Endangered species — The disappearance of youth from the wilderness

A good article even if a few years old.

By GT Jones, Ventura County Reporter, 05/29/2008

Tom and son, Venice Pier

Over the past 20 years our children have become increasingly alienated from the natural world. They have abandoned our open spaces and wilderness where unstructured imaginative play has existed for as  long as the human species. Youthful expeditions that discovered shortcuts to school and secret hiding places are being eradicated by societal fears and impending litigation. Days spent building forts in the woods and swimming in ponds are quickly fading from our social history. At best, the constricting  radius children are allowed to travel around their homes limits them to the trusted patches of grass and  concrete in the front yard.

The effects of this nature deficit on the physical, emotional and spiritual health of our youth are popular topics in the social laboratory. Sacramento State University offers a course solely examining the effects of television on our youth. It is considered a likely contributor to childhood obesity, aggressive behaviors and Attention Deficit Disorder.

It is a curious abandonment from a parenting philosophy that once produced some of the best lessons of childhood. Kevin Smith remembers growing up in Camarillo.

“As kids my brother and I, along with several neighborhood friends, would spend hours playing in a large wheat field at the end of our street,” Smith says. “We would dig holes and build ‘forts’ with whatever we had laying around the house. Sometimes our parents would let us camp out overnight. This would all disappear twice a year when the land owner plowed the field so he could replant wheat for his cattle.”

Natasha Morisawa, a bioterrorism and emergency preparedness analyst, remembers walking her dogs  for hours with her sister. They toured local parks, learning the neighborhood along the way.

“Not just our street or block, but details about the blocks between our house and the park; details that we would never know if we rode in the car,” Morisawa says.

South Morro Bay T-Pier


What is blamed for the disconnect? The ever-rising popularity of video games, television and computers are obvious targets. For the first time in history, early life experiences are formed more by LCD pixels and cartoon characters than insect collections and tree  houses. A study conducted by Kaiser Family Foundation found that U.S. youth now spend an average of five hours a day — 40 percent of their awake hours — in front of electronic devices. And the behavior starts young. Children younger than 2 years old will spend more than two hours daily in front of a media screen.

In 1997, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) focused their studies on the potential health risks that television, movies, music videos and video games present to our youth. Since then, it has been linked to a number of conditions. It is generally accepted as a contributor to childhood obesity and hypertension by encouraging inactivity. Compounding the problem, the most commonly advertised foods during children’s programming are high in fat, sugar and salt. Academically, there is a relationship between excessive television viewing and a decline in reading and comprehension skills. Emotionally, media overexposure can contribute to aggressive behaviors and desensitization to violence. As children grow into young adults, conditions with body image, sexuality and self-concept may also develop from the portrayal of unrealistic scenarios.

But researchers aren’t ready to say that digital and media entertainment are completely to blame. They may only be symptoms of greater challenges; something to fill a child’s time due to lost options.

South Morro Bay T-Pier


In today’s communities, money has become a powerful source of retribution. Mental anguish, embarrassment and disrespect all have a price. We sue over ruined pants and a neighbor’s blowing leaves. Playtime is not exempt from this system. The fear of litigation from a child falling from a tree or tripping at a creek crossing is too great. Nervous homeowners dissolved any play in their yards, fearful that a slip on wet grass could lead to losing their home, their retirement, or their own child’s college fund.

A powerful influence in the criminalization of play comes from a growing form of private government. Homeowner’s associations have flourished in new communities. Membership is required. As it appears in their mission statements, their purpose is “to promote the general welfare and support the common good of its members as well as to maintain property values.” To accomplish this goal they use regulations. Lots of regulations. Outlawing dumping trash in the street, for instance. But it doesn’t end there. Latently, HOA regulations impose limitations on expression and lifestyle. Houses must be painted one of three shades of tan. Clothes may not be line-dried in backyards. Commercial work vehicles are banned from driveways and streets overnight. There shall be no more than two pets in any household. Neighbors no longer need to tolerate the differences between one another. They can homogenize the nonconformist with regulations.

When asked how he liked children W.C. Fields responded, “Parboiled.” W.C. Fields is an active resident in many of today’s communities. Whether it’s over noise complaints or vandalism worries, there is someone waiting to disassemble any unauthorized gatherings of children. And Homeowners associations provide a fantastic soapbox for their complaints. Members of Oakridge Estates Community Association in Newbury Park have used this system effectively.

Vocal fears of arson and teenage parties have successfully barred access to the publicly owned open space behind their homes. Posted with “no trespassing” signs, their trailheads are now blocked by locked gates and chain-link fencing. Using justifications peppered with the keyword “liability” they have effectively sanitized play into an orderly, unthreatening experience without Frisbees that can sail into the street and basketball hoops that must be hidden in the garage.

As youth are increasingly locked out of undeveloped lands, park and recreation departments scramble to create equitable outdoor experiences. A replica of the lost opportunities. They erect plastic molded climbing walls, cushioned groundcover, skate parks and water slides. Still, the same concerns about liability remain. They must be aware not only of obvious dangers, but of every pogo wrong, freak accident or not. It has to be foolproof. Fingers remain crossed.

Shelter Island Pier — San Diego


Public education once took an interest in getting children outdoors. Now only one-third of children in the U.S. have daily physical education in school. With budget cuts and our narrowed focus on specific subject criteria, teacher shortages and overcrowding, academic courses are forced to abandon the wilderness as a classroom. The purpose of the field trip has degraded to a distraction. Nature once offered inspiration for literature and poetry. It provided practical illustration of physics experiments. It was a laboratory for biology. Now, field trips have become increasingly counterproductive.

Outdoor education returns to the parent. Parents play a significant role in how their children connect to the outdoors. Well before the beginning of formal education, parents teach lessons that build self-esteem and confidence. They introduce the life skills of safety and awareness. They show how to interact with their surroundings. Yet sometimes modern day realities dilute these lessons.

Expanding work schedules can leave little daylight for shared exploration. In its place, a growing unfamiliarity with nature now breeds modern-day neuroses; fear of insects, of the sun, of dirty water, of snakes, of coyotes, murderers and rapists all lurking just beyond the front yard.

 Goleta Pier


In 1980 Turner Broadcasting launched CNN, introducing America to a new news format. A  24-hours-a-day endlessly looping news format. Not far behind, cable television multiplied our channel count from five to hundreds. How to fill all those channels, all those hours? Repetition. Hour after hour, network upon network. Repeat daily.

In 1989, the World Wide Web was born. The Internet provided a platform for accelerating information around the globe. Once connected, the public no longer had to wait for delivery of news through television and print media — they could hunt for it. An avenue to know practically anything we wanted at any time, ad nauseum. Our hunter gatherer nature was aroused. It has been a spectacular renaissance in many ways.

Parents embraced the new format, collecting information that would keep themselves and their children safer; a parent’s ultimate responsibility. But what do they ultimately find?

A 20-second Internet search presents these results:  A non-family member abduction occurs every nine minutes in the United States.

There are 4 million pet dog attacks in the U.S., mostly on children.

As many as 1 in 20 adults has active pedophile thoughts or tendencies. (Global Children’s Fund)

About 1,000 children die from drowning.

Every year approximately 250,000 children are brought to the emergency room due to a bicycle injury.

Heather Quaal, a mother of two and the former president of the MOMS Club of Ventura addresses the concerns she’s heard. “I hear about mountain lion sightings at the school down the road … I have heard of men trying to walk off with children at Arroyo Verde into the hill,” Quaal says. We know where every sex offender and violent felon lives in our neighborhood.

Then the newspaper arrives and headlines reinforce the threats. “Oxnard Man Shot to Death,” “Bird Tests Positive for West Nile Virus,” “Mountain Lion Sighted on Ventura Rooftop.” Television carries us further from home.

“A Chino Hills Park is closed after a coyote attack on a 2-year-old … ”

“Police are searching for a 14-year-old girl that went missing from her Bel Air home early Tuesday … ” With information like this appearing by the strike of a keyboard or the push of a remote control, it is understandable why parents are fearful. There are a world of threats leaned up against our front door.

Enter the Free Range Kid.

 Avila Pier


Last month Lenore Skenazy of New York City was labeled the “Worst Mother in the World” by public critics across the country. What does a mother need to do to garner such virulent disapproval across America? She dropped her 9-year-old son off at a department store in New York, and challenged him to return home safely.

At his pleading, Skenezy left her son inside a New York City Bloomingdale’s. He wanted the challenge of finding his way back, alone, one subway ride and a bus connection from their home. Mom gave him a subway map, a Metro card, a 20 dollar bill and some change for a phone call. She told him what to do if he got lost. Then she returned to their home and waited. He found his way back without incident, mother and child both thrilled by his accomplishment.

When Skenazy mentioned the event to friends and acquaintances she was met with unrestrained condemnation. She was reminded of a recent abduction of a young girl in Florida.

Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara

“How would you have felt if he didn’t come home?”

“I don’t want to be the one on TV explaining my daughter’s disappearance.” And that was before Skenazy put it in writing. As an opinion columnist with a typically humorous slant, she hardly expected the massive reaction that was coming when she documented it in her weekly New York Sun column.

As the controversy grew, Skenazy started a blog and message board where opponents and supporters gathered to debate. (freerangekids.wordpress.com).  Some visitors embrace her parenting decision completely, some agree philosophically but are unable to engage in the practice, and others outright condemn the experience as criminal.

The debate spawned a new parenting approach, or rather, a return to an old one. The Free Range Kid Movement was born. Despite accusations to the contrary, Free Range Parents don’t discourage bicycle helmets, car seats or airbags. They don’t encourage running with scissors. They want a return to the lifestyle that existed before the information age — including the risks that come with it. They believe it is essential to training children’s independence and decision-making abilities. Free Range Parents allow their pre-teen children to walk to school alone. To ride their bicycles to the library. To play in the woods unsupervised.

Free Range Parents also come armed with their own counter-statistics. That a child is 40 times more likely to die in a car accident than be abducted. That, contrary to statistics broadcast on the Today Show, the U.S. Justice Department shows a decline in child abductions since 1988. And since 1980, death rates dropped by about half for children between the ages of 5 and 14.

Ventura County is home to two of the safest communities in America, Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley, though you wouldn’t always know it. Even for parents who agree with the philosophy of the movement, they don’t find it quite so simple to practice.

“I think there is a generalized feeling that the open spaces are wonderful in a supervised situation, but that unsupervised there is too much potential for a predator to be lying in wait, whether it be one of the human or animal,” says Heather Quaal.

Natasha Morisawa agrees: “I think I would like to be more of a ‘free range parent.’… But for now, I will acknowledge my vulnerability and do what I can so that I can raise these boys in the best world I know.”

One side will argue the reason the numbers are down is because their children are better protected from the threats. The other side will argue that the threats never existed in the first place. With many parents,  the risk is too great or too frivolous. Some make little distinction between free range parenting and the criminally negligent.

Avila Pier


What is generally agreed by both sides is the effect this nature deficit is having on our youth. The responsibility to nurture healthy, confident and curious children hasn’t changed. Childhood obesity, caused by the body taking in more calories than it burns, has tripled since 1960. In addition, Type 2 diabetes, mellitus, hypertension and obstructive sleep apnea are all conditions that can carry directly into adulthood. Nature experiences have been increasingly abandoned as one of the most effective cures to these conditions.

In his book Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv acknowledges the challenge. “Parents already feel besieged by the difficulty of balancing work and family life. Understandably, they may resist the idea of adding any to-dos to their long list of chores. So here is another way of viewing the challenge: Nature as an antidote. Stress reduction, greater physical health, a deeper sense of spirit, more creativity, a sense of play, even a safer life — these are the rewards that await a family when it invites more nature into children’s lives.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees. It believes increasing physical activity and shifting to a healthy diet can reverse many of the recent childhood illness trends. Psychologically, it finds that outdoor physical activity increases self-esteem and self-concept, just as it decreases anxiety and depression.

The debate between cause and symptom will continue, but is ultimately irrelevant to the child sitting passively in their living room today. As children fall further out of sync with nature, they miss the lessons nature has provided for youth during all of human existence. By keeping our youth indoors, we risk confining them to a very small, often paranoid world. Parents may need to reinforce in themselves that muddy hands and an occasional skinned knee are part of growing up. Through this, their children will learn about a world of mysticism and surprise, amusement and challenge that exists beyond their  electronic world. A world that is waiting for them on the other side of the screen door.

Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara

Ventura County Reporter – Endangered species http://www.vcreporter.com/cms/story/detail/endangered_species/6008/

UFO — Goleta Pier

From the pages of Pier Fishing in Califonia (pierfishing.com) —

Picture by Pierhead — Goleta Pier

Date: October 8, 2005, To: PFIC Message Board, From: Seabass_Seeker, Subject: UFO FIRST HAND SIGHTING GOLETA PIER

First post — please forgive any spelling and grammatical errors. Keep in mind content has been edited for younger readers. And one more thing, this is a FIRST hand report, please enjoy :-)

For those of you I haven’t had the fortune to meet yet, I am a young man of Asian descent, who was born in the US and lives like any other American striving for my American Dream. Thus far I have lived in two worlds, the world of science, and, going back to my Asian roots, a world of superstition. The latter being a place where both good and evil forces, ultimately deriving from nature, live in equilibrium; a world of the shaman, witches and strange creatures. The former, a world where humans are constantly striving to prove “what is real” and yet the minds of humans have always had questions unable to be answered by science. Some such as “are we the only conscience thinking ‘animal’?” or maybe “are we the only beings able to control our environment to better suit our needs as well as give us the upper hand in order to survive?” Well what about the most notorious of them all, “are we alone in this vast universe?” All if not more of these questions ran through my mind as the course of tonight’s events blended both my worlds into the only topic, which can, UFOs and ALIENS.

The sun had yet begun to wander over the College campus to the west when I arrived at my second home, Goleta Public Pier. All was pretty much like any other fall day; a few anglers here and there, UCSB joggers, tourists etc. Having spotted my friend Robbie, I set up in Martin’s usual spot and shoot to the kelp in the hunt for rockfish and bass. Since I had to to rush out here after work, I neglected to bring my bait, and Robbie, relying on the assumed predictable mackerel, only brought the metal. He was working his Kroc while I bread chummed smelt. Luckily, after some scavenging we also found some abandoned salted anchovies. This afternoon was anything but predictable; unlike the past few days which conditions had been glassy, winds to 40mph howled from the east, then changing directions to south and finally as the twilight settled, from the north. The so-assumed predictable mackerel must have made an unpredictable left instead of right at Albuquerque because they were plainly gone, and with them the game fish.

Goleta Pier

As dusk set in I was ready to call it quits. As I was cleaning up a group of boys asked Robbie if he could help them retrieve the top end of a pole they had dropped into the water with his crab net. After the successful search and rescue I informed Robbie of my situation; cold and hungry I was going to start packing up. As I clipped one of my circle hooks, and a one-oz bank sinker, one of the Hispanic boys came up to me.

“You see that funny looking star? Is that a plane or something?” To which I promptly answered “it’s probably a satellite.” “But no it’s moving kind of fast and blinking.” After careful observation I noticed the object had a strobing effect growing brighter and dimmer along with an irregular flight path. My response; gathering everyone on the end of the pier as witnesses. We all may have stared at the object for more than thirty minutes. It would zoom from place to place, sometimes hovering, sometimes retracing its own flight path.

Donblaze’s crew was out at the end, one their party members recounted he had seen stuff like that before and was not too surprised. While he kept his cool, my vocabulary reduced itself to sixth-grade level. “What the frig is it doing?” and “its just friggin playin with us man” were remarks floating into the dark waters from the mildly lit pier.

The best description of the object would be that the light emitted from it was about the size of the star, although it would strobe brighter and dimmer than stars. I wouldn’t really call it strobing more like a VERY exaggerated twinkling like that of the stars but with great contrasts.

The climax of the “sighting” was when two red lights appeared from over the ocean to the east in a flight pattern in a headlong dash toward the object. As they came closer we realized them to be two aircraft as we could barely make out the distinction between the red and white lights. These planes were making a headlong dash straight for the “object.” If the size of lights of the plane could give any amount of estimate to the altitude of the plane, we were convinced this thing was definitely in the upper atmosphere. As one plane proceeded to one side of the object, it appeared to hover in one spot, and soon bursts of light much like the object itself were seen by all pier goers (tourists who wandered by also).

Preparing for a cosmic battle, I was armed to the teeth with my 7-ft Uglystik Intercoastal across my chest, enhanced by an Okuma Avenger AV50. Included in my arsenal were not one but TWO #4 Mutu light Owner hooks and as my side-arm a 1-oz bank sinker, capable of accurately hitting targets 50-75yds away and infamous for leading rebel “greenbacks” to their doom.

But then for some reason the planes weren’t making the flanking maneuver we imagined but kept on going. Ok maybe not alien but now government test aircraft was totally legit. About this time the object, first seen on the east side going south, doubles back north.

Kaveman’s friend Paul showed up looking for shark only to find a UFO. He commented, “I was in the Air force and I have never seen anything like that.” And brought up a possible weather balloon, which may have explained the visit of the aircraft earlier. But then why would a weather balloon retrace its path and how would it be possible to appear to be moving so fast?

Finally the object was over the Santa Barbara skyline and seemed to be headed over the mountains when, it passes in front of the mountains. “IT’S LANDING!” Then, it passes in front of the trees, “What the HECK!?” meanwhile keeping the same characteristics. And finally comes to hover above the slough.

Without much thought into the matter Robbie and I race down the pier, all the while keeping a fixed glare upon the (hopefully) soon to be identified flying object. We into his truck parked at the base of the pier and ride down to the edge of the parking lot.

There the object hovered, still in its same unpredictable flight path and 9 feet under an… alien? “Hello?” Only this being was from no other place than that of this very earth! “Good evening!” Extended from his hand a 7-foot conventional tied with 30-lb test to a KITE!!! The kite had an LED fixed to the tail and had been reported 400 YARDS OFSHORE!!!

As reality hit us, so did the 50-degree night air with -10 degree wind-chill. The adrenaline fading we both decide to call it a night. The only “Men in Black” tonight were the young men suited up for the Dos Pueblos High School Homecoming Dance who were with their dates to eat at the Seaside Cafe.

Even though it turned out the “object” was just a kite, the experience felt on the pier was genuine. No one knew it was a kite, but everyone did marvel at the unexplained and beauty of that which is unknown. We live in times where we believe we are comfortable with the world around us since science and technology are the ways to the future, yet the very moment something goes unexplained our minds revert to the old, undying ways of superstition and marvel for the world around us.

Larval Goa’uld_alien_symbiote — Goleta Pier — 2006 

Posted by riorust

Very well written ! You had me going for a minute there ;)

Posted by 805_alive

Man, the one day I don’t go is the day we get visited by aliens. Bummer. Hey that was a pretty good read though. You gonna be there tomorrow?

Posted by pierhead

Some background …Jesse (Amo_Pescare) and I encountered ‘Mr. Kite’ several weeks ago when he was flying a 4′ kite in the shape of a plane on 4000′ (he said) of line … directly over the incoming flight path for Goleta airport. When Jesse mentioned to him that he could be creating a hazard for aircraft his response was a truculent ‘so let them move the (bleep) airport”. My guess is that he is looking for a confrontation … so lets be careful around him.

Posted by dompfa ben

For the benefit of Mr. Kite, there will be a show tonight! On Trampolines! On that note, if he insists on flying a kite in the approach path of an airport, I think a call to the authorities is in order…then the only flashing red lights will be on the tops of the Crown Victorias coming to pick him up.

Alien? No, just the mouth of a swell shark from Goleta Pier



Kelpfishes — Family Clinidae

California is blessed with a number of attractive little kelpfishes that unfortunately are rarely seen by an angler unless he or she is using small hooks in search of perch. Herein, are several of the smaller species. The Giant Kelpfish, Heterostichus rostratus, is given a different article).

Striped Kelpfish

Striped Kelpfish from the Malibu Pier

Species: Gibbonsai metzi (Hubbs, 1927); from Gibbonsai (William P. Gibbons, an early naturalist from Alameda), and metzi (Charles W. Metz, a student of ichthyology once interested in kelpfish).

Alternate Names: Striped kelp-fish, seaweed kelpfish, weed klipfish. Called sargacero or sargacero rayado in Mexico.

Identification: Reddish to light brown, usually with darker stripes or darker mottling on sides (color often matches nearby seaweed). Tail rounded (distinguishes them from a giant kelpfish); pectoral fin is short, not reaching the front of the anal fin.



A kelpfish from the Elephant Rock Pier in Tiburon

Size: To 9 1/2 inches long; most caught off piers are 5-8 inches.

Range: Punta Rompiente, central Baja California to Maquinna Point, Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Habitat: Shallow-water areas near rocks or kelp.

Piers: Found at piers that have a heavy growth of kelp or seaweed. Best bets: I’ve taken them at the Cabrillo Mole (Avalon), the Paradise Cove Pier (Malibu), Coast Guard Pier (Monterey) and the Princeton Harbor Pier. I’ve also taken them at several Bay Area piers including Agua Vista (in San Francisco), Berkeley Pier (East Bay), and Elephant Rock (North Bay). At the first two they were inshore by the rocks, at the latter the pier sits on a rock.

Shoreline: Occasionally taken by anglers fishing in rock or kelp areas if using small hooks.

Boats: An inshore species rarely take from boats.

Kelpfish from the Cabrillo Mole, Avalon, Catalina Island

Bait and Tackle: Light to medium tackle and small, size 8 to 6 hooks. Preferred baits appear to be pieces of worm, blood or pile, while small pieces of shrimp and mussels will also entice them.

Food Value: Too small, let ‘em go.

Comments: A pretty little fish that likes to hang by the rocks, dart out to grab the bait, and then head back to the rocks.

Crevice Kelpfish

Crevice Kelpfish from the Monterey Coast Guard Pier

Species: Gibbonsai montereyensis (Hubbs, 1927); from Gibbonsai (William P. Gibbons, an early naturalist from Alameda), and montereyensis (Monterey, an early collection point for the fish).    

Alternate Names: Spotted kelpfish and crevice klipfish. Called sargacero or sargacero de Monterey in Mexico.

Identification:  Reddish to brown or lavender; plaincolored to spotted or striped. Dorsal fin soft rays widely spaced at rear of fin. No scales at base of or furher out on the caudal fin. Color variable with several phases, reddish, green, dark and silver bars, which intermix freely; there is usually a strong dark ocellus above the lateral line canal behind the pectoral fin and there may be additionally several series of dark spots of various intensities; fins weakly pigmented at bases, anal and pectorals most so; head often with pigment bars radiating from eye

Size: To 5 ½-inches long; most caught off piers are around 4 inches.

Range: Isla Guadalupe and Bahia San Carlos, central Baja California to Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Usually north of Point Conception.

Habitat: Shallow-water areas near rocks or kelp. Occurs in inshore rocky areas in algae, usually on exposed coast

Piers: Oceanside Harbor Pier, Cabrillo Mole in Avalon, and the Monterey Coast Guard Pier.

Shoreline: Occasionally taken by anglers fishing in rock or kelp areas if using small hooks.

Boats: An inshore species rarely take from boats.

Bait and Tackle: Light tackle and small hooks. Preferred baits appear to be sea worms—pile worms and bloodworms, pieces of shrimp, and fresh mussels.

Food Value:  Too small to be used for food.

Comments: Rarely caught due to their small size. A small fish with a small mouth that is sometimes an incidental catch by perch anglers using small hooks.

Spotted Kelpfish

Spotted Kelpfish from the Redondo Sportfishing Pier in Redondo Beach

Species: Gibbonsia elegans (Cooper, 1864); from Gibbonsai (William P. Gibbons, an early naturalist from Alameda), and the Latin word elegans (elegant or handsome).   

Alternate Names: Called Sargacero or Sargacero manchado in Mexico.                

Identification: Typical kelpfish shape—pointed snout, tiny mouth, rounded caudal fin, and long dorsal fin. Color varies widely; green to brown or tan or reddish—often blotched or streaked. 1-3 (often 2) ocelli on back. Soft rays more widely spaced toward rear of dorsal fin. Scales that extend well onto the caudal fin distinguish it from other kelpfish.

Kelpfish from the Oceanside Harbor Pier

Size: To 6.2-inches long; most caught from piers are around 4-5 inches.

Range: Bahia Magdalena, southern Baja California, including Isla Guadalupe, to Piedras Blancas Point, central California

Habitat: Shallow-water areas near rocks or kelp. Typically feeds on benthic crustaceans, small mollusks and worms, but also eats fair quantities of algae. Found from subtidal rocky areas to 56 m depth, usually in seaweed. Female lays white eggs in seaweed; male guards egg mass.

Piers: Embarcadero Marina Pier, Oceanside Harbor Pier, Cabrillo Mole in Catalina, Redondo Spotfishing Pier, Malibu Pier, and Monterey Coast Guard Pier.

Shoreline: Occasionally taken by anglers fishing in rock or kelp areas if using small hooks.

Boats: An inshore species rarely take from boats.

Bait and Tackle: Light tackle and small hooks. Preferred baits appear to be sea worms—pile worms and bloodworms, pieces of shrimp, and fresh mussels.

Food Value: Too small to be used for food.

Comments: A small fish that is rarely caught due to their small mouth. However, they are sometimes an incidental catch by perch anglers using small hooks.

Kelpfish from the Cabrillo Mole, Avalon, Catalina Island

Pier Fishing — There’s Magic in the Air

 Port Hueneme Pier — 2008

There’s something magic about being out over the ocean on an old wooden pier. It might be the fish, it might be the salty tang of the sea air or the feel of the ocean’s majesty as it pounds against the pilings, it might simply be the feeling that you’re away, even if ever so slightly, from the hustle and bustle on the normal world. Whatever it is, it’s an attraction that can be addictive in nature. Just ask any “pier rat” who has adopted a pier as his second home, or, in some cases, as his only home (although the “authorities” frown on such accommodations).



















Port Hueneme Pier — 2008


Yellow Snake Eel — Eew!


A yellow snake eel from the Balboa Pier

Species: Ophichthus zophochir (Jordan & Gilbert, 1882); Ophichthus, from two Greek words meaning serpent and fish, and the Greek zophochir, for darkness and hand (dark pectoral fins).

Alternate Names: Eww, a snake!  In Mexico called Tieso Amarillo; in Peru called Anguila amarilla or Culebra marina.

Jimbo Jack and a yellow snake eel from Huntington Harbor

Identification: Typical eel-like shape with a spike-like tail, no fin rays and no spots.  Reddish-olive, yellowish-brown or yellow above; lighter below.

Size: Up to 34 ½ inches.

Range:  From Huacho, Peru, to Eureka, Humboldt Bay; also seen in the Gulf of California.

Yellow snake eel from the Dana Harbor Pier

Habitat: Found in both sandy and rocky areas down to a 60-foot depth (although one source says 210 feet). Officially considered rare by the CA Fish and Game (supposedly under 20 ever reported in California) although Pier Fishing in California (pierfishing.com) has had many reports of these eels over the years, most commonly from Newport Bay and Huntington Harbor.

Piers: PFIC has had reports from quite a few piers. Best bets: Oceanside Harbor Pier, Dana Point Harbor Pier, Balboa Pier, Newport Pier, Seal Beach Pier, Belmont Pier, Burton Chace Park Pier, Venice Pier and the small piers inside of Newport Bay and Huntington Harbor. Science records show an Ophichthus zophochir being taken from the Del Mar Pier in 1960 (although the pier was demolished in 1959) and from the Berkeley Pier in 1964. PFIC regular “Mel” caught, photographed, and released a yellow snake eel from the Berkeley Pier in 2006. In 2002 I photographed one that was caught by a fellow angler one night out at the end of the Newport Pier  (the same night I caught a basketweave cusk-eel, Otophidium scrippsi). That snake eel and the cusk-eel were given to the DF&G.

 Yellow snake eel and basketweave cusk-eel from the Newport Pier

Shoreline: A rare catch by southern California shore anglers.

Boats: An inshore species rarely seen on boats.

Bait and Tackle: Taken incidentally by anglers fishing on the bottom for other species. Most commonly taken at night and with squid as bait (although their preferred food is supposedly fish and clams). Tackle should be kept simple: a medium-sized outfit with light line and a size 6 to 2 hook. Be prepared for a surprisingly spirited tussle.

Mel’s hands and a “whirling dervish” kind of an eel — Berkeley Pier

Food Value:  Don’t know anyone who has eaten one although most eels are considered fair to good eating.

Comments: An unusual, gnarly catch that enjoys twisting its limber body around your arm (and scaring the bejeebers out of you) when you try to unhook it. A related species, considered rare in California, is the Spotted snake eel (Ophichthus triserialis). The spotted snake  eel ranges from Peru  to Humboldt Bay, including the Galapagos Islands and the Gulf of California.

A spotted snake eel from the Hermosa Beach Pier

The gnarly end of the eel!