San Mateo Pier aka the Werder Pier — Gone But Not Forgotten

 The pier and the nearby San Mateo-Hayward Bridge in 1991

There was a time when this was “the treasure chest” among the piers located in south San Francisco Bay. It was perhaps the best pier from which to catch sharks in the entire bay (including large seven gill sharks) and the best place for a pier angler to catch a sturgeon. It is now history.

The pier was known among the local angling fraternity as the San Mateo Pier although for many it was simply called the “Shark Pier.” However, the official name was the Werder Pier or Werder Wharf (named after San Mateo County Supervisor William Werder). Given the fact that the pier was actually in Foster City, it was also often called the Foster City Pier. It was a pier of many names.

The pier has been closed since 1997. The initial closure was due to a so-called need to use the parking lot and pier by Caltrans in their efforts to earthquake proof the nearby bridge (one of many bridges retrofitted after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake). Then, after 9/11 (2001), the California Highway Patrol entered the mix when authorities basically deemed the pier a security risk (the pier was located too close to the San Mateo Bridge and might be a great spot to place a bomb). That action gave additional ammunition to use by foes of the pier when it came time for San Mateo County to begin evaluation of the pier’s future.

The pier sits pretty close to the bridge which caused concern that items thrown from cars might hit anglers on the pier (Picture courtesy Google)

Several UPSAC and/or PFIC members (including myself, James Liu, Ed Burns, Rita Magdamo, Kyle Pease, Jeff Ishikawa, Mel Kon, Michael Corden and others) attended meetings presented by the San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Department in 2003. The purpose of the meetings was to gage support for the pier; the hope of UPSAC/PFIC members was to figure out a way to get the pier reopened. However, several negative items emerged. The first, and a major problem, was a lack of support from citizens living near the pier. They talked of trash, vandalism, and rude behavior by anglers visiting the pier. The second was the simple coat of renovating the pier. A $3.2-$7.2 million dollar estimate was given for renovating the pier, money that the county did not appear to have or wish to see spent on the pier. The continued vandalism that had occurred, almost from the day it opened, certainly, in my opinion, had dampened local support (and sometimes anglers themselves have no one else to blame than themselves). Very little has been done for the past decade and it appears now that the pier will never be reopened.

The pier was originally part of the old San Mateo-Hayward drawbridge, a bridge which, when opened in 1929, was the world’s longest highway bridge (12 miles in total length, with 7 1/10 miles over water). However, it had become too small for the increased traffic of the late 1960s. Instead of simply tearing down the entire bridge, part was turned into a fishing pier. After opening in 1972, the pier became one of the most heavily visited piers in the area and one noted for its production of sharks and rays—as well as quite a few sturgeon.

Today’s pier (Picture courtesy of Google)

Environment.  At 4,135 feet, this was not only the longest pier in the bay but also the longest pier in California. Due to its length, anglers could try for several different species. Inshore, around the shoreline, a few perch would be caught seasonally as well as jacksmelt. Further out, the middle area was decent for such species as starry flounder and white croaker (kingfish) as well as an occasional striped bass, shark or ray.  The far end was in water nearly 40-feet-deep and this was the prime area for leopard sharks, brown smoothhound sharks, bat rays, skates and sturgeon.

The bottom here is mud and sand and there was little growth on either the pilings or the nearby bridge supports. Inshore, the waters were shallow and there were only a few rocks (and half-buried debris such as shopping carts) so fishing tended to be spotty. Either schools of fish were present or they were absent. When absent, you might  have a rather boring time sitting or standing in the usually windy area. However, when schooling fish like jacksmelt were present, it was often easy to catch a bucketful. Pileperch, black seaperch and a few rubberlip seaperch visited in winter and spring, but were replaced by walleye and silver surfperch as the year went on.

Perch Are Plentiful

Fishing Buffs who enjoy the leisurely pace of fishing for perch and flounder within the San Francisco Bay system have found that a great deal of the succulent fish are there for the taking. Perch fishing is going on just about anywhere there are pilings to fish around. The San Mateo fishing pier has been the scene of some fast and fun fishing over the past few weeks with perch well over a pound a common thing. Anglers there have been using blood worms, live grass shrimp and pile worms to their advantage and the best fishing has been during the times of heaviest water movement between slack low and slack high tides.

 —The Nimrod, Phil Ford, San Mateo Times, February 5, 1976

A striper caught at the pier in 1991

Winter and spring would see the arrival of white sturgeon and perhaps a few green sturgeon; they usually seemed to show up about the same time as the first rains and accompanying runoff entered into the South Bay. When herring moved this far south into the bay to spawn, and it didn’t happen every year, local waters would be thick with the large fish. Up above the fish, in boats or on the pier would be eager anglers hoping to take a chance at these ancient critters, the nearest thing to big game species that most anglers will catch (although striped bass, salmon, halibut and large sharks aren’t too bad). A Pier Fishing In California report from March of 1997 talked of the “fantastic” bite of sturgeon at the pier. Herring had made a wintertime visit and the deeper waters of the pier were, on some days, yielding up two to three dozen sturgeon. They ranged in size from sub-legal size fish to legal size with most being the latter variety. One 76-inch fish was recorded but it had to be released since the maximum size limit at the time was 72 inches. In the late spring, striped bass began to make their appearance and generally the stripers would hang around until the fall months when they returned to inland waters. Although sharks were caught year-round, summertime into the fall was the peak season.

The Fish.  As mentioned, this was one of the best places to go shark fishing (hence its nickname—”shark pier”). Bat rays in excess of 100 pounds and large leopard sharks were caught every year, as were hundreds of smaller brown smoothhound sharks, and lesser number of dogfish sharks. Infrequent, but seasonally a possibility, were sevengill sharks and soupfin sharks (and theoretically I suppose you could even see a sixgill shark, although the chances were slim). If you tried for any of these large, toothy critters, appropriate tackle (including wire leaders) was necessary as well as a large hoop net or treble-hook gaff (only if intending to keep the monster) and you needed a friend along to help bring it in. The larger sharks seemed to bite best on live bait so most used midshipmen or mudsuckers (longjaw goby). Next best was squid or an oily fish such as mackerel or sardine. The bat rays seemed to prefer squid. For all of these, the best fishing occurred in the late afternoon and evening hours while fishing from the mid-pier area out to the end. Obviously people needed to watch out for the teeth on the sharks and the stinger on the bat rays. They also needed to bleed the sharks and rays soon after capture if they planned to take them home for food.

Brown smoothhound sharks were the most common sharks at the pier —1991

Striped bass were one of the most sought-after species here and most years would see a few fish approaching, or even exceeding, the 30-pound mark (and I was told by one angler that a fifty-two-pound striper had been landed on the pier). Most anglers used cut anchovies or sardines, or used live bullheads (staghorn sculpins), but a few fish would be caught on pile worms, grass shrimp and artificial lures such as Hair Raisers. Most years would see June and July be the peak months for stripers but the “linesides”would continue to be caught until September (and even later some years).

Inshore, anglers tried for jacksmelt and seaperch using pile worms or, if available, grass shrimp (for the perch). They used a high/low leader on the bottom for the perch, a multi-hook rigging under a float for the jacksmelt. In the summer, it was common for kingfish (white croakers) to show up and, at times, a few Pacific tomcod, sand sole, flounder and even halibut. For most of the smaller species, a high/low leader baited with cut anchovies or pile worms will work well. For the halibut, most people used a live shiner with a flounder-sturgeon rigging on the bottom.

For sturgeon, and sturgeon exceeding 120 pounds were landed here, anglers usually used ghost shrimp or mud shrimp and needed to make sure they had a good net. If herring were spawning locally they needed to bring along some herring or herring eggs.

One pest that anglers were stuck with was staghorn sculpin. During summer months, the small sculpin could be hard to keep off your hooks.

An email from a Pier Fishing In California member gave proof of the passion of some of the local anglers —

Date: November 18, 1999; To: Ken Jones; From: vee; Subject: SAN MATEO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am really pis… off that San Mateo hasn’t reopened, because it was my favorite pier to fish at other then Pacifica. I actually had a 41-inch 35-lb striper stuffed that I caught from the San Mateo pier. (It also had a DFG tag on it… planted in Stockton). Anyhow, I’ve caught halibut there and HUGE bat rays and leopard sharks, not to mention various other species — even rockfish sometimes. There was one season me and my buddies went out there and hooked sturgeon everyday in the spring… well now that my favorite pier is gone… I end up going to Dumbarton. Hey Ken… do you know who to contact to get that pier back open? I would definitely try to rally to get that pier back open!

Another look at a happy angler with a striped bass — 1991

The Carts. It was  a long way out to the end of the pier, especially if you were carrying much tackle (and some of the “shark specialists” brought some fairly heavy gear). Local anglers (illegally, I might add) made a habit of bringing shopping carts to the pier and  leaving them there when they were done. Most days would find a few unused carts at the shore end of the pier and anglers were free to use a cart to haul their tackle out to the end. When they arrived at the far end of the pier they would probably find most of the already present anglers with a cart of their own. It was a tradition!

Note. Winds can be strong in the area. In March of ’97, about the same time sturgeon were feasting on herring eggs by the pier, and anglers were taking two to three dozen sturgeon a day off the pier, a boat capsized near the pier. Three anglers found themselves in the cold and choppy waters of the bay. Forming a human chain, and using the strong ropes they had brought to net the sturgeon, several regulars at the pier were able to pull the three men up to the pier and keep them warm until helicopters could rescue them. True heroes!

History Note. As mentioned, this pier was part of a bridge that opened on March 3, 1929. Originally it was named the San Francisco Bay Toll Bridge and contained, in the middle of the bridge, a 303-foot section that could be vertically raised to allow the passage of ships. In 1951 the bridge, now called the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, was purchased by the state of California for six million dollars. Ten years later the legislature approved $64 million to build a new high-level bridge.

The new San Mateo-Hayward Bridge (Photo courtesy Google)

During planning for the new bridge, far-sighted individuals were able to persuade the appropriate officials to turn part of the old bridge into a fishing pier. The County of San Mateo purchased a 4,055 foot-long trestle section of the pier (out to where the first truss span was located) for $10 in 1968 and signed an agreement with the California Transportation Department (CalTrans) in regards to use of the property.

As part of the agreement it was agreed that that the county was to maintain the easement onto the pier but CalTrans could use the area as access if it needed to fix the bridge (which later became an important point). In 1996, after San Mateo had completed the initial 25-year lease, and used the pier for an additional three years, CalTrans informed the county it would need to use the easement area and part of the pier to earthquake proof the adjacent bridge. As mentioned above, the pier was initially closed in 1997 for the CalTrans work followed by later security, repair and monetary issues. The net result has been the closure of the pier.

The area now known as Foster City once consisted of Brewer’s Island and several square miles of tidal wetlands. In 1958 developer T. Jack Foster bought and began to reshape the land. He created a 200-acre lagoon and built a city that now encompasses nearly 5,000 homes and 30,000 people. Such is progress in the Golden State.

The end? (Photo courtesy Google)


The Pier Through The Years —A Compendium of Articles and Some PFIC Responses to Those Article

Plan A Pier Fishing Trip This Fall

The long awaited William Werder fishing pier adjacent to Foster City in San Mateo (the old San Mateo-Hayward bridge), is nearing reality, Ralph Shaw,County Parks and Recreation director, disclosed today. It is expected to be open in operation by this fall. Virtually all of the red tape has been cleared, with various boards meeting, authority and ownership transferred to the county, and arrangements made with various state authorities.

The pier, which was the old bridge extending to the now-removed draw span in the channel, is 3500 feet long, and will afford more than 1,000 feet of good fishing in water from 12 feet to 40 feet deep at the channel. On an eight-foot high tide, fishing may be good the entire length, Shaw said. He said, the county is working closely with the State Wildlife Conservation Board on final plans for a combined program of development.

The Conservation Board would provide high-back seats (to remove the nuisance of winds), tables, and safety precautions against debris thrown by motorists from the new high-level bridge.

The county would provide immediate parking for 100 cars, sanitary facilities, and mobile concessionaires, as well as a place to cut bait. Upon completion, the pier would immediately become the finest fishing facility in the South Bay.

Shaw said that the fishing today in the Bay is the best in recent ears, and commended the Bay Water Pollution Control Board for its success. He said that mussels and clams are now turning up on floats at Coyote Point, and that the other day he saw two fishermen take five bass at the Point. There are more than 60 varieties of fish in the Bay at present, he said.

While pushing development of the $100,000 project, Shaw said that currently the county continues to fence off the area from the public until it can complete safety measures. It is sending a man twice a week to the pier to check the amount, nature and frequency of debris thrown from above. It was revealed last summer that the hazard of broken glass and litter tossed from above would necessitate special precautions, probably a $25,000 roof or screen to protect the fishermen.

The San Mateo Times, January 12, 1970

Vandalism Rampant at Werder Pier

The Werder Fishing Pier in Foster City  will be open again next Sunday after being closed during this week as county park and recreation crews repaired vandalism damage that has taken place over  the opast three months. A broken sewer line was also fixed, Diane Mattison, the county’s assistant director of parks and recreation reported this morning.

Mattison said the pier was kept open, despite repeated acts of vandalism, until last Monday, when workmen discovered that shifting mud had caused a sewer line to break allowing effluent to flow into the Bay.

The latest outbreak of malicious mischief took place last weekend, Mattison said, when someone broke into a storage structure, thre equipment stored there into the bay, ripped shingles off of the roof, and tore a light from its mooring.

According to Mattison, vandalism at the pier is an ongoing problem; drinking fountains have been torn loose and smashed on concrete walks, fencing has been torn away and benches have been set on fire. Despite this vandalism, Mattison said the pier has been kept open to fishermen until the sewer line broke.

The pier is part of the old San Mateo-Hayward bridge and was acquired by the county from the State Toll Bridge Authority when the new bridge was completed.

The San Mateo Times, August 9, 1973

Close Watch Planned at Werder Pier

A two-hour meeting was held between officials of the County Park and Recreation Department and Foster City police yesterday to discuss increased surveillance to halt vandalism at the Werder Fishing Pier. Malicious mischief has resulted in some $1,600 to $1,800 damage since the pier was opened to the public about a year ago.

The problem is expected to increase, Kermit E. Vangene, chief of the county parks division, reported, because the State Division of Fish and Game opened the bay to fishermen 24 hours a day.

Although the pier has been closed during the past week to repair a broken sewage line and damaged facilities, Vangene said when the pier reopens Sunday it will be on a 24-hour-a-day basis.

“It astonishes me to see the trouble people take to commit these acts,” Vangene commented, noting someone had taken a hacksaw to cut through the base of a metal drinking fountain. Fences have been knocked down, a storeroom broken into and equipment taken, benches have been burned and other acts of vandalism have occurred.

The San Mateo Times, August 10, 1973

Werder Pier Popular on Sundays

More than 300 persons ranging from senior citizens to babies riding in bicycle baskets, thronged the Werder Fishing Pier off Foster City in a scene that looked like a food-less picnic.

Nobody was seen to catch any fish, although more than 100 lines were in the water. In nearly perfect weather, with high tide about, the fishermen waited while schools of baby anchovies swam about the pier, apparently with nothing to worry about. Several groups in motorboats also trolled off the pier, with no apparent success.

The Werder Pier, once the old San Mateo-Hayward bridge (built in 1929) and now that  that section of it that reached as far as its lift-span was converted to a fishing pier some years ago by the San Mateo County Parks Department.

t has proved so popular that the department is now negotiating with the California Department of Transportation to purchase the 15-acre parking lot adjacent to its entrance. It currently leases a lot. Negotiations for purchase were begun after Caltrans abandoned the idea of a Bayfront freeway. The parking site was to have been as interchange with the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge and the proposed highway.

Fishing has been excellent at the Werder Pier, but not when the majority of those using it would like it to be. The big catches have been reported at night, and range from sizeable stripers to sizeable sharks.

Those using the pier find commodious benches placed its entire length, many with windscreens. Slightly more than half-way along its length is placed a toilet and washbowl facility for men and women, and outside this two sinks with cold water for cleaning fish. To protect small children from falling to disaster in the Bay below, the Parks Department installed heavy wire fencing along the concrete railing. The surface remains the old bridge surface.

Since nothing motorized (except county vehicles) is permitted on the bridge, today’s users wheel shopping baskets, golf carts and all manner of carryalls to get their equipment out the length of the nearly-mile-long pier. Many ride bicycles. The uninitiated carry their equipment. There are no barbeque facilities on the bridge, nor tables. However, there is no ban on barbequing or utilizing camper equipment to heat coffee or whatever on the concrete and steel structure. Outside of the ban on motorized vehicles, the only rules are those of the state’s fish and game department

As the use of the pier has grown, so has its vandalism, according to the county authorities overseeing it, who say that vandalism at the pier, for no reason they can think of, exceeds that of any other county facility. Benches have been gouged and ripped until some are unusable and the wire protective fencing ripped away at points, exposing children to fatal hazard below. Toilet facilities also have been vandalized as has the plumbing. Some vandals have been caught.

Historically, the structure, dedicated on March 2, 1929 by a committee headed by Horace Amphlett, former Times publisher, was once the “longest bridge in the world.” President Calvin Coolidge pressed a button in the White House to move the lower lift span into place.

The San Mateo Times, October 20, 1975

It’s Better To Be Peerless Than Pierless

One of the Bay Area’s most popular fishing piers may be shut down forever, and another—the No. 1 fishing pier in California—is also in jeopardy.

The San Mateo Pier, which extends 2-1/4 miles from Foster City out to the main channel of South San Francisco Bay and provides a rare opportunity to catch sturgeon, was closed last year by a CalTrans earthquake retrofit project on the adjacent San Mateo Bridge, and will likely never reopen due to structural deterioration.

The Pacifica Pier, the only pier in the Bay Area that provides direct access to the ocean and the chance to catch salmon, striped bass and Dungeness crabs, will run out of funding for maintenance by the City of Pacifica this summer, leaving it at risk.

Both have been used for free by thousands of people every year, and Pacifica Pier is the most popular pier in California, with 500 to 1,000 people at a time fishing when schools of salmon arrive within range every summer.

Each has its own story. San Mateo Pier was shut down nearly a year ago to the public so CalTrans crews could use it as a staging area for equipment and barges for work on the adjacent San Mateo Bridge. It now resembles something of a war zone, and while the crews have been retrofitting the bridge for earthquake safety, engineers say the pier is now in a severe state of decay. The concrete from support columns has eroded in many places, even exposing re-bar in some sections, with pieces and chunks of concrete occasionally crumbling into the water below. Meanwhile, the work crews have transformed the top of the pier to fit their own needs, and to reopen it would require renovation.

That is why the pier will never be reopened, according to rangers for the San Mateo County Parks and Recreation, who did not want to be quoted. According to a CalTrans spokesman, it will be closed for “a long time.”

San Mateo Pier has been one of the few free, accessible places where anyone can try to catch sharks, rays, perch, kingfish, striped bass, and sturgeon; the only other piers with a chance of catching sturgeon in the Bay are Dumbarton Pier at Newark, McNear’s Pier in San Rafael and Point Pinole Pier near San Pablo. Since it extends past tidal flats, San Mateo Pier has also been a great walk or easy bike trip, and you could view egrets, stilts and other seabirds when minus low tides unveil the surrounding mud flats.

Meanwhile, Pacifica Pier is in imminent trouble. According to an engineering report, the pier needs $1.5 million worth of immediate repair work. In the past, the City of Pacifica has maintained the pier because it runs a pipe for its water treatment facility there. But with a new water treatment facility going on line in the coming year, scheduled for April, but more likely by September, the money is not available to finance the maintenance of two systems. While no closure of Pacifica Pier is planned, that could change quickly with a series of howling Pacific storms that could undermine the pier’s support pilings. Behind the scenes, city administrators are scrambling for alternative financing, most likely from the state, perhaps even to deed the property to the California State Parks Department.

—Tom Stienstra, San Francisco Examiner, January 3, 1999

Pier renovation possibility brings back memories

Talks of re-opening the fabled San Mateo Pier, once known as the “shark pier,” is bringing back a flood of memories for Peninsula residents who remember fishing on the historic site.

Redwood City resident Rita Pease has fond memories of fishing on the San Mateo Pier in the 1970s with her father and three sisters. “We were living in San Mateo and it was nice because it was local,” Pease said. “It had pier railings and restroom facilities and a nice little family area.” Her family was not wealthy, but the San Mateo Pier, located at the base of the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge in Foster City, provided a safe space for her family to enjoy the outdoors and learn about the environment around them, Pease said. The weekly fishing expeditions were also a time for her father to spend with his four daughters.

The pier was originally part of a drawbridge connecting the Peninsula to Hayward. At the time of its opening in 1929, it was the longest bridge in the world. When traffic outgrew its capacity in the 1960s, it was torn down — but a large piece was left behind to be used as a pier.

After years of neglect, however, the county shut it down in 1995 when a visitor filed a lawsuit after stepping on a piece of rebar.

There aren’t too many piers on the Peninsula that are family-friendly anymore, Pease said. These days, she takes her young family pier fishing at Oyster Point in South San Francisco. “But I don’t think people think about piers as a resource for families and children anymore,” she said.

Unique opportunities — Because the pier reaches so far out into deep waters, it gave anglers who couldn’t afford to go out on boats unique fishing opportunities

“It was known as one of the very best piers in the entire Bay Area for sharks and rays,” said Ken Jones, author of “Pier Fishing in California.”

Around the shoreline, perch and jacksmelt can be caught seasonally. Further out, in the middle area of the pier, species like starry flounder and white croaker — known in the Bay Area as “kingfish” — as well as deeper water fish like striped bass, shark or ray can be caught. At the far end of the pier, where the water is nearly 40 feet deep, leopard sharks, bat rays, skates and sturgeon are prime game.  “There are only a couple piers that present the opportunities this one does,” Jones said.

Steve Richards, a Redwood City resident, remembers catching sand sharks and leopard rays on the pier as a youth. The nearly mile-long pier also gave him and his friends a chance to catch deeper water game, like striped bass, halibut and sturgeon. “It was the only pier this side of the Bay that gave you access to those fish,” Richards said. Richards also remembers going out to the San Mateo Pier for one of his first fishing expeditions with his father. “I have three children of my own now that I can’t take out there, so I have a strong interest in seeing it reopen,” Richards said.

Neglected piers get voice in Sacramento — Even though more hours are spent on pier angling than any other type of fishing, there is no group that fights for legislation to protect piers, Jones said. But the state’s piers are about to make some new friends as fishermen mobilize to petition Sacramento. Jones, a pier angler since 1962, is heading up a group of fishermen to form the United Pier and Shore Anglers of California. “There are always different groups for every issue, but there are not many people standing up for piers,” Jones said. This might be because many pier anglers are children and minorities who cannot speak English, he said. “They don’t get the same type of representation as those who have boats,” he said. “There’s never been an organization dedicated specifically for shoreanglers. The emphasis has been on the boating public.” The United Pier and Shore Anglers’ first project will be to educate the public about the benefits of maintaining piers. The group will seek city and county permission to put up plexiglass displays with educational material about the fish caught in local waters.

The State Coastal Conservancy, the agency that gave San Mateo County the $100,000 grant for its current feasibility study to explore the pier’s refurbishment, looks for just these sort of fringe projects to assist, said agency spokesman David Hayes.

Pier fishing became popular during the Great Depression, when people used piers for subsistence fishing. But piers require a lot of upkeep; most piers need repairs from storm damage about every two years, Jones said.

There have been a string of pier shutdowns in recent times, including the closing of Franklin Delanor and Middle Harbor Piers in Oakland and Warm Water Cove Pier in San Francisco, which burned down. The city chose not to rebuild it.

—Yunmi Choi, San Mateo Daily Journal, June 7, 2003   

The perfect pier— Local anglers hope for Werder facelift

FOSTER CITY — What would the perfect fishing pier look like? For Ken Jones, it would be about a mile long, span several different depths and offer access to a variety of aquatic species.

That just about describes Werder Pier, the last remnant of the original San Mateo-Hayward Bridge. It is the longest pier in the state, running nearly a mile into the middle of San Francisco Bay.  Werder Pier is closed to the public, and has been since 1997 when public safety issues forced the county to shut the gates. It sits at the edge of East Hillsdale Boulevard in Foster City, where Caltrans has used it as a staging area for repairs to the existing adjacent bridge.

This is a travesty, according to Jones, who heads the Stockton-based United Pier and Shore Anglers of California — a recently launched nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of pier fishing in California. Jones, along with several UPSAC members, recently attended a public meeting at Foster City’s Recreation Center, where county officials attempted to gauge the degree of public interest in re-opening the pier.

The well-attended meeting — more than 30 people showed up from around the Bay Area — gave the county significant positive feedback to move forward with the project.

“I didn’t hear people say, ‘That pier was a problem and we don’t want it back again,’” said Sam Herzberg, the county parks planner in charge of the project. “People provided very useful and constructive input recommending how to address certain issues.” Those issues include public safety. Foster City’s only homicide left a dead body on the pier in 1996. That case remains unsolved. Graffiti is also a potential problem, as is off-hour use.

But Jones said those issues are easily addressed. He imagines a tackle shop on the pier that would serve the dual roles of providing a service to the anglers and keeping an extra set of eyes on the pier for the county.

Herzberg agrees. “A concession would be highly supportive on the uses out there,” he said. “But it’s not going to generate a lot of revenue. Basically, if it breaks even, you’re happy.”

Foster City resident Daniel Kim missed the public meeting but wants the pier to re-open. “I believe the community of Foster City is not using the bay to its full potential,” he said. “Opening the pier would attract different parts of the community that otherwise would not head down to the Bay Trail.” Kim, 25, has been fishing with his father since elementary school. He said the migratory routes of fish in the bay make Werder Pier attractive.

Herzberg said he’s glad to see so much public interest. But, he acknowledged that the reality of a pier is a long way off, particularly when it carries a price tag as high as $6.5 million. “Fishing piers are being eliminated around the state,” Herzberg said. “This pier could be restored and made useful again. Would it require significant funding to do that? Yes.”

At this point, Herzberg says the county has zero funding for the project. But a $100,000 grant from the Coastal Conservancy will keep the wheels turning on the feasibility study through the end of the year. There are plans for a second public meeting in early December, and the county will hold focus groups on funding options.

 —Josh Wein, San Francisco Examiner, October 14, 2003

Article posted to PFIC by Ken Jones & Responses

Posted by FakeFisherman

Fantastic. Great to know there are talks about the future possibilities of this pier. Thanks for the information, Ken, and thanks to the other UPSAC members for their representation and involvement. This is one pier I would LOVE to see back in action. I’m sure you will keep us posted as to how we can help in this issue.

-Matty (

Posted by thaapocalypse571

Sweet. I’ve never fished that pier but I live only like 5 mins away and from reading the archive it seems awesome…

Posted by Ken Jones 

Efforts seem to have stalled. Some locals… are against it as was the Highway Patrol. But the issue is not dead.

Posted by SanClementeEric

Think Big! Ken, One way to approach this pier project is to THINK BIG! Imagine all of the UPSAC goals being satisfied with this pier. You could have a large educational facility on this pier that works with all of the conservationist identities as well. mI think of a place like the Ocean Institute here in Dana Point, but there on your own ONE MILE PIER!!

Something that big, could generate tons of funding. Really, anything is possible. All you have to do is get enough interest generated in the project(s). Think big and put the word out to everyone you know, and everyone they know and so on and so on. It really will grow and grow and would be as you envision. You are the driving force behind this happening, Man. It’s a fantastic idea. I, for one, would be willing to do what I could to help.

Posted by Crabman

Count me in as well to help. I also live about 5 minutes away. I used to fish and crab that pier 20 years ago. Was sorry to see it close.

Posted by pierhead

Re: Think Big! Ken and I had talked about this very idea some time ago and I sent him a link to a group that had got $1.1M funding to build a fishing pier/research center. I agree that Werder Pier has potential and I definitely would like to see Ken man the B&T shop/research center. Since Ken is a former teacher he could link up with the local schools and hold ‘classes’ and Kid’s Fishing Days. That would be a dream come true for all of us in UPSAC!

Pierhead, Proud Supporter of UPSAC

Posted by dompfa ben

That’s what I was thinking… Run it as an “after-school program” or open a charter school on-site, and see if you can get funding that way. Ahnold spoke highly of supporting charter schools as part of his vision. Cha-ching. Imagine all the integrated lessons, cooperative learning, science labs and experiments… and hey–not too many questions about what kids would do at recess. “For homework, I want you to snell 5 leaders, and crimp down the barbs on the hooks for tomorrow’s lesson. And read the first 50 pages of Old Man and the Sea.”  Resume available upon request ;)

Posted by pierhead

You and Ken would make a … great teaching team :)

Posted by pierhead

Re: Another funding example… taken from Ken’s recent post – With the help of an EPA grant, students from the Ma’at Youth Academy, a Richmond nonprofit environmental education program, completed a survey of fish consumption in the area, and have distributed yellow flyers to fishermen.

A survey of fish consumption? Right up our alley :)

Pierhead, Proud Supporter of UPSAC

Posted by dkkim

Wow, thanks Ken. I didn’t realize my comments were published in the Chronicle. Better yet, I didn’t realize that my voice would be heard. It is pretty sad. Just yesterday I rode my bike by the pier and was studying the structures around the pier at low tide.  Dan Kim

County mulls Werder fix-up; funds are tight

FOSTER CITY — Plans to renovate Werder Fishing Pier — once the world’s longest bridge — are receiving short shrift from the Foster City Council.

The pier is all that is left of what was the first vehicle bridge to span the Bay. It fell into disrepair in the years after San Mateo County assumed management of the span in 1967. County representatives outlined plans for a $7.2 million makeover during the regular City Council meeting Monday.

Though the pier is owned by the county, Foster City borders the property and maintains the Bay Trail that leads into the pier facilities. The county recently received a $100,000 grant from the California Coastal Conservatory to complete a restoration feasibility study. Officials have concluded that costs for the restoration of shoreline improvements as well as pier rehabilitation could range anywhere from $3.2 million up to $7.2 million.

While the Foster City Council has no official role in the project, the presentation was meant to help inform the community that lives closest to pier. Some council members, however, were more than skeptical. “I have a real negative feeling about the pier,” said Councilmember Ron Cox, who lives just a block from the property and says he remembers the days when teens used the property to drink and cause trouble at night. “I share Ron’s concern,” Mayor Marland Townsend said. “People think that Foster City has a sloppy corner and don’t realize it belongs to the county. But I don’t see the money for it.”

The county’s own focus groups mentioned concerns that included litter, graffiti, personal safety, theft and disorderly conduct.

Restoration plans include building a boat launch ramp for kayaks and other human-powered boats, a new parking lot, new lighting and a concessions building. The project would be completed in two phases, with the shoreline improvements preceding those made to the pier itself.

The county did find significant excitement for the project, not only in Foster City and San Mateo but throughout the region. Werder is currently the longest pier in California and allows good Bay access for fishing. In addition to fishing, the pier is used for biking, boat launches, bird watching and other activities.

In addition to skepticism about the project itself, councilmembers wondered aloud where financing for such an expensive project would come from. “It’s a beautiful idea, but who is going to pay for it? I wish you luck,” said Councilmember Linda Koelling. The county is currently trying to answer that question. Officials said they would go to entities such as the Coastal Conservancy, the state, the Wildlife Conservation Board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for assistance.

For now, however, the project seems a long way off. With the grant money to complete the feasibility study now gone, the county must examine how to proceed. Currently, county officials are in discussions with law enforcement agencies to attempt to gain their support. This has been a hard sell since Sept. 11, however, since agencies are reluctant to support an area that may be difficult to protect.

—Marc Longpre, San Francisco Examiner, May 5, 2004

Article posted to PFIC by Ken Jones & Responses

Posted by SLO_GIN

Weird to read your post Ken. I was just talking to my best friend of 40 years about the pier and how we used to catch so many stripers out there in September and October. I remember being out there almost every weeknight in October. We used a lure called a Salty Dog. It was a simple Jig head with like a 4 1/2 inch plastic tail. We would wrap a small dental rubberband around the line and secured between the jig head and plastic tail so instead of the line coming from the eye of the jig head it would come from between the the head and plastic causing the tail to ride up instead of just drag in the mud. That trick made all the difference. I remember some unreal nights out there in the late 70′s. 10-15 stripers from 8 to 20 lbs. Guys walking the pier trolling hairraisers and big black jigs at night. Then later on in December we would use bullheads and catch 15-30 lbs all the time. HUGE batrays in the summer near the rocks in the flats. Huge pile perch all over the pilings. I’ll never forget those October nights hearing that distinctive pop of stripers feeding. You could hear that from what seemed like 2 miles away south or the pier on calm nights. Then they put those big street light type lights up on the highrise and they would shine in the water. The pier would create a shadow. Big stripers would hide in the shadows and ambush anchovies in the light. You could see them cruising the line. We would see a fish and cast a rebel in their path and catch quite a few. And I was out there the night that paint factory blew up in San Carlos. It looked like a nuclear bomb went off in Foster City. With the good comeback of stripers I’m betting the pier would rock once again if they get it open. Alot of good fishing has gone by the boards since that pier closed. Later on I got into sturgeon and I caught two 100 plus at #140… If you guys remember the pilings were numbered. Piling #140 was right on a drop off. I wonder if any of you were out there in those days. If you were I wonder if you remember the guy on the bike with red hair…the guy was out there every night and I was fishing the light line one night next to him and watched a 32-lb striper come from the shadows and grab his rebel. Took him a half hour but he landed it. I miss that pier and tonight I learned it’s name… I always just called it the bridge. The laat memory I have is going to the races at Bay Meadows and taking a walk out on the pier after. It was January and I watched a guy catch four keeper sturgeon in an hour on mud shrimp around piling #128. Good luck on getting it opened again!

Posted by Ken Jones

Interesting post. Wish I had been able to fish it a few more times before it closed.


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2 Responses to San Mateo Pier aka the Werder Pier — Gone But Not Forgotten

  1. Simon Woodstock says:

    Hey Ken, I am making a non-profit documentary movie that references. Might it be okay to use a couple of your photos in the docu if we give you photo credit? Either way, thanks.

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