California Piers

“Old Ben” and Avalon

Dear Old Ben — Famous  Seal At Catalina

Takes Fish Out Of Hand As Would A Pet Dog

Depends on Friendly Fishermen for Food and Waxes Fat on Albacore. Eats immense Quantities of Fish and Roams Seas as Patriarch of the Isolated Tribe

If you have visited Avalon on beautiful Catalina Island you have probably seen the statue to “Old Ben” that sits on the path from the ferry landing to the center of town. Here’s an old story that tells about “Old Ben.”

“Old Ben,” the famous old seal of Avalon, is still in his old haunts among the row boats and launches that dot the little harbor. He has been there for thirty-five years and in that time become as tame as the seals which are confined in parks and aquariums. He is as wise as the trained seals of Ringling’s circus, and were he to be captured and put with them, he would cost his keepers a tidy fortune, for he has the biggest appetite of any of his kind ever known.

“Old Ben” feasts on the big fish brought in by the hundreds of anglers that visit Catalina each summer. At each meal he will consume a half-dozen big albacore or skipjacks, aggregating 125 pounds in weight. When he is hungry he swims up near the boat landing, where his favorite befriender, Charles Tompkins, has his boat stand. After a glance at the fish rack, he sets to barking and diving about until he has attracted the attention of those on the pier. He will crawl clean up on the float after food, but even when extremely hungry he cannot be induced to remain there. As soon as he has seized his fish, he dives back into the bay, rising to the surface now and then to give his food a vicious toss as he tears out mouthfuls of flesh. At these times he is often followed by other smaller seals which are too timid to approach the landing. Gulls also pursue the old sea lion and seize the morsels, which are torn loose from the fish as it s being consumed.

This old pet of the bay has attained a great weight from the constant easy supply of food within his reach. He has never been on a scales, but estimates of his weight, made by causing him to cross planks up to a size that would no longer break, give it close to 1400 pounds. His sleek, gray-brown back is often seen dashing between the bathers, who scatter in wild commotion whenever he appears. He has an utter disregard for people and things, and roams about the bay whatever place suits his fancy.

Before Catalina was made a resort, “Old Ben” is supposed to have been the chief of the colony on Seal Rocks. Presumably he was vanquished by some younger rival, and now leads the life of an outcast. He seem to find this entirely agreeable, however, he has succeeded in coaxing several others of the colony into the bay with him. His face is scarred with the marks of many battles, and he has lost the sight of his right eye, but he rules his little band of in the bay as supremely as his successor on the rocks governs the colony.  — Los Angeles Times, August 18, 1918

 

2019 Trinidad Pier Youth Fishing Derby

Saturday, October 5, 2019 saw youth assemble at the Trinidad Pier in the beautiful redwoods north of Eureka to participate in the 6th Annual Trinidad Pier Youth Fishing Derby.

Free loaner rods and reels, free terminal tackle, free bait, free hot dog lunches and drinks, raffle prizes, and a winner in each age group helped generate excitement.

Although the wind picked up a little in the afternoon, the day’s overall weather was gorgeous and the 40 young anglers and the crowd estimated at about a hundred people agreed it was a fun day at the pier.

Ruby Broese with a small cabezon

Of course catching some fish also helps and though the fishing was a little slower than the prior year (no lingcod this time), the mix still included kelp greenling, cabezon, buffalo sculpin, brown rockfish, walleye surfperch and jacksmelt. When a nice school of jacksmelt showed out at the end of the pier toward the end of the day, it provided a nice finishing touch to the tournament.

Ruby Broese with a kelp greenling

David Shigematsu with a small brown rockfish

Buffalo sculpin

Joe Polos, a retired member of the USFWS, set up a touch tank with specimens he collected before the tourney, and put a couple of fish in the tanks for the kids to look at.

Jonathan Pitcher with a buffalo sculpin

Jack Broese with a kelp greenling

What is this?

Is it a starfish? No, a sea star.

A baby cabezon

A little larger kelp greenling

CDFW Wildlife Officer Norris 

Everybody ready for some hot dogs?

There was a fundraiser for the custom rod made by Daniel Troxel of “Bass Man Dan’s Custom Fishing Rods”

Dan Troxel and a rod

Next up was the announcement of the individual age group winners.

Ed Roberts of the CFGD and some of the prizes for the winners

The 6-year-old (and under) winner was Ruby Broese, of Eureka who caught two kelp greenling and a cabezon.

The 7-year-old winner was Taylor Holt of Arcata.   

 The 8-year-old winner was Mannie Guerrero of Trinidad. 

 The 9-year-old winner was Daniel Galan of Arcata. 

The 10-year-old winner was Lucie Bertrand of Arcata. 

 The 11-year-old winner was Jovani Galan of Arcata. 

The 12-year-old winner was Kieryn Wolfe of Trinidad. 

The 13-year-old winner was David Shigematsu of Davis who caught a kelp greenling, buffalo sculpin, brown rockfish, large walleye surfperch, and three jacksmelt. David was the overall winner of the tournament, and this is his third victory in a row.

The 14-year-old winner was Jonathan Pitcher of Arcata who caught a buffalo sculpin.

Last but not least was the raffle with prizes for all contestants.

The sponsors of the derby were the Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria, Humboldt Area Saltwater Anglers, Pacific Outfitters, the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), United Pier and Shore Anglers of California (UPSAC), Pier Fishing In California (pierfishing.com) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The main organizer was Edgar W. Roberts of the CDFW (California Fish and Wildlife Department). Volunteers included CDFW’s Natural Resource Volunteers John “Grondo” Grondalski and Patricia Figeroa, and from HASA (Humboldt Area Saltwater Anglers) Joe Polos. Other volunteers: Daniel Troxel, Russell Janak, Lucas Janak, and Daniel Roberts. CDFW Wildlife Officer Norris kept watch over the proceedings.

Special thanks goes to Grant Roden of the Rancheria, Scott McBain and Joe Polos of HASA, Daniel Troxel of “Bass Man Dan’s Custom Fishing Rods,” and Aaron Ostrom of Pacific Outfitters for making this happen.

Marin Rod & Gun Club — 31st Annual “Kids Day On The Pier”

August 10, 2019 saw the 31st Annual “Kid’s Day on the Pier” at the Marin Rod & Gun Club on San Quentin Point in San Rafael, California. The event was co-sponsored by the club, UPSAC (United Pier and Shore Anglers of California), PFIC (Pier Fishing In California), and the IGFA (International Game Fish Association).

Although the number of youth was down from prior years, the event still saw an enthusiastic group of 37 youngsters and a crowd of roughly 110 people who thoroughly enjoyed the 74-degree weather and slight breeze.

Ethical Angling

UPSAC /PFIC members—Robert Gardner, Bob Griffin and Kyle Pease

Rita Magdamo and family

Interestingly, although the number of youth was down (probably due to school starting in two days), the participants continued to represent many different areas and towns (20): Marin County—San Anselmo, San Rafael, Novato, Larkspur, Kentfield, and Fairfax. Bay Area—San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, San Bruno, San Leandro, San Carlos and Hayward. NorCal and CenCal—Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Hidden Valley, Davis, Roseville and Fresno. Out of state—Bronx, New York.


Omar Medrano and a striped bass

Even better was that the kids caught a good number of fish— 124 jacksmelt, 17 striped bass and two bat ray. Less variety than normal but more fish, which meant a lot of happy, smiling faces.

Loaner rods and reels were available as well as free bait and assistance when needed. Combined with the fishing was a free hot dog lunch and every participant received a rod and reel from the club.

David Shigematsu and a striped bass

Adam Peltola and a jacksmelt

E. J. Stowe and a striped bass

Adam Peltola and a striped bass

  Hans Jones Jr. and a striped bass

Kyle Pease and a bat ray

Club members

Robert Gardner and a jacksmelt

The Marin Rod and Gun Club, United Pier and Shore Anglers of California (UPSAC), and Pier Fishing In California (PFIC) brought tackle and people to help out while the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) provided certificates for the winners.

 Each individual age group winner received a 1st Place trophy, a beautiful IGFA certificate, and an autographed copy of Pier Fishing in California by Ken Jones.

Prizes

Audience

Rods and reels for the raffle

7-year-old-winner Axel Young

8-year-old-winner Sofia Medrano

9-year-old winner Hunter Rodriguez-Olson

10-year-old winner Abigail Wehm

11 year-old-winner E. J. Stowe

12-year-old winner Omar Medrano

13-year-old winner David Shigematsu

15-year-old winner Adam Peltola

Representing the Marin Rod and Gun Club were Chairmen Gary Colmere, Vice-Chairman Roy Jackson, John Evans and more than a dozen club members who performed a plethora of duties—serving as judges on the pier, cleaning and fixing rods and reels for both the derby and the raffle, cooking the hot dog lunch, setting up and cleaning the auditorium and kitchen, and helping announce the results of the raffle.

David Shigematsu and E. J. Stowe

A special thanks goes to club members Mary Ellen Smith (who helped at the registration table and with the cooking) and Rita Magdamo (who helped at the registration table and took pictures at the awards ceremony). Both stayed very busy!

Ken Jones and Gary Colmere

Ken Jones and John Evans

Raffle

Raffle

Rita Magdamo

Representing UPSAC: President Ken Jones, Vice-President Robert Gardner, and Rita Magdamo.

Representing the Pier Fishing in California (pierfishing.com) website family were the above UPSAC members as well as Melvin Kon, Bob Griffin, Kyle Pease, and Hans Jones. Special thanks goes to Barbara Ungersma aka Fishmom1 who couldn’t attend but dropped off several rods and reels for the kids to use prior to the derby.

The biggest thanks of course goes to the Marin Rod and Gun Club that has sponsored this event for 31 years but all of the various organizations and volunteers deserve a round of applause.

Eureka Boardwalk

Sunrise at the Eureka Boardwalk

Although not designed for fishing, and not designated as a public pier, the “Boardwalk” in downtown Eureka’s waterfront has become my favorite spot to practice the piscatorial arts. I say this with a word of caution because if anyone wishes to fish from the boardwalk they should be very, very careful to clean up after themselves and not damage the boardwalk in any way. It’s primarily designed as a walkway for locals and tourists and provides some great views that do not need to be marred by trash, fish scales or blood from careless anglers.

A beautiful fall morning

Traditionally my first stop for fishing in Eureka was the Del Norte Street Pier and IT IS the designated public fishing pier. However, the homeless outnumber the tourists in Eureka and when the city decided to allow a homeless encampment adjacent to the pier’s parking lot it made it a dangerous spot to leave the car (since the pier is a long distance from the parking lot). There are homeless at the boardwalk but at the boardwalk you can park your car a short distance away and keep a good view of it.

Woodley Island

As said, the boardwalk offers great good views of Humboldt Bay. In the distance, a little to the left, one can see Samoa and the North Spit that gives protection to Humboldt Bay. Directly across the bay and its “Eureka Channel” sits Indian Island. A short distance to the right, and across the water known as the “Inner Reach,” sits Woodley Island and its marina.

Looking toward Indian Island with a sea gull as a companion

Most important, the boardwalk also offers access to good fishing, something that I have confirmed by my annual trips to Eureka over the past decade.

A fish processing plant sits just down shore from the Boardwalk

My first visit in 2008 resulted in a decent-sized bat ray while subsequent trips have yielded a variety of perch along with the pelagic species that can invade the bay at different times of the year—anchovies, sardines and herring. Nighttime action can see sharays—sharks and rays, and some flatfish are also to be had but you’ve got to keep the crabs from getting to your bait first.

Mid-picture is Woodley Island and Marina, to the right the Boardwalk

Environment: The boardwalk is basically three blocks long and stretches from D Street to F Street. It fronts on Humboldt Bay but behind it sits Eureka’s historic “Old Town” with its beautiful Victorian buildings, various restaurants, and interesting shops. Just a couple of blocks up the hill is the Romano Gabriel Sculpture Garden and a block further sits the Clarke Historical Museum with its treasure trove of Native American  and Gold Rush era artifacts.

All in all it’s an interesting area for both the angler and non-fishing members of the family. Eureka has put a lot of effort into sprucing up its waterfront area and it’s hoped the efforts continue. Many, including myself, feel it may be the best part of Eureka.

To be honest though, there always seems to be a few “characters” hanging around the area. Some are obviously homeless and some have drug and/or alcohol problems. I’ve never had a problem but I do keep a close eye on my pier cart, camera and rods when I am fishing.

I have met and talked to a lot of interesting people on the boardwalk and I have heard a lot of interesting stories. As said, I’ve never had a problem. Nevertheless, if you want to fish the area at night it might be better done as part of a group.

The fish: Inshore, by the boardwalk and its pilings, is the territory of perch and a number of different species are caught. Smaller walleye and silver surfperch are common most of the year while the larger redtail surfperch are typically caught in the spring. Large white seaperch and striped seaperch can be found year round. Far too common are the small shinerperch that can be a pest when grabbing baits intended for the more favorable perch.

Also too common are the staghorn sculpins (bullheads) that can be found from the shallows out to deeper waters and will often bite on bait and hooks seemingly much too large for their size. At times, especially during the summer months, you may also catch a few small, mostly juvenile, rockfish with brown rockfish leading the list. Occasionally a larger brownie or grass rockfish may decide to join in the fun but they are less common than the perch.

One morning a local walked over to see what I was catching and noticed a tap on my rod. Yes, I mentioned, a perch is checking out the bait. Soon after, I pulled in this white seaperch and I asked him if he would mind holding the fish for a picture. No problem! I released the fish to fight another day while my new found friend described his career as a fisherman in Alaska, Oregon and California. His stories of giant halibut and hard fighting salmon seemed to make my perch pale in comparison but that was then and this was now.

Flatfish—California halibut, starry flounder and a few sole and sanddabs, can also be found on the bottom but generally are a ways out from the boardwalk.

Sharays—Sharks and rays, primarily dogfish sharks, leopard sharks, bat rays and big skates are found in decent numbers but are more common at night and few fish for them from the boardwalk.

Top-water fish can be plentiful. Both jacksmelt and topsmelt are common and can be caught in fair to good numbers much of the year. Some years sees good runs of Pacific sardines (summer-fall) as well as Pacific herring (winter-spring). Anchovies are found most summer to fall months and can be in almost unbelievable numbers.

The Crustaceans: Crabs are both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because they can be taken in good numbers during the crabbing season. A curse because they are found in the bay year round and sometimes seem to cover the bottom waiting to grab the baits intended for fish.

Fishing Tips: Anglers can pick and choose which species and associated techniques they desire. Basically four methods of fishing are employed.

If seeking out perch, the inshore waters are where you will typically find them and by far the hours before and after high tide is optimum since this is also shallow water. Under and just out from the Boardwalk there are both rocks and kelp to attract the perch. I typically fish on one of the extensions that poke out from the main walkway and thus can fish along that extension or even cast back under the walkway toward the rocky shoreline. You may need to try different areas but I’ve always been able to find some fish. At low tide your options are more limited but usually a drop of the line straight down from an extension will find some fish.

As for the bait and technique, it’s the same bait that works in most bay environments. Ghost shrimp and sea worms are optimum but you will not find them in local bait shops. More common is market shrimp, mussels and a small piece of either placed on a high/low rigging with No. 8, 6 or 4 hooks is all you need. If you find a school of walleyes or silver perch you could try a Sabiki-type bait rig but here the water is typically too shallow for bait rigs to be effective; I much prefer to simply place a couple of small hooks on the line. And, I almost always am holding my perch rod since you want to feel the bite and react properly. Setting your rod against the railing and waiting definitely produces less fish.

 The large redtail surfperch are more common in the bay during the spring months (March-May) when they enter the bay to spawn. White seaperch and striped seaperch seem to be present much of the year but both do seem in greater numbers during the spring months. The larger perch are typically caught on the bottom while walleyes and silver are often mid-depth. Shinerperch are just about everywhere and, unfortunately, are great at stealing the bait intended for the larger perch (such is life).

Striped Seaperch

The second fishery is that for flatfish and the main prize is California halibut. Typically they begin to show up around April while peak action is during the summer months, July thru August. Since halibut are ambush predators, a moving bait typically works better than a bait simply sitting on the bottom. Casting a Carolina-type rig baited with a whole anchovy or small sardine/herring can attract a halibut but it’s recommended you cast out and then begin a slow retrieve. A live-bait (anchovy, sardine, etc.) can also work. The problem here is the number of crabs and at times they make it hard to fish any soft-fleshed baitfish such as these. Artificial lures such as Scampis, Big Hammers, Fish Traps and Lucky Craft lures (among others) are proven lures for halibut and will avoid the crabs—as  long as the bay’s eelgrass is not flowing as sometimes happens. The halibut can range from a couple of pounds up to 15-pounds or more.

Starry flounder prefer sea worms and live shrimp (ghost shrimp or grass shrimp) but again those live baits are hard to find locally. More common will be pieces of market shrimp, salted mussel (that is tough), pieces of clams or strips of squid. They will also take strips of anchovy but again the problem is keeping the crabs from getting them first. Tackle can be either a Carolina-type rigging or high/low generally with No. 4 hooks. A medium cast out from the Boardwalk will find them if they are around and often the winter months are the best for the starries.

Small sand dabs, usually Pacific or speckled sanddab may also enter the catch but there numbers are not big. A high low utilizing size 6 hooks and small pieces of bait is generally the preferred method.

The third fishery is for sharays—sharks and rays, with dogfish and leopard sharks leading the shark parade, bat rays leading the parade for rays. Big skates, not just their name but also reflecting their size (some over a hundred pounds in weight) are also commonly encountered.

All are caught on the bottom and the prime time for all is the nocturnal hours when most sane citizens are safely ensconced in their beds (hopefully with happy dreams). Shark anglers are after big game and a five-foot long leopard shark, a hundred pound “mud marlin” (bat ray) or huge big skate will yield some satisfaction (until the next night). If a huge 7-gill shark shows up they may be sated for two nights.

High/low rigs or Carolina rigs with size 4//0 to 6/0 hooks will work for most species. Sharks seem to prefer a whole fish (herring, sardine, jacksmelt) while the rays seem to prefer squid. Given the attention from crabs the tougher squid may be the best way to go. Heavier line and larger hooks are needed.

By the way, landing a large sharay can be a project unless you have some friends along to man the nets. At the south end of the Boardwalk is a dock that is a good place to land sharays.

The final fishery is for the top-water species, fish that are pelagic in nature—herring, sardines and anchovies. When present, and often the sight of diving birds will indicate their presence, they can be hooked on a Sabiki-type bait rig. Generally you do not need any bait on the hooks, simply attach a torpedo sinker to the end of the rig and start casting. Sometimes they are on the top; sometimes you need to let the rig sink mid-water before retrieving. Sometimes a steady retrieve works sometimes you want to reel, rest, reel, rest—try different techniques until you find the one that works. And remember, reel all the way to the Boardwalk since often the fish will be in waters adjacent to where you are casting. If done properly, you may be able to catch 2-5 fish on every cast. It’s great fresh bait and live bait for the flatfish. As for hook size, it depends on the baitfish that are present. Generally the smaller hooks work best, obviously for the anchovies but also for the slightly larger baitfish. Too big of a hook on the bait rig and you will simply hook less fish. While the sardines and herring seemingly come and go, virtually every trip I have made to the bay during the late summer to Fall months has seem big schools of anchovies.

Jacksmelt also fall into this top-water fishery and they too can be caught on the bait rigs (although I prefer a couple of small hooks rigged on a high/low above a torpedo sinker). Size 8 or 6 hooks generally work best and though sometimes the jacksmelt will hit bare hooks, often they want a small piece of bait—worm, shrimp, or strip of squid or mackerel. If finicky, they may prefer a number of small hooks fished under a float of some type with the hooks being from about two feet under the top of the water down to about 5-6 feet under the top. Large jacksmelt put up a good fight on light tackle and are fun to catch.

Eureka Boardwalk Facts

Hours: Open 24 hours a day.

Facilities: Lights and trash cans.

Handicapped Facilities: None.

Location: 100 F Street, Eureka.

How to get there: Take Highway 101 (north or south) and turn on to F Street and follow it toward the bay and the boardwalk.

“B” Street Pier aka Michael J. Scavuzzo Public Fishing Pier — Crescent City

Sunrise can be a beautiful time at the pier!

Looks, whether for women, men, or piers, can be deceiving. When first built, the expectations for this pier were high. It was similar to the expectations about the Ocean Beach Pier in San Diego which was seen as sort of a second coming if you listened to the talk of the fishermen at the time. Poking out into the Point Loma kelp beds, anglers expected to haul in the same fish as the sportfishing boats—at a fraction of the cost. It never happened. Expectations were never quite THAT high at this pier but many anglers, including myself, certainly expected it to be a bonanza of a pier. So far, it hasn’t happened!

Time has proven the pier to be excellent for crabs but generally only poor to fair for fishing unless you happen to visit when a school of pelagic species is present. Even so, the view is absolutely breath taking (when it isn’t raining or foggy) and it’s satisfying to simply cast out a line and contemplate the beauty of the angler’s world. After all, catching a fish is only one aspect of pier fishing!

The pier and nearby lighthouse as seen from Citizens Dock

Environment. This 900-foot-long (some sources say 720 foot-long) pier is located at the western end of the bay almost directly opposite from Citizen’s Dock, its sister (brother?) pier to the east. Nearby, to the west, sits the city’s jetty/breakwater (with its famous tetrapods) and the Battery Point Lighthouse.

The bottom here is mud and sand, but the pier’s closeness to the breakwater, and several fairly good size rocks/small islands that sit near the pier, would seem to offer a combination of conditions ideal for both sand and rock seeking species. However, the rocky shore species such as greenling, cabezon and rockfish prefer the truly rocky areas (i.e., the jetty at Whalers Island) and the surf species, like redtail surfperch, generally prefer the nearby coastal beaches.

The pier does sit in a fairly straight line from the entrance to the bay and it does, at times, offer up good fishing for the transient schools of fish that enter the bay—the smaller surfperch, jacksmelt, herring, and, in warm water years, schools of jack mackerel. It can also offer the chance for salmon, especially when schools of baitfish such as anchovies are using the bay as home. On the bottom, it sees some flatfish as well as a few sharks, skates and rays. But overall, the fishing is fairly slow and inconsistent.

Not so with the crabbing that is good much of the year. Most of the crabs are Dungeness crabs although a few red crabs also show up. Since Dungeness can only be kept legally for part of the year be sure to know your regulations (season, size and method of take).

Unfortunately there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of attractants for fish. Even the pilings themselves are missing the mussels that help transform many piers into virtual artificial reefs. There are acorn and goose barnacles on the pilings but little else. What the pier seems to need is an artificial reef similar to those that have been installed at many piers to the south.

One aspect that should not be overlooked is the weather. Yes, the city gets five and a half feet of rain each year but that’s generally during the winter months. And yes, although it rarely is cold, it is cool most of the year. But for anglers, wind can be as bad or worse than rain and this pier sees a lot of wind. The pier sits just a fairly short distance from the main jetty and the ocean and there is little to block the wind when it comes up. Unfortunately, that seems to occur many if not most afternoons and evenings and can affect the hours you want to fish.

However, the early morn’ hours as well as night-time hours can be special at the pier; sometimes when the fog moves in there is almost an ethereal feeling to the pier. Just make sure you bring some warm clothing since the fog can seem to cut to the bone.

Ghost ship?

My trips to Crescent City are usually preceded by a stay at Eureka and then a slow meandering journey north stopping at Trinidad, redwood parks, elk sightings, the Trees of Mystery, etc. The result is arrival mid-day. I then usually check into my motel and then I am off to fishing — usually stopping first at Citizens Dock. Often I have planned to fish at the B Street Pier during the evening in hopes of latching onto a big skate, a leopard shark, or a bat ray since the pier has the requisite sandy/muddy bottom for those species and they bite best during the evening hours. Often too I have given up due to the high winds and biting chill. Mornings are normally calm but the nighttime hours remind me of the Berkeley Pier at night (which often calls for arctic-like clothing).

Sea gulls can be patient when waiting for unattended bait for fish

As example, a visit in 2015 saw me decide to walk out on the jetty prior to fishing at the pier. The jetty can be a dangerous place, which sign after sign proclaims. On a calm day it can be good for fishing but on a rough day the waves can be breaking over the top. This late afternoon visit saw waves breaking over the jetty at the end but it appeared safe to walk part way out. I was hoping to get some pictures of the pier from a different angle (which I did) but it was a costly visit.

The lone sentinel

The wind was strong and the stinging sand was hard on the face; it reminded me of a visit to an acupuncturist more than twenty years ago. Luckily, I had a warm jacket and my “Wylies Malibu Bait Shop” hat but the hat was soon to be gone. I found out that I needed to lean into the wind and try to hold my hat but that didn’t work when I needed to take a picture and, as said, the hat became a victim of the wind (RIP old friend). When water started coming onto the jetty where I was standing, I decided it was time to move inshore. I’m sure if people had been watching it would have reminded them of the pictures of wind-blown reporters during a hurricane (and asking themselves how dumb is that?). Luckily, I always carry extra hats when I’m on my fishing trips.

Given the ferocity of the wind, and the fact that my hands felt frozen, I decided that fishing would be impossible. Sometimes you have to punt! In this case I headed back to my motel and dreamed of what might have been. The next morning the wind had abated (somewhat) and the waters around the pier were calm. The bay was filled with anchovies, I caught some for live bait, and soon after caught a silver (coho) salmon. Looking back in my records, there were at least four times when I planned to fish the pier at night but gave up due to the wind.

While doing research on the wharves of Crescent City, I ran across the following quote that seems as accurate today as then.

“The peaceful quiet of cool twilight is broken only by the sad cry of the moaning dove and the lazy lapping of the waves along the beach. Then from far out at sea comes a faint sound like the distant roar of a multitude of voices; it increases in depth and volume with every instant and from the north-west there sweeps a wild blast that gathers up the sands of the beach and drives them whirling along the shore. The surface of the water quivers for an instant as though struck by a mighty hand, then sends a succession of swelling waves that gather strength as they approach and break open the land.

Soon the whitecaps come rolling on from afar, running a race landward, bringing with them a flock of screaming gulls white as the foam itself, and whose erratic flight carries them through the hollow of the wave, and now vaulting upwards to the skies. There is a great commotion where the steep reefs extend out in the sea, for ponderous billows are rolling in upon them and crashing against their sides with tumult that is deafening.

The foam gleams pale in the gathering night as the breakers leap among the rocks; it streams down their drenched tides in a thousand tiny torrents and mingles with the restless surf that booms in upon the beach in ever increasing strength and fury. And so the day closes among whistling winds and driving clouds along these bleak and desolate shores.”

Col. John L. Burns, Crescent City News, 1894

The pier does deserve its title as the ultima thule of California piers, the most northern pier in the state. Given that the state line with Oregon lies roughly 20 miles to the north, that fact should not be too surprising.

Fishing Tips. The predominant fish much of the year will be small to medium-size perch such as silver surfperch and walleye surfperch, staghorn sculpin, and small flatfish. Small hooks (size 4-8) baited with pieces of sea worms, tube worms (if you can find them), shrimp, or clams take most of the fish. If schools are thick, you can try bait rigs like Sabikis (size 8-12), but they do not normally seem to take as many fish as at other piers.

Redtail and calico surfperch may make an appearance, especially around May or June, and if they do the best bait will be sand crabs which you have dug up from nearby beaches. Next best baits would be pieces of shrimp, clams, or worms. A standard high/low leader with number 6 or 4 hooks will prove adequate for these perch. A few other perch species, especially white seaperch and striped seaperch may occasionally show up and the same baits and riggings will work with them.

Topsmelt

Jacksmelt and topsmelt have proven to be fairly common species and the typical rigging of 3-4 small size 8 hooks fished under a float of some type (bobber, piece of styrofoam, balloon, etc.) seems to be the standard gear. Most anglers use small pieces of market shrimp but I think pieces of sea worms make better bait. Although the large smelt may be caught whenever a school swings past the pier, the prime time often seems to be at night, just as it is getting dark. Since the darkness can make it hard to see your float, buy a bobber that is luminescent or buy a small hook-on glow light. The smaller topsmelt are rarely large enough to eat but they do make good live bait.

Flatfish have proven to be fairly common, something which was to be expected given the sand and mud bottom around the pier. Most prevalent are small speckled sanddabs that will latch on to bottom baits and hooks intended for larger fish. Unfortunately, most of these are really too small to keep for any useful purpose (although they might work as bait for a larger flatfish).

A really, really, really tiny speckled sanddab caught by Dwight

Luckily, a few Pacific sanddabs and sand sole may also show up and they can be large enough to eat. Quite a few starry flounder also enter the bay and anglers with know how can catch a few of these tasty fish. Best rigging is a sliding leader rigging which offers no resistance when picked up by the flounder. Bait with a strip of anchovy, a piece or shrimp, clam, or tube worm. Although I haven’t seen any anglers use them here, I think live ghost shrimp would prove to be a sure fire bait for the bottom flatfish (as long as the crabs don’t get them first). You can’t buy ghost shrimp locally but I would think they would be available in the mud flats of the bay if locals acquired some ghost shrimp pumps.

Halibut have proven to be the game fish ‘de jour for most of the pier anglers. Most years see a few California halibut landed with fish in the 24-30 inch size being recorded (and a 29-pounder was caught off the pier in 1997). I haven’t heard of any Pacific halibut being caught but some of the young of the species should enter the bay. For both of these species, a sliding leader baited with small live bait would be best. This generally means a live shinerperch, a smelt, or a small walleye or silver surfperch (and you might need to go over to the Citizen’s Dock to catch the bait). Sometimes schools of anchovies, smelt, herring or sardines may also swarm around the pier. Be sure you have some bait rigs with you so that you can snag some of the fish for live bait. Unusual has been the report of these halibut during the winter months (when the weather cooperates). Whereas December runs of the fish have been reported at this pier, most California piers see May-July as the prime halibut months.

This pier has lights so it can be fished at night—if the winds cooperate. This should improve your chances for skates, bat rays, or sharks if you wish to fish for them—but few do. Most of the sharks are leopard sharks or dogfish (sand sharks) although the numbers tend to be fairly low (perhaps due to a lack of anglers). There was a good run on large leopards in July of ’09 and a report of a blue shark landed at the pier but the overall lack of sharks is still somewhat of a mystery. Use squid as the bait for the sharays since it will best survive the ravages of the crabs.

Small juvenile to mid-sized rockfish—black, blue, brown, yellowtail and copper—sometimes hang around the pilings during the summer months and, at times, you may see a school of Pacific tomcod or juvenile sablefish enter the bay. The numbers of these fish are small overall but they can provide a little variety and action for the anglers.

Juvenile yellowtail rockfish

Some years also see fairly good numbers of jack mackerel enter the bay and for some reason most of these are good-size fish, often exceeding two feet in length. Most are caught on Sabiki-type bait rigs and generally it is the late summer to fall months that see most of these pelagic critters. Not common but occasionally seen, especially during warm-water years, are Pacific mackerel.

I think salmon are fairly common in the harbor but not too many really fish for them. If more people used live baitfish, or tried artificial lures at the pier, more salmon would be landed. I landed several small, under-sized salmon smolt in 2013 while using my normal high/low rigging baited with pile worms. All of course were returned to the water but where there are small ones there should be larger ones.

Juvenile salmon

That thought proved true in 2015. Schools of anchovies surrounded the pier and eventually I broke out the Sabiki rig to catch some fresh bait. One lively anchovy was placed on a hook about four feet under a bobber. I wasn’t sure what I might catch but the result was a 23-inch silver salmon.  Silver salmon are illegal to keep so it was returned to the water but it “made” my day on the pier. Do make sure that you know the rules governing salmon, especially those in regard to size, seasons, and types of hooks allowed.

Silver salmon

A highlight each year in the harbor is the arrival of Pacific herring. Anglers will flock to the Coast Guard Jetty, Citizens Dock and even the B Street Pier for the tasty fish. Although the jetty seems the “primo” spot in the harbor, and will be filled with people using Sabiki-type bait rigs or nets, both piers can also be productive.

Pacific herring

The advantage of the piers is, of course, the fact that no license is required. One day I was fishing for herring off the jetty when approached by a couple of anglers from Oregon. Was this a good spot? Yes. Did you need a license? Yes on the jetty but not on the public piers. They moved to Citizens Dock (which unfortunately wasn’t as productive that year as the jetty).

The herring generally run from January to February (but the runs can start earlier and end later) and the best times are usually during high tides so check the papers. Most people use bait rigs and dress with rain clothing since rain is to be expected that time of the year. People will fill their coolers with the fish, some to be eaten and some to be saved as bait during the salmon season.

Staghorn sculpin

One fish that is common, in fact far too common, is small staghorn sculpins. Sometimes the bottom seems to be covered with the “bullheads” and they’ll grab baits seemingly far too big for their mouths. They are too small to eat but can make decent live bait if fished slightly above the bottom. If allowed to rest on the bottom (when using a Carolina rig)  they will sometimes burrow into the  bottom mud which makes them a little hard to spot by the fish being sought.  But, it can be hard to keep them off your hook.

Dungeness crab

Be prepared to share space with the crabbers. As mentioned, this pier has proven to be a top-notch spot for crabs and at times this can be to the detriment of anglers actually fishing for fish. Crabs like to gobble up the bait while crabbers gobble up the railing space. One night I visited the pier for a little potpourri fishing and was startled to see crab pots tied every 7-10 feet around the entire end of the pier, in fact the outer 1/3 of the pier. There must have been at least 50-60 crab pots out there and if you wanted to fish a spot you had to do so amidst the pots and the ropes to the pots as well as the families that were crabbing and having a little social gathering. Every few minutes a pot would be pulled in and then tossed back out (generally as far as the person could throw it); it was a loud and disturbing racket which didn’t help the fishing and I blamed my lack of success at least in part to the din of the crabbers. But, they were catching crabs and certainly had as much right to the pier as I did.

Dungeness crabs with crab/hoop net

The Dungeness crab season is generally the first Saturday in November through July 30 and during that period you will find crabbers out most nights—especially if the wind and weather cooperate. Interesting is that quite a few of the crabbers are from Oregon. especially Brookings, Oregon, that sits just 26 miles to the north. The combination of no license requirements along with the perception that the Crescent City crabs are of superior quality attracts quite a few people across the border. The result can be the crowded conditions mentioned above and I wonder if certain sections couldn’t be reserved for the crabbers and others for fishermen, at least for those months?

Pier cart, rod and bird

Email Messages From The Pier Fishing In California Message Board

Date: December 5, 2000; To: PFIC Message Board; From: pathcode; Subject: (In reply to: Citizen’s Dock posted by Ken Jones) 

Crabbed the B Street Pier in Crescent City Monday and Tuesday. Got two legal rocks, one red, and one Dungeness. First time I’ve crabbed in thirty some years. Tuesday (Nov 28) was real slow until about and hour before low tide. Then we were getting 12+ crabs to a ring, some nearly legal. Fished both days without a bite. Are those fat sea lions in the harbor doing a job on the fish inhabitants? Buying and reading ‘Pier Fishing in California’ renewed my interest in fishing and crabbing. Thanks Ken!!

Date: July 18, 2001; To: PFIC Message Board; From: dennis glasi; Subject: Trip to Oregon/Crescent City

Got back last night. I hoped to get to Anacortes, Wash in the San Juan’s but got tired of driving up I-5 so made a right turn to Winchester Bay, Oregon. Dug a batch of soft shell clams and steamed them for dinner. Drove down to Coos Bay the next day and dug some more soft shells. Made some good oil and garlic over linguini with lots of fresh clams. Excellent!!

Next day, I drove down the coast to Crescent City, CA for some fishing off the pier. The bay was loaded with anchovies as far as you could see in any direction. Billions of them. A million birds were feasting on them, seals were in all their glory and a huge grey whale was in the bay eating his share. What a sight. The bay was black with them. I didn’t have a bait pole so I told a young Asian boy that was using a Sabiki rig that if he supplied me with live bait, I would give him 50% of my catch. He obliged and I sent a live ‘chovie down on a sliding leader. I had a hook up of something in about one minute. It spit the hook and soon afterwards the wind started to howl at about 30 knots so I called it a day.

Date: June 8, 2003; To: PFIC Message Board; From: James Bond; Subject: the cursed docks

Went fishing on The Cursed Dock aka the B Street Pier in Crescent City trying for flounder or perch. No bites, nothing. Probably because of low tide. Lots of herring swimming around though; too bad I didn’t have one of those baitfish rigs. Setup: Shimano Syncopate, 6-foot Ugly Stick, sliding setup, prawns and squid

Date: August 15, 2008; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Ken Jones; Subject: Trip to the North Coast

Tuesday 8/12—“B” St. Pier: I decided to head over to the ”B” St. Pier that sits at the other end of Crescent Harbor; a pier that has always disappointed. Here the bottom is sand and mud and typically the choice is schooling fish on the top (jacksmelt, walleye surfperch, silver surfperch, Pacific herring, etc.) or a bottom fish—sole and flounder during the day, a possible skate or shark at night. The big rig was cast out for a bottom fish while the light rig was set up with a high low and pile worms for perch by the pilings. The perch were missing but some small kelp greenling were present by the pilings; unfortunately, so too were the juvenile black rockfish. As for the heavier rig? All it was attracting was crabs and they were doing quite a job on the baits—anchovies, cut mackerel, and finally squid. I did put a live shinerperch out for halibut but even that wound up being attacked by the crabs. I finally decided to call it quits. It seemed that small hooks yielded unwanted small fish (the black rockfish), large hooks yielded crabs.

“B” St. Pier:  7:35-9:05 PM — Fish Totals: 12 Black Rockfish (juvenile), 5 Kelp Greenling, 1 Shinerperch, 1 Staghorn Sculpin, 1 Very Large Rock Crab. All fish released.

Date: August 28, 2013; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Ken Jones; Subject: Trip to Crescent City

Day 4—Monday: Tired and a little hungry I finally decided on a break before heading out to the “B” Street Pier. However, by the time I reached the pier the wind was REALLY blowing as in it was almost hard to stand up straight. No one was on the pier and I hated NOT being able to fish a few more hours but it just seemed fruitless. A few more pictures and I called it a day.

Pier cart and tackle

Day 5—Tuesday: I was scheduled to meet up with a friend at Trinidad at 1 PM but wanted to fish “B” Street for a few hours, and Citizens Dock one more time. Thus I was out at the pier at sunrise and got what I feel were some nice pictures. No wind, little current, but few fish. This has always been one of my most disappointing piers. It’s a beautiful pier, in a beautiful setting, but totally surrounded by a mud bottom. The big perch have never shown an affinity for the pilings, the flatfish are few and far between, and you’re at the mercy of pelagics passing by the pier. It’s almost always good for crabs but I wasn’t crabbing. I’ve thought for years they should build an artificial reef by the pier and the feelings haven’t changed. Other than a few juvenile yellowtail rockfish nothing really showed with the exception of a couple of salmon smolt that had the audacity to hit my pile worms. Bullheads (staghorn sculpin) of course were present as they were throughout the trip (giving rise to the title—“Bullhead Trip”). It was an interesting visit however between the beautiful dawn and a lady who brought out her parrot to the pier. We had a nice talk and it added something different to an otherwise slow fishing trip.

 Hoop net

Date: September 8, 2013; To: PFIC Message Board; From: FishInTheRain; Subject: Salmon at B Street

Salmon were hanging around under the end of B Street Pier in Crescent City this afternoon. They wouldn’t take my bait; all I had was shrimp and Fishbites. No other fishermen were on the pier at the time.

Date: September 8, 2013; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Bigindaboat; Subject: Salmon at B Street

Wow, better outfit yourself with some pink Mad River steelhead worms and go get yourself some orange meat!

Date: September 8, 2013; To: PFIC Message Board; From: anchovy aaron; Subject: Salmon at B Street

Chartreuse spinners or spoon. When all else fails salmon will still eat chartreuse.

Date: October 6, 2015; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Ken Jones; Subject: B Street Pier/Crescent City

I fished the “B” St. Pier in Crescent City Saturday morning for a couple of hours and was getting nothing on the bottom except bullheads and crabs when I spotted some anchovies. I caught a few with a Sabiki, put one on for live bait, and got a surprise, a 23-inch silver (Coho) salmon. I didn’t expect that. I was going to fish the pier Friday night but the winds were ferocious, 30-40 miles per hour with gusts topping fifty. I walked out on the jetty to take a few pictures of the pier, lost my hat to the wind, could hardly stand up, and decided it would be futile to go fishing in that wind. The next morning it was still windy, which made it difficult to fish, but I decided I had to at least try it for a couple of hours. It proved to be a wise decision given the salmon. Of course being a silver salmon it was illegal and had to go back into the water.

Pier Fishing in California Fish Reports

September 1997—William Van Dyke, of Popeye’s Bait & Tackle at the foot of the pier, says there has been a good run of mackerel, Pacific herring and jacksmelt at the pier. Anglers are using bait rigs or very small hooks and beads to attract and hook the fish. Some of the mackerel are up to 3-feet in length which leads me to suspect they are jack mackerel (Spanish mackerel), although this El Niño year may see Pacific mackerel up in that area. Fishing for both halibut and perch has slowed.

December 1997—Linda, at Popeye’s Bait & Tackle, says it has been windy, cold and rainy and few if any fish have been landed recently. However, in the first three hours of the new Dungeness crab season, eight people on the pier landed their limits, so it looks like another banner year for Dungeness crabs.

January 2000—Chris, at Englund Marine, says that he is getting reports of quite a few halibut being landed at the pier. Six fish, 15-20 inches long, were landed one day and another two fish broke the lines of the anglers. He says it is a possibility they are sand sole but all reports so far indicate they are California halibut even though it’s a strange time of the year for them. Most action though is being done by the crabbers who are out in force. The weather has been pretty good for this time of the year.  

March 2001—Dave, at Englund Marine, says that anglers are beginning to pick up quite a few pogies/pumpkinseeds at the “B” Street Pier and at Citizens Dock.  Unfortunately, I’m not too clear as to if they are pileperch, striped seaperch or redtail surfperch, but at least some type of perch are cooperating with the local anglers. He says anglers are also snagging some herring when the schools make their runs into the bay and that people are getting a few Dungeness crabs (although overall it has been a slow crab season).  

August 2001—Leonard, at Eugland Marine, says salmon action has been fantastic off the shoreline and that a few are also being landed from the piers and wharfs. He says there is bait everywhere—jacksmelt and Spanish mackerel. He says the salmon are being taken on 1/2 to 1 oz. Kastmasters, Little Cleos and Krocodiles.     

September 2001—Leonard, at Eugland Marine, says visitors hitting the pier are getting a few fish—smelt, herring and flatfish. He says there’s been a massive die off of fish in the harbor and the smell is somewhat overpowering.

February 2002—Chris at Englund Marine, at the foot of Citizen’s Dock says a couple of California halibut were landed recently along with some small sand sole. Crabbing has been poor. Again however, the runs of Pacific herring should start anytime.

September 2002—Chris, at Eugland Marine, says anglers are mainly getting some nice sand sole (which they mistake for halibut) and a few perch. Quite a few octopus are also being taken.

October 2004—The pier is seeing occasional flurries of jacksmelt along with the regular perch (walleyes, silvers and a few redtails). Some sand sole are also available. Most of the action continues to come from crabbers. 

August 2006—Leonard, at Eungland Marine, reports that more people are crabbing than are fishing although a couple of good-sized leopard sharks were taken from the pier. 

Potpourri

Author’s Note. No. 1. For years there was a small bait and tackle shop (actually a trailer) near the front of the pier. And, for a period of time, I received fishing reports from the shop (see below). For whatever reason the shop is now gone but it sure would be nice if a shop were out there. Not only would it provide bait for anglers (which can be hard to find along the north coast) but if done correctly could provide some snacks and drinks for the tourists who seem to love to walk to the end of the pier.

Author’s Note. No. 2. The Battery Point Lighthouse sits just inshore from the pier and it and its museum are well worth a visit. However,  you will need to do it at low tide. The lighthouse sits on a tiny islet connected to Battery Point by an isthmus and is surrounded (at times) by water. It was commissioned in 1852, lit in 1856, and is one of the oldest lighthouses on the West Coast. It was finally automated in 1953 and then, although it survived  the 1964 tsunami that devastated Crescent City, its light was replaced in 1965 by the flashing light that sits at the end of the nearby breakwater/jetty.

Scenes of the lighthouse —

Do remember to leave the lighthouse before the high tide returns.

Author’s Note. No. 3. The Crescent City Breakwater/Jetty sits just to the west of the pier and gives protection to it and the harbor itself. Signs warn of the dangers of walking on the jetty but many people do. Be careful out there! Rogue waves that can sweep over the jetty are a common occurrence. Out toward the end of the jetty are the famous tetrapods that were installed following the 1964 tsunami.

Author’s Note. No. 4. You never know what you are going to see on a pier. One morning saw me joined by a lady out walking her cockatoo and we had a very interesting talk, one that  almost made me want to go out and buy a cockatoo.

History Note.

New Pier Built off B Street

Now, with all the legal wrangling over, it was time to act on the new B Street fishing pier.

A spokesman for the Corps of Engineers commented that someone in Crescent City “stretched it a bit far” by torching the old Dutton wharf before the needed permits were issued. The city now needed to write a plan for the burn, including plans for debris removal and pile control to keep the harbor open to boats and ships.

On August 27, 1987, the same day that three Crescent City officials were indicted, the California Coastal Commission agreed to give Crescent City a permit to demolish the old Dutton pier. Ninety percent of the wharf surface had been destroyed by fire. The permit was for the remaining 10 percent of the wharf’s surface and the pilings.

The city then had to wait for authorization from the Corps of Engineers to remove the remaining wharf surface and the pilings.

The Corps permit was received in September and arrangements were made for the California National Guard from Eureka and Crescent City to perform the demolition of the old Dutton Wharf.

In August, 1988 the City Council unanimously agreed to name the new $1.5 million pier to be built to replace the old Dutton wharf the Michael J. Scavuzzo Public Fishing Pier. It was named after Scavuzzo because of his commitment and perseverance to the redevelopment of Crescent City, especially the waterfront planning.

On Saturday September 17, 1988 members of the 579th Engineer Battalion began demolition work. Over the weekend about 200 feet of the old pier were pulled and blasted off its foundation. In all there were 25 to 30 guard members, four divers, and two blasters who participated in the works.

The work went slowly because they had to avoid disturbing the fish in the harbor. Each pier had individual charges set by National Guard divers underwater. Blasting caps had to be detonated just before each blast to scare the fish away from the charge area. The operation used 700 pounds of explosives and about 6,000 feet of cable for the charges, which were detonated from shore.

A guard bulldozer pulled about 50 feet of the pier from its mooring on the land side. All of the pilings on the sea side had to be blasted. National Guard and Del Norte County Sheriff’s crews pulled the pilings to shore after they were blasted free. The pilings were attached to a winch and dragged ashore by a front-end loader, which piled them up for burning.

Because the National Guard met only one weekend a month it took three months to complete the work.

Plans for the new B Street Pier were completed and funding was raised for the construction. There was a $500,000 grant from the Wildlife Conservation Board, a state grant for $500,000 from an offshore oil fund, and a loan to the city for $400,000.

The contract for the construction of the new pier was awarded to Art Tonkin who was out of Willow Creek, Calif. The new pier was built in the same location as the old one, but at a slightly different angle into the harbor. This was perpendicular to the sand shoal pattern and reached deeper water sooner. The causeway was also widened and paved.

Construction couldn’t begin until May of 1989 because of delays in shipping the steel pilings. The pilings were epoxy coated and had to be shipped from Japan. The new pier was 720 feet long and 12 feet wide.

Ribbon cutting ceremonies for the new B Street Fishing Pier were held on October 14, 1989. Mayor Robert Seligman and Miss Del Norte, Severin De Gross did the actual ribbon cutting. Nearly 100 people turned out for the ceremony. Two weeks later the pier was officially opened to the public.

—Dave Gray, Del Norte Triplicate, December 21, 2006

“B” Street Pier Facts

Hours: Open 24 hours a day.

Facilities: Limited free parking at the foot of the pier, night-lights, and a few trashcans. There used to be a fish cleaning station out at the end of the pier but it’s gone—“vandals took the handles”—but there are a couple of picnic tables out at the end. The small bait and tackle shop that used to sit near the entrance has also disappeared. Thankfully, a couple of portable toilets are still present at the entrance to the pier.

Handicapped Facilities: None with the exception of ramps leading up to the curb. The pier’s surface is wood planks and the pier’s railing is approximately 40 inches high.

How To Get there: Take Highway 101 to Front Street, go west on Front Street to “B” Street; go south (left) on “B” Street to the pier.

Management: Crescent City Harbor District.