A Native American tribe called the Ohlone Indians occupied the area now known as San Mateo, successfully establishing a healthy and vibrant culture thanks to the mild Mediterranean climate and a hearty freshwater creek. Shielded from the Pacific Ocean by the Montara Mountain Block of the Santa Cruz Mountains, occupants of this area have always enjoyed mild weather and prospered from a consistent supply of food in the surrounding waters. Spanish missionaries later established an outpost at San Mateo Creek on the peninsula which soon fell under Mexican control, and was sold to an American firm in 1850. Ranches were built, and people continued to thrive off the many natural resources. Railroad service was completed in 1863, and San Mateo enjoyed great development by wealthy San Franciscans who came for vacations and recreation, to relax and fish. The town of San Mateo was finally incorporated in 1894, and many historic mansions still stand in example to the area’s great success. Surrounded by exciting geography and located at a prosperous confluence of freshwater streams, San Francisco Bay, and the Pacific Ocean, San Mateo owes its continued popularity to the secret of the Ohlone’s success: pleasant climate and fishing.
Local charters and guides are popular and therefore highly competitive; but for those less dedicated, or without a lot of time, a number of local piers are open to the public. Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay is west of San Mateo, on the Pacific coast. The marina at Pillar Point hosts most of the local charters. Pacifica Pier is a famous L-shaped pier noted for higher consistent yields of fish than any other pier in California, and is also popular for crabbing. This pier spans the Pacific Ocean for a quarter of a mile. Oyster Point Pier is small but receives helpful tidal currents. Coyote Point Pier and Coyote Point Marina are just off highway 101, only 10 minutes south of San Francisco, and provide direct access to San Francisco Bay. Charter boats from Coyote Point Bay specialize in bay fishing. Local Salmon traffic is highlighted by one of the most abundant Chinook Salmon fisheries in the world, with many landed up to 50 pounds in weight, especially late in the season.
Salmon fishing ranges from south of Pidgeon Point to areas north of the Farallon Islands, and into the coast. Half Moon Bay waters are some distance from shore, but well worth the time and effort. Rockfish such as Cabezon, Boccacio, and Lingcod are numerous from May or June through December, with periphery species of Blacks, Yellowtails, Vermillions, and China Cod occasionally being hooked. This takes place at depths up to 180 feet. Salmon and Rockfish trips usually last seven or eight hours. Albacore Tuna are all the rage from mid-July to October. These “Longfins” usually hang out farther from the coast, but can get as close as 30 miles offshore. Tuna trips usually last much longer (up to 12 hours) than standard half-day charters, because of the distance covered. Additional species, like Bluefin and Skipjack Tuna, are often caught during these trips. Charters and independent boats also fish San Francisco Bay for popular targets like Striped Bass, Sturgeon, Halibut, as well as Leopard, Seven-gill, Six-gill, and Soupfin Sharks. Oyster Point Pier is popular for catching Topsmelt, Jacksmelt, and different, smaller Sharks, Bat Rays, and Skates. Inshore, north of this pier are regular populations of Striped Bass. After heavy rains hit the South Bay, Perch and Sturgeon numbers rise, especially along rocky areas near Coyote Point Pier and the nearby breakwater. This also attracts small Sharks and Sturgeon to the main channel just south of the San Mateo Bridge.
San Mateo has a rich history born of native people who loved the land, and later settlers who developed this town in response to its fortuitous natural amenities. First incorporated as a vacation getaway for wealthy San Franciscans, this town continues to attract visitors from all over the world. Art galleries, museums, and theaters provide cultural awareness and entertainment. Nature lovers who visit San Mateo will enjoy hiking scenic trails and bird watching on land, while humpback, gray, and occasional blue whale sightings are popular attractions offshore. Still most important is the economical and recreational boost this town receives, and provides, through fishing.