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Capitola Wharf

Fishing Capitola Wharf

Located right at the heart of Capitola, the wharf is a beautiful place to take a stroll. Stretching out from a sandy beach but near some rocky cliffs, the wharf usually offers up sandy-shore species, but a few rocky-shore species occasionally enter the catch.

About the Pier

There are a ton of jacksmelt here - I don’t think I’ve ever failed to catch a jacksmelt on any of my trips here, no matter where on the pier I fish and what water level. I’ve fished right at the bottom and caught jacksmelt, and I’ve fished the top of the water column and caught jacksmelt as well. They will bite literally everything, and fight hard - they’re a lot of fun on light tackle. Sometimes I bring out my trout gear for the jacksmelt and have a blast; I’ve hooked two at a time on 4 lb line, which was quite a thrill. Supposedly jacksmelt can taste decent if cooked the right way, but I’ve always been scared off by rumors of wormy flesh…

Fishing near the pilings can be an easy way to net some surfperch. There are some nice barred surfperch caught in the inshore area. Farther out, other species like walleye surfperch start entering the catch.

In the summer, bullheads are absolutely everywhere, especially about halfway out the pier. Sometimes it feels like between the jacksmelt and bullhead the more desirable fish simply don’t have a chance to bite the bait, but this can be a great way to introduce kids to fishing.

Out at the end of the pier, you’ll occasionally get pelagics - I’ve often run into schools of mackerel that will hit strips of squid drifted near the surface. Occasionally some rockfish are caught as well between the pilings or when casting towards the cliffs, but these seem to be fairly rare.

Once in a while stripers will make an appearance at the pier, but this seems to vary from year to year. Some nice halibut also show up in the summer - live bait, like a shiner perch, often does the job. Other smaller flatfish also show up from time to time.

People also fish for sharks and rays here - but I’ve never tried myself.

Supposedly this pier is supposed to be one of the best piers in the state for white croaker aka kingfish, according to the venerable Pier Fishing in California resource. However, on my trips to this wharf, I’ve only caught one tiny kingfish here - I’ve had much more success farther north at Pacifica Pier. Not sure why exactly my experience has differed…

A jacksmelt

A jacksmelt caught off the end of the pier on a trout rod with a strip of squid. They can be a lot of fun on light tackle.


There is a small restaurant at the end of the wharf that presumably maintains the public bathrooms and serves up some classic California fare. The food is not bad, so I recommend stopping by, especially if the fishing is slow. There also is a tackle shop that sells some bait and offers up boat rentals as well - I’ve never tried personally but I’ve heard there are some nice reefs nearby which the tackle shop employees will point you in the direction of.

When fishing a pier, it can be quite easy to get snagged on random things underwater, be it the pilings of the pier or underwater rocks. As a result, make sure to bring a lot of spare weights. I’ve listed the weights I use below, in order of preference.

Cloth Bags

Every time I snag off and leave a hunk of metal at the bottom of the ocean, I always feel kinda bad. As a result, I recently switched to using cloth bags, which I fill with gravel and small rocks at the fishing spot and hopefully biodegrade in the ocean. I've found that these cloth bags work incredibly well. They snag much less frequently than the metal weights I used to use, and the fish don't seem to mind. In addition, they are much cheaper.
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Ultra Steel Bullet Weights, 3/4 ounce

I usually use steel weights whenever I can. While they tend to be somewhat more expensive than lead-based weights, they lack most of the toxicity and developmental impacts of lead. In regards to your own health, you should use steel weights whenever possible. However, steel weights can be hard to find in larger sizes.
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Lead Sinkers, 2 ounces

These lead weights are much cheaper than steel, and come in much larger sizes. However, keep in mind the toxicity and developmental impacts of lead. Use at your own risk.
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Disclaimer: the above purchase links are mostly Amazon Affiliate links that help me keep this website running. I use all of the above products every time I go fishing.

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