Santa Barbara Fishing on Sterns wharf is sometimes very good. Here are some ideas:
Most fishing takes place out toward the end of the pier. Best bets in this section are to try anchovy or squid on the bottom for halibut, bass and rays; try fresh mussels around the pilings for perch; or try spoons, feathers, size 4 Lucky Lura outfits, or strips of squid for mackerel. For the halibut, use a high/low leader baited with cut anchovy, a whole anchovy attached to a sliding sinker rigging, or a small live bait – smelt, shinerperch, very small jack mackerel or sardine – which has been caught by jigging. A high/low leader baited with cut anchovy works well for the bass as do scampi lures. For large bat rays, use heavy tackle and squid for bait and be prepared; several bat rays weighing over 100 pounds have been landed here. If you want to try for large pileperch, blackperch, or rubberlip perch, use mussels or bloodworms and fish right under the pier and around the pilings – using as light a line and small a hook as you feel comfortable with. Kids can try the fish well out near the end of the pier. The small, rectangular spot will often yield an unending number of small perch, primarily shiners, even when other areas are seeing few fish.
This can be a good pier at times for mackerel, bonito and even barracuda (generally at night). For the smaller mackerel, a Lucky Lura or Lucky Joe rigging can result in several fish at a time. When the mackerel are more wary, tie a single hook to the end of the line, attach a small split shot sinker a couple of feet up the line, and bait with a strip of squid or a piece of mackerel. When large mackerel are around, or bonito are also present, try different lures. Shiny lures will often produce – Kastmasters and Krocodiles – or even lures such as Scampi Coasters. Lately, a 1/2 ounce Snapper Zapper has seemed to be a good producer of fish. Barracuda, when present, will also fall for the artificial lures. Finally, most of the year will see fair fishing for white croaker; simply use a high/low leader baited with a small piece of anchovy.
The inshore area is restricted somewhat by shops but there are still some open spaces. Water here is typically shallow but will yield some barred surfperch, yellowfin croaker, corbina, shovelnose guitarfish, thornback rays and a few white croaker and walleye surfperch. Try sand crabs, bloodworms, or fresh mussels if you want the larger perch, croakers and corbina. Try squid or bloody pieces of mackerel if you want sharks or rays.
I’ve also seen some large pileperch and rubberlip seaperch lurking near the pilings, especially where the wye section connects to the main part of the pier. As usual, these species are hard to hook. One local technique is to attach half of a mussel shell to the line with a paper clip. A couple of size 12 hooks on dropper lines are then inserted into the meat of the mussel. When the large perch suck up the meat they get hooked.
Some years will also see quite a few spider crabs caught out toward the end of the pier and some are massive. Do follow the correct laws for crabbing since the game wardens seem to really target the crabbers at this pier. Also make sure that you follow the various laws for the fish species. Although it is true you don’t need a license to fish on the public piers, you do need to follow the rules for size and number of fish. Thus bass must be 12 inches, bonito 24″, barracuda 28″, white seabass 28″, halibut 22″, and salmon 24″. Remember that it is every angler’s duty to help restore our fishery! Always be prepared for the unexpected. On a short visit to the pier in July of 1994, I had experienced what can only be described as a poor fishing trip for myself – two small fish – a kelp bass and a jack mackerel. However, an old-timer stood proudly nearby, displaying a 29-inch, 11-pound silver salmon he had caught on the pier that afternoon. His name was Bill Schenk, he was 90 1/2 years young, and he had fished on the wharf nearly every day since 1969. He, of course, was a regular and one who had his own personal pier name – “Sitting Bill” – since there were four other regulars also with the name of Bill. It was the largest fish “Sitting Bill” had caught on the pier in 25 years. It was also his second salmon after an earlier 3-pounder in 1990. Using light trout-fishing tackle and a heavier-than-normal 8-pound line (because barracuda had been biting through his line) he had his hands full. However, his friend, Mike Katz, owner of the nearby tackle shop, heard his cries, ran out, and netted the fish. The day was a success for “Sitting Bill” and after meeting and talking with him, I deemed my visit also a success.