Out on the Waves


During a magical five-week period from the last week of June into the first week of August, some of the best fishing in the United States can be had in the inshore waters off Pacifica. The rocky coast is made up of a series of small bays where striped bass can corral schools of anchovies, pinning them against the back of the surf line. Salmon often move in as well, rounding up the anchovies just a mile offshore. Want more? Got more: Halibut are commonly found off the sandy flats here, especially in the Devil's Slide area.

The only problem is that sometimes there are just too many fish, namely kingfish. Also known as white croaker, kingfish can be so abundant they disrupt drift-moochers who are trying to catch salmon.

Boat ramps: There is no boat ramp in Pacifica. Some hardy souls handlaunch small boats through the surf at the southern end of Linda Mar Bay. The nearest boat ramp is at Pillar Point Harbor at Princeton, in Half Moon Bay.

Piers: Pacifica Pier is located off Sharp Park Road; access is off Highway 1.

Wind, along with the resulting ocean surge, determines how productive these waters will be. When the wind is up and the waves are high, the motion disturbs the ocean bottom, causing the anchovies to move offshore. When that happens, the inshore striper and salmon fishery goes belly-up. But if the wind is down and there is no ocean surge, the anchovies will move right in, bringing large marauding schools of striped bass and salmon with them.

Salmon fishing, too can be outstanding, but some years it just doesn't happen. According to my logbook, salmon often show up just off Pedro Point in mid-March, then disappear until July, when they return about a mile offshore from the Pacifica Pier. When this happens, there can be so many boats on the water that together they resemble a flotilla.

When the striped bass show up—and some years they don't—the livebait boats head out from Berkeley and Emeryville and chum the stripers into a frenzy. Onboard anglers using live anchovies for bait will catch one striper after another until reaching their limits. These big boats back into the surf line near Mussel Rock or in Linda Mar Bay, then owners of small boats will head into the same general area and either use live bait (available at J&P Bait at Fisherman's Wharf) or cast Hair Raisers. Small boats should stay clear of the surf zone, where it is very easy to capsize and drown. Meanwhile, surf casters on the beach will send casts out to the fish, using chrome Hopkins, Krocadile, or Miki jigs. There are also runs of striped bass independent of those started by the chumming., usually in late June at Center Hole (north of Mussel Rock), then in July off the Manor Apartments (at the north end of town) and Rockaway Beach. In August,, the fishing is better from the rocks at Mori Point; use large Pencil Poppers. The best fishing always occurs at high tide.

Since most of the fishing here takes place from the end of June through early August, what should you do the rest of the year? Maybe crab a little at Pacifica Pier in the winter, try for a perch at Linda Mar Bay in the spring, or go rockfishing off Pedro Point in the fall—always dreaming of those few magical weeks in the summer.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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