier although this is such a heavily visited area that you are never guaranteed a spot unless you arrive early in the morning. If you can’t find a spot go over to Fort Mason, park, and walk back — although it is a considerable walk if you’re carrying a lot of fishing equipment. Restrooms are located just up the street from the pier as is a snack bar and grassy areas with benches. Benches with wind breaks and portable toilets are found on the pier. There are no fish cleaning tables or lights.
Handicapped Facilities: Some handicapped parking near the entrance to the pier. No handicapped facilities on the pier. The surface is concrete and the railing is approximately 40 inches high.
How To Get There: From Highway 101 north, take Lombard Street to Van Ness Avenue, turn left and follow the street till it ends at the pier. From Highway 101 south, take Van Ness Avenue straight to the pier.
Management: National Park Service.

12 Responses

  1. Hello!
    I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading your post. I’m an open water swimmer and probably swim by you all the time if you’re out there in the morning. Also working with the park to help rebuild that pier for the next century– so more generations can enjoy it. Let me know if you’re interested in learning more. Best, Fran

  2. Enjoyed the article very much. I spent a lot of time fishing on Muni Pier as a kid. Once caught a salmon (20” keeper!) and was the talk of the pier for a while. Many perch, skates and sharks and anchovies and bull head for bait. I visited last year and was dismayed at the detonation. I’ve since donated to the Save Aquaric Park Pier cause. -Kent

  3. Hello i was wondering if the pier is open during this worldwide pandemic we are having right now.

  4. Brings back memories from my childhood (the 1940’s) when I’d catch the N street and
    transfer to the H and get off so I could buy crab bait at Muni Bait shop. After a day of
    fishing and crabbing and stinking like dead fish I had no problem riding the “cow catcher”
    to head back to the Sunset district. One of the pluses was walking by the chocolate
    factory, where during the summer, they would leave the windows open the smell would
    drive a kid crazy. Remember one time when a factory worker caught us looking inside
    took pity on us and gave us a block of chocolate the size of a softball. Happy Days.

  5. I enjoyed this very much. Great detail and chocked full of information. Thank you

    1. It can be excellent but remember you cannot keep Dungeness crabs.

  6. anyone want to go fishing at the end of the Muni this Monday? ill be going around 4 in the morning.

  7. I’m going out there next week some morning when I can call in “sick” to work- any recommendations for this time of year?

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