Rest In Peace My Friend — Mike Granat

Presenting Mike with the first place trophy at the James Liu Memorial Derby at the Cabrillo Mole in Avalon, Catalina Island, 2013

In July 2009 I received an order for my book Pier Fishing In California and when looking at the order I noticed it was from Clovis, California, just a few miles from my home in Fresno. Instead of forwarding the order to my distribution center in Reno, and paying the fees and shipping associated with sending him the book, I decided to call Mike Granat—the man who had ordered the book. Would he like to meet for coffee and receive an autographed copy of the book? His answer was sure and we set up a date for a meeting.

Mike at the Mud Marlin Derby at Berkeley Pier, 2011

A few days later we met at a local Starbucks and my first question was why he had ordered the book (given that he lived in Clovis, a long, long way from the ocean). His answer was simple. His grandson lived in San Clemente and the few times Mike had taken him down to the San Clemente Pier to go fishing they had failed to catch a fish. He wanted some “How To” advice to make those trips a little more successful. It sure made sense to me and I told him I hoped the book would give him some ideas.

Mike fishing at the Avila Beach Pier, 2011

The meeting turned out to be a longer than expected, one in which over several cups of coffee we exchanged more than a little bit of information about ourselves. We both were in our ‘60s, we were both married, and both had children and grandchildren. No surprises there! But, it also turned out we both were from Indiana, Hoosiers at heart, and Mike had grown up in South Bend, a town where I had lived for a couple of years when young. We both had gone to college and then started working in the corporate world in southern California. We had also taken somewhat similar business paths—working for corporate America, owning our own businesses, working for government, and spending years as educators. Amazingly, and I’m not sure how it came up, we both had the same nicknames when young—Rocky. With Granat as a name, Mike’s nickname was a natural. Mine was a little more obtuse (my dad loved boxing and a favorite boxer was Rocky Marciano).

Mike and a former work colleague at the San Clemente Pier, 2015

As important as those areas was an additional one that we discussed in some depth—fishing. We both loved to fish and as our discussion lengthened it was soon apparent that we would need to hook up and go fishing. We set up a second meeting and soon we were meeting a couple of times a week to discuss fishing and a plethora of other subjects.

It probably wasn’t too surprising, given our similar taste in everything from fishing to politics to movies (and just about everything else) that we soon also started talking about taking some fishing trips together. And we did! For eight years we would travel up and down California’s coastal venues visiting piers (39 in all), UPSAC’s kids fishing derbies, bait and tackle stores, and simple sights of interest. We would also attend several fishing shows (Fred Hall and ICast) where we would combine fishing and business. In addition, Mile would accompany me to several government meetings in Sacramento and Los Angeles  (CA Fish and Wildlife Dept., NOAA, etc.) Closer to home, since we both liked photography, we would travel up to the mountains to partake of the Sierra’s natural beauty. Visits to movies (we both like the same kind of movies), visits to sporting events (Grizzlies and Bull Dogs), and visits to many, many different restaurants would become a routine over the years. I don’t think I’ve ever had a friend with as many similar tastes nor have I ever enjoyed spending time like we did sharing a treasure chest of stories as we traversed California’s highways.


Mike with a sea star caught at Wharf No. 2 in Monterey, 2010

Given our work schedules in 2009, the number of fishing trips was limited. We did travel to two local lakes — Lost Lake north of Fresno and to Pine Flat Lake. Success was not great but it gave a chance to continue the bonding and friendship that had developed. 2010 would see our first pier fishing trip and it would be to Monterey. The fishing was somewhat slow but we had a good time visiting two piers and visiting one of Mike’s favorite restaurants — Phil’s Fish Market and Restaurant in Moss Landing. Mike said their cioppino was “famous” after it bested a Bobby Flay challenge on Flay’s TV show. So, of course we had to order it—and it was good.

Mike and a striped seaperch from the Monterey Coast Guard Pier, 2010

As mentioned, we both had a long history and interest in fishing. I had concentrated on piers and had become the so-called head “Pier Rat” based upon the books and articles I had written as well as my website — and blog — Mike it turned out was much more than a novice seeking out a few tips for piers. Mike had fished freshwater streams and lakes throughout many of the mid-western and western states, was an accomplished fly fisherman, and had fished in saltwater in many states and countries. In addition, he had been the representative for Shimano Tackle in South America. Not too shabby having an entire continent as your territory!  He had fished the Florida Keys and caught tarpon, he had fished in Mexico and caught marlin and sailfish, he had fished in Alaska and caught large halibut, and he had fished a variety of South American countries and caught a variety of exotic species. I wondered how much I could actually teach him about fishing.

Mike at the McKinleyville Grove of Big Trees, 2010

Although Mike loved to fish, he had actually taken a hiatus from the sport for many years when he first moved to southern California. His initial apartment in California was actually right next to the Belmont Pier parking lot in Long Beach but to my amazement he said he never once went fishing on the pier. He was too busy with new jobs and school. He did finally accept an invitation from a friend to go ocean fishing on the friend’s small boat. He wasn’t sure what he was going to catch but hauled himself early one morning down to Oceanside where they met another friend and launched the small boat. Mike had brought his old tackle box that was loaded with a lifetime of lures he had used in Indiana. Apparently it was a rough day and a couple of miles off Camp Pendleton Marine Base the boat was swamped. All went into the water. Luckily all could swim but Mike was the best swimmer so he went to find help. He took off and was able to swim to shore where he was picked up by Marines and quickly informed them of his friends. As it turned out, the Coast Guard had already rescued them. All were safe but a victim of the accident was Mike’s tackle box filled with the tackle and lures he had collected over the years. It was a sad day and, as it turned out, would be the end of his fishing for many years.

Courtright Lake and a trout, 2010

One of the first spots we visited in the nearby Sierra Mountains was Courtright Lake. We both loved fishing and both loved photography so we proceeded to catch some trout while also taking some pictures of the beautiful scenery.

Mike had worked for many years in international business and would tell me story after story about interesting trips to Japan, China, Korea, Formosa, England, Germany and many other countries. He was a salesman and knew how to sell but also learned that the playing field is not always level nor can all businessmen to be trusted. The stories were interesting and educational and, I imagine, some were the same he told his college students. It was clear he knew the rules/regulations (as when a man in Formosa tried to bribe him) and he knew how to take care of himself (as when a Welshman tried to forgo paying Mike’s commission on a million-dollar deal).


Mike and wife Leslie at at Fresno Grizzlies baseball game in 2011

In 2011 I was able to get Mike’s wife Leslie a job at the Small Business Administration in Fresno where I worked. It strengthened the bond with Mike and also gave us an opportunity to attend some SBA events such as a Fresno Grizzlies baseball game.

Mike checking out the action at the Oceanside Harbor Pier in 2011

Mike loved photography and bought a new Nikon camera when we began to travel to different venues. I was in the process of scanning my old pictures and putting them on my computer. Mike had a problem since he had THOUSANDS of slides, which are more difficult to copy. Most of those slides were taken on his trips overseas and after seeing a few of his beautiful slides I agreed that he needed to figure out a way to scan them. We considered buying a pricey scanner together, scanning all the slides, and then selling the scanner, but we never did more than talk.

Mike taking a few photos at Yosemite, 2011

Mike going down to the river to check out an angler, Yosemite, 2011

We both enjoyed most sports but given our connections to the Hoosier state of Indiana, where basketball is the iconic sport, it meant our favorite sport was basketball. Mike at 6’3″ (or thereabouts) was an outstanding high school player in South Bend and he wound up playing college ball at Valparaiso University, not too far from my home town of DeMotte. Moving from town to town, and being only 5’8″, I had not played high school ball but I had later coached high school basketball teams for nearly a decade. We both thought Oscar Robertson (“The Big O”), Mr. Indiana Basketball two years in a row, was one of the best players we had ever seen but Mike had seen him in person while I had only seen him on T.V.  We both agreed that John Wooden was perhaps the best coach ever. I had watched Wooden’s UCLA teams in the mid- to late ’60s. Mike had watched those same teams but also had a closer connection with Wooden since Wooden had taught high school, and coached high school teams in South Bend, before heading to California. Mike’s mother had assisted in grading papers for Wooden when he was a teacher and  Mike had several items signed by Wooden. Mike had also once worked in downtown Los Angeles and he had season tickets for the Clipper games and he told me many stories about meeting players (and he loved Bill Walton). However, I did successfully convert him from being a Clipper’s fan to becoming a Warrior’s fan.


Mike and his family, Balboa Pier, 2012

Growing up in South Bend meant Mike was a fan of Notre Dame. Of course it didn’t hurt that his father worked for a local brewery and had connections with Notre Dame. I too had lived in the city and remembered when young watching the Notre Dame band march down the street prior to home football games. Mike attended many of those games and evidently spent a considerable amount of time on campus but, as said, he went to Valparaiso University. He did tell me once about a summer job working for the brewery and having to lift the heavy barrels of beer; he said it wasn’t fun but it did develop the muscles.

Mike with a sheephead taken at the Green Pleasure Pier in Avalon, Catalina Island, 2012

Mike at the Cabrillo Mole in Avalon, 2012

Celebrating a good day’s fishing with friend Hashem Nahid at the MiCasa Restaurant in Avalon, Catalina Island, 2012

Often our discussions would center on our families, our hopes for their success, and the occasional bumps that can occur along the road to success. And we would reminisce about ourselves, the right and occasionally wrong turns we had taken on the paths that we had chosen. Luckily we had good wives and good marriages to help us as we entered our senior years. Sometimes we talked about our elders, the parents and grandparents living in Indiana and facing the challenges of the Great Depression and war years before we were born. There were many, many stories. One story was about cherry soup, a specialty of his grandmother who used an old German recipe. He said in hot weather it was a special treat and he would bring her cherries hoping she would make some soup (which she would). Mike also discussed how at one time peppermint was a big crop in the South Bend area and he said he would to go out by those fields just to smell the peppermint. What didn’t smell good were the local streams even though he fished in them. They were heavily polluted but he was still able to catch fish, especially carp (which most people did not want). He would sell the carp along the road. He had no problem arguing for a fair price and it sounded like his selling techniques as a salesman were honed at an early age. But, he now wondered how safe it was to eat those fish. Luckily the streams are clean today.

Mike at the Goleta Pier in 2012

Although the subject was fishing, Michael was also always looking at it from a business background. What tackle was new, what worked, could it be imported and sold for a good profit? He imported fishing flies from Africa and sold them on EBay. He built his own bonito floats and on our trips made contacts with tackle shops to see what they might buy. He imported rods and several other items that might make a profit. I knew the piers and the people in the tackle shops along the coast and Michael would talk to each of them regarding  products they might desire. At his death we were planning out how to have a “Fishing Store” on my websites that would carry a variety of products including several geared specifically to pier fishing.

Mike, Abraham Lincoln, and Leslie at the Fresno Civil War Reenactment, 2012

As mentioned, Mike and I had  a varied business background that included work in private business, government, and education. I had been a store manager for Jack-In-The-Box before becoming a district manager and regional training manager. Mike had started in private industry (aerospace), worked in banking, and then traveled the world while involved in international business. We had both owned businesses and saw first hand the effects of taxes and heavy regulation. I was working at the Small Business Administration in Fresno when we met, Mike had worked at several different SBA offices over the years in California and Alaska. He especially enjoyed Alaska and its many sights although he said he also had one of the worst bosses he ever had. His stories of working in Anchorage, great fishing spots, scenic mountain areas, big mosquitoes, and the need to always have a rifle while fishing (just in case a grizzly bear decided you looked like lunch), meant we more than once said we needed to make a trip north to Alaska.

Arrival at Two Harbor on Catalina Island

Fishing in Cat Harbor (near Two Harbor) on Catalina Island

At Two Harbor and the Isthmus  Pier

A trip to Two Harbor at the south end of Catalina Island (in contrast to Avalon at the north end) in 2012 was, I think, less than a great experience for Mike. It was November, the nights were chilly, we shared a small cabin with bunks that had only a couple of thin blankets, had communal showers, and didn’t have many places to go for a meal other than the one restaurant at the site. But we did catch some fish! 


Mike with a jacksmelt from the Venice Pier, 2013

Mike and a new found friend, Huntington Beach Pier, 2013

Mike and I also had both worked in education. I had spent nearly 15 years as a high school social studies teacher (history, geography, economics and government). Mike had specialized in business and taught international business courses at a number of different colleges. He had written a book on the subject, was considered a true expert, and really enjoyed talking about the various facets of international business. When we met he was, I believe, still teaching international business at Fresno State University. We were both teachers but Mike’s experiences were certainly at a higher level than mine.


Mike at the Trees of Mystery near Klamath, January 2014

Mike at the “Tunnel View” in Yosemite in 2014

Mike at Glacier Point, Yosemite, 2014

Given our business backgrounds it was perhaps quite natural that we were also aligned politically. We were both conservative in outlook and really enjoyed discussing (and generally agreeing on) the issues of the day. Given the hundreds of hours we spent driving in cars, the nights in motels, and the days at various coffee shops, it was probably a good thing we thought alike.

Mike with a thornback ray from the Seal Beach Pier in 2014

One year Mike and I attended the International ICast Show in Las Vegas where the manufacturers showed their new products. Mike was in 7th Heaven discussing items with various companies. He had worked for some of the high-end rod and reel companies as well as some of the smaller companies and was always looking for an intriguing new product. While in Las Vegas we had dinner with a friend of mine who was a banker in that city. Given our desire for something different, we went to the Hofbrauhaus just off the strip. We both liked German food and lamented the fact that Fresno no longer had any German restaurants. Luckily, we did find a great German restaurant — the Kaisenhof Restaurant in San Diego, and were able to visit it on several occasions.

Mike and a small barred surfperch from the Santa Monica Pier, 2014

Mike and I visited many restaurants on our fishing trips. We both liked Chinese food and Mike took me to his favorite Chinese restaurant, the Peking Dragon Restaurant in Dana Point. Mike also loved Korean food and we met up with Eugene Kim, a friend of mine, at a couple of different Korean restaurants in Seal Beach and Los Angeles. Mike was right at home, knew all the various dishes, and for the most part liked them all. I, on the other hand, was less enthused about some of the dishes and while liking the Korean Bar-B-Que never did get used to the spicy kimchee. Once, failing to find a Chinese restaurant in San Diego, we wound up at an Afghanistan restaurant. Several new foods to me (some good and some not as good) although Mike was again right at home. Having traveled the world, Mike was certainly a far more epicurean diner than myself.


Mike and a bonito from the Balboa Pier, 2015 — (the red bonito float was his own invention and he sold several to different tackle shops)

Not to be overlooked in a list of Mike’s favorite restaurants were the seafood restaurants we visited (and there were many). Our favorite, and a place we visited whenever we went to Newport Beach, was the Crab Cooker Restaurant. It’s a place I had visited for nearly half a century and a place that Mike had visited when he lived in Orange County. it’s always busy, and it doesn’t take reservations (they even made President Nixon wait), so we usually ate a late lunch or early dinner. It has wonderful Manhattan-style clam chowder, all the bread sticks you can eat, and fish, shrimp or scallops served on paper plates; food that was always simple but good. We found three other fish places that we also really liked—the Chart Room in Crescent City, Tony’s on the Pier (Redondo Beach Pier), and The Fisherman’s Restaurant on the San Clemente Pier, but the Crab Cooker was always our favorite..

Mike and Balboa Pier’s most famous angler — Snookie, 2015

One restaurant that Mike and I also liked was the old-fashioned Pea Soup Andersen’s. We visited both of their restaurants, the original in Buelton and the second in Gustine. Inevitably we would have the “all you can eat” pea soup (which came with a milk shake). Another favorite evoking earlier times was the Samoa Cookhouse near Eureka, an old logging company dining room where you sit at big tables and they bring you out platters and platters of food. 

Mike with a round stingray from the Crystal Pier in San Diego, 2015

Mike’s favorite food may have been Mexican food (especially if served alongside a Margarita). On our first trip to Monterey we made sure to stop at one of Mike’s favorites in Los Banos — España’s, a place he had visited for years. The food was excellent! Several times we went to the Fred Hall Fishing Show in Long Beach and right across the street from our hotel was “Super Mex” which served good food at good prices. Of course Mike spoke Spanish and had spent a considerable amount of time in Latin America (including Mexico City) so some of the stories he told of places he had visited was amazing. I always wished I could have seen some of those places.

Mike with a white croaker taken from a Long Beach Finger Pier, 2015

Mike with a thornback ray from the Newport Pier, 2015

In Fresno I never knew where we would eat. Mike liked some Asian buffet-type restaurants as well as an Indian Restaurant and he introduced me to the world of “Pho” soups. Often we would simply meet at the latest restaurant that he and Leslie had discovered. One of the latter, surprisingly,  was the Clovis Hospital where, it turned out, the dining room had very good food at very good prices. As for our regular coffee sessions, more likely than not it would be at McDonald’s where we could have a light breakfast and coffee. On the road, depending upon time and budget, a great many of our meals were fast food meals. One thing that surprised me on our first trip was when Mike said we needed to stop at McDonald’s. Why? To get a vanilla cone (he liked his ice cream). Ice cream cones at McDonald became a regular part of our trips.

Mike with a c-o turbot from the Redondo Beach Pier, 2015

Mike with a spotfin croaker at the San Clemente Pier, 2015


Mike with a jacksmelt from the Paradise Park Pier in Tiburon, 2016

Unfortunately by 2016 Mike’s health was slowing. His Pacemaker needed to be adjusted and a new one was needed (which wasn’t possible). He generally felt OK but constantly had a problem with the buildup of fluids in his legs. He took many different pills but none seemed to really provide the relief he needed. Although we continued to meet, we made only a few trips together and I tried to make sure Mike was always comfortable. He still enjoyed fishing and talking to the “pier rats” but simply did not have the energy he had once had. We made sure where we stayed had easy access and made sure steps and distances were limited. 

Mike and a small blackperch from the Elephant Rock Pier in Tiburon, 2016

Mike at the Greenwood Cove Pier in Marin County, 2016


Mike at the Redondo Beach Pier, 2017

Mike and Hashem Nahid at the Newport Pier in 2017

Our last fishing excursion was a short trip in February of 2017. Our first stop was at Newport Beach and its pier where we met up with Hashem before heading over to the Crab Cooker restaurant. We then visited Redondo Beach and its pier before heading to Malibu where we saw our friend Ginny Wylie at her bait and tackle shop. Other trips were discussed but as the year progressed, and Mike spent more and more time in hospitals, the trips just weren’t possible. We talked of our “Bucket List” and imagined visiting Alaska and the Florida Keys (both places Mike knew well) but I knew neither trip would probably ever take place.

Mike and Ginny Wylie at the iconic Wylie’s Tackle Shop, Malibu, 2017

Mike changed insurance and went with Kaiser which soon shipped him off to a hospital in San Jose to see the experts. They kept him there for over a week (which he hated) and left him black and blue with needle marks in his stomach. But they gave him new medicine that was supposed to be better and would help him last a few more years. However, not too long after returning to Clovis he had to return to the hospital. The new medicine did not seem to be much of an improvement. I saw him at the hospital and he was not optimistic as to the future.

Toward the end Mike and I were still meeting (infrequently) for coffee. Fishing was out but we both had wanted to see the movie Dunkirk and talked about seeing it for some time. When it came out we made one last trip to the theater in Clovis. Following the movie we went for a light lunch at one of our favorite restaurants — the Tsing-Tai Chinese restaurant. I asked him if he should eat a meal since the doctor had cut out almost all food and drinks, but he said that he was fine. We enjoyed the meal but then, just a few days later, Leslie posted that Mike has passed away during the night. It was a real blow.

The similarities that made us good friends (like two peas in a pod) and the respect and courtesy I think each of us showed the other, made for a special friendship that will be long missed. RIP my friend, you saw the world and led a long and exciting life. It was a life well lived! But your passing remains a shock and will leave a true void in the lives of your many, many friends.

[As an aside, I notice in reading this that there is perhaps too much about my life. But to understand the friendship, it's good to understand how many similarities there were and how those like experiences could lead to the comfortable times we spent together. In many ways I came to view Mike almost like a brother more than a friend and, as said, he is truly missed]

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The Spit ‘n’ Argue Club at the pier —

Spit ‘n’ Argue

Good arguments can provide the healthiest form of entertainment; they stimulate adrenal glands, arouse governments and nurture change. The Spit ‘n’ Argue Club, later the University by the Sea, has done that through most of Long Beach’s history.

 The professor’s white beard fluttered in the sea breeze. Alone, he faced the empty benches. His right hand swung a gavel—whop!—against the rostrum. “We will come to order,” Professor Selah Brickman, 90, said into a dead microphone. “The University by the Sea is now in session!” Only one person watched and heard, a man with a camera, there to photograph the Professor.“It’s cold today,” the Professor said. “The members stay home.”

This is the story of the rise and fall of a debating society linked to Long Beach history. The society should not perish without obit; for there were times in the past 70 years when its voices fiercely claimed free speech for a clammed-up, anti-anything and at times scared stiff city.

Before Long Beach grew where it stands now, on hot summer weekends the farmers inland used to pile their families into wagons and drive down here to camp on the sand. There were breakers tall as a row of corn, in those days, and clean sea air blowing the smell of ocean—of kelp and salt and sunshine. While women and kids waded, the men grouped up to swap news and ideas over a chew of tobacco.

That was the start of it. That was before newspapers in the area, and long before radio and long, long before TV. Men wanted to know each other’s thinking. They wanted to speak up. They got together and talked—and in that era, among farmers especially, tobacco chewing was a social necessity.

Those were the years after the Civil War—the ‘70s, the ‘80s. The farmers threshed politics and they threshed religion. The sounds of anger and of laughing, of threats and cheers, startled sea gulls from their dozing on the warm wet sand. Beach camping is gritty stuff and fresh water had to be carried. By 1884 a three-story wooden hotel rose from the beach below the present Long Beach Civic Center. It offered comfort—and a broad veranda for open-air debate.

Worldly folk, real travelers, met the local folks there on the veranda. The forum pummeled rich topics. Listeners came from the growing hamlet—which in 1885 boasted 51 homes, 13 business buildings, three stables, the hotel and a church. When voices shrilled angrily, women folk shuddered. “All they do,” the women said bitterly of the debaters, “is spit and argue.” So the outfit got its name, away back there, long before it really organized. The group became the Spit ‘n’ Argue. Eventually the word “club” was tacked on.

The hotel—veranda and all—burned Nov. 8, 1888. The group resumed sessions on the sunny beach. That was the year the new city incorporated. Local politics could be dissected. Spit ‘n’ Argue tore every issue, every candidate for anything, into oratorical shreds. Plug tobacco sold hand over fist at the Lowe’s general store at Pine and Ocean. By 1890 the club was drawing talent from the town’s 564 residents.

Spit ‘n’ Argue on May 27, 1893, first got a pier to stand on. It was the first of three piers to rise and fall under the club’s innumerable feats. Soap-box type oratory flourished on the first pier until the pier was battered by waves, and condemned a few years later. Meanwhile a million words were shouted to the sunny sky by S & A members and guests. The War with Spain fed the club’s oratory through 1898. Six years later the group took its stand on a brand new pier at the foot of Pine Avenue, a wooden beauty with upper and lower decks, 1,296 feet long. It was there, on the wide landward end of the Pine Avenue Pier, that in 1910 Spit ‘n’ Argue reached the glorious stage of formal organizing.

Pine Avenue Pier

There had been a most stimulating decade—the first 10 years of 1900—which started with a Long Beach population of 2,254 and saw newcomers pouring in like a cascade of new-threshed wheat. On July 4, 1902 Pacific Electric had linked its Big Red Cars at last to Long Beach. On the same great day, the Long Beach Bath House opened its heated seawater plunge, the biggest on this or any other world. The Pike was looking more like the Atlantic City boardwalk every day.

“Let’s organize!” shouted the club’s guiding spirits, among them Charles Hamilton, who for two years had owned a beach shop—and who for many years later resided in Long Beach. So Spit ‘n’ Argue set up officers and a platform. Right-wingers in town were aghast.

Spit ‘n’ Argue came out flat-footed for municipal ownership of water and gas. It backed continuation of concerts by an expensive municipal band—which had played its first concert March 13, 1909, a year previous. And Spit ‘n’ Argue demanded a “free market” where farmers could see direct to consumers. “Socialism!” screamed the conservative voices of Republican Long Beach.

But Spit ‘n’ Argue backed the band, and the band has continued to this day 60 years later. In 1911 the city voters bought a municipal water supply. In March, 1913, the Public Market was created by ordinance, and to this day it continues as a picturesque open-air mart beside Lincoln Park. The fourth plank of the platform was nailed down much later—not till Aug. 14, 1923. But Long Beach then got municipal-owned gas.

No one could name a figure for the number of words screamed and bellowed in Spit ‘n’ Argue oratory back in the Pine Avenue Pier days; but ocean swells wrecked the pier on Aug. 6, 1934 ending a 30-year stand by the club. On Aug. 14, 1935, in mid-December, the Spit ‘n’ Argue Club renamed University by the Sea after a civic cleanup drive, attended the city’s formal dedication of a 40-by-76 foot platform on the new Rainbow Pier, on which, by tolerance of the City Council, soap-box type oratory would be permitted. “Gag!” screamed the club’s hotheads, after the dedication was over. “Censorship!”

The Spit ‘n’ Argue platform was at the shore end of the pier

The Rainbow and old Pine Avenue Pier were next to each other for a short period of time

From the first club organizing, back in 1910, to the Pine Avenue Pier collapse of 1934, Spit ‘n’ Argue had fought its way orally through World War I, the Russian Revolution, the end of Prohibition, the change from Hoover to FDR, the alphabet soup of the New Deal, the Townsend Pension Plan, and the March 10, 1933, earthquake. Religion came in in for a few licks too. Depression brought left-wingers, flapping and whooping to the S & A, alias University by the Sea. “Communism!” Against the pinkish threat the Peterson Post of the American Legion rose up in horror.

Battle lines were drawn, with the City Council in No Man’s Land. It became a war and it went on for years. Fed up with being in No Man’s Land, the Council handed the club supervision to the Recreation Department April 25, 1940.

The war between Legion and oratory was still rumbling like the over-the-mountain gunfire when groups of S & A oldsters were complaining that fascists had taken over the forum. “Fascism!” The whole war became confused. Both sides demanded free speech. S & A stalwarts held on longest and won, advocating free speech forever.

 In June, 1949, the city spent $5,000 to widen the club’s pier platform by 20 feet. Two months later, 299 signers petitioned the City Council to kill the club as anti-American. On record is a message informing the Council the club’s trouble was being caused by “inflammatory rhetoric by four psychopaths, two religious fanatics and a crackpot.

An editorial in the Press-Telegram Feb. 19, 1952, concluded: “So we say let the Commies bray. Let them discredit and entangle themselves. But don’t let them goad us into mutilating with our own hands the very rights which we cherish most.”

The Rainbow Pier and a rapidly growing Long Beach 

In May, 1953, the Rainbow Pier platform was lost to land-sinkage and a sand-fill project. The soap-boxers were ousted. Grumbling, they met in Lincoln Park, and elsewhere until Oct. 11, 1953, when they were permitted to return to the pier. Since the club wouldn’t die and stay dead, the city came up with a $6,900 sage-green 32-by-60 foot windbreak and rostrum on the beach west of the hallowed Pine Avenue Pier, and later Rainbow Pier sites, and the club moved in on Jan. 3, 1960. Beach redevelopment has turned the access area, to the east, into an impassable mess with signs warning all comers to keep out. Only old-timers know how to find the club now.

Where orators used to face audiences of 2,000 or more, now on best days only a handful of listeners can be found. The Recreation Department’s supervisor of senior citizen activities, Jack Dillon, sees to it that on the third Saturday of each November the club elects a five-man committee to run its affairs. The committee chairman—Brickman this year, who is called “The Professor”—presides from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. daily whether the members show up or nay.

Dillon says the “keep out” signs have hurt the club for certain, but that another factor has hurt it worse. “Television took its steam,” Dillon says, “The rebels who used to shout and draw a crowd to the old pier platforms are shouting on TV forums now. They’ve gone away; they’ve cut the controversy down.”

Alone at the beach rostrum, facing empty benches, the club’s chairman, Professor Brickman, says a few kind words for his absent members, to the visiting man with a camera. The Professor stands picket-pin straight, his white beard blowing, his Navy P-coat buttoned tight around him. “So many things are gone,” he says. “So many of our old members. The people walking around the pier. The breakers, the sound of them. In 1902, a teacher, I came from Live in the Russian Ukraine to get away from the Czar, to find freedom and free speech. Here, yes, they are here! “But our members are old now. When the wind blows, they get cold. They stay home. No, no one chews tobacco any more. No one spits, here at our club. On sunny days, we still talk of everything. A few of us. But the old times have gone.”

—Southland Sunday, Dick Emery, Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram, June 7, 1970

As said in the article, television may have brought about the end of the Spit ‘n’ Argue club. It was much easier to simply sit in front of a television watching debate. There seemed to be less need for honest and open, in-person debate. Today, with the advent of computers, cell phones and social media, we seem to see an even more drastic change in communication. Debate is alive but sitting behind a screen allows a more vitriolic and hateful form of communication and for some, little desire for free speech or debate.  A tremendous loss in my opinion.

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2017 Trinidad Pier Youth Fishing Derby

Although chilly the previous afternoon, Sunday, September 17, 2017 turned out to be a beautiful day at Trinidad, the small town located on California’s scenic redwood-forested, northwest coast just 24 miles north of Eureka. It was a perfect day to go fishing! Luckily, a kids fishing derby just happened to be scheduled at the Trinidad Pier. The event was the 4th Annual Trinidad Pier Youth Fishing Derby sponsored by United Pier and Shore Anglers of California (UPSAC), the Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria, the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), Humboldt Area Saltwater Anglers, Pacific Outfitters, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Free loaner rods and reels, free terminal tackle, free bait, free hot dog lunches, raffle prizes, and a winner in each age group helped generate excitement. In response, 45 youngsters along with roughly 60 adults turned out to enjoy the short-sleeve weather and fishing which, although a little slow, did produce a variety of fish—striped seaperch, cabezon, kelp greenling, rock greenling and one ugly buffalo sculpin.

The Trinidad Memorial Light House

The Trinidad Pier

Setting up

Cutting bait

Trinidad Rancheria Booth

The kids and families were ready

What would be the catch?

Douglas and David Shigematsu.

Looks like they’re ready!

All ages were present!

First fish of the day, a striped seaperch caught by David Shigematsu

Nothing like spending a little time in the great outdoors!

Ready for action!

What’s the best spot?

Fish slayer!

Avalon, owned by Ed Roberts, was the unofficial mascot for the derby!

The second fish of the day was another striped seaperch caught by David Shigematsu

Sit back and wait for the fish to bite!

They look like fishermen!

He was ready!

How about a rock crab?

Anglers at the railing

A young “Lady Angler”

They look HAPPY!

A small kelp greenling

What a grin!

What a smile!

Young Angler!

Trinidad Pier

The biggest fish was this striped seaperch caught by Desirae Ferguson

Wardens from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife

A happy family!

Pier Fishing In California member Jose and his family

Ken Jones (me) and Jose; he had once sent me a question on PFIC asking how to fish rocks and practiced on the rocks at the Trindad Pier.

Another rock crab

A rock greenling caught by Malachi Costa


A buffalo sculpin caught by Nate Ferguson

Robert Gardner, Vice President of UPSAC, traveled up to the tournament from the Bay Area, served as a judge, and got a little fishing in himself.

Each age group winner received a trophy from United Pier and Shore Anglers of California, a beautiful certificate from the International Game Fish Association, and an autographed copy of Pier Fishing In California by Ken Jones (and

The under age 6 category winner was Leo Dixon of Trinidad

The age 6 category winner was Malachi Costa of Trinidad

The age 7 category winner was Anyia Benemann of Trinidad (not pictured)

The age 8 category winner was Lucy Bertrand of Arcata

The age 9 category winner was Kalgin Drake of Eureka

The age 10 category winner was Evan Unmack of McKinleyville

The age 11 category winner was David Shigematsu of Davis

The age 12 category winner was Seth Noel of Hidsville

The age 13 category winner was Desirae Ferguson of McKinleyville

The age 14 category winner was Kodiak Drake of Eureka

The age 15 category winner was Lilly Thiesfeld of McKinleyville

The Grand Champion was determined by total points. The winner was David Shigematsu. Here is is with Ed Roberts and a nice rod and reel from Pacific Outfitters.

Next up was the raffle with EVERY entrant winning at least one gift. Gift items were bought from a donation by the Humboldt Salt Water Anglers Club supplemented by a few gifts from United Pier and Shore Anglers of California.

A separate raffle was held by “Bass Man Dan” for a custom-wrapped fishing rod with all proceeds going to UPSAC for next year’s event.

Ed Roberts and the rod to be raffled!

And the winner was… Kodiak Drake

“Bass Man Dan” decided to offer a second rod for the raffle and we soon had another winner.

Ken Jones (me) and David Shigematsu, the Grand Champion.

A big thank you is due to all who contributed gifts and helped out at the tournament.

Donating money, food and gifts for the meals, insurance and prizes were a variety of different groups and businesses—Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria, Humboldt Area Saltwater Anglers (HASA), Pacific Outfitters, United Pier and Shore Anglers of California (UPSAC), Ken Jones—Pier Fishing in California (, and Ed Roberts. A custom built rod made by Dan Troxel of “Bass Man Dan’s Custom Fishing Rods” was raffled off with proceeds going to help pay next year’s costs.

Organizers were Ed Roberts of the California Fish and Wildlife Department, Ken Jones, President of United Pier and Shore Anglers of California (UPSAC) and owner of, and Grant Roden of the Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria.

Helping out at the event were a number of different people. Several came from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife—Dustin Hixon, Carly Stanton, Kevin Butler, and Russell Janak. Robert Gardner, Vice President of UPSAC traveled north from the Bay Area. Local residents providing assistance included Nate Ferguson, Dan Troxel, Ed Roberts and Grant Roden.

“Good By” to Trinidad for another year. Looking down from the “Trinidad Memorial Light House” with the pier just barely poking out around “Little Head Rock” (which sits next to the pier).  

Trinidad Memorial Light House

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Pine Avenue Pier, Long Beach, 1905-1934

Some fish reports and pictures about the Pine Avenue Pier, Long Beach

A big run of five and six-pound albacore at Long Beach wharf kept the hand-liners busy at that point, and turned the outer end of the wharf into shambles, literally slippery with fish gore. These small albacore frequently come close inshore, but are of little use except upon the hook, like all the mackerel tribe they put up a tremendous fight, and give the man behind the rod a good time. Los Angeles Times, February 28, 1905

This Crawfish A Grand-Dad — Mammoth Redjacket Taken At Long Beach — Huge Specimen is Taken by Veteran Fisherman With Line Thrown From The Pier

Long Beach, July 7.—Frank Deffley, a veteran fisherman who has a stall under the wharf, while hauling in a line last night, thought for a few moments that he was pulling up the bed of the ocean, but when the hook reached near the surface of the water concluded that it was an octopus and began figuring how he could let go without cutting the line, for he had no desire for an encounter with a devil fish. Fortunately it was not, but the monster is undoubtedly the patriarch and great-granddaddy of all the lobsters. It was safely landed and filled a tub made from a half barrel. From the tail to the head measures thirty inches, with a body twenty-four inches in circumference. The main feelers are each over eighteen inches in length and the feet, from which the claws are missing, over a foot long. Its weight is eighteen pounds and its age problematical, but the fishermen who observe lobsters at all, stages think it at least fifteen years old. The monster was presented to the aquarium where it is on exhibition. —Los Angeles Times, July 8, 1905

Gigantic Lobster Caught At Long Beach

Long Beach, July 7.—Frank Deffley, one of Long Beach’s oldest fishermen, made the prize catch of the season last night. He thought he had a young whale when he began to haul it in, but when his prize reached the surface he saw it was a giant lobster. He succeeded in landing it and placed it in a barrel. The crustacean weighed eighteen pounds. It measures thirty inches from head to tail, its body is twenty-four inches in circumference and the main feelers are eighteen inches long. The feet are over a foot long. Its age is probably about fifteen years.—Los Angeles Herald, July 8, 1905

Pine Avenue Pier — 1911

White Sea Bass Seen In Large Numbers Near Wharf In Long Beach

 Long Beach, May 29.—During the last four days there have been many schools of yellowtail about the outer wharf and anglers have had excitement-a-plenty. With numerous strikes, however, only a few of the fish have been landed on the pier. Those caught have weighed from ten to fourteen pounds… White sea bass have also been plentiful about the wharf. Pompano were caught during the week by the hundreds. A few halibut were taken this week.—Los Angeles Herald, May 30, 1908 

An oil shark 6 feet 4 inches long, caught on a small line by Charles Lisk, put up a long and game fight off the pier and was not landed for half an hour.—Los Angeles Herald, June 3, 1908

Pine Avenue Pier — 1913

Conditions for the past week… Long Beach—Good. Corbina, yellowfin, mackerel, trout, smelt, croaker, pompano. —Los Angeles Herald, June 14, 1908

Anglers Enjoy Immense Sport With Sea Trout— Every One Has Good Luck

Long Beach, Sept. 9—There was never a greater day for sea trout fishing than this. All day long anglers have lined the pier and the outer wharf, and for a while this morning trout were pulled out with astonishing frequency, every fisherman or fisher-woman getting from four to twenty fishes. Capt. E. B. Counts of the Pacific fish market sold nearly 500 sardines for bait. From the platform in the rear of the market eighty trout were caught before noon. —Los Angeles Herald, September 10, 1908

Pine Avenue Pier — 1916

Two Denizens Of Deep Captured In One Haul — Five Pound Sea Spider Clings To Nine Pound Lobster

Long Beach, Sept. 25.—One of the strangest catches ever made off the outer wharf was that of a nine-pound lobster to which clung a five-pound sea spider, with long, strong tentacles. The fight which the two denizens of the deep started before the lobster get the hook was continued on the platform of the Pacific market after fisherman Clarence Owen landed them. The spider made a number of passes at the lobster, and the latter made futile effort to thrash the enemy with its many pronged tail, the lobsters best weapon. The lobster was the largest caught here this year. —Los Angeles Herald, September 26, 1908

Long Beach improved wonderfully last week and yellowfin, corbina, pompano, mackerel, herring and perch rewarded all who cared to wet a line at this delightful resort. —Los Angeles Herald, June 26, 1909

Pine Avenue Pier — 1917

Many Fish Caught By Busy Anglers

Long Beach, Dec. 23—It would be difficult to exaggerate the excitement occasioned here today by the sudden and unexpected visit to these waters of immense schools of herring, croaker and pompano. Early visitors to the pier were surprised to find that their hooks remained idle for only a second after being thrown into the water. The good news spread and by 10 o’clock the west side of the lower deck of the pier and also the guard-rail around the outer wharf were crowded with anglers. From then on until tonight the fish continued to bite, and around the feet of each fisherman or fisherwoman a great pile grew at a remarkable rate. Visitors to the outer wharf had to step high and carefully if they went along the west promenade of the lower deck to avoid stepping upon the catches. Croaker and herring were the fish caught with rod and line. Big catches of pompano were made with nets.—Los Angeles Herald, December 24, 1909

Pine Avenue Pier — 1919

Angeleno Hooks Jewfish That Weighs 270 Pounds

Long Beach, Dec. 28.—A jewfish estimated to weigh 370 pounds was hooked this morning by John Miller, a Los Angeles man, while fishing off the end of the outer wharf. The monster made a threshing fight of it but was gaffed finally by Clarence Owen. Owen’s right hand was torn badly between the thumb and forefinger by the snap of the leader, when the fish made a sudden lunge, and medical attendance was necessary. —Los Angeles Herald, December 29, 1910

A horn shark, eighteen feet long, made himself at home around the outer end of the wharf this morning and created consternation among the owners of light tackle, who hastily reeled in their lines. After some time spent in the vicinity, most of the time moving on the surface of the water, the ugly fellow gave a flirt of his tail and headed for the southeast.—Los Angeles Times, January 19, 1911

Pine Avenue Pier — 1925

365-Pound Jewfish Is Landed at Long Beach

Long Beach, June 12.—John Leach, an employee of the Pine Avenue Fish Market, broke a Southern California record yesterday at the end of the Pine Avenue Pier by landing a jewfish weighing 365 pounds. —Santa Ana Register, June 12, 1914

Huge Stingrays Caught

Visitors on the end of the Pine Avenue pleasure pier were treated to the sight of two of the most unusual deep-sea monstrosities ever drawn out of the Pacific at this port today. Albert Jewell, night man in charge of the municipal fish market, set out his lines as usual last night for black sea bass and sharks. When he pulled them in this morning he brought to gaff what are believed to be two of the largest stingrays ever captured in the Southland. The ordinary weight of a stingray is five pounds, but these tipped the scales at fifty-nine and seventy-five pounds. respectively. Large crowds gathered during the day to view the big sea denizens. The sawtooth bones that makes the ray a most dangerous creature were more than five inches long on the big fish, while the average “business end” of these hostile salt water inhabitants is less than an inch. The two stingrays put up a game fight and it was only after an hour’s struggle and manipulation that they could be hauled to the surface. Even after being gaffed they lashed out viciously with their barbed tails.—Los Angeles Times, May 24, 1918

Pine Avenue Pier — 1930s

Mackerel, herring, pompano, bass, croakers and sea trout are being caught from the end of the municipal pier. —Los Angeles Times, July 21, 1916


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California Fishing Passport — Fishing & The Ocean Workshop

On August 28 and 29, 2017, I participated along with a number of other people in a workshop given by the California Fish & Wildlife Department. The purpose was to introduce people, mainly but not limited to youngsters, to fishing. Saturday, August  28, was in a classroom setting in Dana Harbor. On Sunday, August 29, we took the participants on a fishing trip to the San Clemente Pier.

This young lady caught the first and only bonito when we visited the San Clemente Pier

Saturday, August 28 in Dana Harbor

Anyone one for cookies?

Setting up!

There was an inside classroom and also several places set up outside for short, 20-minute presentations on different topics (pier fishing, boat fishing, how to tie knots, lures, etc.)

Carrie Wilson of the DF&W was the main person who set up the workshop

Dr. Zachary Schakner discussed the biology of the  SoCal fishing environment

Marty Golden discussed ethical angling

Since most of the kids had never been fishing, one of the first lessons was how to hold a rod and — and how to make a cast — Ron Owens and Roger Eckhardt

Practice, practice, practice…

Mary Patyten discussed Marine Protected Areas

Wayne Kotow of CCA Cal discussed boating

Jordan Smith (not pictured) discussed how to release deep-water fish

Know your fish!

Two DF&W wardens discussed common problems they see


Oops, where’s the “pier rat”

Virgil Perez & Dave Young discussed how to tie knots


Emilio Rebollar

More practice casting — Marlon Meade, Dave Young, and Emilio Rebollar

Sunday, August 29, San Clemente Pier

First things first — cutting mackerel and squid for bait — Jordan Smith and Hashem Nahid

Helping the kids get set up

Pacific mackerel were the main catch

This young man caught a thornback ray

A mackerel coming over the railing along with Ben Acker (DompfaBen) helping untangle a line [Dompfa = dominating positive fishing attitude]


A bat ray

A happy mom and a young man’s first mackerel

Her first bonito!

The pier became fairly crowded

Another mackerel

A yellowfin croaker

Happy mom, happy daughter

Spotfin croaker

“Pier Rats”

Yellowfin croaker and a happy angler

Hashem Nahid and Carrie Wilson

California halibut

Our Gang #1

Our Gang #2

Given that we were busy setting the kids up to fish near the front section of the pier we failed to notice one very important visitor to the pier that morning — a “Great White” shark.

Luckily others noticed the shark swimming alongside the pier and took pictures which resulted in a newspaper article and a video. It’s unfortunate that we missed seeing the shark and showing it to the kids.

Great white shark filmed near San Clemente Pier — Orange County Register — August 28, 2017 — Laylan Connelly

Jordan Jesolva was about to reel in a fish caught on her line when the shark suddenly appeared. “I didn’t care about the fish at that point, I was like, ‘I need to film this’,” she recalled saying as she handed her rod over to her grandfather to get her phone out to capture the sight. “This is once in a lifetime.”

While shark sightings are becoming more frequent, with many in the San Clemente area this past summer, the sight of a great white lingering just beneath a pier is enough to send kids squealing and adults running for the camera.

Jesolva said she spotted the great white — which she estimated to be about 10-foot — at about 10 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 27. “I was casually fishing on the pier, all of a sudden there’s a huge great white,” she said Monday. “It was probably 100 yards from shore. I had caught a fish — it kind of came right in front of me. It made a circle and it kept swimming under the pier.”

Jesolva, who was on a weekend trip from La Mirada, she had heard about all the recent sightings. “I’ve never seen a shark before. I was like, ‘Wow, this is crazy’,” she said. “It was a really cool experience.”

She said it was on the left side of the pier, with surfers sitting out in the water on the right. Some people shouted to the surfers that there was a shark in the water and some paddled toward shore.

She said she didn’t think to report the sighting to lifeguards, too caught up in the moment. “I feel like maybe I should have. I was too excited,” she said. “Everyone on the pier came and looked at it.”

San Clemente Marine Safety Lifeguard Rod Mellott said no reports came into lifeguards about the sighting. “Anybody that thinks they saw a shark, has video or pictures, please contact the lifeguards right away,” he said. “We can do the proper follow-up and take the proper precautions.”

In the video captured by Jesolva, a child’s voice can be heard saying, “Oh. My. God. Get mom!” A man’s voice, while calmer, still suggests shock. “Wow, that’s a white.”

For Jesolva, it was quite the fish tale she’ll never forget. “Even though I was far from it, it was scary,”  Jesolva said. “But cool at the same time.”

And we missed it — darn!

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