Pier fishing an excellent choice for casual anglers

Santa Cruz - Santa Cruz, CA

Pier fishing an excellent choice for casual anglers
An unnamed anglers was happy to catch this meaty halibut from the Santa Cruz Wharf this week. (Photo courtesy Santa Cruz Boat Rentals)

by Allen Bushnell

Often overlooked, there exists a very simple and easy avenue for fishing on Monterey Bay. Piers, wharves and jetties are “man-made structures,” according to the Fish and Wildlife regulations.      As such, anyone can fish from them without the need for a fishing license. There are dedicated anglers around the bay that fish almost exclusively from our wharves and piers, and enjoy some big rewards as a result. Pier fishing is also an excellent choice for the more casual anglers and is a great way to introduce the kids to fishing with a good chance of success, especially in the summertime.
Fishing shallow water just beyond the breakers allows you to target surfperch without having to be an expert long-range caster. A little further out, the water gets deeper. Seaperch such as      rubberlip, black, striped and pile perch can be caught just below, with a straight drop alongside the pier, or even slightly under the pier, depending on the prevailing current. (Hint-If the current is taking your bait away from the pier, try fishing from the other side.) A simple “dropper loop” bait setup of two hooks baited with shrimp or squid with a sinker on the bottom of your leader will catch perch of both varieties. Using a bait-catching rig also known as a “sabiki” can provide instant gratification for the kids during the summer months when baitfish such as anchovies or sardines crowd into the shallows near the piers. One size up from those baitfish are the mackerels. We have two species of macks in the bay, Pacific and Spanish (jack) mackerel. The Spanish macks are usually bigger, but both feature a rich, oily taste and are high in omega 3 fatty acids. They are each very strong for their size and a blast to catch. Many mackerel anglers will cut a six-hook sabiki rig down to two hooks to avoid tangles. Macks are seasonal, and summer is the season!      
Bigger game is always a possibility from our piers and jetties. Rockfish and lingcod are sometimes caught, and halibut or striped bass are a regular catch on both sides of the bay. Sadly, we have to think in terms of “both sides of the bay” these days. Last winter’s storms damaged the Capitola Wharf so badly it remains closed awaiting repairs. The Cement Ship/Seacliff pier was destroyed. Authorities made the decision to remove the wreckage and not rebuild. So, we are really left with the Santa Cruz Wharf, and Monterey Harbor’s Wharf #2 as our primary pier fishing locations. Jetties at the Santa Cruz Harbor, Moss Landing and Monterey allow fishing for a variety of species, but it’s a bit more adventurous to foray out onto the slippery rocks.
This week, we’ve received reports from the Santa Cruz Wharf of barred surf perch and pile perch caught, along with a few rockfish and lingcod, as well as a good number of legal halibut. Striped bass are always a possibility for the Santa Cruz Wharf, but they tend to show up unexpectedly, then disappear justas quickly. Not so in Monterey. Wharf #2 has shown a steady catch rate of mackerel, halibut and schoolie-sized stripers for the past month or so. Being the very beginning of summer fishing season, things will only get better from here.

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