California Piers

The 2021 “Kids Day on the Pier” — Marin Rod & Gun Club Pier

August 28, 2021 saw the 32nd Annual “Kid’s Day on the Pier” at the Marin Rod & Gun Club pier on San Quentin Point in San Rafael, California. It was also the 8th derby co-sponsored by UPSAC (United Pier and Shore Anglers of California) and PFIC (Pier Fishing In California).

Registration — Pat Jones, Ann Marie Melanephy, and Rita Magdamo (MR&G club member and UPSAC/PFIC member)

The day would see 69 “official” participants in the age 6-15 event as well as about a dozen “unofficial,” ages 5 and under newbie anglers. When combined with the parents, friends, and workers, the crowd was close to 180 people, one of the largest in recent memory. Given the warm weather, low tide conditions, and somewhat “dirty” air, the large numbers were somewhat surprising to some.

Although local towns produced most of the participants, a total of 25 towns were represented in the derby—Albany, Antioch, Berkeley, Brentwood, Corte Madera, Danville, Davis, Fairfax, Fremont, Kentfield, Mill Valley, Novato, Greenbrae, Larkspur, Oakland, Pacifica, Petaluma, Pittsburg, Richmond, San Anselmo, San Jose, San Mateo, San Rafael, Santa Rosa, and Sonoma.

The first fish — a baby leopard shark

The DeJong Family

Danika Wren and a small brown smoothhound shark

The Marin Rod and Gun Club and United Pier and Shore Anglers of California (UPSAC) brought free loaner tackle and people to help out at the event while the club provided the free bait. Assistance for the (often) newbie anglers was available as needed.

 Luckily, the fish gods cooperated and the youngsters caught both a good number and good variety of fish. The various species were led by the sharay contingent (sharks and rays) —22 leopard sharks, 11 bat rays (including one reported at approximately 70 pounds), and 5 brown smoothhound sharks. Rounding out the action were 13 jacksmelt, 2 California halibut, 1 sardine and 1 crab. The action resulted in a lot of happy, smiling faces and excitement when large fish were hooked.

One notable moment occurred when a large bat ray had been hooked but was tangled on a piling. The fish was visible to the crowd of youth looking straight down through the cracks between the surface boards, which prompted the memorable shout—“Oh my God, a humongous fungus!” Not exactly correct terminology but it got the point across that it was something big.


Leopard Shark

Bat Ray (Mud Marlin) — Adam Gorczycki

Al Petrocelli and Family

It’s never too young to start fishing.

Once the fishing was completed, every youngster received a free hot dog lunch courtesy of the club, and new rods and reels from the club and UPSAC.

Rita Magdamo

In addition, each individual age group winner received a 1st Place trophy, an autographed copy of Pier Fishing in California by Ken Jones, and a rod and reel.

Age Group Winners: 6-year-old Vinny Podesta

7-year-old Sebastian Garcia 

8-year-old Parker Brock

9-year-old Shayda Citarrella

10-year-old (tie) Sean McConedough

10-year-old (tie) Dustavo Pretta

11-year-old Vincent DeJong

12-year-old Adam Gorczycki

13-year-old Ryan Etter

14-year-old Danika Wren

15-year-old Thomas DeJong.

Spearheading the efforts of the Marin Rod and Gun Club this year was Al Petrocelli assisted by many, many members of the club who performed a plethora of duties—serving as judges on the pier, cleaning and fixing rods and reels for the derby, cooking the hot dog lunches, and setting up and cleaning the auditorium and kitchen. A special thanks to Ann Marie Melanephy who helped with the registration of participants.

Representing UPSAC was president Ken Jones (who helped organize the event, took pictures, handed out individual awards, and announced raffle winners), Pat Jones (who helped at the registration table), Rita Magdamo (a club member and UPSAC/PFIC member who helped at the registration table and helped handing out awards, Robert Gardner (who helped rig the equipment and filmed the awards), and Kyle Pease (who helped with the equipment and worked as a judge).

The biggest thanks of course goes to the Marin Rod and Gun Club itself that has sponsored this event for 32 years but all of the various organizations and volunteers deserve a round of applause.







“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 ( 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.



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



Rita Magdamo

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

Representing the Pier Fishing in California ( 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.