Saltwater Fishing

Oceanside Pier

The Oceanside Pier — 2005

This used to be a two-sack pier; that was what I learned one day while talking to a pier regular. The regular, a gentleman of a youthful 78 years of age, and one who fished about 350 days a year, told me the story: “Back in the thirties you needed to bring two gunnysacks with you when you visited the pier because of the barracuda. Back then we called them logs, you know, big fish about 10 or 12 pounds each, and you could only get about five in a sack lengthwise. You fished until you loaded a couple of sacks then you stopped, no sense overdoing it. Of course you might need a little help carrying the sacks off the pier.” How accurate that memory is after 50 years can only be speculated. There is no doubt, however, that fishing can be very good at Oceanside and that it probably was outstanding  “back then.”

In fact, old pictures and faded newspaper stories that once sat under glass near the lifeguard tower gave evidence of how it was “back then.”  Several pictures of large black sea bass (giant sea bass) that were caught from the pier highlight the pictures; one was of a 286-pound fish taken in 1936. Another picture was of a 200+pound hammerhead shark taken by Max Gray on September 8, 1949. A third showed a 42 lb. 1 oz. yellowtail taken from the pier in July of 1955 by Elmo Nealoff. Stories tell of an 11 3/4-pound bonito and a 10 3/4-pound lobster taken from the pier—both evidently records for the pier.

The entrance to the pier — 2010

Of course the big pier is more than just a place to fish to many residents, it’s a place to gather, to see what’s going on, and to be seen. Most any summer night will find the pier crowded with fishermen and others simply out to sample the sights and sounds of the pier at night.

One such night I witnessed a group of teenagers huddled around three young men getting ready to dive from the end of the pier near Ruby’s. The three got up on the railing where the leader announced he would do a reverse tuck (I believe). The other two were satisfied to do a simple dive. With cell phone cameras ready to record the action they called out three, two, one, and jumped. The dives were successful and a cheer went up from their friends (as well as more than just a few interested spectators). Soon the young men had climbed the nearby ladder back up to the pier. Last I saw of them was one peering boldly into the back door of Ruby’s. Looked like he was seeking out one of the red-and-white, pinstriped waitresses.

Nearby stood two ravishing young ladies shooting pictures of each other near the pier railings. Around the corner came a buxom platinum blond decked out in Hollywood chic and holding an all white miniature poodle. Next to me stood Jimmy and Eddie, two construction workers from Fort Smith, Arkansas who were taking in the whole scene. They commented that they just didn’t have this action back home. Such is California in the new century.

             Oceanside Pier — 2015

Looking back from the end — 2006

The pier seems to be about as productive as when I first fished it in the mid-1960s although quantity is more common than quality. A lot of fish can still be caught but relatively few of the “trophy” fish common in years past. Fish typically caught here are the normal sandy-shore, long-pier variety.

Spotfin Croaker — 2010

Inshore, you will find barred surfperch, corbina, yellowfin croaker, spotfin croaker, sargo, round stingray, guitarfish, too many (at times) thornback rays, and an occasional California butterfly ray (first recorded from the pier by scientists in 1952).

Midway out, you can catch halibut, white croaker, yellowfin croaker, queenfish, jacksmelt, topsmelt, butterfish, walleye surfperch, bass, more guitarfish and sand sharks (smoothhound sharks).

The pier — 2007

The pier, at 1,942 feet is one of the longest on the coast and out toward the end you may catch any of these fish but also the more pelagic species like mackerel, bonito, barracuda (today, usually a small pencil instead of a log), small white seabass (usually called seatrout), and an occasional small (firecracker size) yellowtail. The end area is typically also the best area for kelp bass, barred sand bass, salema, rockfish and other rock-frequenting species (including infrequent, but occasional, sheephead). It’s also the best area for the larger sharks (leopards, threshers and blues), the biggest shovelnose guitarfish, and the monster bat rays (including one that weighed an estimated 150 pounds in April of 2001.

Shovelnose Guitarfish caught by Bernie in 2015

If the fish aren’t biting just sit back and relax—or head down to the Ruby’s at the end of the pier and have a hamburger, fries and a milkshake. Watch the dolphins that seem to show up most days at the pier and, if it is wintertime, you might even see a grey whale migrating by the pier. The pier is a great spot to simply sit and enjoy the ocean.

Rubys — 2015

Most piers will see pelicans occasionally; some have pelicans that are resident members of their pier and Oceanside is one such pier. Almost every day you will see the birds in their favorite spots just past the bait shop and almost every day you will see people lined up trying to get pictures with the birds. Ed Gonsalves, who owns the bait shop has been known to toss an anchovy or two at one of the birds, the one the regulars call Michael Jackson (since he likes to dance). Another pelican, Charlie, is a little more staid and prefers to simply sit on the trashcan by the shop (where he gets a LOT of attention).

Charlie the Pelican — 2009

Fishing Tips.  This can be an excellent pier for halibut, sand bass, and guitarfish. Live anchovies are best, but the bait shop doesn’t offer them; instead, try to net some bait or snag a smelt, small queenfish, anchovy, or even a baby mac, and use the fish with a live bait rigging. Mid-pier is the best area for the halibut, especially from May to July (although flatties caught in the winter are often the largest of the year). For guitarfish, try the mid-pier to the end. If live bait (fish-type) isn’t available, try bloodworms, ghost shrimp, cut mackerel or frozen anchovies.

The end of the pier can be good for bass including barred sand bass and some calico bass (kelp bass).

Kelp Bass aka Calico Bass — 2013

Sand Bass — 2013

Generally the spring and summer are the best months for the bass. The end area can also, at times, be great for bonito and mackerel. Generally the mackerel will hit best on a small strip of squid or a bloody piece of mackerel. The larger bonito (some up to 6-8 pounds), prefer a splasher, cast-a-bubble or golf ball with a feather trailing behind it. Late summer to fall months will also see some barracuda. Most of the barries show up at night and your best bet to catch them is generally a gold or silver colored spoon like a Kastmaster or Krocodile. As far as sharks and rays, and many are taken from the pier, regulars say a long cast out from the southern corner of the pier is a prime spot.

Halibut — 2016 (Picture courtesy of Oceanside Pier Bait Shop)

The mid-pier area is a good area for fish besides halibut and guitarfish, although the halibut certainly receive the majority of attention from May to July. It is the best area for a number of the smaller species such as herring (queenfish), tomcod (white croaker) and jacksmelt. It yields a lot of yellowfin croaker, some spotfin croakers, sargo, China (black) croakers, and quite a few smoothhound sharks, thornback rays, and bat rays. Almost all of these can be caught on high/low leaders with the bait deciding the type of fish that will hit. Queenfish and white croaker will strike on small strips of anchovy, jacksmelt prefer worms or a small piece of shrimp, most sharks and rays get all excited and goose bumpy when they smell a bloody piece of mackerel or a delicious piece of calamari (oops, squid).

Inshore, and this is the area preferred by many locals, try sand crabs, ghost shrimp, bloodworms or mussels for barred surfperch, corbina, spotfin croaker, and yellowfin croaker; remember to use a fairly small hook, no bigger than a size 4. When fishing around the pilings, try mussels, bloodworms, or ghost shrimp; use a bait holder-type hook for the bloodworms and mussels, a Kahle-type hook for the ghost shrimp. These baits will be your best bet for most types of perch (although walleye surfperch also like a small strip of anchovy). Best time for the barred surfperch is winter to spring while summer to fall is considered the prime time for both yellowfin croakers and spotfin croakers. However, the bite can start early, especially if the water warms up. May of 2007 saw a run of large spotfins (some exceeding six pounds) with baby mussels being the irresistible bait.

Spotfin Croaker — 2012

If the pier isn’t too crowded, try artificial lures such as Scampis for the sand bass, the already mentioned feathers with a cast-a-bubble for the bonito, and multiple-hook, bait rig outfits for the macs and jacksmelt (although 3-5 mackerel twisting up a Lucky Lura/Sabiki leader isn’t so lucky—it often results in the loss of the $2-3 leader).

California Scorpionfish — 2013

A few sculpin (California scorpionfish), buckets of salema, and other rock-loving species will be attracted by the rock quarry artificial reef out toward the end of the pier. I say buckets of salema because people literally catch and keep enough of the small fish to fill buckets, although the limit is ten and some of the people are going to face some stiff fines one of these days. This is also the best area for people seeking lobsters during their season with most of the spiny creatures being taken at night.

Although sheephead are never common, quite a few have been caught out at the end of the pier (to 27 pounds); in most instances the bait was ghost shrimp or pieces of market shrimp (although crabs and mussels should also be good bait, and both bloodworms and live anchovies have been reported as successful baits at the pier). If you want to try to catch one of the big-toothed creatures be warned that they only feed during the daylight hours (they sleep at night) and are most common during the winter months.

Although not a noted pier for sharks, enough are taken to keep the local shark fraternity busy. The usual suspects are encountered—leopard sharks, spiny dogfish, shovelnose sharks (guitarfish), and thresher sharks while every so often a blue shark or 7-gill will show up to keep things interesting. In some warm-water years hammerheads have even been taken. Best bait for most of the sharks is a large, bloody piece of mackerel while the threshers prefer a live mackerel on a sliding leader. Bat rays, and there are some big ones here, prefer a big piece of squid. Do remember though that if you’re seeking out the big critters to bring a net since it’s reported to be 32 feet up from the low water mark to the pier surface.

Striped Bass — 2016

Unusual fish from the pier have included a deep-water lancetfish. Striped bass were consideed uncommon when a 27” striped bass was taken in July ’00. However, many stripers have been taken from 2015-2017 including a 37″ fish in 2015. Although not really rare, basketweave cusk-eels (Ophidion scrippsae) are an infrequent catch from piers; scientific records list at least two of the cusk-eels as being taken from the pier—in 1947 and 1966. A common fish, although uncommon to southern California piers, was a grass rockfish taken in April of 2015. Last, but not least, a number of shortfin corvina were caught at the pier in 2016. More common to Baja waters they’ve become common in San Diego Bay and apparently have spread out from the bay.

Shortfin corvina taken by Luis in 2016

Perhaps the most rare species taken at the pier was a Pacific tripletail (Lobotes pacificus) taken in early October 2014. Typically found in the Sea of Cortez, and along the Pacific coast of Baja California south of Guerrero Negro, only a few of the fish have ever been taken in California waters. As evidence of the warm waters in 2014, another tripletail was taken in San Diego Bay in August of the same year.

Pacific Tripletail — 2014 (Picture courtesy of Oceanside Pier Bait Shop)

Bonefish have also made occasional appearances. Bonefish were taken in February of ’01 and August 2007 but an earlier report from 1963 showed an even greater catch of the elusive bonefish:

John E. Fitch, research director of the DFG Marine Resources Operations on Terminal Island {reports} fishermen have been catching from one to a half-dozen bonefish daily off the Oceanside Pier. Either there has been a successful catch in our waters in recent years or these fish have wandered north with a tongue of warm water in late September and October.

—Donnell Culpepper, Fishin’ Around, Long Beach Press-Telegram, November 13, 1963

A striped bass taken by Jeff in 2017 (Photo courtesy of Oceanside Pier Bait Shop)

 An unusual fish due to its was a 9-pound kelp (calico) bass caught by a neophyte angler in October of ’02. He rented a pole, bought some frozen squid, and came back to the bait shop a short time later with the huge calico. Most anglers will fish a lifetime from a pier and never catch a 9-pounder (in fact, it’s a pretty good calico even from a boat).

Salema can be very common out toward the end in mid-depth water. They look somewhat like a miniature version of a striped bass although more colorful.

A fish that was becoming rare, and was considered endangered just a decade or so ago, is the giant (black) sea bass, a Goliath of the sea that never fails to startle pier fishermen used to the smaller species. The earliest PFIC reports of a giant sea bass capture at Oceanside was a 143-pound fish that was hooked on Memorial Day Weekend in 1997. Three drops of a treble hook gaff were needed to snag the fish and then four people were needed to haul it up onto the pier. These bass are of course illegal and the smart move would have been to simply cut the line when the angler saw what it was. Instead, the determined angler headed up the pier dragging his catch behind him—only to meet a game warden coming down the pier. It was a TRULY DUMB act since the fine is around $2,000.

Then, in the fall of 2002, several were taken during September and October—including one that most of the regulars said would have topped 200 pounds if not released. May of 2003 saw a fish estimated at 150 pounds, a “giant” fish was caught on July 4, 2008, and a fish estimated at 200 pounds was seen in early June 2009. That fish was hooked on heavy line and wound up tangling the line around the pier’s pilings. Eventually the bait shop was able to contact lifeguards who swam out to the fish and cut the line allowing it to swim free (nice job!).

Today there are almost regular reports of anglers hooking the large bass at the pier and occasional stories of knuckleheads who think they should keep them. In response, Fish and Game “sting operations” are run fairly often at the pier so don’t join that group of knuckleheads.

Humboldt Squid — 2007

Another giant, although of a quite different species, is the Humboldt squid and every few years will see a run of the large cephalopods at the pier. One such run, although short lived, took place in May 2007 and resulted in the usual crowds and excited anglers hooking the large (up to around 30 pound) squid. A cousin cephalopod, although of a much more diminutive size, are the small octopus that are sometimes encountered while fishing at night from the end section, especially in the winter months.

One final non-fish catch that I find interesting was a tropical turtle that was caught by a startled angler on July 4, 2000. The creature was netted, the hook removed, and the big fellow (or girl?) was gently lowered back down to the sea.

A whale “shooting the pier” on January 1, 2018 (Photo courtesy of Oceanside Pier Bait Shop)

Although never landed, quite a few whales have been hooked over the years when they decided to swim between the pilings.

Persevering twins reap late reward of one giant lobster

It was another marathon Saturday with dad, starting with a 6:30 a.m. tee time and finishing at midnight at the Oceanside Pier. But it turned into a very special day for Blake and Garett Spencer, a pair of 9-year-old twins who teamed with their father, Todd, to catch a lobster of a lifetime.

“Saturday is my day with the boys, and we started with 18 holes at Temeku (Golf Course),” said Escondido’s Todd Spencer, manager of a collection agency. From there, it was on to Oceanside Pier for some hoop-netting for lobsters, an activity the boys later told their dad they’d pick over playing video games.

“This was only our second time hoop-netting,” Spencer said. “We went at the end of last season and fished off Ocean Beach Pier. We didn’t get anything, but the boys loved it.”

Last Friday, the boys asked their father: “When are we going lobster hunting again? Spencer promised they’d go after his golf outing the next day. They packed their rig with items that don’t necessarily go together like ham and eggs: dad’s golf bag and gear, a couple of hoop nets and 2 1/2 pounds of mackerel for lobster bait.

Golf and hoop-netting, an outdoorsman’s daily double, for sure.  Golfing done, Spencer said they arrived at the Oceanside Pier at 6 p.m. and started fishing the windward side of the pier. “We were the only ones with hoop nets, and I was beginning to think the Oceanside Pier wasn’t the right place to hoop-net for lobsters,” Spencer said.

He turned to his boys after a few hours of not getting anything and asked them, “Would you guys rather be home with your new X-Box games, or would you rather be out here on the pier fishing and not catching anything?” They chose being on the pier over playing video games. This was more fun, and besides, it was quality time outside with dad. “That made me feel pretty good,” Spencer said. “I’m from Northern California. I grew up in the foothills of Yosemite, out in the country. My kids are city kids, but they have the same interests I have. They love being outdoors.”

Shortly after their talk, Spencer switched to the leeward side of the pier, and the change produced two short lobsters, each about 1/4-inch short, just after 10 p.m. They sent them back like good sportsmen. Another pick of the net produced a giant spider crab, about a 6- or 7-pounder, Spencer said. He was about to throw it back, but a man told him to keep it because it was very good eating.

“It looked nasty, but he said it was good,” Spencer said. “I cooked it later, and it not only looked nasty, it tasted nasty. Next time, it’s going back into the water.” The spider crab provided a thrill to Spencer and his boys, and since it was getting close to midnight, Spencer felt it was time to go.

But then Spencer heard the cry of, “C’mon dad, one more pull, one more pull before we go.” “One more pull” to a hoop-netter is what “one more cast” is to a fisherman, what “one more shot” is to a bird hunter. Spencer gave in. They made a set, left it for a while and made one more pull.

“It was the last pull of the night,” Spencer said. And what a pull. As the net came up, Spencer and his boys couldn’t believe their eyes. There in the net was what Spencer later called the “mutant lobster.” He never weighed the giant crustacean, but, including its antennae, the giant bug was at least 46 inches long, nearly as tall as his boys, who are 56 inches tall. He estimated it at 15 pounds.

California spiny lobsters have been known to go as high as 25 to 30 pounds. Biologists figure a lobster that big could be anywhere from 50 to 150 years old.

“I have a friend who dives, and he’s saying it’s a minimum of 15 pounds,” Spencer said. “I wish now I would have taken it to a supermarket or somewhere and weighed it,”

Spencer and his boys celebrated the next day with a lobster feast. “You know how people say the big old lobsters are tough and not good eating,” Spencer said. “That’s not so. This lobster was tender and sweet. Really god eating.”

Looking back, Spencer said he likely would have quit around 9 p.m. had the boys chosen to go home to play video games. “It was all because they wanted to stay,” Spencer said. “It was our day out. And what a fantastic day.”

Ed Zieralski, Outdoors, San Diego Union-Tribune, October 20, 2002

E-Mail Messages — A Bakers Dozen

Date: November 14, 1999; To: Pier Fishing In California Message Board; From: VincentC; Subject: Oceanside pier fishing report

Went to Oceanside today. I caught 1 legal halibut near the surf line but let it go; was 22” even anyway. Caught 1 corbina, 5 yellowfin croaker, 2 spotfin croaker, and 1 walleye surfperch. One guy caught a bonefish. I was positively sure it was a bonefish. He said he caught it near the surf line on bloodworms. How can that be possible? Another guy caught a 20-pound bat ray on a Lucky Lura out at the end!!

Date: February 22, 2001; To: Ken Jones;  From: Fishermanchuk (Chuk Stoianovici); Subject: The bonefish I caught at Oceanside Pier

On 2/19 my friends and I were fishing at the Oceanside Pier. At 7:23 we caught a 13-inch bonefish using a chunk of mackerel. I know you’re a big fish fan so I wanted to let you know.

Date: December 20, 2001; To: PFIC Message Board; From: jllgzt; Subject: Oceanside Pier

Two teenagers pulled up a 28-inch halibut off of the Oceanside Pier on 12/15/01, it was caught under the pier at the north west corner behind their restaurant. Three weeks ago a giant black sea bass around 4 feet was pulled up from the same area. Fishing is slow, but there are still some gems here and there off of the Oceanside Pier.

Date: January 13, 2002; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Needlefish; Subject: Oceanside Pier

I fished the pier yesterday from about 1:00 to 4:00 pm. It was mobbed. I did alright on the south-facing side of the pier, caught a short (15” ?) halibut on plastic (clear redflake 3” grub with a 1/2 oz head) and a lizardfish on squid. I thought I would be clever and use the lizardfish as live bait. Nothing hit it…hey I didn’t even want to touch it. That is one ugly fish. The lizardfish hung me up on something and that cost me a rig. I seem to remember (too late) they like to burrow into holes and crevices and structure etc. Back to the plastic… caught a short sand bass on the north facing side of the pier, jigging the grub between the pilings. Then on the south side again I got a nice halibut (looked to be around 20” or so) on the grub but I didn’t have my net and the hook must have ripped out halfway up the pier after a really great fight on 6 lb. test. Elsewhere on the pier not a whole lot was going on…  A few cats on the end of the pier got a short white seabass and a nice sculpin. I think they were using live bait. The inshore mussel soakers weren’t getting anything as far as I could tell. So I hope this helps. I would say fish way out near the end on the south facing side and have a few different baits and lures to try. Still, great people watching, lots of pretty girls and beautiful weather… how can you go wrong?

29-inch halibut caught in 2011

Date: July 12, 2002; To: PFIC Message Board; From: caliasian909; Subject: Tight lines, friends (in reply to Fishing at Oceanside)

I fish Oceanside Pier about 2 to 3 times a week. I’m not sure about the open ocean fishing on a boat, but the pier does really well. Even rare occurrences of the Giant Black Sea Bass are hooked. Two weeks ago one was caught at the end of the southeast corner and a MONSTER was caught early this morning (around 2:30am, July 12) at the end of the northwest corner. I caught 2 shovelnoses, 36” and 48”, using chunks of herring. Best fishing in my opinion is at the end and I noticed some boats right out of the casting range. From what I understand, there seems to be some sort of reef out there… who knows?

Date: July 19, 2002; To: PFIC Message Board; From: caliasian909; Subject: Oceanside Pier — July 18-19

Well what can I say? I am forever addicted to fishing and this pier is one to give thanks to!! Okay, here’s the report. I got to the pier around 11:00pm Thursday night and fished until 4am Friday morning. I fished the southeast corner at the end all night. Total fish count: 4 Shovelnoses (one nice 4-footer!); 1 9.5”-Sculpin (released); 4 HUGE HITS that I choked on!! I must have not set the hook right!!

My Buddy got— 3 Shovelnoses (one fatty!); 2 baby Kelp (Sand) Bass (I mean baby’s!! like 2” and 3” in length!!); Too many macs and croakers to count.

Around me people were catching the regular sort too… mackerel, croaker, bass (all undersized). There was one odd sighting though. Giant Squid in large schools invaded the pier. People who had their squid jigs were catching them from 1am till I left. They were pretty nice too… one was given to me that was about 2’ long. Though there wasn’t as much variety of fish as I wish there were that night, Shovelnoses were hitting all night. If you’ve never fished Oceanside Pier, you have to try it. It’s awesome there. The people are nice, the waters clean, the surroundings are quiet, all positive in my opinion… but then again I fish late nights/early mornings. Happy Fishing!!

 Date: July 23, 2002; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Stuman; Subject: Oceanside pier/squid

I went at 9:30 pm Monday night. I didn’t fish but I did observe a lot of others fishing. In the surf zone there were several good anglers with 5-10 fish (yellowfin, spotfin, and corbina). Most were caught on mussel. At the end of the pier they were catching some small mackerel and some 2-ft squid. I was at the end of the pier for 30 min and saw about 6 squid come over the rail. I think without the full moon they would have been more attracted to the lights. They said on Friday they landed about 70 squid. Also, saw one nice sized bat ray hooked but not landed. Another shovelnose was lying near a bucket.

Date: May 31, 2003; To: PFIC Message Board; From: charliethetuna; Subject: Oceanside report

Hey fellow pier pier rats, I hit Oceanside pier today and it wasn’t very productive. However there were two nice fish taken in by other people. A guy managed to pull in whopping 150-lb. Black Sea and then shortly released it  (Biggest damn fish I’ve ever seen in my life). Another guy managed to pull in a 24-in halibut with live smelt. It took the black sea bass guy 30 mins to reel the fish in it was the most insane battle I’ve seen on a spinning reel. I managed to pull in three 16” jacksmelt, and three small croakers.

Date: October 1, 2003; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Mikey; Subject: Oceanside Pier 10/01

Well, looks like the boneheads might be making a late run this year. I took a walk this afternoon to shoot the bull with some of the regulars. I didn’t see any bonito caught, but heard the guys say they caught a few fish earlier — maybe 3-lbs or so. Also, talked to a guy that landed a yellowtail (yeah, that’s right) on the end fishing for bonito. I saw the yellow — he was a good 8-lbs. Also, while I was there, there were plenty of mackerel, and boils from what I’m pretty sure were yellowtail — just too big to be mullet, and chasing baitfish.

Date: August 23, 2004; To: PFIC Message Board; From: carlsbadsvt; Subject: Oceanside Pier

I hit the O-Side Pier with my two sons today and had what I felt was an amazing day. We arrived at the pier at 9:30am and intended to only stay for a few hours. We headed to the very end of the pier behind Ruby’s. I do not know all the technical jargon yet, but I will try to describe what we were using. We tied a 2oz. round sinker to the main line, then used an artificial minnow crank bait app. 4 feet below that. On our very first cast, we caught an 18-in bonito that weighed app. 3lbs. I didn’t have a scale, but will pick one up before next time out. Between 10am and 2pm we didn’t go more than 2 casts without catching a bonito. They ranged between 12 and 18inches. At app. 12:30pm my knot came undone and we lost our incredibly lucky little minnow, so we switched to the same rig and a silver/blue spoon. Retrieval was a steady medium speed. We were not nearly as lucky with this rig, but seemed to catch bigger fish. Since it was my very first day pier fishing, and my son’s first time fishing outside of trout fishing in Montana, we were all very happy! Every fish with the exception of one was released, there was one fish (app. 14-inches) very early on that devoured the lure and was pretty much dead but the time I got it out. It was given to the couple next to us.  On a sour note, we did see MANY people who were taking BUCKETS of bonito out, many of which appeared to be under 12 inches. I didn’t understand the reason for this, and we didn’t see a Fish and Gamer guy all day. Things we learned on our first day out… SUNSCREEN is a must, snacks are a must if you have kids with you, get more minnow crank baits, take camera, and did I say USE SUNSCREEN??? Sorry if this was too emotional and not informative enough, I’m just a little jazzed right now! My sons have been bouncing off the walls since their first hookup!

 Date: August 25, 2004; To: PFIC Message Board; From: carlsbadsvt; Subject: Oceanside Pier 08/25/04

Quick report. My sons and I went back to O Side pier today. Got out around 11:30 and went straight to the same spot we had so much luck two days ago (the first bench past the rest rooms). We decided to do a little experimenting, so instead of the sinker, we tied on a golf ball that I had rigged up last night. We rigged app. 5 feet of 25-pound test after the golf ball and tied on another lucky Rapala (3 inch silver. red minnow with small bill). First toss, BAMB an 18.5-inch bonito weighing just over 5 pounds. It caught me off guard because it hit as soon as the lure hit the water. I didn’t even crank the reel one time and the fight was on. During the next two hours, we tried changing the retrieval speed a little and found that a pretty fast and steady retrieval was the most productive. But, on two occasions we allowed the golf ball and lure to sink and then did a really slow steady retrieval and pulled in two small halibut. One measuring 12 inches and the other 13 inches. This was especially exciting, because it was a new species for all three of us! I’m not quite sure what the halibut were doing going after the Rapala (the guy next to us didn’t believe that was what we caught them with…) In total, we caught 21 bonito, one fish that was identified as a croaker (with a huge chunk out of its side) and the two halibut. We had plenty of sunscreen this time, food, soda, and a camera.

Date: November 17, 2004; To: PFIC Message Board; From: rockfisherguy; Subject: Oceanside Pier 11/17 am

Just got back from the pier. Plenty of action on bonito. Interestingly, it seemed like 95% were caught on the southern side, between the sinks and the end. They were really boiling in that area, even jumping completely out of the water occasionally. Looked like everything was working again. Mine all came on jigs. The first on a purple/black 2.5oz Megabait. Luckily he wasn’t hooked bad and was an easy release. I then switched to a green/chrome 2.5 oz Kroc and pinched down the barbs of the treble. I caught six casting into the boils. It was like casting on breaking yellowfin tuna at the Cortez bank. On a couple of casts I’d get hit, pulled on for a few seconds, dropped, then immediately picked up again after a few cranks. Doesn’t get too much better than that! However, I also caught three just jigging the Kroc straight up and down below me. Bonita will try to wrap you around the pilings of the pier, so you have to pull hard if you do this. All fish were released safely except for one that completely ate the Kroc, and I had to wait until he was dead to get the hook out, even with the barbs pinched down. That’s how aggressive these fish are. I gave him to a old guy that kept getting sealed. Speaking of which, there were probably a dozen sea lions and a couple harbor seals making the rounds.  Nice conditions at the pier, 64-degree water, little bit of breeze. Nine bonito in two hours is a nice day by anyone’s standards. Bring at least 15-lb test line, and a reel with a good drag system if you’re gonna throw a jig. I wouldn’t go less than 12-lb with bait. You have to turn the fish and get them up before the seals get to you, and the bonito aren’t too line shy. I was using the mid-size Baitrunner on an old seven foot Berkley big game stick with fresh 17-lb P-Line. It came in handy when I was hanging them right between the pilings below me.

Humboldt Squid — 2007

Date: May 27, 2007; To: PFIC Message Board; From: stuman; Subject:  Sunday squid Oceanside

Walked out on the pier to see if the squid report was true. At 11:30 PM I saw 3 squid on the pier—looked like they were just caught. We watched another angler lose one, before they could drop the net. Saw some free swimming in the water. There were about 20 anglers fishing for the squid.

Pier Fishing In California Fishing Reports — Some old reports, some good, some bad!

May 1997—Charley at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle shop reports the arrival of warmer water and better fishing. Water temperature hit 64 degrees last week and the fishing exploded. Inshore, anglers are catching barred surfperch, corbina, spotfin croaker and gray smoothhound sharks. The perch and croaker are hitting on fresh mussels or bloodworms while the sharks are hitting on squid. Best spotfin of the past two weeks was a beautiful 9-pound fish that hit on mussels. Further out on the pier, anglers are continuing to pull in bucketful’s of small walleye surfperch and some small-to-medium sized Pacific mackerel. Halibut have also started to bite and a number of keepers have been taken — mostly on live shinerperch or anchovies that have been caught with snag lines. Summer is getting closer!

June 1997—Charley at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle shop says the water is warming up (70 degrees) and the fishing is getting hot. Top news has been the number of halibut landed along with a lot of big croakers, both spotfin and yellowfin. The halibut are hitting all around the pier with the best bait  being anchovies or live bait that has been snagged; most days are seeing 3-5 keepers. The croakers are hitting inshore and are smacking fresh mussels and bloodworms. Buckets of mackerel are being caught at the end of the pier, most on bait rigs, and they’re running a nice 1-2 pounds in size. White seabass are also being taken out toward the end but almost all are shorts — and make sure you don’t keep them. Finally, although perch fishing is slow, quite a few sculpin (California scorpionfish) are being landed and they’re one of the best tasting pier fish.  Dumb move of the Memorial Day weekend was the capture of a black sea bass weighing around 150 pounds. It took three drops of a treble hook gaff to snag the fish and then four people were needed to haul it up onto the pier. These fish are of course illegal and the smart move would have been to simply cut the line when the angler saw what it was. Instead, the determined angler heading down the pier dragging his catch behind him — only to meet the game warden. A severe fine will be the result; perhaps in the two grand, $2,000 category. TRULY DUMB!!! (By the way, a more positive story concerns a black sea bass taken far to the north in San Francisco Bay. A halibut fisherman (on a boat) pulled in a blackie estimated to weigh about fifty pounds. Deckhands quickly netted the fish, removed the hook, and gently lowered him/her back into the water. That was the right thing to do. Let these fish make a comeback!!!)

Croakers — yellowfin and spotfin

July 1997—Charley at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle shop reports one of the best runs of bonito in years, both as to numbers and to size of fish. Most of the boneheads are falling to bonito feathers. There’s still a lot of medium size mackerel at the end of the pier and quite a few spotfin croaker, some approaching 5 pounds in size, falling to anglers fishing the shoreline. He says there’s also been a good run of sargo inshore. The spotfin are falling to bloodworms and fresh mussels, the sargo to mussels. Only a few halibut lately as well as some shovelnose guitarfish and bat rays. He says he’s seen 3 bat rays in the last week that averaged 60-70 pounds each.Bonito — Justin’s first fish

August 1997—Carl, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle shop, reports a potpourri of species at the pier. Mackerel are thick out toward the end and anglers have also taken quite a few bonito. Most of the boneheads are running 2-3 pounds but several 6-8 pound fish were also landed. Most of the tuna hit on feathers and spin floats but some have been landed on Krocodile and Kastmaster lures. Inshore, to the mid-pier area, anglers continue to land corbina, yellowfin croaker and spotfin croaker on the bottom. The good sized fish are hitting mainly on bloodworms and fresh mussels — so get some! Action is rounded out by sand bass (on squid or small live bait), illegal size white sea bass, barred surfperch, pileperch and opaleye. Most of the perch are falling to mussels.

September 1997—Carl, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle shop, reports continued good fishing. Leading the list has been a number of large spotfin croaker which have been landed in the inshore areas by anglers using mussels, bloodworms or ghost shrimp. The same area is also producing a lot of nice sized yellowfin croaker — primarily in the evening hours. The mid-pier to end areas are yielding quite a few halibut including 4-5 keepers most days. Out at the end, anglers continue to pull in good numbers of mackerel while bonito do their here one minute, gone the next routine. Most of the bonito that are landed are nice 4-5 pound fish. Most unusual fish recently was a 6-pound sheephead landed on mussels near the bait shop. (I fished the pier for two and a half hours on the morning of August 1st. The visit produced 17 salema and 2 jacksmelt at the far end of the pier, and 3 yellowfin croaker and 1 jacksmelt in the inshore area.)

Date: October 1997—Carl, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle shop, says things are still hopping, although there aren’t the number of fishermen that you found during the summer. Inshore, spotfin croaker and buttermouth perch continue to hit mussels and bloodworms. Further out, from the mid-pier area to the end, there have been huge schools of big sardines (10-12″ range) which have been filling buckets for anglers so inclined. Carl says there are also a lot of sand bass and calico bass (kelp bass) being caught. Seems the life guards are stripping the mussels off the pilings in an attempt to lessen the weight of each in case El Nino storms hit the pier. The food which falls into the water by the removal of the mussels seems to be attracting scads of the tasty bass. Shark action is fair although lots of shovelnose sharks (guitarfish) and quite a few bat rays continue to add excitement. Carl said it was 80 degrees and beautiful the day I called (November 1st) and the water temperature remained a warm 68-69 degrees.

Nice scorpionfish taken by Smithy in 2016

February 1998—Carl, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle shop, says that the water temperature is down to 61 degrees but fish continue to bite. Mackerel are in and out but large schools of jacksmelt seem to offer steady sport. A number of sheephead have also been landed recently, most on ghost shrimp, and almost all out by the end. Both sand bass and kelp bass continue to offer some sport on squid but the corbina and croakers have stopped biting, you can still see them in the shallow-water areas but they’re not hungry. However, barred surfperch are hitting on fresh mussels in the inshore area and a few buttermouth perch (blackperch) are hitting around the pilings. At night a few lobsters continue to be brought in to the pier.

March 1998—Carl, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle shop, says that the water is a pleasant chocolate-brown color, just right for bottling. Unfortunately, the water is also cold and the fishing has plummeted. A few small barred surfperch do continue to be landed on mussels, and there was a decent run on 4-6 foot long leopard sharks last week, but everything else is slow. Most visitors to the pier are sightseers looking at the big waves. The day before I called the waves were up to the roof of the lifeguard shack on the pier, and frightening the brave souls who were dining out at Ruby’s at the end of the pier. Luckily there hasn’t been any real damage done to the pier—knock on wood. Carl said the brown water is caused by mud from the San Luis Rey River which enters into the boat harbor, and shortly thereafter into the ocean, just north of the pier. Carl also said the main road down to the harbor has washed out, a significant event to the people who work at the restaurants and boat landing in the harbor.

May 1998—Carl, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle, reports that fishing was slow with a pretty rough ocean (on the first). Anglers were getting a few mackerel and sardines out toward the end of the long pier, and a smattering of croakers and corbina in the inshore area. A few sand bass, calico bass (kelp bass) and halibut were also beginning to be caught out at the end. Most interesting were the catches of sheephead during the month, including a 12-pounder and a 27-pound fish. Most of the sheephead have been landed on shrimp.

April 1999—George, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), says that the fishing is finally starting to pick up. He says it was the worst winter for fishing he has ever seen but anglers are now starting to pick up good numbers of yellowfin and spotfin croakers in the inshore areas and big shovelnose sharks out at the end of the pier. The shovelnose are running 3-5 feet long and there seems to be a pretty good run.

A BIG spotfin croaker taken in 2016

July 1999—George, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), says that all Hell has broken loose and the fish have really started to bite. The water temperature jumped up to 66 degrees and corbina, yellowfin, spotfin, bass and halibut have been on a good bite. Its also seeing sharks and rays so it’s a little bit of everything.

August 2000—Carl, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), reports that fishing is pretty good. He’s seeing corbina, croaker and perch inshore, while out at the end anglers are getting some BIG mackerel and BONITO. He says the bonito are small “but they’re here” – after being gone for a couple of years.  The bonito are taken on feathers and spin floats. Unusual catches recently included a 27” striped bass caught in the surf area and a turtle that was brought in and released on July 4. He says there are also lots of small sharks.

November 2000—Carl, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), reports that fishing has slowed somewhat with the advent of cold and windy weather. However, there have been some interesting catches recently. As example, there was a good run of spotfin croaker inshore toward the end of the month and some barred surfperch have begun to enter into the picture. Out at the end of the pier there have quite a few opaleye perch taken on mussels together with several nice sheephead (including a 23” and 24” fish). Mackerel are still around but not in the numbers seen recently.  Carl says it has been dead on sharks and rays.

May 2001—Dan, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), reports that anglers are picking up yellowfin and spotfin croaker while working the surf areas along with a few barred surfperch. Try fresh mussels, ghost shrimp or bloodworms. Mid-pier to the end, the action’s been mostly on walleye surfperch and smallish-sized mackerel. What wasn’t small was a 150+pound bat ray taken on Sunday. Unfortunately the fish was pretty carved up by the time they got it onto the pier, Dan says the water is still a cold 60 degrees.

Tony the Tiger says “Fresh mussels are GREAT”

November 2001—Carl, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), says that mackerel and bonito are being caught – most of the boneheads on ball and feather set ups.   A few bass and halibut are showing up in the mid-pier area while some BIG spotfin croakers and small corbina have been taken inshore. He’s also starting to see a few sargo and barred surfperch so perch season may be fairly close at hand.

February 2002—Carl, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), says that things are slower than slow. He says it has been too cold for the fishermen (the pier was covered in frost one morning this week) and the ones who do show up aren’t catching much. Mainly it’s walleye surfperch. Hardly anything else.  

May 2002—Carl, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), says fishing is finally starting to pick up. Says he’s seeing some nice corbina, spotfin croaker and barred surfperch inshore; herring (queenfish) and jacksmelt out at the end. He’s also seen quite a few shovelnose sharks (guitarfish) lately. He did report one bad sign. Seems there is an algea in the water affecting the sea lions and seals. Says there are several sick or dead sea lions on the beach. Lastly, there was a short mini-run of sheephead and scorpionfish out at the end of the pier a couple of weeks ago but they seemed to have stopped

Sunrise, October 2017 (Picture courtesy of Oceanside Pier Bait Shop)

June 2002—George, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), says that “everything is exploding. People are landing lots of halibut (one guy landed 6 keepers in two days ON FROZEN MUSSELS) while inshore the action is hot on croakers, corbina and stingrays. He’s also seeing lots of bass and increasing numbers of sharks, especially shovelnose (guitarfish). Bait rigs on the end are pulling in quite a few sadines and mackerel are finally starting to show in good numbers” This may be one of the piers to hit now.

September 2002—George, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), says that the fishing is still very good with lots of spotfin and yellowfin croaker along with some halibut (including a few keepers) and some small white seabass. He says shovelnose are all over the place; around 20-25 a day. No bonito to speak of although a small 8-inch fish was caught this week; mackerel come and go – hot action followed by dead. One thing that is in big numbers is sardines—night and day; use bait rigs. Two final notes: (1) giant squid are making a short appearance most nights and (2) a 20-pound black sea bass was caught this week and finally released after George gave the angler a big warning. Good thing George was there or the guy would have kept it.

Two halibut taken by Mark in 2016

October 2002—Carl, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), says that a 9-pound calico bass (kelp bass) was taken by an angler using squid on 9/29. The fish was caught mid-way out on the pier, just past the restrooms. He also says there have been lots of yellowfin croakers and spotfin croakers taken inshore. At the end anglers are still getting mackerel while anglers fishing on the bottom continue to pull in a fair number of shovelnose sharks (guitarfish).

November 2002—Carl, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), says that things are starting to slow down although some yellowfin and spotfin croakers continue to be caught inshore along with a few barred surfperch. It’s slow further out on the pier although a few mackerel continue to be taken. Biggest news recently was the capture of a 210-pound giant (black) sea bass taken and released by Ben Seto. Don’t know how it was weighed but Carl says they’ve seen 3-4 fairly big giant sea bass in the past two months. He also chuckled over the 9-pound calico (kelp) bass caught by a neophyte angler who rented a pole, bought some frozen squid, and then came back a short time later with the huge calico. Most anglers will fish a lifetime from a pier and never catch a 9-pounder (in fact, it’s a pretty good calico even from a boat).

December 2002—Carl, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), says that with a few exceptions, things are slowing down. There’s been some spotfin croakers showing up along with a few keeper halibut and mackerel – on some days. The macs seem to come and go and you just have to be there when they show up. Of interest was a 20-lb, 32-inch sheephead and two more giant (black) sea bass, both estimated to weigh over 100 pounds. That makes about a half dozen giant sea bass in the past two months topped by the (estimated) 200-pound fish in October.

Wintertime is the time for lobster

February 2003—Carl, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), says that things are very slow, a few jacksmelt, barred surfperch (inshore) and small bass (calicos and sand) out at the end. Biggest news recently was the capture of a 20+ pound sheephead by 12-year-old John Kinsey. He caught the bucktooth creature out at the end of the pier on mussels. The water temperature is only 58 degrees which partly explains the slow fishing.

June 2003—George, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), reports that the fishing has exploded. Inshore there are lots of croaker – spotfins, yellowfins and corbina (although most are in the 2-3 pound range, not any real big fish). Out at the end lots of calicos (kelp bass) are showing up together with some big shovelnose sharks (guitarfish) including one that weighed a little over 25 pounds. In addition, big schools of mackerel and sardines have covered the water on some days.

November 2003—George, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), said it was cold and raining the morning I called BUT fishing had been excellent with LOTS of bonito and mackerel. He said the end of the pier has been like summertime, i.e., crowded. But the bonito haven’t been around for a while so I’m not surprised. George says there are lots of anchovies in the water and they’re bringing in the boneheads and macs – so enjoy it while you can. If seeking out the bonito try feathers with a cast-a-bubble or lures like Krocodiles.  Croaker action has died off as has most bottom action. George says it has been fun watching the dolphins feasting on all the local bait.

May 2004—Carl, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), says that things are still somewhat slow but picking up. A few halibut have been landed (including a 36-inch, 22-pound fish, and a 30-inch, 12 1/2 pound fish). Inshore, anglers are getting a few yellowfin croaker while further out herring (queenfish) and walleye surfperch are more common. Bat rays and shovelnose guitarfish are hitting on the bottom.

September 2004—Charlie, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), says a lot of bonito are being taken on live bait, feathers, and top running lures. There is a lot of bait—anchovies and sardines—in the water to attract the boneheads. In addition, he is seeing quite a few sargo (most on fresh mussels) and some huge shovelnose sharks (guitarfish). Inshore there are some yellowfin and spotfin croakers; the croakers are falling to bloodworms, fresh mussels, or shrimp.

October 2004—Carl, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), reports continued good action on bonito and mackerel with tons of bait in the water. One angler, Romeo, landed a 40-pound or so halibut using live bait. Many white seabass are also showing up but most are small, illegal fish (usually called sea trout). It’s been a little slow on the inshore croakers.

Halfmoon (left) and Sargo (right) from the pier

November 2004—Carl, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), reports fantastic bonito action along with LOTS of short white seabass and mackerel. He’s also seen quite a few bat rays but the action on halibut is slow and the croaker bite is non-existent. Leopard sharks re being taken on squid, sardines and cut mackerel.

August 2005—Carl, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), reports that the red tide has finally bid adieu after its two-month visit and the result is improved fishing—and catching. Out at the end there are many, many mackerel along with a few bonito (caught on feathers w/bubbles). Mid-pier the herring (queenfish) are thick along with a few walleye perch. A few halibut have shown but most are shorts; use live smelt or small queenfish as bait. The surf area continues to kick out some corbina and yellowfin croakers (use bloodworms, fresh mussels or ghost shrimp). It sounds like it’s the time to go!

May 2006—Dino, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), says that there has been a really good bite on croakers—yellowfins and spotfins—with many of the spotties hitting 3-5 pounds. Try fresh mussels or ghost shrimp. There’s also been some good perch fishing with a combination of species. Corbina are also picking up—try fresh mussels by the bait shop. A few mackerel are hitting out at the end but the action is sporadic. Biggest news recently was a HUGE bat ray that was supposedly weighed in at 250 pounds; a picture was supposed to be sent to the Oceanside paper. I’d appreciate a copy.

Spotfin Croaker — 2012

June 2006—Charley, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), says the fishing has been really good recently. The last week saw a number of BIG spotfins show up led by 6 and 8-pound fish.  There’s also been good numbers of yellowfin croaker and barred surfperch inshore. Out at the end there was a decent run of good-sized 5-6 pound bonito but they apparently have moved on and been replaced by smaller bonito. Most of the bonito were taken on spoons such as Kastmasters and MegaBaits rather than bubbles w/feathers. He said it is slow on halibut. One side note, a lady did commit suicide by jumping off the pier last week and there was a fisht between a fisherman and a surfer. Sounds like  things were busy down there.

October 2006—Charley, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), says people continue to pull in good-sized spotfin croaker to about four pounds together with nice yellowfin croaker. He says there are tons of mackerel and lots of bonito but you have to be there when the bonito decide to visit the pier. When they get to the pier just about everyone gets them but they only make a visit a couple of times a day. Other than that it’s mostly perch with almost no halibut showing up. (Snookie always says when the bonito are around you will not catch the halibut).

April 2007—Verg, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), says things have slowed somewhat from a few weeks ago. There’s still barred surfperch inshore but lesser numbers of the yellowfin and spotfin croakers. A few shovelnose are being caught along with mackerel they move in for short visits to the pier. Biggest news the day I called was the 100-pound or so giant (black) sea bass that was going up and down the pier in water shallow enough to put on a show. Luckily no one was trying to hook him.

June 2007—Charlie, at the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle (on the pier), says it’s spotfins, spotfins and more spotfins with many of the fish hitting close to five pounds in size. Best bait according to Charlie are baby mussels but ghost shrimp and worms should also attract them. Other than that it’s pretty slow for most other species although some (Humboldt?) squid are being brought in. Not big numbers but the squid are being taken during both the day and night hours. They range in size to about 5 feet in length

No boats necessary

Dedicated pier patrons are proud and happy to spend their days fishing from California’s shoreline pilings

 Basketball has its gym rats, golf has its range rats and, yes, fishing has its very own pier rats.

They are a special breed of angler, these fanatics who fish from pilings, whether they be concrete or wooden. Pier rats don’t care.

“Our motto is no boats, no kayaks and no freshwater for posts on our board,” said newby pier rat Garth Hansen of Escondido. Their message board is on

Garth and his daughter Lisa

In his excellent book, “Pier Fishing in California,” Ken Jones, the modern-day Pied Piper of this new breed of pier rat, leads his cult-like followers to 113 piers, including those in the Carquinez Strait (about 20 miles northeast of San Francisco) and West Delta. In his second edition of the book, Jones includes an enlarged fishing-tips section and also details a history of the piers. There’s an entire section on fish identification, and he tops it with a section called “The Pier Rats Speak,” a dozen classic posts from the “Pier Fishing in California” message board on

At a recent get together at Oceanside Pier, Hansen was joined by John Kim of Carlsbad, Reid Mimaki of San Marcos, Rod Mina of San Diego and Rich Reano, the site’s Web master from Chula Vista, for some early-morning shore fishing followed by a trip to the pier.

Hansen discovered the group while searching the Web one day. “The fishing report is one of the more useful things about the site,” Hansen said. “I’m a beginner, so it helped me with good fishing information and tips. I took my daughter out to the pier the first time. Except for a 16-inch smelt, we got skunked. But since then I’ve landed my first legal halibut, first legal sand bass and way too many croakers.”

Reano fished from the beach early and, like the others, landed a handful of barred surf perch. He used a unique offering, a size 8 Wooly Worm fly with a half-ounce barrel sinker, a standard Carolina rig. Reano has been the group’s Web master since 1997. “We get just over a half million page views a month,” Reano said. “We’re small compared to boards like Allcoast Sportfishing, but for pier fishing, we do OK. We have a narrow focus, but still have a lot of views for that.”

There are 8,000 registered members of the board but, as Reano said, “many more lurking out there.”

Mina said the reports and pictures that pier and shore anglers post make the site valuable to those looking for information, tips and places to fish. “Part of it is people want to educate others about pier and shore fishing, but part of it is people want to brag, too,” Mina said.

The group stresses that all pier and shore fishermen follow Department of Fish and Game regulations, a big issue on the state’s piers. Many pier fishermen are recent immigrants who often plead ignorance on fish and game laws. They have a reputation with other fishermen for taking over-limits and fish or lobsters out of season. “We place a huge emphasis on rules,” Reano said.

Ben Acker and Bryan Burch traveled from Pasadena to join the others for the rare get together last Saturday. Acker, a sixth grade teacher in Arcadia, is a veteran hoop-netter and pier angler. “I have five younger brothers, and my mom said the only thing we could ever do without fighting is fishing and singing,” Acker said. Acker converted an old baby jogger into a fishing pier buggy that he loads all his gear on for an easy trek to a spot along the pier’s rail. As Acker was setting up his gear, a tourist passed by and said: “Do you need a fishing license to fish on a pier?” Acker responded, “No.” And the guy winced and said, “I just lost a $5 bet with this guy because I bet him you needed one.”

Anglers don’t need a fishing license, but knowledge of the shoreline structure under the pier is a huge benefit. And knowing how to rig for the various fish is equally important. “It’s a sharp learning curve, but if someone puts the time in, it’s not that hard to learn,” Acker said.

Acker said piers are the best-kept secret for hoop-netting lobsters. “I’ve probably hoop-netted more lobsters from a pier than I have from my kayak,” said Acker, who has his own special way of lowering his hoop net. He cradles it under his arm and tosses it the way someone would toss a discus. He got a good 30 yards on his toss on this day.

Down the pier from Acker, Daniel Elrod of Lancaster, another bona fide pier rat, displayed his invention, the L-Rodholder that he uses for rods and even a pulley arm for pulling hoop nets up from the depths. He sells them for $45 to $59. “I’m 46 years old and I’ve been pier fishing my whole life,” Elrod said. “My dad started me out when I was young.” Elrod said he visited Ocean Beach Pier during lobster season last year and asked a hoop-netter there if he’d like to sample his pulley arm device for pulling up his net. Elrod said the man hoisted up 30 lobsters in two hours before the men were kicked off because there was an electrical problem on the pier. “It was the middle of the day, too,” Elrod said. “I mean every pull, every 15 minutes, he’d have five, six lobsters in there. It was incredible because they were all keepers (legal-size) except for one.”

Elrod had his 14-year-old son, Kyle, along with him, doing his part to pass on the pier-rat tradition. “I’m on that site every day,” Elrod said. “It’s an addiction. I like to read what’s going on in Northern, Central and Southern California, and it’s a great place for that. Everyone has their own style of fishing, their own personality. But by knowing what’s going on along the whole coast helps me plan my own fishing trips and excursions.”

Boyd Grant is vice president of United Pier and Shore Anglers of California. He travels in his motorhome and checks on piers. He’s a mobile pier rat with a shell. “I’m a full-time volunteer and field representative,” Grant said. “I drive the entire coastline and check out the beaches and the piers. I have over 30 years of fishing every pier in California.” Grant said one of the other features of is that it includes a link to Ken Adelman’s The site offers up-close and updated looks at beach access and fishing areas. Grant called “Pier Fishing in California” author Ken Jones “the best piling fisherman I’ve ever seen.” “When we go to Catalina, we get 20 fish. He catches and releases 200 or more,” Grant said of Jones. “I don’t care where it is. Any pier, any piling. He’s the piling master.” Grant said he loves the entire atmosphere that can usually be found on a fishing pier. “There’s a lot more to pier fishing than just hooking fish,” Grant said. “I’ve found that no matter where in the world we go, when we visit a pier we have so much in common with the people there. Within five minutes, we’re talking like we’ve known each other all our lives.”

As Grant spoke, the Flatt family fished behind him on the north side of the pier. Steven and Melissa Flatt were there with Kalyn, 2. It was a family, glad to join the ranks of the pier rats. “He wanted a fisherman, so Kalyn now is into fishing,” Melissa Flatt said. “This is her first time fishing the pier, but she’s caught bluegill and has fished in Yosemite already.”

—Ed Zieralski, Outdoors, San Diego Union-Tribune, January 22, 2005

Sunset at the pier — 2004

Special Recommendations. A lot of small, undersized (and illegal), white seabass (generally called seatrout by anglers) are caught on this pier. Please return them to the water and help this species once again become a viable resource.  You may also avoid a large fine and the loss of your fishing license!

Note No. 1. At one time the Oceanside Pier had its own Sportfishing operation. One of the old pier items that I have is an unopened package with a wire barracuda leader. The printing on the package states it is from Art & Bill’s Tackle Store and says, “Save a Boat Ride—Drive to Oceanside. McCullah Bros. Sport Fishing, Oceanside Pier.” For reservations, one simply called Oceanside 4467. I’m not sure of the date of this package, it could have been anywhere from the thirties to the fifties.

Note No. 2. Two major surf competitions take place adjacent to the pier in June—the West Coast Pro-Am and the National Scholastic Surf Association—and parking can be pretty gnarly. If you plan to fish the pier on those weekends (check the newspapers for dates) get there early.

A beautiful sunrise in January 2018 (Photo courtesy of Oceanside Pier Bait Shop)

Note No. 3.  Did you know that the Oceanside Pier is seen in the movie Bring It On?

Note No. 4.  Fishing at a pier can teach many lessons about life. Here we’re presented the age-old question: Is a fish story really a lie?

Not all the sharks are big ‘uns. This is a baby leopard shark.

We Get Hooked on Fish Story

Carlsbad, Calif.—There has been some fishing and some lying, none of it too successful. As is customary, we visit the Oceanside pier from time to time while on vacation here to (as I believe they say it) wet a line, but mainly, I think, to get hot chocolate and doughnuts at the end of the pier. ,

The fishing is secondary. It is nice that way. It’s regulars, the old folks who settle down for the day with sack lunches, folding chairs and battered straw hats, put their lines in, but they are there to visit and take the sun and breeze. Mine just happen to take the hot chocolate.

The sports congregate at the end of the pier, probably 1,000 yards out from shore, and they are elbow to elbow and intense and want the fish to bile. One old girl, about an ax handle across the stern, seemed to be the star performer out there the other day.

She was dressed in jaded blue overalls, with a man’s blue workshirt bnttoncd at the neck, canvas shoes and a wide straw hat with the trailing edges reaching her shoulders. Probably she was in her ‘70’s but she whooped and hollered every time she pulled in a fish and she truly seemed to have the touch.

As I walked by from the end of the pier with a black coffee “to go,” her pole bent sharply again, waving, and she warhooped again.

Well, this is the serious fishing spot, and I suppose that it is because it is farthest from land, but you can’t fool ‘em about halfway out in. I have caught halibut there, and mackerel, tomcod, rays and small sharks, but the best thing to do is visit the small fish market located there.

The children got bored the other day after about 15 minutes and left me with the poles while they trooped out for chocolate

“Give me two bonitas, please,” I asked the young fellow behind the counter. I dropped them in my sack.

And I was standing there, looking rather unconcerned, line in the water, when they came back and asked what was in the sack.

I told them to look. “Gee, did you catch those?” the young fellow yelled. “He bought them at the fish market,” his slightly older and wiser sister stated. “Let’s tell them we caught them when we get home.”… her brother was enthused with the plan. “Yeah.” He said. “You caught one and I caught one. I get to carry the sack”…

Parents are supposed to teach their children that lying is dreadful, leaving them to pick it up as they mature. “This is not really lying.” I told them, and they nodded.  “This is what they call a fish story, and it is different.” They nodded again.

They went roaring into the house when we got home, displaying their trophies. The big girl looked up from her book. “You bought those at the pier, didn’t you?” she queried, “Yes,” I said. What a know-it-all.

—Bill Sumner, Vacation Report, Pasadena Independent, August 17, 1961

Oceanside’s beach — 2008

Note No. 5.  A good pier article is always welcome

Oceanside pier attracts all ‘walks of life’

OCEANSIDE —- When Rico Nguen moved to Escondido from Texas, one of the first things he wanted to do was to check out the fabled Southern California beach scene a few miles to the west. A town with a name like Oceanside had to be a good place to start, he figured. But when he got here, it wasn’t the sand or the surf that struck his fancy—it was the pier.

“I’d never been to California before I moved here, so I figured I should take advantage of it,” Nguen said this week while supervising his girlfriend’s 11-year-old son, who was casting his first fishing lines into the surf 40 feet below. “It’s nice to come out here and relax.”

Ten-year-old Dale Wuehler of Vista tosses a hungry pelican a fish that he caught as his sister Tina Ayers, 22, watches while on the Oceanside Municipal Pier.

The Doull family of Fallbrook, from left, Brittney, 11, Shane, his wife Nina, and Cayla, 9, gets splashed by the surf as they have a family portrait taken next to the Oceanside Municipal Pier by wedding photographer Andrea Welding on Sunday.

Victor Estrada of Vista drops a bat ray back into the ocean after he caught it while fishing at the end of the Oceanside Municipal Pier on Sunday.

Chris Miller, Nguen’s charge for the day, wasn’t there to relax. He was bumming baitfish from a fellow fisherman while simultaneously setting a line and trying in vain to pet a seagull. He was too busy to talk, but acknowledged with a chuckle that, yes, catching a shark would be pretty cool.

The Oceanside Municipal Fishing Pier stretches 1,954 feet into the sea, providing about 1 million tourists per year with an expansive view and lost souls with the temporal satisfaction that, for the moment, there’s nowhere else to go.

If Oceanside has a symbol, the pier would have to be it.

On a clear day, the pier is visible from La Jolla on the south to well into Orange County on the north. It’s even easier to see at night, when the rows of Victorian-style streetlights—pierlights?—turn the utilitarian structure into a ribbon of lights leading into the misty dark. There’s nothing except a restaurant at the end of the ribbon, but that only urges visitors onward. Some mumble to themselves. Most take pictures.

“The pier gives visitors a unique perspective on the California coastline,” said Mike Francis, director of tourism for the California Welcome Center’s Oceanside branch. “It was always a central point for me and my friends when we were growing up. That’s where we went to meet people who weren’t from here.” …

Ruby’s runs a shuttle—an extended golf cart—from the shore to the restaurant, allowing customers to keep their new calories for just 50 cents, rather than walk some of them off in the salt air. It’s a very popular service, judging by the number of people clambering off and on at each end.

Maintaining the pier comes with its own challenges. Topside, seagull droppings and fish guts must be hosed off constantly. The railings were recently replaced because years of bait-cutting had permanently rutted their surface. And slats in the fence featuring the names of people who paid $25 in 1988 for the honor of being displayed on the pier have to be replaced or, at least, re-carved from time to time due to weather and because the legally carved names tend to attract illegal imitators, said John Shepard, the pier’s only full-time maintenance worker.

Things get a little trickier underneath, Shepard explained. The pier was built without a catwalk, so Shepard has to borrow a few colleagues from elsewhere on the city’s harbor payroll to help set up scaffolding so he can inspect the wooden pylons and steel braces that support the structure. It’s a long process. In his 15 years on the job, Shepard has been out and back beneath the pier just three times, he said.

Shepard is currently gearing up for his annual ritual of intensive bottom-side maintenance. The pier attracts fewer visitors in the winter, resulting in less wear and tear up top. That gives him more time to prowl below.

“Right now, we’re stripping the accumulation of mussels off the pylons because they increase resistance in rough weather,” Shepard said. “Mostly, I grind rust off braces and coat them with zinc and tar. I have to replace them occasionally, which takes four or five guys. I only replace deck boards when it’s absolutely necessary. They’re 24 feet long, and that’s a whole tree.”

“I love my job. People from all walks of life make the trek to the end of the pier. The furthest you can go west is our pier. People who feel lost, and who are looking for something, they always come out. They can’t go any further.”

 —John Flink, North County Times, December 1, 2002

Headin’ out to the pier — 2008

Note No. 6.  Having friends who are elderly and disabled I can easily see the need for trams at some of the larger piers, especially those with wooden planks. On the other hand, it is economically feasible?

Condition of Oceanside pier raises concerns — Without a tram, visits tough for some people

Oceanside—The Municipal Fishing Pier is the longest wooden recreation pier on the West Coast, but it is too long and its wooden planks are too uneven for many elderly and disabled to enjoy.

“It’s always a bumpy ride, let me tell you that,” said Jackie Camp, who uses a wheelchair. Camp is director of Able/Disabled, a nonprofit service and advocacy agency.

Longtime Oceanside resident Patte Prentiss said the planks are too bumpy for her frail husband, so he no longer can enjoy one of his few pleasures in life, fishing off the pier during mackerel and bonito season. Prentiss said her husband, Gerald, 76, was almost in tears from fear his scooter chair would turn over the last time she tried to wheel him down the pier. She wants the tram that used to traverse the pier returned to service.

“They have to find a way,” Prentiss said. “It’s our pier. We paid for the pier. We can’t use it.”

Until a couple of years ago, the four-seat tram was operated by Ruby’s Diner, a restaurant perched at the end of the pier. The tram, which resembled an oversized golf cart, took passengers for a 50-cent fee. Camp said no one has contacted her organization to protest the pier’s condition or the elimination of tram service. City officials have asked Camp to meet with Frank Quan from the city Department of Harbor and Beaches on Tuesday to demonstrate difficulties wheelchair users may have accessing the pier.

City officials experimented with a rickshaw on the pier Friday, said Councilwoman Shari Mackin, and they planned to repeat the trial yesterday.

While some decry the elimination of tram service, Dolores Skolimowska, who uses a motorized scooter chair, said the tram really wasn’t the answer because it could not accommodate wheelchairs. Skolimowska said she navigates the pier with her scooter “very slowly, very carefully.” “It is very rough,” Skolimowska said. “But I can make it.”

City Attorney John Mullen said Ruby’s operated the tram until former City Manager Steve Jepsen allowed it to discontinue service a couple of years ago because of the financial hardship to the restaurant. “We wanted to operate it,” said Ruby’s general manager Chris Jones. “We did not want to get rid of it.”

Jones said that city officials told Ruby’s that it had to buy a public-transportation license and provide insurance as a public carrier. That was too expensive for a four-person tram. The restaurant had run the small tram from a public parking lot on the east side of Pacific Street down the 1,942-foot-long pier since it opened in 1996.

Most people thought it was required to do so. Mullen said the contract signed with the city in 1996 was “not a model of clarity.” It states that the city shall provide two tram vehicles and the lessee (Ruby’s) shall pay the costs of maintaining them, including the driver and necessary insurance. The city was to pick up half the cost as a credit against the rent the restaurant paid the city. The rent is a flat fee, now $87,500, plus a percentage of profits. Mullen said the contract did not say how often the tram was to run. While Mullen and city officials debate how the tram came to be sidelined, older and disabled residents say they still can’t get down the pier and would like to do so.

Don Hadley, city director of harbor and beaches, said the city still owns the tram and has asked Ruby’s to use it as much as possible to take supplies to the restaurant instead of driving heavier vehicles on the pier.

The pier predates many laws about disabled access…

“It’s one of my highest priorities right now to get access to the pier,” Interim City Manager Barry Martin said Friday, adding that “we’re looking at several possibilities,” ranging from pedicabs to a return of the tram.

Prentiss said she wondered why the city couldn’t just put a 3-foot-wide asphalt strip over the wooden planks to provide a smoother surface for wheelchairs or unsteady walkers. Hadley said the city has rejected that idea because asphalt destroys wood, although the damage often can’t be seen.

Mackin is pushing for an answer because her own octogenarian father, George Thornton, finding no tram, attempted to walk to Ruby’s for lunch a couple of years ago and found the trudge too hard on his heart. He needed medication and a lift off the pier from lifeguards. “How terrible was that?” Mackin said. “Scary.”

San Diego Union-Tribune, July 9, 2006

You do not need a license on a public pier in California

Note No. 7.  Competition for space between pier anglers and surfers is an ongoing problem that just doesn’t seem to end. The Oceanside Pier is one of the piers entangled in the war.

 Face-off at Oceanside Pier — City tries to ease tension after anglers, surfers fight

Oceanside—Adam Beutz sometimes packs scissors in the sleeve of his wet suit when he paddles out to surf at the Oceanside Pier. The scissors come in handy when he needs to cut through someone’s fishing line.

Adam, 16, a Vista High School junior, has been surfing the pier for several years, and he has been snagged by fish hooks and tangled in fishing lines more times than he cares to count. On Memorial Day, after Adam was forced to free himself from a line by gnawing through it with his teeth, he and his friends got into an argument with the fisherman who cast the lure, leading to a fight on the beach.

Such is life at the Oceanside Pier, where surfers and anglers have jostled and sparred for decades over who has rights to the same small swath of ocean. Now Oceanside is studying its ordinances to see if anything can be done to reduce tensions between the two factions.

At 1,954 feet in length, the Oceanside Pier is the longest wooden pier on the West Coast. Dozens of anglers line its edges on any given day, their bait buckets filled with mussels and squid, their rods dangling over the frothing surf. The croakers that swim in the shallows are a particularly popular catch. “They melt in your mouth when you cook ‘em,” said Zack Oller, 46, an Oceanside construction worker who fishes at the pier several times a week.

Surfers say the pier produces one of the best waves in North County. With every big swell comes a steady supply of barreling water. Although a local ordinance requires surfers to stay at least 100 feet away from each side of the pier, the best place to catch a wave is often at the edge of the pilings—a temptation too great for many surfers to resist.

“When the wave is good there, it’s really good,” said Scott Prestie, 44, a surfer who happens to be a captain with the Oceanside Fire Department. “It’s just something you can’t pass up.”

When the waves are pumping, surfers head out in droves, even if they have to navigate a forest of dangling fishing lines. When paddling from shore, they tend to stay as close to the pier as possible to get the benefit of a rip current near the pilings.     Arguments are a daily occurrence. Surfers say anglers purposely cast in their direction. Fishermen accuse surfers of deliberately slicing their lines. “They’re all over the place, like flies,” fisherman Bob Sugita, a Vista security guard, said one recent morning, standing on the pier and motioning toward the surfers bobbing in the waves below.

Nate Pitcher, 25, said he nearly came to blows with an angler who hooked his wet suit and yanked him off his board. Pitcher paddled to shore to confront the fisherman but backed off when the man pulled out a fishing knife. “It’s an everyday problem,” Pitcher said of the tension between the two groups.

Open hostility between surfers and anglers long has been an issue at many piers in Southern California, although Oceanside’s problem appears to be the worst in San Diego County. At Imperial Beach, surfers routinely ignore the ordinance that requires them to stay at least 20 feet from the pier. In 2003, partly out of concern for the safety of surfers, the Imperial Beach City Council banned bow-and-arrow fishing on the pier. At the Ocean Beach pier, surfers are supposed to maintain a distance of at least 75 feet, but they often disregard the rule so they can “shoot” the pier, meaning surf underneath it from one side to the other. Conflicts at the Ocean Beach pier are rare because anglers fish the deeper water, while surfers catch waves closer to shore, said San Diego lifeguard Lt. John Greenhalgh.

Over the years, Oceanside officials have considered and rejected a number of proposals to remedy the problem, none of them particularly practical or safe. One idea—using buoys to create a demarcation line—would pose a danger to surfers because their leashes could become tangled in the buoys.

At the Sept. 28 meeting of the city’s Harbor and Beaches Advisory Committee, Oceanside lifeguard manager Ray Duncan said he would study the problem and see whether the situation could be improved. The city could increase the buffer zone to 200 feet, Duncan said, or pass an ordinance mandating that anglers and surfers use the water on alternating days. Commission members seemed reluctant to make such drastic changes.

Many surfers say the city should restrict fishing to the outer half of the pier, which would ease tensions because the best waves are closer to shore. Perhaps not surprisingly, the anglers say that proposal is ridiculous. The best croaker fishing is close to shore, they say. They point out that the pier—which was built in 1925 and significantly expanded in the 1980s—was constructed specifically for anglers. Its official name is the “Oceanside Municipal Fishing Pier.”

It was the Memorial Day fracas involving Adam Beutz, his friends and some irate anglers that prompted city officials to take a fresh look at the problem. Even before the confrontation, the Vista High student said, his patience with the anglers had been wearing thin. The previous year, Adam had been hooked by three lines at once, with one barb digging so deep into his toe that he had to paddle back to shore to get it removed.

On Memorial Day, Adam was hooked again, leading to the argument with the fishermen. Before long, one of Adam’s buddies was standing on the beach, exchanging punches with one of the anglers. By all accounts, Adam’s friend got the worst of the fight. Police didn’t file any charges, partly because witnesses gave differing accounts of what happened.

“Half of them said it was the surfers’ fault, half of them said it was the fishermen’s fault,” Oceanside police Sgt. Sean Sullivan said.

Carolyn Krammer, a local real estate agent who runs the annual Surf for the Sea competition at the pier, said she doubts the problem will ever go away. The two groups have been at each other’s throats for years, Krammer said. In the old days, anglers would stand on the pier and toss bottles and cans at the surfers below. “I’ve seen guys up there just laughing away,” Krammer said. “They try to hook you, like you’re a fish.”

Oller, who has been fishing the pier for two decades, insists it is the surfers who instigate most arguments, yelling and cursing at the anglers above. Even though he has been screamed at more times than he can remember, Oller said he always resists the temptation to cast his line in a surfer’s direction. “I wouldn’t know how to fillet one of those,” Oller said.

—Charlie Neuman, San Diego Union-Tribune, October 8, 2006

Hope a big one doesn’t bite!

History Note. Oceanside was founded in 1883. Just five years later, in March of 1888, a wharf company was formed and on May 12, 1888, the first piling was driven for the new pier. That pier was located at the foot of Couts Street (today’s Wisconsin Street) and locals say that at low tide a person can still see some of the pilings from that original pier. The American Bridge Company from San Francisco handled construction, and the costs were largely paid for by subscription pledges from people hoping to make a buck. Promoters of the wharf felt Oceanside could rival San Francisco or Los Angeles—if the city had a wharf. Work started but slowed almost immediately. There were lawsuits, unpaid subscriptions, delays and damage from storms.

In December of 1888 a huge storm tore away several planks from the pier and washed lumber down the coast. Records seem a little hazy, but the all-wooden pier, the southernmost oceanfront wharf in the state, continued construction. By August of 1889 Oceanside asked citizens to raise a final $4,000 and promised completion of the wharf in 40 days. It’s unclear if the pier actually met its goal of extending out more than 1,200 feet into the blue Pacific. It is known that winter storms first reduced the wharf to a length of 940 feet before a storm in December of 1890 destroyed all but 300 feet of the pier.

 Oceanside’s Wharf Wrecked by Heavy Seas — A New Iron Pier Will Replace the Old Structure

 By Telegraph to the Times

Oceanside (Cal.,) Jan. 1—[By the Associated Press] The heavy west wind which prevailed on Tuesday night swept the wharf ashore, with the exception of about 300 feet. Work was commenced on it May 12, 1888, and suspended August 13, 1888. The wharf was out 940 feet. A new company is to be formed and an iron pier to be built.

—Los Angeles Times, January 1, 1891

Melchior Pieper, owner of the South Pacific Hotel, gathered and saved much of the loose lumber that was left from the storms. He had it piled up behind his hotel and soon began to campaign for a new pier, one be built near Third Street, the site of his hotel. In 1894 that pier, Oceanside’s second, was built. It was partly constructed from the lumber of the original pier but it was also given iron pilings and extended out only 400 feet. It soon acquired the affectionate name “Little Iron Wharf.” The pier was lengthened in 1896 and a proposal was made for lengthening it in 1900 but a new storm damaged much of the pier in 1902.

Pier number three emerged in 1903. This pier was nearly 1,300 feet long, 12 feet wide, and supported by steel railway rails purchased from the Southern California Railway Company. In 1908, lights came to the pier when the Oceanside Electric Company offered to light the pier free for one year. Eventually that pier would also succumb to winter storms.

Fishing from the pier — 1904

A $100,000 bond issue in 1926 paid for the fourth pier. It was made of wood and concrete and extended out 1,900 feet. It was dedicated on July 4, 1927, amid a three-day celebration that attracted over 20,000 people to Oceanside. The pier and its productive fishing waters quickly became a favorite haunt for anglers.

 Angler Fails To Land Fish — Oceanside Business Man Pulled from Pier — Large Catch Wins in Fight For Freedom — Rescuers Save Fisherman from Drowning

Oceanside, July 17—When a big fish, hooked off the end of the Oceanside pier about 6:30 o’clock last evening, decided he did not like fishermen and did not want to leave his happy home in the waters of the Pacific, he came very near making one less fisherman instead of one less fish.

C.A.Peddicord, Oceanside businessman, intent upon catching a large fish, bought brand-new fishing tackle, baited the hook with a pound and a half mackerel, and proceeded to wait. He caught it all right, but the fish objected to being taken from the water and proceeded to throw Peddicord over the railing of the pier, break his leg, land him in the deep water, and leave him to flounder desperately to keep afloat until he was saved by Cal Young coming to his rescue in a skiff and getting him aboard. Just before the skiff arrived to avert a drowning tragedy, Jim Donnell, popular high school graduate of this year, made a quick dash for a life preserver near by and threw it to the struggling man. He could not reach it, however, but the appearance of a man below the pier encouraged the drowning man just enough that he continued to fight to keep above water until he was rescued.

Peddicord had fished more or less for years, but had never caught a big fish. He got the heavy tackle with the intention of getting the thrill of the big-fish catch. As he waited for the fish to bite, he received instructions about how to set his drag, not too heavy, he was told, and learned how to hold the rod. He waited and waited but the fish seemed unconcerned so he tightened up his drag a few turns and thought it would be easier to slip the pole under his leg and be ready for business if any surprise came. The surprise arrived and he proceeded to reel in his fish and had it fairly up to the pier when it made a dart underneath. He leaned over to see what was happening down there when the fish gave a big lurch and Peddicord made a flip over the rail, the pole acting as a lever, the fish on the long end, he on the short. As he went over he grabbed for support, struck his leg on the cross beam of the pier, breaking his leg halfway between the ankle and the knee.

Just what kind of a fish it was that he caught is unknown. He had a regular jewfish outfit, but it is believed not to have been a jewfish that put on this surprise exhibition of fish ingenuity and activity.

—Los Angeles Times, July 18, 1930

By the ’30s, barge fishing was also available from the pier. Anglers who craved a little more action than that found on the pier could take the water taxi out to the Oceanside by 1934, and the Glenn Mayne by 1938.

A busy pier in 1935

In 1942 a terrible storm destroyed 385 feet of the pier and then an additional 150-foot portion of the pier was sheared off in January of 1943. Use of the pier was curtailed but World War II was now the main topic of concern and repairs to the pier would have to wait.

The war ended in 1945 and in 1946 voters once more went to the voting booth. They approved a bond issue for $175,000 and construction of Oceanside’s fifth pier began. The new pier was 1,943 feet long and at the time of construction it claimed to be the longest pier on the West Coast. City fathers also hoped it would last a little longer than most of the previous piers. Ceremonies included placement of a silver dollar on the last piling as symbol of a hoped-for 100-year life. It wouldn’t happen but the pier did last longer than any of its predecessors.

During the late ’40s and ’50s, before the harbor area was developed, saw the barge fishing that was headquartered on the pier resume in the forms of the Lazy Daze and the Morfun. The pier also served as home base for a number of Sportfishing boats including the Calypso.

California Fish and Game picture — 1950

“There are new faces back of the counter of the sporting goods store on the Oceanside pier. Art and Bill Kemper of Newport Beach fame have taken over, and moved the stock from the San Clemente store down there. Art says the pier fishing is really something, with perch and goggleye always on hand, and halibut, smelt, herring, etc. plentiful at times.”

—Andy Anderson, Fishin’ Along The Coast, Long Beach Independent, August 2, 1951

A 1953 report on Oceanside by the Fish and Game Department said that “No commercial fishing power boats operate here but 6 to 10 men fish from skiffs and deliver to a market at the Oceanside Pier… In 1952 three party boats and four charter boats operated here with two barges anchored off the town.”

As is usual with oceanfront piers, new storms would occasionally batter the pier and cause damage. However, as seen below the damage wasn’t always due to Mother Nature.

Oceanside pier closed by storm

Oceanside (UPI) — The popular Oceanside Pier was closed as a “safety precaution” at midday Saturday after a night of battering by strong wind and waves buckled several of its pilings. Guests of wind up to 35 mph and white-capped waves up to six feet pounded the moorings of the city landmark and snapped a quarter-mile steel water main extending from the shore to the end of the pier.

A police spokesman said Saturday that the half-century old pier was in no danger of collapsing but that “it was moving more than it should.” By the afternoon the wood pilings of the T-shaped fishing pier were noticeably loosened under the wave action but none of them had snapped.

—The Hayward Daily Review, January 3, 1971

Oceanside Pier ruined by storm

Oceanside (AP) — Heaving seas caused $100,000 damage to Municipal Pier, making it necessary to build another one, says the city projects engineer. The storm last Thursday destroyed 19 pilings at the end of the end of the 1,900-foot pier, breaking off one section 30 feet by 40 feet in size.

—Long Beach Press-Telegram, April 22, 1976

Fire Destroys Café On Oceanside Pier

Oceanside (AP) — Fire hit the Oceanside pier early today, destroying a landmark café which stood at the west end of the structure for more than 30 years. The flames and smoke were seen for a mile or more. The cause of the fire, confined to the Pier Café, was under investigation.

—Oxnard Press-Courier. December 21, 1976

A 600-foot section of the pier’s end was destroyed by large waves in 1978 followed by an additional loss of 90 feet in 1982. Finally, after a fire on the pier, the pier sat in sad-condition for several years. The end was missing, there were few facilities, and many people began to question if it would ever regain its former size or glory, to sound dramatic.

The shortened pier in 1987

A Pier with Few Peers Going Up in Oceanside

OCEANSIDE — Plank by plank, piling by piling, there’s a pier taking shape on the seashore here.

Work began in earnest last week on Oceanside’s pier, a 1,942-foot structure that will replace a wave-racked predecessor that had fallen victim to the ocean.

But this, mind you, won’t be just another set of pretty pilings. It’ll be a pier with few peers. City officials boast that the pier, expected to be completed by next summer, will be a state-of-the-art structure and the undisputed centerpiece of Oceanside’s blossoming oceanfront.

“We’ve taken the positive aspects from all the piers that have been built over the past few years and integrated them in this one,” said Dick Watenpaugh, city recreation director and one of the officials overseeing the project. “When it’s finished, we’ll have a very high-tech pier.”

To begin with, the pier will be higher off the surf, enabling it to escape some of the piling-crunching waves from fierce winter storms. In addition, workers will encase traditional wooden pilings with hard plastic coatings to more effectively ward off the day-to-day grind of sand moving with the swells.

Officials hope the $5-million waterfront edifice will help civic revitalization efforts, luring visitors who in recent decades have avoided the rundown area around the pier. “It’ll be one of the big draws,” Watenpaugh said.

But building a structure suspended above waves a quarter mile out at sea is no easy task, and the Oceanside project has a few added engineering oddities. Glenn Prentice, the city’s public works director, described the construction effort as being akin to erecting a building with the original structure still standing in place.

A 900-foot stretch of the old municipal fishing pier that was spared by the waves will be used by workmen as a perch for their heavy equipment as they drive wooden supports deep into the ocean floor, working their way outward from the shoreline.

Once the pier is built, scuba divers will use underwater buzz saws to cut down the old pilings. The hefty timbers will then be floated to shore.

The new pier will be the fifth one at that location in Oceanside. Historians do not know when the first pier was built but say it was replaced in 1894, when city officials spent $1,200 building the second one. That one eventually fell to the waves, and a wood and steel pier replaced it in 1927. Even steel proved vulnerable to the ocean, and a wooden pier was erected in 1947.

Winter waves lopped off about 600 feet of that pier in 1978, and a 110-foot section fell in 1983.

Eager to rebuild the structure, city officials placed a measure on the ballot in November, 1983, to fund much of the cost of rebuilding the pier, but voters rejected it.

—Eric Bailey, Los Angeles Times, July 13, 1986

However, in 1985 the Coastal Conservancy became involved, helped organize the plans to rebuild the pier, and gained a commitment for $1.0 million dollars from the Wildlife Conservation Board and the city. An additional $4.5 million in funding was obtained in 1987. Work commenced, and a new pier, 1942 feet in length, and the sixth to grace the city’s shoreline, was opened to the public on September 29, 1987.

Entrance Sign — 2008

In 1997, $200,000 was used for resurfacing and to repair loose bolts. This was followed by work in 2010 and 2013 to replace worn and uneven planks in order to make the surface smoother and better able to accommodate wheelchairs and strollers. At the same time, work was done to replace roughly 200 of the pier’s 1,089 metal braces and to refurbish the aging restrooms on the pier. Today the pier looks almost as good as new.

             Oceanside Pier Facts

Hours: Open 24 hours a day.

Facilities: A parking lot is available near the entrance to the pier and metered parking is available on Pacific Street. Restrooms and the Oceanside Pier Bait & Tackle shop are located mid-pier. Lights, benches, and fish cleaning stations are found throughout the pier. Snacks can be purchased at the bait and tackle shop while a Ruby’s Diner with its ‘50s themed food and servers covers much of the end of the pier.

Ed Gonsalves runs an excellent and always busy baitshop

Nearby Attractions: The Junior Seau Pier Amphitheatre and Junior Seau Beach Community Center (Beach Recreation Center) are located near the front of the pier. The amphitheater hosts a plethora of events while the recreation center includes a gymnasium, stage and kitchen. Not too far from the pier (312 Pier View Way) is the California Surf Museum, a neat place to visit if you’ve ever had a question about surfing. The cost is $3 adults, $1 students/seniors/military.

Handicapped Facilities: The pier has handicapped parking and restrooms. The pier surface is cement and planking and the rail height is 44 inches. Posted for handicapped.

Location: 33.19278 N. Latitude, 117.38583 W. Longitude

How To Get There: From I-5 take Mission Blvd. west to Pacific, turn right and follow it to the pier.

Management: City of Oceanside, Public Works Department.

2014 Berkeley Kids Tournament

The first of the 2014 UPSAC-IGFA Youth Fishing Derbies was held on June 21 at the Berkeley Pier. The day saw nice weather but a fairly small turnout and slow fishing. Still, judging by the huge smiles and the enthusiasm of the participants, the kids had fun! There was the chance to share time with friends and family, use the free loaner tackle and bait, enjoy a free lunch, and maybe even catch a fish. The winners were: Juliana Li, Tenzin Kunsel, Danika Dougherty, Brianna Cooke, Kimberly Bierman, Ramn Namauleg, Josh Goldston, Hans Jones Jr. and Mack Jones. The main UPSAC helpers were Ken Jones, Robert Gardner and Hans Jones.

The winners!

The UPSAC (United Pier and Shore Anglers of California) Banner

Berkeley Pier

Danika D and her favorite bait!

San Francisco Bay

Ramen N and Josh G

Tenzin K and his Dad

Kimberley B

Juliana L and her family

Juliana L learning how to cast

Danika D and Brianna C and their trophies

Juliana L and her trophy

Josh G and Ramen N with their trophies

Kimberley B and her trophy

Samantha B and her trophy

Mack J and Hans J with their trophies

The Winners

Berkeley Pier and SF Bay



13th Annual Mud Marlin Derby — 2014

The 13th Annual Mud Marlin Derby was held at the Berkeley Pier on May 17, 2014 from 6PM until midnight.

Berkeley Pier

The mission was to (1)  catch and release some cute little (or huge monster) mud marlin, aka bat rays; (2)  meet up with some fellow “pier rats” from the “Pier Rat Nation”;  (3) for some – to win the derby and/or raffle prizes. Mission #1 was only accomplished by four people; Mission #2 was largely accomplished, and, as expected, Mission #3 was limited to a several people.

Some halibut had been caught earlier

The official list showed 72 people signed in although we think the actual total was slightly higher since some people did not sign in. Those who signed in (and apologies since some signatures were hard to decipher)—Matthew, Richard Samms, Wa Moua, Nai Moua, Choua Thao. Twan Sysengchanh, Steven Kha, Logan Freda, Dylan Zimmerman (?), Damon Knudson, Orlan Gumban, Christopher Fajardo, Michael Karam, Sargon Tomy, Albert Karam, Chris Karam, Dave Clingman, Bob Griffin, Adam Vanul, Robert Gardner, Cory Ferry, Michael Shephard, Matt Galvin, April Galvin, Richard Vang, Cher Xiong, Abduhl ?, Danity Donohm, Shea Donohm, Justin Looking, Josephine Mayorga, Nick Messer, Ezequiel (Zeg) Fajardo Igor K, Wesley Harris, Juan Duran, Manuel Chavez, Nicolas Chavarria, George Vue, Mason Vue, Xing Vue Mova, Serg Vang, Devonte Fortson, Thomas Graytan, Abe ?, Brian ?, Hans Jones, Hans Jones Jr., Reubin Aguilar, Ashley Mercure, Cole Dunlap, Steve Timbroar, Robert Oakes, Robert Munoz, Anthony Gaspar, Julio Marciel, Richard Velarde, Jonathan Steele, Frank Rasheed, Andy Szostek, Richard McIntosh, Ken Jones, Ignacio Carbajac, Ken Murakami, Alan Kurosawa, Robert Zasta, Daniel Pedrelra, Mark Ervin, Johnny Guinowes, Andrew Lozoya, Leslie Townsend, and Ana Townsend.

Anglers getting ready for the derby


Some notes: I arrived at the pier about 3:45 and decided to fish for a few minutes by the inshore rocks. Unfortunately the waves were slapping the rocks, conditions just weren’t right for perch, and although I tried under and around the restrooms I failed to get a single bite. However, imagine my surprise when I heard a girl screaming “Oh my God, there’s a stingray in the toilet” as she rushed out of the restroom. Perplexed, I went into the room and sure enough there was a fish, a thornback ray, lodged in the toilet looking up. I took my pliers, removed the fish, and assured the girl she could now safely use the toilet. But really… a fish in the toilet?

Thornback (Toilet) Ray

 Eventually I decided to head out to the derby area. Along the way I was checking for fish and one angler, Marcus (?), had two nice-sized halibut that he had taken earlier. Snapped a picture of the fish and moved on. Out by the third sink area I ran into Matt and Josh and that’s where I decided to set up shop. Relived some old times with Matt including his first fish reports to me back in 1998 and our meeting up at the Pacific Pier that same year (where he had caught a nice striped bass). Met Josh and saw pictures of the two halibut he had caught earlier in the morning. Matt had journeyed down from Reno, Josh from Sacramento, and unfortunately they had only experienced two bites, and had gotten two fish, during the entire time at the pier. Things were slow and when combined with a bone-chilling wind it looked like it might be a long night.

Josh and Matt

 The evening would indeed turn out to be windy and cold and the fish were few. However, the company was good and the time passed quickly. (And, the wind even died down around 10pm.)

• I had a nice chat with Dave Klingman (West Coast Dave) who had brought several people with him from Sacramento. Dave showed me the pictures of (many) pink salmon that he caught at the Dash Point Fishing Pier in Washington last year and expressed sorrow that he had not had a chance to visit GDude in Vancouver during his trip. (And I too missed making the trip north last summer, GDude’s last.) I didn’t realize it until our talk but he and GDude had been the only two people to make it to every Mud Marlin Derby and now, with GDude’s passing, Dave has the lone distinction of being at every MMD

.• One of the pleasures was spending some time with Leslie and Ana Townsend. Ana had never been fishing and her mom had brought her out to the pier expecting a short visit. However, Ana was really interested in fishing so she was set up with a rod and reel (by Matt and Josh) and tried to catch a fish. Unfortunately she did not catch a fish but at least she got to hold up the bat ray that Big Rich caught and hopefully will return for the kid’s fishing derby in June.

Ana and Leslie Townsend

 • Biggest and fanciest carts – I think this honor went to Bob Griffin who’s been making it out to the piers for years. His cart seems to hold everything needed and it even has two rod holders attached to the top. Yes, a true pier rat.

Bob Griffin and his pier cart

• Met a good group of guys that fish the Martinez Pier on a regular basis and heard a little about the sturgeon fishing at the pier. I need to make a trip over there to fish with them and get some tips.

• Food — As always, the food was excellent. Brian did most of the cooking along with a little help from Big Rich, Hans and Matt. Brian was cooking the chili, hot dogs, bratwurst, and hot links, while Hans cooked up some excellent “dog bites” in a BBQ sauce. Finishing up the food was some fresh halibut fillets donated by Matt and Josh. Robert donated water.

Brian Linebarger and Hans Jones cooking

 • The Derby Winners were: 1st—Richard Velarde with a 37-pound (47-inch wingspan) bat ray;

Richard Velarde —1st Place Winner

2nd—Igor Klyashchitsky with a 33-pound (43-inch wingspan) bat ray;

Igor K — 2nd Place Winner

3rd—Richard Vang with a 13-pound (27-inch wingspan) bat ray. Being edged out by Igor’s fish at nearly midnight was Big Rich who had caught the first bat ray of the night, a 4-pound (12-inch wingspan) bat ray.


Richard Vang — 3rd Place Winner

• Special thanks to: (1) Brian Linebarger for setting up and hosting the event for the seventh year in a row (as well as the cooking). Brian has now moved north which will limit his time at these events and Hans Jones is scheduled to be next year’s host. (2) Richard McIntosh (Big Rich) for his help in many ways including picking Brian up at the airport, helping Brian get the various supplies, and providing some muscle power to get everything out onto the pier. (3) Hans Jones for rounding up some nice raffle prizes as well as helping with the cooking.

“Big Rich” McIntosh and Ken Jones

Hans Jones and the owner of the Castro Valley Sportsman’s Center

that donated raffle prizes

Thanks also goes to both the Castro Valley Sportsman’s Center and the Berkeley Marina Pro Shop. Included in their donations were an American series Seeker rod, a Daiwa Regal 3500 reel, a Penn Fierce reel, and an Okuma V system reel. In addition there were many smaller prizes. Hans Jones donated three crab snares that he made. The Berkeley shop also had a raffle for people who had purchased bait for the derby through the shop and awarded an Ugly Stik as a prize at the derby.

Raffle Prize Winners

Big Rich and a baby mud marlin (bat ray)

Weighing the bat ray

Ana and Leslie Townsend


The 2008 Avila Pier Get Together —

In 2008 a group of anglers from (Pier Fishing In California) had a Get-Together at the Central California town of Avila. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be there but they had a great time — and caught several nice halibut. Herein the messages from the people that attended.

The group at the Get Together

(Front row: Huntress and friend, Sylvana, red fish (Robert) — Back row: KingfisherBro (Matthew), Kingfisher, Keli Cruise and wife Cindy, mahigeer (Hashem), kelpangler (Eugene), Gordo Grande (Ross) and wife, illcatchanything2 (Brian) and riorust (Dave)

Date: August 24, 2008

To: PFIC Message Board

From: Gordo Grande

Subject: Mid-State Get-Together Aftermath…

It’s Sunday night, and I’m still dead tired, but I can’t go to bed without posting a report. I think our first mid-state get-together was a smashing success, and everyone involved said we have to do it again. Many thanks to Santa who helped with the planning and did quite a bit of scouting ahead of time. Our first surprise of the day was when Santa found out that the police weren’t ticketing parked cars around the pier. We thought we were all in for some long walks from the free parking zones, but it turns out that we were able to park right next to the pier the whole time. It sure saved a lot of wear and tear on our feet.

Santa (Mike Spence) and Mrs. Santa (Cheryl)

The next surprise was when I spotted a certain mad Turkish/Iranian strolling the pier, who had surprised us with his attendance. The shock was almost too much for me, and I attempted to leap from the pier in fear, only to be pulled back in by my family members.

We had a great turnout for our inaugural event, although we were disappointed that several people who signed up couldn’t make it. However, that usually happens with GTs to some extent, so we didn’t let it stop us from having a good time. Most of the folks congregated in the mid-pier area, thanks to the advice of our locals, Polishfromthedeep (Karl), Kingfisher (Brian), and his little brother, KingfisherBro (Mathew). These guys knew this pier well, and they were tuned in perfectly to the halibut bite. Polish drew first blood with a legal hali, soon followed by Kingfisher and KingfisherBro. Between the three of them, I think they pulled in 5 halis, four of which were legal.

Their technique was flawless. I’ll let them fill you in on the details, if they think it’s a good idea. It’s up to them to do so, because I wouldn’t want to blow up a good spot by giving away their trade secrets. Suffice it to say, I was grateful for their advice, and used it as best as I could.

As usual for our GTs, we weren’t wanting for good eats. Hashem (aka BananaMan) brought along some cioppino, which he heated up on a propane grill beneath the restaurant at the foot of the pier. Riorust’s pal Ken made some killer ceviche. Kcruise and Mrs. Kcruise contributed greatly in the sandwich department, and Santa brought along a ton of eats as well. Next year I’ll try to remember to bring along a table so we can set it all up on the pier. Please forgive me if I’ve forgotten to mention anyone’s contribution.

These little sea stars provided us with some cheap entertainment. There didn’t seem to be any crabs at this pier, but the sea stars took their place, snatching bait every chance they got. It seemed they would wait for something to hit a bait, and if the bait died these guys would grab on for dear life. Several of us brought up half-eaten mackerels with sea stars wrapped around them. This is Kcruise’s better half, Cindy, showing off one of the little critters.

Dave (riorust) + sea stars = cheap entertainment

Sea star and the mackerel bait it enveloped

Of course, the high point of the day for me was catching this beast [angel shark], who hit a live mackerel. I was using the same technique that the guys were using to catch all the hali’s. As I was pulling it up I thought it was a ray, because that was the way he was fighting. No headshakes, just a lot of dead weight and an effort to get under the pier. I was able to horse him away from the pier and out of the kelp, where he was expertly netted by Kcruise. Many thanks for the assist, Kel. See, El Gordo actually does catch fish from time to time. Santa was nice enough to clean him for me, because he knew an amateur like me would botch the job. It took him about an hour-and-a-half from start to finish. He and I split the filets, and mine are destined for the vacuum packer in the morning. BTW, I’m happy to report that this beast was hauled in on my G-dude Special, custom wrapped Rainshadow Forecast, 8 ft. 2-piece rod which I won at the Fred Hall Show last year. The reel was a Penn 535 GS spooled with 20 lb. mono.

Ross Kestin (Gordo Grande), Kelli Cruise (kcruise), and an angel shark

It’s always great seeing Redfish who, with his girlfriend Sylvana (did I get that right?), comprised our Northern California contingent. Please forgive me if I got her name wrong. I think catching this guy made Red’s trip down the coast worthwhile.

            At the risk of forgetting someone, the attendees were Gordo and family, Santa and Mrs. Santa, I’llcatchanything2 (great to finally meet you Brian), Polishfromthedeep, Kingfisher and Kingfisherbro, Kcruise and family, Huntress and friend, Red and friend, Riorust and pal Ken, Kelpangler and family, and a certain mad Turkish/Iranian. Here’s my best version of the group shot. Next time I think we should shoot the group shot first so we don’t lose anyone.

Posted by kcruise

Great to meet folks and put a lot of faces to names! We had Rats from all over show up! The weather was great for this as well. And the 6 or so hali’s and one angel shark really made for a great day. Looking forward to the next gathering.

Kelli Cruise and his wife Cindy

Kelli Cruise and Cindy caught several small squid

Posted by kingfisher

Yesterday was AWSOME to say the least.  Beautiful weather, perfect size baitfish, good fishing, and of course GREAT company and food.  It was great to finally put faces with names. Aanyways back to the fish… caught one hali about 26 inches and my little brother caught some too… but you’ll have to wait for him tell you about it. Thanks again for organizing this,  Both my bro and I had loads of fun.

Matthew (KingfisherBro) and a nice halibut

Posted by PolishFromTheDeep

I had an awesome time!  It was definitely cool to meet everybody and to catch some nice fish while we were at it…. sorry i had to book but i BARELY had enough time to get to work. Thanks again to everyone who organized the event, especially Ross. Ps. next time I will have some more funds and I’ll bring/ make some food…. maybe something Polish

Karl (PolishFromTheDeep) and a halibut

 Posted by Gordo Grande

The angel shark taped out at about 45 inches, and weighed 25 lbs on the little scale I keep in my tackle box. It took Santa about 90 minutes to clean the darn thing. Almost forgot… thanks to Kingfisher and KingfishersBro for the halibut filets. My wife is going to love them!

Posted by illcatchanything2

Again, thanks to all who set up a great GT. It was a blast. Great meeting everyone, and I cant wait until the next one. I was bummed at having to leave early, and really bummed at missing GG pull up that shark (good job). Thanks again, and congrats to all on some great fishing!!

Posted by kelpangler

Sorry I missed ya polish, but nice to meet the others for the first time like kcruise and family, kingfisher and his bro (showcasing your fishing skills), redfish and his gf, and illcatchanything. Great to see Santa and the SoCal regulars, too. Avila turned out to be a perfect location with its nice beach town atmosphere and picturesque pier. Lots of bait–perfectly sized mackerel on Saturday and plenty of anchovies on Sunday–and a good number of halibut coming over the rail, but I still came away empty-handed. No problem, Hashem kept me entertained. Ross, thanks for taking time out of your own vacation to plan this get-together for us. Looking forward to next time, maybe Monterey?

Eugene (kelpangler) on the right and Sylvana

 Posted by pier roller

Boy I am sorry I missed that party, I just could not make it down there… What rig set up did you use for the halibut and what kind of bait did you use?

Posted by Gordo Grande

Sorry I didn’t mention the rigging. We were all using sliding egg sinkers tipped with live mackerels that we caught there at the pier.

Posted by Mahigeer

[Edited] We got to the pier around 9:00AM. We parked at the Front St. and planned to be back before the 3hrs. dead line. Later I found out from the bait shop owner that the city in order to calm the angry residents, does not give ticket for staying longer. I told Santa about it and in turn he told Gordo. That made it very convenient but slightly risky.

We set up at the deep end and the first family we met was the Kcruise and company. They set up on the other side and we fished and socialized together.  Next was either polishfromthedeep or Santa. I asked everybody that I met to be sure that they did not say anything about me being there.

I really wanted to surprise Gordo, and even went to the length of having Dave ask questions on the board on my behalf before the gathering. Everybody cooperated and Mr. GG was surprised when he saw me coming and pulling my pier cart. He wanted to jump in to the water. His family prevented him. Personally I would have let him jump. Maybe then I could have gotten the big angel shark.

Well it was lunchtime and I was told that I could heat up the Cioppino at the beach. I had six bags of Trader Joe’s Cioppino plus another bag of frozen seafood in a large pot. Due to the large mass, some prevailing wind, and the small burner, the darn thing took 3Hrs. to boil. All that I time, I am hearing that halibut was being caught but I had to stay with the food. Fortunately for me Teddy Bear (Mrs. Claus) was there to keep me company and provide me with missing items. Dave and some other rats, were in and out and helping. Ken the master chef, sautéed the seafood and I added it to the mix. Finally I moved the “soup kitchen” to the pier and started serving Cioppino and Ceviche. From the looks of it, they were a success. Along with other food and drinks and so on provided by others, we did not starve. Later I distributed some items courtesy of NOAA.

The live bait on my rod was mostly ignored by the fish. Ken and Eugene and his relative and Kcruise were getting bait to share so I did not bother with bait fishing. Halibut or bust for me. Around 7:00PM we headed back to our camp.  

Hashem (Mahigeer) and a pigeon

Posted by red fish

I think I will add a few highlights of my venture from the Bay. First of all, thanks for the fine job of netting Hashem, and the tip about Snookie fishing light… I caught that fish on 8# test on the “bait-rod” with 3/4 oz. egg sinker and 15# leader with the mini-macs we were able to catch for bait.

I had NO idea the thresher aren’t really at Avila, but picked up on that after awhile after I saw the thresher-kings, Kingfisher and PFTD, weren’t fishing for them at the event. Kingfisher told me Pismo and beyond was more of the area to look for them.

Anyway, since I started with the end of the trip, I will just say, starting from the beginning, I made a last minute decision to confirm going after having returned home from Clear Lake one day earlier. A quick rearrangement of just the necessary fishing and camping gear, and a mad dash south on 880 to 101, cut through the Salinas Valley and King City… and away we go… BTW-was lucky enough to make reservations at Avila Hot Springs Camp/RV just the day before. Ended up getting out of town Friday at 2:45p and ending up in Avila at 7pm because there was a little traffic way down on the way, south end of Silicon Valley almost down to Gilroy. Showed up at Hot Springs, looked over our site, and decided to see if we could find accommodations at a hotel perhaps the first night instead of pitching the tent at that point.

Ended up in Pismo (because there is a greater selection of motels than Avila) and ended up at the Beachwalker Inn for $99 after consulting a local store owner at the market on Main St. He says, “There is a place just to the right of the gas station on the corner.” The first hotel on the corner was a dump at $69, but a stone’s throw from it on the same block was the Beachwalker Inn (much like a Best Western).

I find out later ICA is like the next hotel over at the Seal Beach Inn. Important stuff to know, because we ventured to Avila, and the gal at the Light House Inn at Avila was like:, “sure, we have a room, #206, that will be #345.00 and it has an ocean view.” BTW, lucked up and saw Hashem, Dave, and Ken just leaving Avila as we drove up looking around when we first arrived after leaving the Light House. So, after a little more investigation, we find that there is a really good fish n’ chips place on Front St. after almost breaking the bank at Gieuseppe’s Restorante Italiano.

So, later that evening (Friday) after settling in, we take a walk and discover Pismo Beach Pier is (2) blocks away from where we are lodging. Saw a couple guys out there as by now it is 11p. The next day, I’m like: “bait rigs, damn, should have stopped at Long’s in Rockridge (Oakland) before I left.” Well, after a little misdirection, I find out from a brief inquiry that there is a plethora of stores just 3 miles south of Pismo, first on the west side of the freeway, then on the east side. So, finally, I see the Rite-Aid, KMart. and finally the WalMart where I score the $1.54 Blackbelt Sabiki’s with the #6 hooks to make bait with. A couple of packs of hot dogs, hot dog buns, a half-case of soda, and away we go to Avila… about 1:15p Saturday afternoon now.

Robert (red fish) and Sylvana

Luck was still with us as we showed up at Avila and got a parking spot on the street as someone was just coming out. Was met and greeted by Santa and his merry helpers and was able to use Santa’s cart to haul my stuff to the boardwalk and onto the pier. *The fishing stuff is covered in the reports from this point* After the event, pitched a tent at Hot Springs as we were able to cancel our first night’s RSVP and opt for one-night-only Saturday night. It was pretty cool because they let us check in early, pitch our tent around 12:45pm, and then we continued down the road straight ahead to the event.Later, at the end of the event, we came back and had pizza in the restaurant at Hot Spings, and later joined Hashem, Dave, and Ken for Rakki, a blazing fire, and post-event-conversation. In the morning, it was a beeline back to the Bay heading out at 10am right after Hashem’s group for the 242.78 mile drive ahead. Was going to stop at Hearst Castle, but motored on. I was thinking about Anderson’s Split Pea too (as I have seen their hwy billboard for years)… oh well, another time!

Robert (red fish) and a nice halibut

Posted by Gordo Grande

Started eating my shark today. I took a couple a couple of big fillets, added the halibut that Kingfisher gave me, and some shrimp, and made a big pot of Cioppino!  Man, it was good! You guys were right…that shark is definitely good eating.

Pictures taken by Hashem (Mahigeer), Kelli Cruise, and Ross Kestin (Gordo Grande)

Great Whites at the Manhattan Beach Pier?

At the end of December 2013 an article appeared in the New York Daily News by Michael Welsh. The title — Did a great white shark photobomb surfing kids at Manhattan Beach, Calif.?

The woman who snapped the picture of her son and his friend swimming near a shadowy figure that resembles a shark said they did not notice the animal until they were on their way home.

The two boys didn’t realize they were so close to the sea animal until they got back in a parents car and looked through the digital camera.

A California mother wants to know whether the ominous figure looming behind her son and his friend in a viral photo was in fact a shark or merely a harmless dolphin. “It’s surprising that no one has been able to tell definitively what it is,” she told the Daily News. “It was just an insane photo. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.”The woman, who asked to not be identified, said no one noticed the animal until they were in the car on their drive back home from the Manhattan Beach visit Friday. While perusing the photos, they saw what looked like either a shark or dolphin just under a breaking wave near the kids who were holding surfboards. The picture went viral soon after she posted it to Facebook and Instagram. But she did not expect news outlets to present the photo as if it were definitively a shark — when the jury is still out. “I’m overwhelmed to be honest,” she said. “I just hope it calms down. … This wasn’t shared to promote fear — awareness is fine but not fear.”

 White Pointer/Getty Images/StockPhoto

Great white sharks are reportedly not uncommon near Manhattan Beach. Some people wonder if the fearsome predator was actually in the photo or if it were a more friendly sea creature.

Michael Welsh, New York Daily News

Most people interviewed regarding the story felt the picture is that of a dolphin.

However, the story reminded me of a recent revision I had made to my Pier Fishing In California article on the Manhattan Beach Pier —

In October of 2013 on one of my trips to Los Angeles I visited, and fished, the Manhattan Beach Pier. Soon after, I reported my visit on PFIC and was surprised that another PFIC angler had been at the pier and seen me that day. Amidst the post and reply (see below) it turned out that he had hooked a great white shark just a few minutes before my arrival. It stimulated an interesting discussion and brought back memories of an earlier thread and articles about the great whites at Manhattan Beach.

Date: October 21, 2013

To: Pier Fishing in California Message Board

From: Ken Jones

Subject: Manhattan Beach Pier Report — 10/16/2013

Manhattan Beach Pier — 11:30-12:30 — A few fish were being caught here, some mackerel and lizardfish. The snack shop worker said there had been an afternoon mackerel bite recently. Dumb divers were too close to the pier and I got into a long discussion with a local about why the city did not regulate the rules. Fish: two Pacific Mackerel, one Lizardfish, one Topsmelt, and one Speckled Sanddab

Posted by vmarquez

Were u to the right next to the sink wearing a Catalina shirt? That day we had a great white hit our bait at 11 am fought for 14 minutes.

 Posted by csmerril

I wouldn’t have posted that, if you knew it was a GW, it is the law to cut the line right away…

Posted by vmarquez

It’s ok, it took 14 mins to realize it was a great white plus we were with the biologist that works at Manhattan Beach and he wanted to make sure it was tagged before we released. It wasn’t but he cut the line anyways… plus by the way its illegal to remove them from the water not hook them. How r we supposed to stop them from eating our bait plus they fight like bat rays so u really can’t tell till u get them close enough.

Posted by Ken Jones

I was by the sink and I think I did have the Catalina shirt on that day. I wound up arguing Manhattan Beach regulations with the manager/biologist of the Roundhouse for about 15 minutes. We began arguing about regulations to keep people away from the pier (based upon the diver) and it evolved into an argument about surfers being next to the the pier and lifeguards asking anglers not to fish inshore when surfers are in that area. I’m going to try to find out if (1) there are regulations telling people to stay a certain distance from the pier and (2) if there are those regulations, why the lifeguards do not enforce the rules. I was told that surfers rule, most lifeguards are also surfers, and the rules would never be enforced.

Posted by vmarquez

Yea, I heard u guys arguing; he’s the biologist. Manhattan is always full of swimmers. We’ve been having good luck w/ mackerel and thresher sharks and we get to see great whites swim by; don’t usually take the bait though.

Posted by Ken Jones

I don’t think you did anything wrong. It often takes a while to figure out what you have on your line and in this case you did cut the line.

Posted by makairaa 

There is a reef just off the end of the pier that used to hold bass, halibut, and occasionally yellowtail and [white] seabass. I just wouldn’t dive there because of the number of great whites hooked there in the last 2 years.

Posted by Ken Jones

The divers and surfers don’t seem too worried about the great whites.

Posted by makairaa 

Most small white sharks are fish eaters, so the surfers don’t have much to worry about, besides the fact we could spend hours debating the IQ of many surfers. Surfing next to a pier where you can see people fishing right where they are surfing does not sound too smart to me. The spearfisherman on the other hand are in the water with a bleeding fish where there are 6 to 8 foot dangerous sharks. It’s their choice, but to me it looks like Darwin in action.

Posted by polishfromthedeep  

I bring a gun occasionally when I dive for lobster, shoot fish all the time, and bleed them on my hip. I’m still here and enjoy a much more intimate experience with mother ocean than anybody ON the pier.  You can call it Darwinism or whatever you want, but I call it totally worth it. Worth every bit of “danger.”

Posted by makairaa   

It’s not the shooting of fish while diving that I have a problem with. Its doing it while diving at Manhattan Beach Pier where at least 8 great whites that I am aware of have been caught in the last 2 years. On a side note, be careful about taking lobsters while possessing a spear. Some wardens consider that a hooked object because of the barb and cite people for it.

The earlier PFIC thread  dated to 2001 and was started by one of the sites strongest members—Mola Joe.

Date: June 5, 2001

To: Pier Fishing in California Message Board

From: Mola Joe

Subject: White sharks from a pier

I ran across this photo from a few years back that ran on the front page of our local newspaper. If I remember right, two whites were landed out of several hookups over a two or three week period. The sharks were hooked off Manhattan Pier and then the angler moved to the beach to fight and land them. I believe both sharks were released alive. No official weight, but just babies by white shark standards, maybe 200 to 250 pounds. The following year I also remember seeing something about another landed from this pier also. I heard that after the first two, these guys started chumming for them but were told to stop by the local lifeguards. I kind of see their point. It would really hurt the local economy to have some yahoo from Kansas wading in the water and come out with only one leg. Anyway, things have now changed as white sharks are off limits to fishermen.

Posted by gotem

Our buddy the Great White Shark is still on the protected species list, and rightfully so, but don’t let the status of them fool you, they ARE making a comeback. We will only see and hear of more ‘accidental catches’ and ‘mistaken identity’ attacks within this next generation. Count on it.

Posted by shorepounder 

Hey MJ, I was there for one of the catches. I was riding my bike on the strand and decided to walk the Manhattan Pier. Well as I get close to the end there’s this guy hooked up to something big. After I watched him for a while I thought he just had a big ray on and left the pier to continue my bike ride. As I was coming back around an hour or so later here’s that guy still fighting his fish. So I decided to watch him fight it some more. After a while the fish starts heading towards the beach and goes to just behind the breakers. Then it surfaces and yikes it’s a great white around 8 feet. The lifeguard started yelling at everyone to get out of the water and then everyone around started going nuts. Soon there were news crews, crowds, etc. The guy who caught it was a long time regular if I remember right and he looked familiar to me. Two total were landed and I heard the same thing about him being told not to chum anymore. The other thing is that I thought the second shark that was landed was tossed off the end of the pier… if so I doubt it lived after fighting that long, being beached, put into a lifeguard truck, and then dropped off a pier. I hope I’m wrong about it being dropped off the pier.

Posted by Snookie 

I happened to save the article about the two great whites off Manhattan Beach Pier. It was Thursday, October 29, 1987. The names of the fishermen that caught them were: David Bird, who assembles telescopes part time and Mike Walker, an unemployed construction worker. One of the sharks was 6 feet, 10 inches and the other was 7 feet, 10 inches. The smaller one weighed about 150 pounds and the other weighed about 250 pounds. The fishermen were fishing for bonito and mackerel from the end of the pier to a point 350 yards offshore. The smaller shark took 90 minutes to land. The bigger shark took more than two hours and ended up a quarter mile down the beach. No, they did not release these two sharks. They sold them for $150 to a wholesale fish market in San Pedro after they cleaned both fish and found the stomachs empty. These two sharks were still just babies. Manhattan Beach seems to be an area of birthing for the great white as well as the tiger shark. Later there was a baby tiger shark caught in the surf by a surf fisherman. No, not a leopard shark—a TIGER Shark.

Posted by shorepounder 

Hi Snookie, I guess this has happened a couple of times, because the one I saw caught and the other that I only heard about being caught later the same week occurred in the early 90′s. I’ve always been told that whites use the Santa Monica Bay as a nursery… seems true.  Snookie, do you have the dates of the article by any chance?

Posted by Snookie 

Dear Shorepounder, The article was in the L.A. Times, October 29, 1987, part II, Page 12, titled, JAWS AND JAWS II PROVE BIG CATCH OF THE DAY AT MANHATTAN BEACH PIER by James Rainey, Times Staff Writer. I have collected shark info since the late 50′s, but apparently I missed anything about the ones you know about. Ones the size of the ones mentioned are babies and still on a small fish diet. Their mamas are a different matter though.

Well, that meant I needed to search out the articles and found two from the Los Angeles Times, one from 1987 and one from 1992:

Manhattan Beach Has the ‘Jaws’ Jitters After 2 Great Whites Surface

Landing two great white sharks near the Manhattan Beach Pier was a thrill for fishermen David Bird and Mike Walker, but it created oceans of angst in a community where many residents seem to spend nearly as much time in the water as they do on land.

Lifeguards said word spread quickly of the capture last Friday of the two sharks–one 6 feet, 10 inches long, the other 7 feet, 10 inches–and many fearful beachgoers pledged to avoid the water.

Marine experts, however, said swimmers have nothing to fear from the fish, although they acknowledged that it is unusual to find sharks that large so close to shore.

Bird and Walker, both pier regulars, began casting for bonito and mackerel about dawn. After they caught an ample supply, Walker, 34, of Manhattan Beach baited his line with mackerel and cast out again from the end of the pier.

“I could tell it was something very large,” he said of the tug on his line, “but I thought it would just be a bonito shark.”

Ninety minutes later, at about 11 a.m., the two fishermen had to walk off the pier and onto the beach before dragging a 150-pound shark onto the sand. They immediately recognized the razor teeth and large head of the bonito shark’s more infamous cousin.

Minutes later, Bird, a 24-year-old from Torrance, returned to the pier and felt a strong pull on his own line. He fought for more than two hours and ended up a quarter-mile down the beach before landing the second great white shark, which was at least 100 pounds heavier than Walker’s.

The two friends cleaned both fish and found the stomachs empty. Bird then trucked the sharks to San Pedro, where they brought $150 at a wholesale fish market.

“It’s an anomaly in the sense that we don’t usually find animals that size caught from a pier,” said Ralph Collier of Canoga Park, president of a group known as the Shark Research Committee. “Unfortunately, none of us really knows very much about the life history of these animals.”

Collier said that an attack on humans is highly unlikely in Southern California. In the last 60 years, there has not been a single documented great white shark attack on the coast south of Point Conception, he said. Since 1975, there have been two attacks at the point, which is just north of Santa Barbara, and two more at San Miguel Island. None were fatal.

“Because a shark is caught offshore does not mean it is venturing into the bathing areas,” Collier said. “Human beings are not natural food to sharks, otherwise we would have daily reports of people being consumed by sharks.”

Great white sharks usually do not begin to eat seals and other mammals until they reach 12 feet or more in length, according to Donald Nelson, a biology professor at California State University, Long Beach. The sharks grow as large as 18 feet long and can weigh 4,000 pounds.

Attacks by the big sharks have been more common in Northern California, where great whites venture closer to shore. The last reported attack was off Tunitas Beach on Aug. 15, when a shark attacked a surfboard, injuring the hand of its owner.

Although many beachgoers were alarmed by the Manhattan Beach catch, some took it in stride, lifeguard Tom Hargett said. “They’re not worried about ‘Jaws,’ they’re more worried about the pollution,” he said, referring to recent sewage spills that closed the beach.

Walker, an unemployed construction worker, and Bird, who assembles telescopes part-time, were back on the pier fishing on Wednesday. “I’m real excited about it still,” Bird said. “I’d like to catchn another one.”

—James Rainey, Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1987

Hooking of 3 Great White Sharks Off Pier Stirs Debate: Some swimmers and lifeguards in Manhattan Beach are concerned that sportfishermen are luring creatures that might pose a threat to humans.

The recent catch of three great white sharks off the Manhattan Beach Pier has hooked anglers and lifeguards in a debate about whether sportfishermen should be allowed to bait waters near popular swimming spots to attract the creatures.

Swimmers were unharmed in all three instances, and marine biologists say the sharks were probably too small to be considered a threat to humans. But some lifeguards and local swimmers believe that by dropping “chum,” or cut-up fish, into the water to lure sharks to their hooks, fishermen may be endangering swimmers and surfers.We have never had a conflict between swimmers and sharks, but we don’t want to create one,” Los Angeles County Lifeguard Capt. Steve Saylors said Thursday.

The controversy was sparked on Aug. 31 when sportfisherman Mike Walker, a 39-year-old Manhattan Beach resident, hooked his first of two great white sharks in a week. Walker, who says he fishes shark for fun rather than for food, landed the shark on the sand just long enough to take its measurements–6 feet, 11 inches–before releasing the animal into the waves. “The lifeguard was fit to be tied,” one of his fishing buddies, Richard Bird, 65, of Torrance, said Thursday. “He couldn’t believe (Walker) turned him loose in the surf.”

On Sept. 3, Walker landed his second great white shark–this one slightly more than seven feet long. This time, the lifeguard on duty prevented him from releasing it. Instead, he asked Walker to reel it onto the sand and load it onto the back of a lifeguard truck.

The shark was then driven to the end of the pier and dumped into the ocean. It landed on its back and sank, prompting Walker and others to speculate that it had died.

Three days later, another fisherman caught a great white shark measuring 6 feet, 6 inches. The angler, whose identity was not known, killed the shark and cut it into filets, Manhattan Beach police said.

Los Angeles County lifeguards and some swimmers say they are particularly concerned because the fishermen use chum deliberately to attract sharks into the area.

“I think that’s crazy in a public swimming area,” said Catherine Yates, a 21-year-old swimmer. “It’s just asking for trouble.” Saylors said many lifeguards agree: “A lot of lifeguards would like to see it prevented for safety reasons, but we don’t have any demonstrated problem we can deal with at this point.”

After the first shark was captured, lifeguards asked Manhattan Beach police to check whether the city has any ordinances preventing fishermen from throwing chum near swimming areas. As it turns out, there is nothing in city or state law preventing the practice, according to law enforcement officials.

         “There’s no law on the books saying you can’t catch sharks,” said Manhattan Beach Police Lt. John Hensley. “We can’t do anything about it. It’s not illegal.”

Lifeguards have also sent police a memo asserting that they have some discretionary authority to regulate the activities of fishermen when it may endanger beach-goers. “On heavily crowded beach days, it is possible that a fish hooked off the pier will have to be landed on the pier or released (a safe distance from shore),”  the memo said. “We feel this is in the best interest of marine life and the bathing public.”

Hensley said police plan to meet with lifeguards to discuss the matter.

Walker, meanwhile, remains puzzled by the controversy.

The 39-year-old Manhattan Beach man said he’s been fishing for shark off the pier for years, and that he doesn’t understand why lifeguards are suddenly worried about it being a hazard. He insisted the sharks never go near the swimmers and denied throwing large amounts of bait into the water.

When he fishes for shark, he said, he usually cuts up one mackerel every hour, throwing the head and tail into the water and using a chunk of its meat as bait. “The sharks will be out here, but they’re not going to go onshore,” Walker said. Bird’s 29-year-old son, David, agreed: “It’s sportfishing and I don’t think they should prevent us from fishing for them. What would solve this whole thing is if the lifeguards would study (sharks) and understand the ones we fish for are really harmless.”

Marine biologists, who point out they know of no humans attacked by a great white shark in Santa Monica Bay, are more cautious in their assessment. Great whites under 10 feet in length eat bottom-feeding animals like small fish and crabs, they say. Only the adults, which can reach 21-feet in length and weigh 4,000 pounds, have been known to attack humans, they say. Most of the attacks have occurred in Northern California where seals and sea lions—the staple of adult great whites—breed.

“Small great whites) won’t rush up to somebody and bite them and kill them,” said Jeffrey Landesman, a marine biologist for Cabrillo Marine Museum in San Pedro. “But there is a chance that the small white shark might mistake a foot or something for a small fish. Although it has never happened before, you can’t say it wouldn’t happen.”

Agreeing is David Ainley, a marine biologist at Point Reyes Bird Observatory in San Francisco who is organizing an international symposium on the animals to be held next March: “Baby white sharks don’t pose a threat in that they feed on fish. Probably the people fishing are endangering white sharks more than they are (endangering) humans.”

Ainley said he believes El Nino, the warm-water current that upsets the ecological balance of local waters once every seven or eight years, may be responsible for the recent spate of shark captures off Manhattan Beach Pier. “El Nino disrupts the food web and forces predators—birds, seals and sharks—to find localized food sources,” Ainley said. “One of the characteristics of El Nino is that a lot of predators are forced close to shore to look for food.”

—Kim Kowsky, Los Angeles Times, September 11, 1992

 Both of those articles show that great whites have been visiting the area for many years. Further research showed that they seem to be becoming even more common (although there is no way to know how many sighting are of the same fish). Checks on the Pacific Coast Shark News websites revealed the following Manhattan Beach reports for 2012 and 2013. 

 2012: July 9, September 9, and November 8

2013: July 9, July 10, August 18, August 24, August 27, August 28, September 5, September 23, September 25, October 3 (2), October 10, October 14, October 15, October 16, October 25, October 26, November 2, November 7, November 8, November 9, November 16 (2), November 20, November 21, November 24, November 30

Great White shark rescued off Manhattan Beach Pier

Eric Martin and Valerie Hill, co-directors of Manhattan Beach’s Roundhouse Aquarium, left work on Monday at around 8:30 p.m. after a long day—summer camp in the morning and a board meeting in the evening. Walking down the pier, they noticed a fisherman with a heavily bent fishing pole. He must have caught an extremely large fish, they thought. “Someone got a bat ray,” Martin told Hill, as they walked up the pier. While he disliked seeing them get caught, it wasn’t illegal. He didn’t plan on interfering. That’s until he faintly heard someone say “great white.” His ears perked. “Let me see what this guy has,” Martin told Hill, as he strolled toward the fisherman. Martin leaned over to get a glimpse at the catch. Holy crap, he thought, that’s a great white shark.

            In fact, what the man had on his line was the fifth great white shark caught on the Manhattan Beach pier since 1980, Martin said. The shark—about five to seven-feet long and more than 100 pounds—was a baby, probably not more than a year-and-a-half old, Martin said. Martin determined the shark was female. “If it had been killed it would’ve been a tragedy anyways because there’re not a lot of fully mature great white sharks up and down the Pacific Coast,” he said. Plus, he said, it was beautiful. “They aren’t as dangerous as people think.”

The fisherman needed to cut the line. Instead, the fisherman was dropping a large, round net into the ocean. The line, Martin noticed, was assembled for shark fishing—a steel leader connected to a circle hook. “You have to cut the line,” Martin told him. “You cannot kill a great white shark. That’s the law.” The man allegedly refused. Martin explained that great white sharks were federally protected, and threatened to call the police. “If you don’t let me cut this line right away, you will go to jail and you will get a fine,” Martin recalled saying. The fisherman didn’t budge, Martin said. “I don’t think he understood the urgency,” Hill said.

Martin squeezed his way closer to the line, but was pushed out by three of the fisherman’s friends, he said. When Martin realized the fisherman didn’t speak English, he recruited a husband and wife couple fishing on the pier to translate. Martin explained that great white sharks must be swimming to breathe. If the shark’s head got caught in the net, it wouldn’t be able to pump water through its gills, and would end up dying and sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

Hill, watching the drama unfold, had to react. It was her first time ever seeing a great white shark—she wanted to document the moment. But the two parties remained arguing. She pulled out her iPhone. “Do I hit camera? Or police? Camera or police?” Hill recalled thinking. She called the police. “If it turns into a physical fight, and he gets punched, there’s nothing I can do about it,” Hill said, explaining her decision.

The man translating for Martin had a knife in his tackle box, which he handed to Martin. Within five minutes, Martin managed to cut the line, against the fisherman’s will. “He’s going to be mad at me, but I just saved his butt,” Martin said. “If you hook onto something big, the person’s adrenaline rolls. You want to catch it,” Martin said, adding that fishermen like taking pictures to prove and share their catches. “It could be an ego thing.” While Martin managed to cut the line, the hook remained in the shark’s mouth. Without the line, however, the shark could easily free herself from the hook. “She can cut that line like a piece of cake,” Martin said.

What followed the rescue was a learning experience for bystanders, Martin said. “We had other people coming up to us and asking us questions,” Martin said. “Is it common for this (to happen)? Is it safe? Why does a shark have to stay swimming? How long does it take for shark to actually start being mature to have babies?” Hill was happy to turn the sighting and rescue into a teaching experience. “Our goal is to educate as many people as possible about the ocean, the animals, and human interactions, both good and bad,” she said.

—Alan Tchekmedyian,, July 11, 2012

Great White Shark In Manhattan Beach Caught, Then Swam Right Under Swimmer 

It’s perhaps the scariest thing that can happen in the water. A great white shark swam right under a swimmer at a Southern California beach Tuesday.

The shark, estimated to be about 8 to 9 feet, was initially caught by an angler who was fishing for bat rays on the Manhattan Beach Pier, Patch reports. The area is very popular as a swimming and surfing spot.        

When the fisherman realized he had accidentally hooked the state-protected species, he called over Eric Martin, director of the Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium. Unlike the Manhattan Beach fisherman in July who reportedly wanted to keep the great white that he caught (prompting calls to the police), this angler willingly cut the big guy loose.

But before he did, Martin was able to snap the above photo of the shark with his mouth wide above. Then, in an amazing close call, the shark swam right under an unaware swimmer. The swimmer—who was not harmed—was about 6 feet tall, which is how Martin gauged the size of the shark.

Martin told CBS that now that great whites are federally protected, there have been more sightings in Southern California.

And even though some people get really scared, others “feel really blessed” when they see one, Martin told local online news site, Easy Reader. “This is a special thing,” he commented.

Just last month, a great white was also spotted at Venice Beach and another was spotted at Leadbetter Point, a popular surfing spot in Santa Barbara.

Despite the reported uptick in sightings, a recent estimate found that there are less than 350 adult great white sharks left off the west coast, partly due to sharks dying in fishermen’s nets. In an effort to save these sharks, nonprofits Oceana, Center for Biological Diversity and Shark Stewards sent a letter last month requesting that west coast great whites be listed as endangered species.

—Kathleen Miles, The Huffington Post, September 6, 2012

Great whites spotted at Manhattan Beach

Lifeguards today are keeping a close watch on Manhattan Beach after several sharks, believed to be great whites, appeared near the shoreline on Tuesday, prompting rescuers to briefly clear the water of some young swimmers.

Authorities say the sightings of what appeared to be baby whites measuring between four and seven feet in length is reportedly a series of events. On July 9, El Porto Beach, located near the beaches of Dockweiler and Manhattan Beach, was closed after a young great white was spotted near its coastline.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium quickly dispatched researchers to Manhattan Beach in an effort to learn more about the behavioral patterns of the juvenile sharks. “Their goal is to actually get them on the boat or pull them into a net and then tag them so they can do research,” lifeguard captain Kyle Daniels told CBS Los Angeles. “August is a great time to try to research them because they often come into closer waters to eat shoreline fish.”

With Labor Day expected to draw a huge crowd to Manhattan Beach to celebrate the traditional end of summer, officials stress the importance of exercising safety precautions while swimming, wading, snorkeling and surfing in the area.

“We have fully staffed lifeguard towers through Labor Day weekend and we’re encouraging everybody to swim near lifeguards,” Daniels told the local news reporting station. “We will continue to advise if we see more sharks and let people know that there are sharks in the area, but not to be too afraid.”

—Sharon Bush,, August 28, 2013

3 juvenile great whites sharks sighted ‘extremely close to shoreline’ off Manhattan Beach

Three juvenile great white sharks, ranging from 4 to 7 feet, were spotted off the coast in Manhattan Beach late Tuesday morning.

“There have been consistent shark sightings through the middle of July to now in the Manhattan Beach area,” said Kyle Daniels, captain lifeguard for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. “Nothing actually really happened.”

According to Ken Peterson, a researcher at Monterey Bay Aquarium, the sharks were “extremely close to the shoreline”—about 20 yards offshore—which he says shouldn’t pose any harm to beachgoers under lifeguard supervision as “they’re just out there with the other fish.”

However, the proximity was too close for the team of marine biologists and researchers, who had intended to tag the sharks as part of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Project White Shark, a study started in 2002 to research and exhibit great whites caught off the California coast.

The collaborating team from Cal State Long Beach’s Sharklab, led by Dr. Chris Lowe, took to the coast on a fishing boat from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday to capture, tag and release juvenile whites. They commissioned a helicopter to assist in spotting the sharks, Peterson said.

According to Dr. Lowe, the team spotted the three juveniles between 10 and 11:30 a.m. but was unable to wrap a net around them. “The net has to drop to a certain depth,” Peterson explained. In a process called “pursing,” the sharks should be scooped out of the water using the net and put on a holding place until they are tagged and released, he said.

The team has tagged 100 animals since 2002, Peterson said, and has obtained “great data” about the animal’s migration habits and its use of the habitat. “There’s a lot of brand new information that’s coming out of this research,” he said. Daniels said he has noticed a trend of sharks sighted closer to the shoreline, but it’s not necessarily a cause for concern.

“We’ve been monitoring and they’ve been getting to the swimmers,” he said. “No one’s been hurt. We’re keeping a closer eye on it, and most people have been seeing them all summer.”

—EasyReaderNews, August 28, 2013 

Great white shark sightings thrilling, but also a good sign for speciesRecent increase in shark sightings near Manhattan Beach is exciting for spectators and for researchers.

When Jay Dohner heard there were several great white sharks off Manhattan Beach last Sunday, he did what few surfers would do. He grabbed a camera, mounted his paddleboard and set off in search of the apex predators.

It wasn’t long before his helmet-mounted camera was recording three great whites—each between 8 and 10 feet long—circling underneath his paddleboard and just a few yards from a group of oblivious surfers.

“The sharks didn’t seem to be paying me any attention. They looked like they were looking for fish, so I felt I could stand there safely and watch them,” Dohner, 38, said of the roughly five-minute encounter when it began last weekend.

That feeling didn’t last for long.  “There are two different things in your head,” he said. “”Wow, that’s beautiful,’ and ‘We should get out of here.’”

He isn’t the only thrill-seeker to actively seek out and film the sharks, which have recently been spotted more frequently near the El Porto waters off Manhattan Beach, an area popular with surfers and paddleboarders. Others have posted their close encounters on YouTube, but researchers and wildlife officials are calling for restraint, warning that the sharks will attack if they feel threatened.

Many of the great whites appear to be juveniles learning to feed and fend for themselves, said Chris Lowe, a marine biology professor and leader of the research Shark Lab at Cal State Long Beach.

Researchers are still trying to determine why the young sharks have been drawn to the El Porto area—perhaps warmer temperatures or a larger feeding pool. Through tagging and other monitoring methods, researchers hope to have more of an answer by next year.

But one thing is clear: Experts have noticed an increase in shark sightings off beaches in Manhattan, Redondo and Ventura over the last few years. That may be alarming for some, but it’s a welcome development for wildlife researchers who say it’s a sign of a healthy rebound for marine life after California legislators prohibited the use of gill nets for fishing in 1990.

On March 1, white sharks earned some protection while state officials decide whether to list them under the California Endangered Species Act as threatened or endangered. During that review period, the sharks cannot be legally hunted, captured or killed, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

No violations have been reported so far this year, according to Dan Sforza, assistant chief of the southern district offices for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

 —Alicia Banks, Los Angeles Times, December 3, 2013

It seems to me little doubt that great whites, at least juvenile great whites, are common to these waters during the summer months (and later). What’s not clear is the location of the adults (that are dangerous). The biologists seem to suggest that there is limited risk from the juvenile sharks but it seems logical to me that there must be some adults around if the juveniles are in the area. Given the seemingly minimal fear by many of the local swimmers and surfers, I imagine it’s just a matter of time before someone is attacked and suffers injuries—or worse.