Fishing the San Mateo Rocks
Along the coast between Pacifica and Ano Nuevo State Park, a set of scattered rocky beaches provide beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean, as well as occasional chances for rocky-bottom species. Most of these areas lie within state parks along highway 1, providing easy access and some facilities.
About this Stretch of Coast
Always keep your eyes on the ocean! Like the Santa Cruz Cliffs, this section of coast can have some big waves, and people foraging and fishing the coast here have been swept into the water by rogue waves. 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.
In general, the rocky stretches of coastline here can be fished at both low tide or high tide. A simple high/low rig, baited with shrimp or squid, works quite well for rockfish, striped surfperch, and the occasional cabezon. Be prepared to bring a lot of extra tackle, as it can be very easy to snag and break off. In general, try and find the deeper holes and deeper water, as there can be a lot of variation in depth close to shore. Keep in mind spots that are excellent at high tide can be left high and dry when the tide gets low, so be prepared to move around if there is significant tidal variation.
At strong minus tides, these beaches can be great places to do some poke-poling - basically sticking your bait in the deep holes under boulders and rocks to catch trapped fish. With a small strip of squid and a good pair of boots or waders, you can catch some nice monkeyface eels and small rockfish. These fish seem to be experts at stealing bait, so make sure to bring a lot of extra.
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.
Most of the rockfish I’ve caught 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.
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.