Last modified: August 6, 2018

Fishing Piers San Francisco Bay Area

Shelter Point Pier — Mill Valley

Public Access Area — Status Unclear — Fishing License May Be Required

Why, one might ask, would a person come to this pier when the Elephant Rock Pier and Paradise Park Pier are just a short distance away and both see much better fishing? Good question. I know for some people the answer is ease of use. Some of my friends love to fish but have reached that stage of life where they have a hard time walking much of a distance and they prefer not to go up or downhill. Other friends like it because hardly anyone ever fishes it and they like having the pier and a little quiet time to themselves. I think for both groups this is a great spot.

Mike Granat wetting a line at the pier

Environment. The pier is located in upper Richardson Bay, the fairly shallow inlet that sits on the northwest corner of the bay, It’s an area that sees extensive mudflats and the marine invertebrates that call those mudflats home—clams, polychaete worms, snails, crabs and other small critters. Across the water on the opposite shore sits the Bothin Marsh Preserve. At the western end of the bay is found shallow-water Pickleweed Inlet, an area exposed to shorebirds at low tide.  Off in the distance sits Mount Tamalpais (Mount Tam), once home to the Coastal Miwok Indians and now home to a few too many residents and tourists. Counteracting the rich, natural beauty of the area is the nearby Shelter Bay, a developed bay with its expensive boats, homes and condominiums.

Leopard shark from the pier caught by perchhead

Unfortunately, the pier is invisible from HY 101. The pier is located behind the Shelter Point Business Park that sits on the west side of the HY 101 frontage road, just north of the Richardson Bay Bridge that links Mill Valley/Tiburon and Sausalito. The business park is hard to see. However, just past it on the frontage road is the Acqua Hotel, which is easily seen from the highway. The pier’s five minutes off the highway, offers limited free parking, and the walk from the parking lot to the pier only takes a couple of minutes. Easy access!

Although the water around the pier is normally shallow, a good cast can get the bait out into a channel that runs through the bay. Fishing by the pier on the other hand can be a hard proposition, especially if it isn’t a high tide. In fact, at very low tides the area next to the pier can be more of a mudflat than fishable water. Mudflats are rich in life but you need water to fish. High tide brings in some fish to feed on the worms, clams, crabs and other critters found on the bottom. But, the water here is relatively shallow (excepting the channel). In response, the number of fish species actually caught is limited—a few perch, some jacksmelt, an occasional striped bass, sharks and rays.


Fishing Tips. The fish caught here are the species that typically will roam the mudflats during high tides in search of food.

A few perch, mainly black seaperch and pileperch, may decide to visit. You can try for perch using a high/low rig, small hooks (size 6-8), and pile worm, grass shrimp, ghost shrimp or pieces of market shrimp. Cast out from the pier in the fairly shallow water. December to March may see pileperch while blackperch can be seen much of the year (although there is a perch closure from April 1 to the end of July).

Jacksmelt and topsmelt may swing into these waters much of the year and if they do, try two to three small hooks (size 8 or 6) fished under a float. Bait up with pile worms, pieces of shrimp or strips of squid.

Striped bass are the most sought after fish. Some angers swear by bait, some swear that the best and most fun approach is to use an artificial lure. Both will work. Best baits have traditionally been cut sardine, a whole anchovy, or pile worms fished with a high/low leader on the bottom. Some prefer using artificial lures, everything from soft plastics (Big Hammer) to crank baits (Tal-L-Trap) to spoons (Krocodile and Kastmaster). Be willing to experiment.

Sharks and rays are the predominant larger species. Both brown smoothhound sharks and leopard sharks are caught at the pier. Most people simply use a high/low rigging with size 2 to 4/0 hooks depending upon what they are seeking and an oily or bloody bait works well — sardine, anchovy, mackerel.

Most common are probably the bat rays and they prefer squid for bait. Most will be in the 10-20 pound class range but some approaching 100 pounds are always a possibility.


<*}}}}}}}}}>< — It’s unclear if a fishing license is required at the pier (I’d have one just in case). 

Mount Tamalpais overlooks the pier

Shelter Point Pier Facts

Hours:  Open sunup to sundown.

Facilities: There are no facilities on the pier with the exception of a few benches. There is free but limited parking — seven spaces and it’s marked one hour parking.  Rarely are the seven spaces filled. For those not fishing, there’s a walking path along the shoreline of Richardson Bay.

Handicapped Facilities: The surface of the pier is wood and seems suitable for wheelchairs. Railings are about 44 inches high.

How To Get There: From HY 101 South:  Follow HY 101 north to the Seminary Drive exit, Turn right at the first light at the bottom of the exit, which is Seminary Drive/Redwood Highway. Loop under the freeway and follow Redwood Highway (the frontage road) to the Shelter Point Business Park.

From HY 101 North:  Follow HY 101 south to the Seminary Drive exit. Turn left at the stop sign onto Redwood Highway (the frontage road) and follow it to the Shelter Point Business Park.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *