The Good Old Days On The Piers — # 2

Ocean Park Pier — 1911

Ken Jones — Fish Taco Chronicles —Summer 2015

As chronicled in the previous article there has been change to California’s piers and the fish from those piers during the past century. That article displayed the great changes that have taken place in the number and size of the larger species—yellowtail, white seabass, halibut, giant (black) sea bass,  and sharks. So too has been the change to some of the smaller species, especially the numbers of those fish. However, most of the favorites are still favorites with a couple of minor exceptions.

Not too different from today, both yellowfin croaker and corbina were favorites from both the piers and surf.  However, although the croakers  were almost always called by their normal name, corbina were as often as not given the alternative, interchangeable name—surf or surf fish. If an article referred to surf or surf fish, it meant corbina. Most of the stories detailing large numbers of croakers, and large-sized croakers, were from the resort of Balboa (today’s Newport Bay). Some of those numbers are truly amazing but even the piers took their fair share as seen below.

Croakers and Corbina — There were fewer fishermen at Peck’s wharf yesterday than usual, and the fishing was rather poor, although Robert Pottinger of Bakersfield, who is summering at the seashore, made a good catch. He caught three yellowfin which weighed three and one-quarter, three and three-quarters and four and one-half pounds. Three surf fish which he also caught weighed five and five-eighths, four and one-half and three and one-half pounds. —Los Angeles Herald, July 15, 1908

The passage by the legislature and the signing by the governor of the Southern California Rod and Reel club’s bill which prohibits the taking of surf fish, yellowfin and croaker except with rod and reel has been received with “glad acclaim” by every fisherman in the south except the market variety. The law becomes effective in May, a short time after the opening of the regular season. —Los Angeles Herald, April 3, 1909

• A five-pound corbina was caught at Huntington Beach Sunday and several were brought in which ran as high as three and a half pounds. Monday the largest corbina caught this season at Playa del Rey was taken off the beach below the new pier. The fish tipped the scales at six pounds eleven ounces, and with the exception of the eight-pound surf taken at Balboa two weeks ago is the largest caught this season at any resort. —Los Angeles Herald, June 6, 1909

For the first time this season the beneficent effects of the seining law passed by the legislature, forbidding the taking of corbina, yellowfin and croaker except with rod and line, was felt to its fullest extent, and because of the fact that these game fish are protected from the market fishermen the sportsmen anglers who fish for pleasure reaped a plentiful harvest of these beauties… At Peck’s wharf, where for two years the fishing has been nil, there were some splendid catches made. Both surf and yellowfin were running in numbers and in large size, and a catch there on Thursday is a sample of what happened all week. Frank Munser of Bakersfield, Prof. R. B. Emery, Edward Nelson, John Ward, S. J. McKenzie, John Hebbard, Oscar Baer and two or three others took forty-eight surf and thirty-four yellowfin on the incoming tide. The surf ranged from one pound in weight to six and a half pounds; the yellowfin from three-quarters to two pounds. On Monday Prof. Emery, Mr. Munser and Mr. Hebbard took fifty-eight yellowfin at sundown, ranging in size from one to four pounds. Smaller fish were thrown back into the ocean.—   Los Angeles Herald, July 31, 1909

• Takes Nice Catch—George Reynolds landed twenty-two surf yesterday from the motor pier at Huntington Beach, between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m. —Los Angeles Herald, September 29, 1909

• Lands Seven-Pound Surf Fish At Venice — Venice, July 17.—Louis Miller, a waiter at the Ship café, today exhibited a surf fish which he caught here weighing seven pounds. This is the largest of this species of fish caught in the bay this season. The surf fish caught in this section rarely weigh more than four or five pounds. Miller landed it with an ordinary surf fish hook and line. —Los Angeles Herald, July 18, 1910

• Long Beach fishermen are patiently awaiting the repair to the pier and confidently expect big hauls on account of the enforced rest. Mackerel and surf are the chief game from the wharf, —Los Angeles Herald, July 15, 1910

Pine Avenue Pier — Long Beach — 1908

Good Fishing Off Pier Is reported—Huntington Beach, May 8.—A five and one-half pound spotfin fish was landed from the end of the pier here yesterday and, according to E. L. Curtis, proprietor of the fishing tackle stand at the end of the pier, was the largest fish of the year. Between twenty and thirty large spot fin and yellow fin fish were caught Sunday and several large halibut were hooked. Fishing here has been improving during the past few days… Good catches of herring, spot fin, yellow fin, surf fish or corbina, perch, king fish, halibut have been reported with several good-sized sharks also landed. —Santa Ana Register, May 8, 1924

Butterfish — One of the interesting changes is the respect that was accorded a fish which, although not rare, is today only an occasional catch at most piers—Pacific Butterfish, Peprilus simillimus. It was, and still is, simply called a pompano   by most anglers. In those early years it was considered the best eating fish and for that reason was one of the favorite catches by pier fishermen.

Food Fishes—Of the small varieties of fish there are the smelt, herring, perch, sardine and pompano, together with quite a number of other varieties. The pompano is the rarest and most expensive fish caught on this coast, the market price being $1 per pound, and the fish is sold readily at that price as soon as put upon the market. —Los Angeles Herald, January 1, 1893

• Ocean Park—Pompano fishing from the piers along Santa Monica bay today equaled the best record, at least in regard to the quantity of fish caught. The number of large pompano was limited, but sizeable fish came in myriads, often chasing the bait to the surface as lines were drawn in. They were most commonly caught in pairs. F. S. Volk, at the end of the Horseshoe pier, alone caught seven pounds of the fish early in the morning. There was a second run later in the day and although the piers were so crowded that it was hazardous to swing a pole, no one went away empty handed. At one time the schools of pompano were broken up by a lot of yellowtail that came into feed on them. These made sport for the fishermen… Surf fish also are running freely. —Los Angeles Herald, May 25, 1908

• Playa del Rey—Hardly a foot of the wharf was unoccupied by some fisherman casting his line and reaping a harvest from the unusually fine run of pompano. Everybody on the pier joined in the sport, nearly, and good baskets were the result in every instance. —Los Angeles Herald, July 9, 1908

•  Pompano, the delicious little poppy fish, made Playa del Rey one of the most popular resorts during the week. —Los Angeles Herald, September 28, 1908

• Jacksmelt and pompano, corn-fed mackerel and yellow fin ran in great schools at Redondo and Playa del Rey during the week and great catches were made almost every day. – Los Angeles Herald, October 25, 1908

• Sea at Redondo Beach Swarms With Pompano—Redondo Beach, May 5.—This beach has been experiencing an unprecedented run of pompano during the last week. Sunday and Monday the local wharves were black with anglers, who came here for the purpose of enjoying the sport… Many fine specimens of other varieties have been caught, among them three sea bass which aggregated 1000 pounds. The largest of these is estimated to weigh nearly 500 pounds. —Los Angeles Herald, May 5, 1909

• Redondo Beach, May 14.—Large schools of pompano are running at wharf No. 1 during early hours of each day, and many large catches are reported… A curiosity in marine life was a double halibut taken on the banks this morning by Charles Johnson. The fish was identical on both upper and lower sides.n —Los Angeles Herald, May 15, 1909

•  Good Hauls Made At Crescent Bay — Santa Monica, June 11.—The whole Santa Monica bay from Port Los Angeles to Redondo has been alive with pompano for the last few days. Fishermen at all the piers along this stretch of the coast are daily carrying large baskets of these little fish… At the Marine Street pier, where a new concrete structure is being erected, as many pompano have been taken in the last two days that they are no longer looked on as worth catching. These fish, with herring and an occasional halibut, are furnishing great sport for the many followers of Isaac Walton who daily line the railings… At Playa del Rey fishermen are taking advantage of the extension of the new pier and large numbers visit the place daily, catching pompano, herring, yellowfin and some surf fish… At Redondo on Wharf No. 1 the pompano are greatly in evidence and with the exception of steamer days, when the sport necessarily ceases for a time, men, women and children constantly line the pier and dangle lines between the piling. At Number 3 Wharf yellowtail and trout are also taken occasionally. —Los Angeles Herald, June 12, 1909

•  Ocean Park, June 16.—Pompano are biting at the Marine Street Wharf in numbers, many record breaking catches being made. Hundreds of anglers are out daily after this game little fish and that their efforts are amply rewarded is shown by the large baskets which are being carried away. —Los Angeles Herald, June 17, 1909

• 18-Inch Pompano Caught At Laguna — A real find in the shape of a genuine gulf coast pompano, which measured 18 inches from tip to tip, fell to the lot of Oscar Farman of Laguna, who promptly enjoyed a pompano dinner. This is declared to be the largest fish of this variety ever caught along the southern coast. Pompano of five or six inches in length are not unknown, but even those are fairly scarce and few enjoy the distinction of annexing them. In San Francisco, according to Farman, pompano used to “sell” for one dollar ($1.00) a pound. —Santa Ana Register, July 10, 1919

Pancherodoes — A mysterious fish story is that of the pancherodoes. The story is from central California, Santa Cruz to be precise, and it’s a mystery still unresolved. What is known is that it was a type of smelt but to date no one has been able to verify an identity, even the people who oversee the fisheries at the Santa Cruz Wharf. The best guess is that the pancherodoes were night smelt and the smelt called silver smelt were day smelt. Today it’s rare to catch a smelt off a pier unless considering jacksmelt and topsmelt as smelt. Perhaps there’s been a change in numbers, habitat, or simply fishing technique by anglers.

•  SMELT OFF DAVENPORT—With smelt of the Pancherodo species still running, fishermen are now looking for their appearance off Davenport, at the cement plant. At certain seasons of the year smelt of this variety are caught in the breakers in large numbers during the night and day in homemade nets. Residents living at Davenport have been catching them in this manner for some years past and have made a practice of salting all the surplus supply down under a similar treatment that anchovies are subjected to. Prepared in this way these small smelt are said to excel anchovies in point of flavor and general tenderness. The smelt generally make their appearance off the little beach at Davenport just before their spawning season. —   Santa Cruz Evening News, December 23, 1920

•  School Fish Appear—School fish are coming closer to shore and good catches of smelt of the pancherodo variety are being made from the municipal pier. These fish are transparent in appearance when held up to the light and can easily be distinguished from other species of smelt of smaller size. Ordinary garden angle worms make the best bait to catch them with, providing fishermen use a No. 14 catgut hook attached to a light leader. —Santa Cruz Evening News, October 20, 1922

 •  Smelt Reappearing — While mackerel are seemingly more numerous than ever, wharf fishermen now and then manage to catch a few smelt of the Pancherodo variety. During the spawning season, this species of fish of the smelt family go up the larger fresh water streams to spawn. In the larger rivers of Oregon and Washington, when the fish begin to go upstream in countless schools they can be scooped out of the water by the hundreds with anything that resembles a receptacle or net of any description. There are occasions though when Pancherodoes remaining in the bay have been known to spawn up the coast close to the shoreline where the sand is of a coarse and pebbly nature. Proof of this has been furnished at Davenport on several occasions and whenever this happens the fish can be scooped up with buckets or nets right in the rolling breakers. —Santa Cruz Evening News, July 30, 1926

•  Big Run Of Smelt—Smelt of the pancherodo variety are being caught at Moss Landing, and pole fishermen are enjoying some rare sport. A. B. Shaw residing on Riverside avenue visits Moss Landing frequently with friends and they are making big enough catches to keep their friends supplied with plenty of these fine eating fish, which are regarded the equal of small trout as a table delicacy. As yet the winter run of pancherodoes have not made their appearance on this side of the bay, —Santa Cruz Evening News, January 6, 1927

•  Busy Day On Wharf—With the weather conditions ideal for travel over the highways, the municipal wharf was one of the main points of rendezvous for visitors yesterday and all available parking space for autos on the wharf was taken long before the noon hour. The big run of smelt now on was a magnet of attraction for many fishermen who put in an appearance at an early hour and most of whom remained all day. The fish evidently believing in keeping the Sabbath, did not bite any too eagerly during the morning hours but some good sport was enjoyed the latter part of the afternoon. The smelt being caught are of both the silver and pancherodo variety. Ordinary angle worms are proving the most alluring bait to bring results. —Santa Cruz Evening News, January 24, 1927

•  About the only excitement furnished on the wharf yesterday was the large number of fishermen that were bobbing their lines for smelt… All of the smelt caught were of the pancherodo variety. These fish migrate to Monterey Bay in immense schools every year, both during the summer and winter months. During certain stages of the spawning season they are caught close to the breaker line on the beach at Old Davenport. They are caught during the night and it is an easy matter to scoop them out of the breakers with almost any sort of a receptacle. When occurrences like this happen, it does not take the news long to spread among Davenport residents and cement company employees. —Santa Cruz Evening News, January 2, 1930

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The Good Old Days On The Piers — # 1

 McFadden Wharf — 1895 (site of today’s Newport Pier)

Ken Jones — Fish Taco Chronicles —Spring 2015

Maybe one day there really will be a time travel machine. It may be a “pie in the sky” hope but it’s an increasingly common thought I’ve had while researching the history of California’s piers.

The piers have changed, as has the tackle, but most interesting, or perhaps depressing, is the change to the number and size of fish. The tales of large sportfish being caught on piers (or early wharves) are sometimes amazing.

The records for the late 1800s into about 1910 show incredible amounts of fish and heavy harvesting by commercial nets. By 1910, stories began lamenting the overfishing by the commercial industry; by the 1920s, the records more resemble today’s catches with the exception that large number of yellowtail still were caught from piers, as well as large halibut, and huge giant (black) sea bass.

Today a yellowtail from a pier is a noteworthy achievement, the vast majority of halibut from piers are undersized fish, and while the giant sea bass are once again becoming common to SoCal piers, most are youngsters under 50 pound in weight.

As said, some of the stories are amazing. They give glimpse to a different world and reason why a time machine would be a handy little device to have the next time an urge to go fishing comes along. Some of the most interesting reports follow.

Giant (Black) Sea Bass at Coronado — 1905

Giant (Black) Sea Bass—the stories of giant (black) sea bass caught from wharves in the early 20th century are amazing. Many people fished exclusively for the bass using heavy equipment and many caught huge fish. Today the fish are illegal and though an increasing number are caught from piers, none of the recent fish have been recorded at these large sizes.

• Long Beach—John Leach, an employee of the Pine Avenue Fish Market, broke a Southern California record yesterday at the end of the Pine Avenue Pier by landing a jewfish weighing 365 pounds. —Santa Ana Register, June 12, 1914

• The biggest fish story of the weekend comes from Hueneme Wharf where the five week’s old patience of a Hollywood angler was rewarded with the capture of a 400-pound jewfish yesterday. A crowd of over 100 assembled on the Hueneme Wharf to watch the landing of the monster fish, which took an hour and half of struggle. The successful fisherman was Arthur Kovalovsky of 7300 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, who has camped at the Hueneme Beach Resort for the past 5 weekends, spending most of the time trying to tempt the big fish to accept his offering of three pound mackerel used as bait… Until yesterday he was unsuccessful in landing any of the large fellows though some were nearly caught at times. —Oxnard Press-Courier, July 25, 1927

• Carl Sandino, one of the operators of a live bait stand on Balboa pier, hooked and landed the biggest fish of any kind ever caught off that pier yesterday. Sandino’s catch was a giant black sea bass, which tipped the scales at 452 pounds. The head weighed 70 pounds. —Santa Ana Register, May 13, 1930

• R. A. Hendricks brought in the biggest fish of the year late yesterday afternoon, when he landed a 453-pound black sea bass at Stearns Wharf after a hard fight that lasted nearly two hours. He was fishing on the side of the wharf opposite the pile driver when the big fish struck. He played the fish from the wharf until he had broken one of the handles on his reel and was nearly exhausted. He said this morning that the fish made forty to fifty runs out to the end of his 150 yards of line. Each time the fish apparently tired and allowed himself to be towed back to the wharf by the fisherman. Finally Mr. Hendricks jumped into a rowboat that was alongside the wharf. The fish was tied to the boat and the fight continued. Several times the big fish was worked in alongside of the boat, but would suddenly break away for another run. A small .22-caliber rifle was brought into play as the fish came alongside of the boat for the final time and five shots stopped the fight… Many Santa Barbara fishermen saw the huge fish this morning. It measured seven feet three inches from tip to tip and two feet across the tail.                —Santa Barbara Daily News, October 23, 1925

YellowtailAs would be expected, the deep-water piers at Newport and Redondo, and the long, long, Long Wharf near Santa Monica, led the hit parade for numbers of yellowtail caught by pier anglers. However, from the late 1800s into the “Roaring Twenties” they were seen at almost every pier. Of course these fish were joined by other pelagic species including mackerel, bonito, jacksmelt and, apparently, skipjack.

• Huge Yellowtail Taken From Wharf At Avalon. Terrific Struggle Is Witnessed By Highly-Excited Crowd, Ends Finally in Capture of Forty-Pound Fish — Avalon, Cal., May 21.—W. M. Le Favor of Avalon, while fishing off the wharf yesterday morning, caught a forty-pound yellowtail, which gave him a great fight. As soon as he hooked the monster it began a series of circles, going in and out among the piles, while the many onlookers watched the magnificent struggle for supremacy. Finally the yellowtail cleared the piles and Mr. Le Favor with the assistance of three other men, succeeded in landing him. The day before Le Favor succeeded in landing a thirty-two  and a half pound yellowtail off the same wharf. Fully 150 people saw the fish weighed. Yellowtail are being caught off the wharf daily. — Los Angeles Herald, May 22, 1908

• The smoothest seas of the year are now prevailing at Redondo. People are enjoying the bathing, boating and fishing. Rock cod, halibut and yellowtails are being caught from the pier. Early in the morning long strings of mackerel are pulled out. The balance of the day nothing but larger fish are caught. —Los Angeles Herald, September 4, 1890

• The usual Sunday crowd, numbering up among the thousands, invaded the beach today, enjoying the surf, listening to the Douglas military band in the hotel park or taking out a fine basket of mackerel and yellowtail from the Redondo wharf. —Los Angeles Herald, June 26, 1893

• Mr. J. M. Sare states that yesterday’s fishing at Newport wharf excelled anything he ever saw. The big yellowtail kept the water in a boil, chasing mackerel and other fish up to the very edge of the sands. His wife caught three fifteen-pounders in a few minutes. Fish were stacked on the beach like cordwood. —Los Angeles Herald, September 19, 1896

• No better fishing was ever had at Redondo than now. Numerous anglers on the wharves are catching hundreds of yellowtail, barracuda, halibut, flounder and mackerel. —Los Angeles Herald, October 14, 1898

• Newport— This week the fishing has improved considerably and the farther end of the wharf is busy with anglers. Thursday was one of the good days of the week, a large number of big yellowtail being caught, besides mackerel and halibut. Henry Moye of Santa Ana pulled out four superb yellowtails averaging about 17 pounds each. —Santa Ana Register, September 14, 1907

• Newport—Fishermen are catching yellowtails weighing as high as thirty-two pounds off the wharf. —Los Angeles Herald, May 22, 1908

• Huntington Beach—Many yellowtails have been caught here this week. Earl Nelson secured one at the wharf yesterday weighing thirty pounds. —Santa Ana Register, October 3, 1908

Redondo continued good all the week for cornfed mackerel and jacksmelt, and on two days yellowtail made their appearance and gave great sport. An unusual shore run of sardines brought schools of bonito and skipjacks inside and kept things lively on all three wharves for a day or two. —Los Angeles Herald, October 18, 1908

• Monday and Wednesday were banner days for sportsmen the past week. More than sixty yellowtail were caught from the S. P. wharf at Newport. Geo. Smith caught seven skipjacks and a bonito Wednesday. —Santa Ana Register, October 19, 1908

• Redondo—Spanish and greenback mackerel and yellowtail are running in great numbers here now. All three wharves are occupied by many fishermen. —Santa Ana Register, October 12, 1909

• Newport—Yellowtail have been very numerous around the wharf and five or six is the average number caught daily. A great many more are hooked but manage to escape either by breaking a hook or line. Some of the yellowtail are very large and require an expert to bring them to gaff. —Santa Ana Register, November 1, 1909

• Redondo—Excitement over the heavy run of mackerel has now reached the point where scores of fishermen line the wharves as early as 3 o’clock in the morning to make certain of a place from which to fish at daylight when the mackerel come to feed. At daylight yesterday morning there were no fewer than 300 fishermen on the various wharves waiting for the run… On wharf No. 3, seventeen yellowtails were landed yesterday, the largest one weighing 33 ½ pounds. —Santa Ana Register, August 25, 1910

• Redondo—Yesterday was the first day of the season that the yellowtail and barracuda began running in schools and much excitement and interest prevails along the three wharves where men, women and children are bringing in the big ones, ranging in weight from five to fifteen pounds. —Santa Ana Register, August 5, 1919

Halibut—Halibut were a common catch at all piers but the numbers were higher and the larger fish were bigger.

• Long Wharf—On August 17, 1917, a sensation was created when the biggest halibut to be caught in several years was taken. It weighed 62 ¾ pounds, measured 4 feet 2 inches across the back and 5 feet 8 inches from its snout to the end of its tail, and was 40 minutes in the catching. (It’s unclear if this halibut was actually caught from the pier.) —Ernest Marquez, Port Los Angeles, A Phenomenon of the Railroad Era, 1975

• The largest halibut ever caught with a light line and tackle from a pier on the Pacific coast was hauled in at Balboa late yesterday by Harry Campbell, Balboa fisherman and a member of the Balboa Angling Club. The fish weighed 45 ¾ pounds. Large halibut are being brought in regularly along the beach at Balboa and Newport Beach, but the one captured by Campbell is the largest ever caught in the vicinity. —Santa Ana Register, May 21, 1927

• A 44-pound halibut measuring nearly five feet from tip to tip was the catch of R. O. Stull of North Giassell this morning. Stull caught the big fish off the Newport pier at 7:30 o’clock with a three-pound grab hook… The fish put up a game fight and was landed with difficulty, the line breaking just as a net was lowered under him. —Santa Ana Register, July 29, 1931

• The largest halibut ever to be taken from the Huntington Beach pier is the 54-pound fish pictured above.  W. S. Keith of 1024 North Olive Street, Santa Ana (left), and H. C. Carmichael of Huntington Beach (right) made the catch. —Santa Ana Register, May 5, 1939

White Sea BassWhite sea bass and young sea bass called sea trout were common at many of the piers but especially at the Ocean Park Pier.

• It is reported that the big white sea bass are coming into to surf to feed again and several were hooked off the Newport pier last night, with one weighing 48 pounds being landed. —Santa Ana Register, June 2, 1934

• Can fish see at night is definitely answered by anglers frequenting the pier at Ocean Park each night to fish for sea trout under the brilliant spotlights. Ed Marshall, in charge of the tackle store and end of pier fishing, reports increasing numbers of sportsmen taking up this fascinating method of deep-sea fishing. Good catches of sea trout are reported, which should reach maximum in a week or so, reports Marshall. —Van Nuys News, May 3, 1934

• Biggest Run of Sea Trout, Bass at Pier in Years—One hundred fifty white sea bass in a single evening’s fishing from the Ocean Park Pier during the past week is positive proof of the biggest run of sea trout in years, reports Commodore Bob Oefinger. Not only are great numbers of sea trout being taken at night under the spotlights, but halibut of unusual size and in quantity are also being landed on every unit of the fleet out from this popular fishing port. A few examples of individual catches are given here: Ten sea trout by Geo. Carlson, Pasadena, end of Ocean Park Pier; Fifteen halibut by L. Weiner, Los Angeles, end of Ocean Park Pier; Thirty sea trout by Bob McKay, Venice, end of Ocean Park Pier. —Van Nuys News, June 14, 1934

• One source said pier fishing was the finest in the last 10 years. Several hundred barracuda and white sea bass were taken from the Newport wharf alone yesterday. —Santa Ana Register, May 25, 1939

Sharks and “Biggest Fish From a California Pier”—Back in the day when the giant sea bass were a commonly caught species, the equipment was heavy and the bait was big. However, you never knew what you were going to catch and this shark might have been the largest fish taken from a California pier.

• Newport Beach, Oct. 30—A genuine “man eating” shark, fourteen feet long and weighing approximately 1800 pounds, said to be the largest fish ever caught from the Newport Pier, was hauled to land shortly after 2 o’clock Monday afternoon by Frank Claudenia. The battle between the huge sea monster and Claudenia waged only for fifteen minutes when onlookers, realizing that the catch at the end of the line was of such nature that it could not probably have been landed, made for their homes for a rifle which to shoot the monster. R. J. Shaffer of this city, who had been fishing on the pier, was the first to reach shore and return with a rifle. He immediately took four shots at the monster. The last of the shots succeeded in hitting the “man eater” in a vital spot and he floated quietly on the water. A team of horses was secured to draw him upon the beach. The news of the large catch soon spread and hundreds of persons from both Balboa and Newport rushed to see the huge fish… According to the version of the catch as explained by Claudenia, the monster had tackled several hooks of other fishermen but had succeeded in breaking their lines. The fish then took his bait which consisted of a three pound mackerel and started for deep water. While he held him others ran for a rifle and the huge sea monster’s life was soon ended. —Santa Ana Register, October 30, 1923

A second version contained additional information.

•  Take Giant Shark On Hook—Sea Monster 15 Feet Long Weighed 1,800 Pounds—A shark 15 feet long, weighing about 1,800 pounds and 57 inches in circumference was caught off the Newport pier by Frank Claudenia. He had been after jewfish when the shark swallowed his hook. The big fish pounded the piling and put up a fight until he was shot with a rifle by Rube Schaffer. When the shark was finally brought into the surf a team of horses was hitched on and the fish pulled ashore. The fish is what is known as a mackerel or bone shark and is a sea scavenger. It is not of the man-eating variety. —The Evening Standard, Uniontown, Pennsylvania, December 12, 1923

• Two immense sharks were caught by Cash Ramsey yesterday from the [Huntington Beach] wharf with a jewfish hook and line, and were towed in and landed on the sand. The larger one measured nine and one-half feet in length and weighed 500 pounds, the other one being almost as large. They were very ugly looking fish, with an immense mouth. A jewfish was caught from the wharf by Mr. Warner, weighing 157 pounds, the same day. There seemed to be a school of large fish around the wharf hunting for food… A. L. Reynolds landed a twenty-two pound yellowtail from the wharf and several fine lobsters weighing five pounds each. —Santa Ana Register, November 3, 1905


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2015 Mud Marlin Derby, Berkeley Pier

 The Berkeley Pier is a long, long pier

 The 2015 Mud Marlin Derby was held on May 16 at the Berkeley Pier and like many of the derbies, it was a night filled with contrast.

The pier filled with anglers

There was ample good cheer, especially the opportunity to spend some time with friends. But the cheer was tempered by weather that was more than a tad bit cold (in fact the adjectives chilly, shivery and face numbing come to mind). But if you live around the Bay you know the evening hours can be windy and with the wind comes less than balmy conditions. No change this year. Of course you prepare for the cold—and most did.

A Sportfishing boat returning to the Berkeley Marina

A little unusual was the contrast in overall number of participants and those from PFIC. Almost every year has seen the vast majority of people being from PFIC. This year a large number of people participated, with 116 signing up for the derby, but the number of people from PFIC was actually fairly small. A sign had been posted in the Berkeley bait shop and it attracted the large number of anglers. Good on one hand but perhaps not so good on the other. It did increase the numbers but also meant a lot of newbies unused to the normal rules and expectations at PFIC/UPSAC events and it showed.

The San Francisco skyline off in the distance

Nevertheless, the number of anglers also meant a good number of “mud marlin” would be caught. The final tally, and we might have missed a few, was 34 bat rays aka mud marlin, one of the largest numbers in the history of the tournament. No really big bat rays were caught but a number were caught in the 28-38” inch range. In addition a number of brown smoothhound sharks were caught and one angler at the end showed a mid-sized 7-gill shark so fish were being caught and people were experiencing some excitement.

An angler at the end had caught a 7-gill shark prior to the start of the derby

Derby Winners —

The First Place Plaque

 1st place — Long Moua, a 44-inch wide bat ray that weighed (on a somewhat suspect scale) 53 pounds. That weight seems somewhat light. According to a PFIC chart developed in 2007 the ray would have weighed ≈ 68 pounds (Photo courtesy of Rita M)

2nd Place — Shane Poulsen — 39-inch wide bat ray, ≈ 42 pounds   (Photo courtesy of Rita M)

3rd Place — Scott Burton — 38 ½-inche wide bat ray, ≈ 40 pounds  (Photo courtesy of Rita M)

 * Based upon a 2007 PFIC chart  — See the chart at —

All in all it was an enjoyable evening and plans are already being formalized for 2016.

The Berkeley Pier and San Francisco

Looking toward the shore

A beautiful sunset

Anglers a plenty!



The pier at sunset!

Time for an evening cruise

Time for a Mud Marlin (Bat Ray)

The mud marlin were lifted onto the pier with a net, measured, and then lowered back down into the water with a net

 A small mud marlin

Hans Jones and a table filled with raffle prizes and plaques (Picture courtesy Rita M)

Measuring a bat ray (Pictures courtesy of Rita M)

Mud Marlin (Picture courtesy of Rita M)

Mud Marlin (Picture Courtesy of Rita M)

Netting a Mud Marlin (Picture Courtesy of Rita M)

Another small one (Picture courtesy of Rita M)

Time for the raffle (Picture courtesy Rita M)

SanClementeEric (Picture courtesy of Rita M)

Eric’s son drew out the raffle tickets (Picture courtesy of Rita M)

Pull my number, pull my number, pull my number… (Picture courtesy of Rita M)

The “Seeker” rod — All Right! (Photo courtesy of Rita M)

The top prize was a trip for two on a sportfishing boat — the happy prize winner, KJ and the young Hardin (Photo courtesy of Rita M)

KJ tabulating the derby results (Photo courtesy of Rita M)

3rd Place — Scott Burton (Photo courtesy of Rita M)

2nd Place — Shane Poulsen (Photo courtesy of Rita M)

 1st place — Long Moua (Photo courtesy of Rita M)

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Bat Ray Weight and Length?

A bat ray from Newport Harbor

Can we measure the width of a bat ray and come up with a reliable weight? That was the question posed a few years ago, a question followed by a thread on Pier Fishing In California that tried to answer the question. I’m not too sure how accurate the charts are but they offer up at a look at some possible figures.

Date: June 20, 2007 — To: Pier Fishing In California Message Board — From: Northern Boy — Subject: Bat Ray Weight Graph

I have taken a scientific approach to try and settle the never ending bat ray weight controversy.

I plotted all the bat ray weights on Songlinger’s page, and that of the certified pier record bat ray (203 lbs, Stearns Wharf 04-24-04), against their wingspans. These are values I trust. I did change one of the values which Songslinger thought was a typo in an old post.

What you can see is that there is an excellent correlation between wingspan and weight (R-squared of 0.94 is very, very good), and that there is an exponential relationship: with really big rays, a small increase in wingspan gives a big increase in weight. With small rays, adding inches to wingspan doesn’t change weight very much.

 From the chart I have created a table so you can estimate the weight of a ray based upon its wingspan (see post below). 

It would be nice to have more data points for big rays.

A fat bat ray at Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara

Posted by Raidersfan1 — Subject: Bat Ray Weight Table

If I can remember correctly, the winning bat ray at this year’s MMD 07, was measured at 44 inches with a weight of 46-lbs caught by Rockfish. 

As well as the bat ray caught at the Pig Roast by SS23, measured 43 inches and 58-lbs. So the figures in the chart would still be off by at least 10-lbs or more.

Posted by Northern Boy — Subject: Updated Table

Adding those data in suggest that the MMD winner was skinny by average bat ray standards! The correlation is still good. SS23′s is bang on the line.

Anyone else got any reliable data points? Especially for big rays?

The more data we can add the more accurate it will become. Plus we’ll get a decent estimate of how much “error” is in the calculation. Ie., we can say with confidence that a ray measuring “x” inches is going to be “y” lbs. plus or minus “z”.

Posted by SturgeonSlayer23 — Subject: Updated Table

Nice table NB! It sums it up pretty close to the averages. I think there will always be a little bit of leeway with rays because of their thickness to length comparison. I pulled one ray outa BML a couple months ago, 29-lbs. 32-in. span to add a bit more real data to the table. He had a nice thick center mass. -SS23

Posted by Ken Jones — Subject: Mud Marlin Derby 2002 weights/width

Nufo:1 ray 16-lbs 28″; Mjonesjr: 1 ray 16-lbs 28″; Jim D.: 1 ray 27-lbs 34″; West Coast Dave: 4 rays — 34-lbs 37″, 28-lbs 34.5″, 12-lbs 25.5″, 15-lbs 27″; Stinkyfingers: 1 ray 10-lbs 26″; Dolphinrider: 1 ray 12-lbs 27″; Rockfish: 6 rays — 5-lbs 22.5″, 10-lbs 26.5″, 18.5-lbs 26.5″, 20-lbs 31″, 24-lbs 32.5″, 27-lb 32.5″; OregonGreen: 1 ray 10-lbs 26″; Ben: 5 rays — 37-lbs 37.5″, 7-lbs 33.25″, 17-lbs 29.5″, 16-lbs 28″, 21-lbs 33″; MartyMart: 2 rays — 14-lbs 28″, 55-lbs 42″; Prometheus: 2 rays — 10-lbs ?”, 13-lbs 27″; Redfish: 2 rays — 19-lbs 37.5″, 5-lbs 18″; Songslinger: 2 rays — 4-lbs 20″, 8-lbs 21″. Total of 29 rays.

Posted by Ken Jones — Subject: Mud Marlin Derby 2004 weights/width

Time — Name — “Pier Rat” name —Lbs. — Inches

7:00pm—Joe R.—Sportguy33—17.0-Lbs, 25.0-inches

7:10pm—Kevin L.—GrapeApe168—5.0 Lbs, 21.0-inches

7:20pm—Tim M.—Sturgeon King—17.5-Lbs,  27.0-inches

7:27pm—Jeff G.Jr.—Rockfish’s Son—16.5-Lbs, 28.0-inches

7:34pm—Helan L.—Mrs.GrapeApe168—19.0-Lbs., 28.0-inches

7:41pm—Dave V.—Lurker—10.0-Lbs.,  28.0-inches

8:00pm—Jeff G., Sr.—Rockfish—22.0-Lbs., 32.0-inches

8:10pm—Josh S.—Prometheus—20.0-Lbs.,  29.0-inches

8:30pm—Monte W.—Eelmaster—9.5-Lbs.  22-inches

8:56pm—Joe R.—Sportguy33—12.0-Lbs.,  25.0-

9:00pm—Kathy R.—Mrs. Battmann—16.0-Lbs., 25.0-inches

9:09pm—Kyle R.—HalibutBP—15.5-Lbs.,  29.0-inches

9:43pm—James N.—Twigger—70.0-Lbs.,  46.5-

10:00pm—Kathy R. —Mrs. Battmann—27.0-Lbs., 30.0-inches

Posted by Ken Jones — Subject: Mud Marlin Derby 2006 weights/width

It was a slow MMGT. A few good fish lost at the end, but otherwise quiet. And only 3 rays landed.
Throughout the evening, we heard loud “Whhhhooooaaaaa”s of disappointment occasionally come from the end with no confirmations of any fish landed.
At 10:23pm, HikingJay finally took the lead with a 12-lb. ray with 26 inches wing span. But that didn’t last long when Louisana Jeff landed a 36-pound ray with a 38-inch wingspan at 10:35pm. This still could have been anyone’s contest until Mel (who lost one earlier, one that supposedly broke off on 65 lb. braid) hooked up at 11:58 pm. The fight went past midnight, but the ray did get landed before the 10-minute grace period expired. Mel closed the MMGT2006 with a 9-lb ray with a 22-inch wingspan.

Posted by Northern Boy — Subject: Version 3

Here is version 3 of the table. I think the 2002 data are the same as those posted by Songslinger. 

In any case the other extra data all help. I suspect as we see more data on the bigger rays then the weight estimates are going to come down: that Stearns Wharf ray was a fat monster.

Posted by Ken Jones — Subject: The 180 pound fish caught in 1978 is still…

listed as the record fish. I don’t know if that means the Stearns Wharf weight was off or if there is another reason why it is not the champ.

Posted by: Red Fish — Subject:  Is this part of the legend of Mola Joe ???

Posted by Ken Jones _ Subject:  I don’t think we have a good weight for his fish.


Mola Joe and a large bat ray from the Hermosa Beach Pier

Posted by: Red Fish — Subject: My bathroom scale is conservative…

I had a 49 in” that I weighed at 80# — my weight… “Troy” had a 61″ that we both dead-lifted and guesstimated at 130#… go figure… ha, ha. I guess we don’t know our own strength;-) Phil, you lifted the one the gal had that was F.A.T. … what do you think that one weighed? I think you taped it at 41 or 43″?

Posted by: Northern Boy — Subject: My bathroom scale is conservative…

Ha, that was the ray that sparked this whole thread. I was guessing ~40-50lbs. My friend was saying 70-80lbs. I am feeble: I don’t think I could have launched 80lbs back over the rail so freely. We didn’t get an accurate wingspan measure, which is a problem, but 40-43″ seems about right.

Posted by: Sin_Coast — Subject: So what you’re saying is…

You trying to tell me that my 30-inch wingspan ray DIDN’T weigh 60lbs! LOL!

 Just kidding, this is an awesome chart/table. It really sheds some light on the exaggerated weights that are often awarded to ‘large’ rays. 

Good work NB!

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Manhattan Beach, Sharks, Swimmers — Redux

Given the Santa Monica Bay Pier Summit that was held on May 7 in Los Angeles, it may be time to look back at the article I wrote last fall for the Fish Taco Chronicles magazine.

Manhattan Beach, Sharks, Swimmers — and More

 Ken Jones — Fish Taco Chronicles — Fall 2014

Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

Where do you start? That’s the first question when discussing the recent situation at the Manhattan Beach Pier. The facts are fairly simple: Over the Fourth of July weekend a swimmer was bitten by a great white. The fish happened to be hooked to a line of an angler fishing from the Manhattan Beach Pier. As soon as the swimmer was rescued, and the shark released, the clamor commenced.

Rumors and wild charges filled the pages of newspapers and the Internet (especially those that claimed that the anglers were specifically targeting the area’s great whites, an illegal to keep species, and that they were chumming for the sharks). The situation was not improved when a YouTube film was posted that showed anglers apparently laughing when the swimmer was hooked. In response to the controversy, Manhattan Beach authorities declared a two-month closure on fishing from the pier to study the issue.

PETA, as usual, issued an anti-fishing, knee-jerk rant calling on “all California cities to permanently ban fishing from their piers.” Later the group would call for a ban on piers in Santa Monica Bay and would fly a banner proclaiming “hookers off the piers” which provoked more jokes about hookers than anglers.

The organization wrote a letter to the city that stated that the attack “demonstrates that fishing in a populated area increases the risk that sharks will bite humans, WHOM THEY ARE OTHERWISE UNINTERESTED IN AS PREY, forcing the hooked sharks to lash out.” “Fishing also attracts sharks by the smell of bait or blood from fish that have already been caught.” According to their logic, “the best way to protect public safety and reduce the risk that another swimmer will be injured or killed by a panicked or confused shark is to ban fishing at the pier permanently.”

A once in a million occurrence, the typical response from a well-funded radical (some would say wacko) environmental organization, unfounded charges, incorrect rumors, charges and opinions offered to the media from people unaware of the facts, and a city council caught in the middle—a toxic mix.

In response to the uproar and publicity the Manhattan Beach City Council decided to ban fishing for two months from the pier while they studied the issue. After consultation with many people and organizations (including United Pier and Shore and Anglers of California, Heal the Bay, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and local shark expert Chris Lowe, a professor at Long Beach State), the city proposed several restrictions on fishing from the pier. The stated intent was to be fair to all users but ultimately most of the blame and suggested restrictions would fall on anglers.

The proposed restrictions:

• No snag lines-2 hooks only

• Monofilament line only, no steel/metal/braided leader lines

• Limit on monofilament line weight to 40 lb. test line weight

• Limit fishing to the end of the Pier (surrounding the Roundhouse)

• No chumming

• No fish cleaning

• Maximum hook size 4/0, or 3” long by 2” wide.

With time came additional input and insight:

After investigation by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, it responded that the angler had not violated state fishing laws and that he was targeting bat rays, not sharks. They stated, “this is a legal activity and consistent with numerous other fishing practices in waters where similar tackle is used to catch a variety of fish species.”

Heal the Bay offered up a plan to work with the city: “In response to the unfortunate white shark-angler-swimmer interaction that occurred recently in Manhattan Beach, Heal the Bay proposes to expand on its existing Angler Outreach Program to educate anglers and pier visitors about local shark ecology and methods to minimize conflict with sensitive wildlife and ocean users. The program would also collect data on fishing use on the pier. Additionally, we propose to establish a stakeholder group in partnership with local municipalities to collectively develop a comprehensive pier management strategy to prevent negative human-wildlife at piers along the Santa Monica Bay. The management recommendations would be informed in part through the data collected in the outreach program.”

The California Coastal Commission also weighed in: “We do not agree that an Emergency Coastal Development Permit to prohibit fishing from the pier for sixty days under Section 30611 is appropriate because, as part of the justification for an emergency it must be shown that there is imminent danger to life or property; the City has not demonstrated that public property or life is in imminent danger… The shark attack on the swimmer is an isolated incident that does not warrant the complete closure of a popular fishing pier for 60 days during the height of summer season. There are alternative measures that do not restrict coastal access that can be implemented, on an interim basis, to address this potential nuisance by reducing the risks to swimmers and surfers from fisherman.” Included in their recommendations was signage regarding local shark populations (including discouraging fishermen from fishing for sharks).

In addition it was brought to the City’s attention by Joe Imbriano (ardent fisherman who has fought these battles in the past) that the Conveyance of Tidelands to the City of Manhattan Beach by the state includes the following (Chapter 1427, Section 1, Part d): “The absolute right to fish in the waters of said harbor, with the right of convenient access to said waters over said lands for the said purpose is hereby reserved to the people of the State of California.” In other words, the city has to allow fishing from the pier.

At the time of this article final decisions had not been made by the City Council but it looked like fishing would be allowed from the pier but that “some” form of restrictions would be imposed. What restrictions and their severity were unknown.

The main points that United Pier and Shore Anglers continued to make to the City Council regarding this situation were the following:

• Fishing has taken place for over a century from Southern California piers and the primary purpose for the construction of most piers was recreational angling.

• The state’s interest in recreational fishing from piers has been both long term and consistent. Piers serve as a low cost venue for family, youth, and tourist recreation. They also serve as a resource for the once-a-year casual angler and the neophyte angler just starting to learn the sport. The large number of young anglers on piers as well as tourist anglers is one reason why a fishing license is not required when fishing from a public pier.  In addition, over 50 piers have received money for construction or reconstruction from the Wildlife Conservation Board, a division of the state Fish and Wildlife Department. As a stipulation of money from the WCB, the city, or whichever entity controls the pier, agrees to keep the pier open for public pier fishing.

• Sharks and rays have been caught from SoCal piers since the 1800s but this has never been considered a problem. This is due to the types of shark species common to Southern California piers, i.e., leopard sharks, thresher sharks, and occasionally a 7-gill shark. None of these are considered dangerous to anglers.

• It is true that great white sharks are increasing in numbers along the coast, several surfers have been bitten, and one individual was killed close to a pier (a lady who chose to swim with the sea lions next to the pier at Avila Beach). She was wearing a wetsuit at the time and it was speculated the great white mistook her for a sea lion and attacked her. A causal relationship between anglers and that shark attack was never suggested. Instead the decision to swim with sea lions, one of the favorite foods for great whites, was seen as the main contributing factor in the attack. In fact, the rise is the number on sea lions and other pinnipeds along California’s coast may be one of the main causes for the increase of great whites.

• Charges have been leveled at Manhattan Beach that the anglers were fishing for a great white shark. After reviewing the YouTube video and other reports (including that of the Department of Fish and Wildlife) it seems clear the charge is unwarranted. It is clear from the rod and reel seen in the YouTube video that the capture of a fish perhaps weighing several hundred pounds would be extremely difficult. The anglers stated they were fishing for bat rays that can be large and fun to catch and that appears most likely.

• The issue of chum for attracting sharks has also been voiced. The anglers said they did not chum for the shark other than the mackerel used for bait and again this seems most reasonable. In fact, a minimal amount of bait goes into the water from anglers at the Manhattan Beach Pier compared to many piers. There are far more numerous anglers at the Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Venice, and Santa Monica piers than at Manhattan Beach and there is much more bait and chum in their waters yet they have not seen appreciable sightings of great whites.

• People fishing for large sharks and rays do not know what they’ve hooked until the fish reaches the surface. According to Fish and Wildlife if an angler sees that the fish is a great white they should then cut the line. Fishermen have long debated this point. Should they cut the line or bring the fish up onto the pier by use of a net, then remove the hooks and return the fish to the water by use of the net. Here the anglers said they were afraid to cut the line since they saw surfers by the shark. It was an unwise decision but based upon past incidents, some reportedly where anglers were instructed to being great whites up onto the pier by pier authorities, it was more an error of judgment than an intentional breaking of the rules. It should be noted that the Fish and Wildlife did not cite these anglers.

• Is there a danger to surfers and swimmers from anglers fishing from piers? Nearly two thirds of all saltwater angling effort in California takes place on piers and the shore with the majority of this taking place on piers. Literally hundreds of thousand of hours are spent pier fishing in California. Yet this, to our knowledge, is the first and only time a swimmer has been bitten by a shark that was on the line of a fisherman. Thus a causal relationship between shark fishing on California piers and swimmers or surfers being bitten by a shark is simply not a reasonable conclusion.

• The number of great whites at Manhattan Beach is surprising and though the numbers are known, and the area is seen as a birthing area for the sharks, the reasons for this are not known. UPSAC believes, and most would agree, that it has no relationship to angling from what is a relatively small pier with a relatively small amount of anglers. If there were truly a fear from the great whites then the most prudent approach would be to ban all swimmers and surfers from the area.

• The larger issue and the one that is most relevant is how the city should serve all the competing interests—anglers, surfers and swimmers. For this UPSAC would suggest Manhattan Beach take a page from those cities that have large piers, and large numbers of surfers, yet have been able to resolve the conflict. The most successful are cities that impose a stay clear zone next to the pier, i.e., one hundred yards no swimming or surfing next to the pier. The prohibition should be painted on the side of the pier so that it is clear to surfers and swimmers, and lifeguards should be told to enforce the rules. Where such rules have been enforced there is generally peace between the competing groups. Lack of such rules and lack of enforcement is generally what leads to conflict. Surfers will object since the piers seem to provide water breaks that surfers prefer but surfers have miles of surf on each side of the pier open to surfing; anglers are restricted to the waters adjacent to a limited number of piers.

Almost entirely overlooked in the discussion on pier fishing are several long-term issues that will not be resolved by simple restrictions on a single city or pier. These are clashes that are occurring throughout California.

• The clash between the “Haves” and the “Have-Nots” in our society. Manhattan Beach is an affluent community ranked by Money Magazine as the fourth most expensive beach town in America. It has the second highest mean income of any Los Angeles neighborhood (right above Beverly Hills) and home prices average $1.8 million. Pier fishermen on the other hand tend to be less affluent. Piers are free and provide low cost alternatives to owning a boat or fishing from a commercial Sportfishing boat. They attract whole families and for (some) people in wealthy seaside communities “these” people are an unwanted mix in their midst.

• The clash between races and ethnic groups. According to the 2000 census, Manhattan Beach was 88.99% White, 6.04% Asian, .61% Black, and minimal numbers of other races.  5.19% was Hispanic or Latino. Most would deny any racism is at play in the equations concerning anglers on the piers but anyone who has fished the piers on a regular basis knows the slurs that often are heard.

• The clash between surfers and anglers. Surfing often involves a  “bullying” nature” that “claims” the waters as its own. It’s seen when locals harass other non-local surfers for water and it’s seen in the conflict over pier waters with anglers. Piers that have restrictions on swimming or surfing within 100 yards of a pier largely avoid the conflict.  Given the glamorization of surfing in southern California, and the wealth and power of the Surfrider Foundation, it’s not hard to see the influence it has over city municipalities and why they are hesitant to enact 100-yard no swimming zones.

• The clash between those who have bought into the anti-fishing message of (some) environmental organizations and those who see the ocean as a living resource that can provide enjoyment for both passive and non-passive users. To some people a shark (or any fish) is a cute creature that is harmless if just left alone. They fail to recognize that all ocean creatures are in a constant battle against not only the ocean elements but against the other ocean creatures: eat or be eaten is the norm. Many people have an unrealistic view of the ocean and that comes into play whenever situations such as this arise.

These are clashes that will continue as society and its views change. Whether fishing is an acceptable recreation will continue to be attacked by some and it’s not clear (as seen in the battles over the Marine Life Protection Act) that angler groups have the funding, the will power, or support to win the battle of the minds of the average citizen.


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