Jetty Fishing: The Everyman’s Sport

Father and son jetty fishing
Father and son jetty fishing

Updated December 05th, 2018

I have been jetty fishing with great enthusiasm for the last couple decades. I guess my favorite thing about jetty fishing is that I never really know what sort of catch I'm likely to haul in. For the past twenty years, I've been heading up and down the Pacific Coast to visit my favorite jetty rocks and find new jetties to fish from. While it's not everyone's favorite type of fishing, I find that it's always exciting because I have to always keep my eye on what the ocean is up to no matter what fish species I'm hoping to catch. If you are new to the exciting sport of jetty fishing, here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind based on my own success with the delightful pastime.

Find Your Jetty

The Pacific Coast is littered with fine places to fish. I love jetty fishing primarily because so many fish species love jetties. People call jetties "fish magnets" because they naturally attract many different species to their locale. Even aggressive and typically hard-to-catch fish make their way to pier and jetty areas where they are ripe for the taking. Most often, I love to fish in San Diego because it's convenient—I live there. I head for the jetty, laughing to myself as so many other fishermen haul their gear out to the islands. You don't have to travel far for a great catch. There's such as thing as running ahead of the fish, and I never want to do that. The fish are biting near the jetties and piers, so why would I ignore them? There's no need to make things harder for myself.

However, I will say that many of the jetties I have fished well from are not easily accessible by car. I don't mind walking with my gear to reach them though. It's part of the fun experience for me. Work often takes me to San Francisco and sometimes Seattle, so you bet I bring along my fishing gear when I can. I have several friends who also love jetty fishing, so we share information about the hot spots we've found up and down the coast. We love our home town jetty fishing, but we'll frequently make trips together to Santa Cruz or Santa Monica for the excellent jetty fishing there. I have to be honest, though—there are some mouthwatering restaurants in Santa Cruz, so you might want to enjoy some fresh seafood at one, especially if your catch isn't the haul you were hoping for.

Consider Your Bait

I don't like to marry one type of bait no matter where I'm fishing. I use live bait for my jetty fishing rigs. I've had considerable success using sand shrimp, but I like to change things up depending on where I go and what other fishermen at the spot are catching. While I usually stick to the Pacific, I have fished on the East Coast down in Florida and remember using fresh sardines as bait with success. Using the shrimp, I've managed to catch plenty of seabass and seaperch in Northern California and Oregon. When I'm jetty fishing somewhere new, I will pick up live shrimp—never artificial baits—from a fishing shop but I always ask the store staff what works best in the area. I enjoy using live mussels or clams too.

Jetty Fishing Rigs

Although I don't like to visit the same jetties too often, I do tend to be a stick-in-the-mud when it comes to my jetty fishing rigs. My basic rig is a weight at the end of my main line. I then attach an additional line about halfway up from the weight with a hook on its end. Then I add another like with a hook about 1.5 feet, give or take a few, above that. I might change up my basic jetty fishing rig here or there after talking to local fisherman fishing the same spot with me. It's just, I've had a lot of good luck with my basic rig no matter the time of year, so I like to stick with what works. If I'm fishing for my supper, I don't want to experiment too much or it might be frozen fish sticks instead of a fresh catch! I also prefer to bring along two poles for the day.

Take Safety Seriously

I've slipped on more jetty rocks than I like to remember. Now that I'm getting older, I have to baby these bones of mine a bit more. I like to wear shoes or boots with good traction. If I'm heading up to the Pacific Northwest, I pretty much insist on wearing my creepers which are basically metal cleats, because of all the mossy, slick rocks I'm sure to encounter up there. Often, I fish from the rocks, but if I do go out on a boat, I usually head out with a pal. The fact is, I've had too many scares not to wear a life jacket.

That reminds me of another essential safety tip—don't trust the sea, as many a fine sailor will tell you. I am never complacent when it comes to Madam Pacific. Sometimes those waves get a mind of their own and sneak up on you. If we're on the boat, we really do have to keep an eye on the sea. You have to be able to maneuver quickly. If you're only worried about your line or what's biting, you could be taking a big risk. Obviously, some areas on the coast are more volatile than others. I find that San Francisco with its unpredictable seas and weather is where I've been most edgy. However, if you take your safety measures to heart, you should do just fine.

Also, don't wear your waders when jetty fishing. If you're sucked into the water, those waders are going to fill up and carry you straight to the bottom. Like I said, I prefer to stick to shoes or boots with good traction, and that works well for me. You've got to keep an eye on the weather too because a misty morning or heavy seas spray can affect your visibility. You don't want to trip into the water either. We take our jetty fishing pretty seriously and that includes safety. We don't drink until we're ready to celebrate our success on the way home—or at home with a couple craft beers.

Jetty Fishing Species

I have caught a wide array of delectable fish species with my jetty fishing rigs going up and down the Pacific Coast. While I never know exactly what I'm going to catch, I do know that jetty fishing San Diego spots is where I'll have a great chance of catching a calico bass or halibut. Up around Malibu, I've caught bonito and surfperch. Up around San Francisco parts, I have luck catching surfperch and jacksmelt. Last month I caught a flounder from the Point Benicia Fishing Pier. Depending on where I go jetty fishing on the coast, I know I'm likely catch delicious sand bass, striped bass, tasty catfish, corbina, mackerel, bullhead, lingcod, sanddabs, and perch. At least, that's what I seem to pull in frequently, and I enjoy the terrific variety.
I understand the great allure of sport fishing and I won't deny that I've been thrilled at the catches I've made down in the Baja Peninsula. But those big fishing trips can be costly and it's not always easy to round up my pals anymore for a four or five-day getaway. Jetty fishing, on the other hand, is something that I can do often and I get great results. My family enjoys my catches and I have to say—it's extraordinary stress relief to spend part or most of a day jetty fishing. I bring along my thermos of delicious hot coffee and leave my cares in the car before heading out to the jetty or pier. I recommend the Pacific Coast for jetty fishing. Once you try it, you'll understand its draw. It's my favorite way to get dinner!

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