The Joys of Pier Fishing

Pier fishing is less costly than boat fishing and is just as enjoyable a form of recreation.

| March/April 1980

  • 062 pier angling - dock mob
    Angles at a pier in Ventura, California try to hook some tasty bottomfish
  • 062 pier angling - three panels
    LEFT:  Trophies such as this one can be hauled in on simple hand lines and other inexpensive tackle. CENTER: Gutting fish is an unpleasant but necessary chore. Some anglers clean as they catch, others wait until day's end. RIGHT:  A string of piscatorial delicacies destined for the dinner table.
  • 062 pier angling - two panels
    TOP: Even though it's ugly and has a decidedly unappetizing greenish hue, the cabezon is a seafood gourmet's delight. BOTTOM: Harvesting free-for-the takin' bait at low tide. Pile worms, mussels, clams and herrings all entice the big 'uns from the briny deep.

  • 062 pier angling - dock mob
  • 062 pier angling - three panels
  • 062 pier angling - two panels

There're no two ways about it . . . a store-bought fish dinner just can't match the flavorful goodness of a meal of piscatorial delicacies that you've caught yourself. Unfortunately, though, the sport of angling—like many forms of recreation—has been inflated and complicated to the point where anyone who buys enough gear to be considered well-equipped will also likely be well on his or her way to bankruptcy.

Worse yet, folks who do their fishing in salt water seem to bear an even heavier financial burden than do freshwater anglers. Big, high-powered boats, sophisticated fish-finding sonar sets, and jewel-bearinged reels often raise the effective per-pound price of the ocean fisherperson's catch to somewhere near that of pure gold!

There's a way to beat the high cost of snaring yourself a finny dinner, however. All you have to do is put aside complication-for-complication's-sake and join the leisurely, happy—and productive—world of pier fishing!

While in some eastern coastal states the pier fisherman or woman may be required to purchase a fishing license and even shell out a dollar or two in order to obtain admittance to a promising dock or jetty (neither expense is likely to apply to folks fishing from public wharfs along most parts of the West Coast), pier fishing equipment can be just about as inexpensive as you want to make it. In fact, whatever tackle you happen to have in your garage—or even a simple handline made up of nothing more than cord, hook, bait, and sinker—will do the job (make sure that your line is 20 pound test or more, though, because there are likely to be a few "big'uns" lurking around your favorite pier).

The simplicity of most pier fishing gear doesn't mean that this back-to-basics angling won't fill your stringer, either. In fact, while folks who pursue salmon (a species which is a good example of "glamour" game fish) only average one-half fish per outing—according to fisheries statisticians—pier anglers (who regularly tie into such tasty bottom fish as cod, flounder, bass, or perch) average 2.44 fish every time they spend a day fishing! And as long as you don't mind the weather, or can dress to offset it, pier fishing is good all year round!

Several factors contribute to the good success ratio enjoyed by wharf anglers. For one thing, the shade provided by the large docks attracts fish . . . as the critters have no eyelids and like to get out of the sunlight on bright days. Then, too since most pier anglers clean their fish on the spot and return the innards to the ocean the water around such wharfs is rich in food.


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