Saltwater Fishing

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

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

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

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

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

The first fish — a baby leopard shark

The DeJong Family

Danika Wren and a small brown smoothhound shark

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

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

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


Leopard Shark

Bat Ray (Mud Marlin) — Adam Gorczycki

Al Petrocelli and Family

It’s never too young to start fishing.

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

Rita Magdamo

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

Age Group Winners: 6-year-old Vinny Podesta

7-year-old Sebastian Garcia 

8-year-old Parker Brock

9-year-old Shayda Citarrella

10-year-old (tie) Sean McConedough

10-year-old (tie) Dustavo Pretta

11-year-old Vincent DeJong

12-year-old Adam Gorczycki

13-year-old Ryan Etter

14-year-old Danika Wren

15-year-old Thomas DeJong.

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

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

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







2019 Trinidad Pier Youth Fishing Derby

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

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

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

Ruby Broese with a small cabezon

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

Ruby Broese with a kelp greenling

David Shigematsu with a small brown rockfish

Buffalo sculpin

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

Jonathan Pitcher with a buffalo sculpin

Jack Broese with a kelp greenling

What is this?

Is it a starfish? No, a sea star.

A baby cabezon

A little larger kelp greenling

CDFW Wildlife Officer Norris 

Everybody ready for some hot dogs?

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

Dan Troxel and a rod

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ethical Angling

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

Rita Magdamo and family

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

Omar Medrano and a striped bass

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

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

David Shigematsu and a striped bass

Adam Peltola and a jacksmelt

E. J. Stowe and a striped bass

Adam Peltola and a striped bass

  Hans Jones Jr. and a striped bass

Kyle Pease and a bat ray

Club members

Robert Gardner and a jacksmelt

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

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



Rods and reels for the raffle

7-year-old-winner Axel Young

8-year-old-winner Sofia Medrano

9-year-old winner Hunter Rodriguez-Olson

10-year-old winner Abigail Wehm

11 year-old-winner E. J. Stowe

12-year-old winner Omar Medrano

13-year-old winner David Shigematsu

15-year-old winner Adam Peltola

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

David Shigematsu and E. J. Stowe

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

Ken Jones and Gary Colmere

Ken Jones and John Evans



Rita Magdamo

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

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

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

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