Bait Ball Spectacle at the SM Pier

Heal the Bay - Tara Crow

An up-close look at a tiny fraction of the bait ball at the Santa Monica Pier. Image: Heal the Bay - Tara Crow

Over the last two days, there has been a massive school of bait fish, mostly anchovies, around the end of the Santa Monica Pier.  After getting amazing video and photos e-mailed to me, I finally decided to play hooky and check it out around sunset on Tuesday. 

The biological phenomenon was incredible.  The ocean was literally a sea of shimmering silver bait fish. 

The school of fish went on for hundreds of yards and predators including sea lions, harbor seals and bottlenose dolphins were herding the fish into an enormous bait ball: the easier to catch and consume a fish dinner.  The sea lions were so satiated, they looked like the crowd of diners rolling out of Denny’s Tuesday after scarfing their free grand slams.  Overhead, Brown Pelicans and various gulls were circling and diving for fish and in the water, the various grebes were having a feast. 

This was definitely a first for me. I’ve never seen a school of fish hang out that long in the Bay, and I’ve certainly never seen local pinnipeds so full they can barely move.  Definitely worth a trip to check it out.  Call the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium to see if the bait ball show is still playing.

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