Fishing the Monterey Cliffs
South of Carmel, Highway 1 follows a set of beautiful rocky cliffs right by the Pacific Ocean. Many turnouts provide easy access to fishable water, which is often quite deep! This brings a larger variety of rocky-shore species within reach of shore fishermen.
About this Stretch of Coast
Always keep your eyes on the ocean! Like many regions of the coast by the Pacific Ocean, big waves can be an unpleasant surprise for people foraging and fishing, and many people have lost their lives when swept away by a sneaker wave. Always check the wave forecast, and be safe. In addition, many of the rocks here can be quite slippery, so take your time when climbing these rocks to get to fishing spots.
The great part about this set of coast is that you have very easy access to deep water. Right by your feet, the cliffs drop down anywhere between 10 feet to 50 feet, with even deeper water within casting distance. What that means is a lot of fishable structure, and lots of fish! I’ve caught many nice-sized cabezon and lingcod here from shore - for whatever reason, the close proximity to deeper water means that these larger species are more plentiful.
Like the Santa Cruz coast or the San Mateo coast, a sure-fire strategy to catching fish is dropping a piece of squid or shrimp by visible structure near shore. Look for spots where the water is deep and calm, thanks to the protection of an overhanging rock or cliffside - very often a feisty black-and-yellow rockfish is lurking in the cracks and holes in the rock.
Often, there are kelp beds within casting distance from shore. Tossing some bait towards these marine forests can often yield great results for rockfish and perch. In addition, if you’re lucky, schools of nice black and blue rockfish can make their way within casting distance. Fishing a swimbait, or some squid under a bobber such that the bait is in the middle of the water column can be killer for these tasty fish.
One con to the fishing here is that the rocks here are very sharp. If you’re not careful, the water-honed edges will easily slice through fishing line - I typically use 50 lb braid, and I’ve lost my tackle plenty of times from just setting my rod against a rock for a few minutes. There are also lots of snags - namely, it’s pretty easy to get your line tangled around the plentiful kelp stalks. So make sure to bring a lot of spare weights.
Some of these spots have been hit quite hard in recent years, and as a result fish sizes as well as catch rates have gone down significantly. Do your part for future generations, and only take home the fish you’ll actually use and eat yourself.
A common catch here are black-and-yellow rockfish, similar to other rocky-shore fishing spots in the rest of the state. If you intend on keeping the fish you catch, keep in mind that this particular species of rockfish are classified as high in methylmercury and PCBs, and you should limit your consumption if possible.
Berkley Gulp Sandworms
Big Hammer Swimbait
When fishing the rocks, there is always a surprising amount of current, so you’ll need some heavy weights. I usually use anywhere from half an ounce to four ounces for my rigs. You’ll also snag and break off a lot, so make sure to bring a lot of spares. I’ve listed the weights I use below, in order of preference.
Ultra Steel Bullet Weights, 3/4 ounce
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