A perfect way to take advantage of a couple of spare hours, or more, in your busy schedule is to soothe your soul and wet a line at your local pier.

These are precious recreational resources built solely for our enjoyment. Most folks who enjoy the coast find themselves out on a pier from time to time, grinning from ear to ear and enjoying an opportunity to quickly revert to carefree childhood ways. Some things should never change!

Our gorgeous gold coast features recreational piers where we can frolic, fish and fritter some time away. We are lucky to have some great ones nearby: Stearns Wharf, Goleta Pier and Gaviota Pier. These are top-caliber spots to play throughout the year, and especially at this time of year when we have such long periods of nice weather.

Anglers will find quite a variety of fish to try for around the pilings of a pier, but perch seem to be the most commonly caught species. Barred surfperch make for some pretty good eating, and the smaller, shiner perch make for good live baits. Other fish that may be feeding near the surface include jacksmelt and mackerel. These are good eating when cleaned quickly, kept cold and cooked that evening. They also make good live baits for even bigger fish.


Perch often forage along the pilings of our piers. To catch these, work a store-bought bait gangion or home-tied multihook rig, up and down actively, from the surface to the bottom, right next to the pilings. Favorite baits seem to vary from one angler to the next, but mussels, worms and small pieces of fish or squid are common. Little pieces of meat leftover from last night’s dinner, as well as vegetable offerings such as frozen peas, are also good baits.

Savvy and experienced pier fisherfolk fish for larger predator fish by parlaying small fish into large ones. Here’s the trick. Save a few of the smaller perch, in a bucket of water, for use as live bait. No kidding, this technique is incredibly successful.

Pre-tie some 18-inch leaders with a live bait hook at one end and a snap swivel at the other end. Tie a 4-ounce weight to the end of a 20lb class outfit, make a medium cast and take up the slack. Then pin a small lively perch, mackerel or jacksmelt on one of the leaders, close the snap swivel over the main line of the rig just cast out, and send the live bait down the line. As it swims downward it will work the entire water column. Send another live bait leader down that same line periodically until it pays off with a halibut, bass, shark or other glory fish.

Large barred surfperch tend to stay out away from pier structures, more so than other species of perch, preferring instead to forage throughout the sandy flats of the surf zone. Surf fishing for them with small sand crabs is a time-honored technique, but they can also be caught from piers. One effective technique is to tie up a rig with a 2-ounce weight at the bottom and two short leaders off of the main line spaced just far enough apart so the short leaders can’t tangle. Make a long cast into the surf zone where it’s maybe 3 to 6 feet deep, and then very slowly drag the rig back along the bottom until that familiar tap-tap-tap is felt.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.

Capt. David Bacon, Noozhawk Columnist

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.