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Fishing the Piers of San Diego

A quick rundown of San Diego's scenic coastal fishing piers.

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Have you ever strode out along one of San Diego's piers and spotted people fishing from the rails? Have you ever wanted to try it yourself, but have been a bit unsure of this practice? Here are some descriptions and tips about fishing San Diego's piers. You don't need a state fishing license to fish from our public piers, but all other regulations apply (including minimum size, bag limits, seasons and report card requirements). Here's a quick rundown of our piers, with info courtesy of Ken Jones' great website, Pier Fishing in California.

Imperial Beach Pier

This is the southernmost pier in California. Built in 1963, it is within walking distance of the Mexican border and displays on most days a beautiful view of the Los Coronados Islands just off to the southwest. The pier is located on a long sandy beach, has short finger jetties to the north, and extends out 1,491 feet into water that is nearly 20 feet deep. Inshore, there are barred surfperch, California corbina, yellowfin croaker, spotfin croaker, thornbacks, stingrays, guitarfish and an occasional halibut. At times, this can be a fairly good pier for halibut and, at the right time of the year, it sometimes yields good catches of sand bass.

Shelter Island Pier

Going north from Imperial Beach, the next pier, Shelter Island, is within San Diego Bay. Shelter Island is one of the most popular spots on San Diego Bay. Motels, restaurants, and marinas share most of the island; shoreline grassy areas, a public boat launch and the pier share the rest. The pier itself is new. The original Shelter Island Pier was condemned in 1990 and the new pier was built and it was opened in the summer of 1991. Shelter Island pier extends out only about 200 feet from shore but has a T-shaped end which is nearly 500 feet in width. Most commonly caught fish are Pacific mackerel, yellowfin croaker, kelp and sand bass, herring, among others.

Ocean Beach Pier

Built in 1966, at 1,971 feet the Ocean Beach Pier is supposed to be the longest concrete pier in the world. It also has a T-shape at the end extending 360 feet to the south end and 193 feet to the north end. The far end extends into the Point Loma kelp bed and is blanketed by kelp much of the year. At this far end, where the water is 25 feet deep, the most common species are kelp bass, sand bass, several variety of perch, bonito, mackerel, scorpionfish, halibut and, quite often, California lobster. Because of the length of the pier with more than a mile of railing space, it rarely feels crowded. Though the pier is open 24 hours, venture out at night with caution, as there sometimes is a rough element present.

Crystal Pier

Crystal Pier isn’t one of the largest, one of the most modern, or one of the most convenient piers in California, but it is one of the top piers in the state. Why? Because of the number of fish caught and the possibility of good-quality fish. The pier is located on a long, sandy beach and has neither rocks nor reefs to attract fish; it is simply one of the best beaches to fish for sandy-shore species. Crystal Pier is known for fishing four species of fish: barred surfperch, walleye surfperch, shovelnose guitarfish and California halibut. The best feature of the pier, though, are the Crystal Pier Motel Cottages that are actually on the pier, making for a truly unique experience. The pier is open until sunset, 24 hours for motel guests.

Oceanside Pier

At 1,942 feet, the Oceanside Pier is long. Fish typically caught here are the normal sandy-shore, long-pier variety, and out toward the end you may catch any of these fish but also the more pelagic species like bonito, mackerel, barracuda, small white seabass, and an occasional small yellowtail. This can also be an excellent pier for halibut, sand bass, and guitarfish. A lot of small, undersized (and illegal), white seabass are caught on this pier. Return them to the ocean and you may also avoid a large fine and the loss of your fishing license.

Coronado Ferry Landing

Most people don't consider the Coronado Ferry Landing as a fishing pier, but it actually is. The pier, opened in 1987, is small (377 feet long) and although part of it is a boarding area for the ferry, the part that is open for angling yields quite a few fish. The pier is often good for mackerel and at least fair for bonito. The overall mix of fish mirrors that found at most bay piers: jacksmelt, topsmelt, mackerel, and bonito on the top; bass, perch, croakers, rays and sharks on the bottom. At night this can be a fairly good pier for sharks and rays. It is open 24 hours.

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