Marin Rod & Gun Club Pier aka Camiccia Family Memorial Pier

There was a time, and it seems more and more like an ancient time, when hunting and fishing was practiced by a majority of the population.  Every family seemed to have a fishing rod sitting in the closet or garage and rural families probably had a rifle somewhere in the house (or behind the seat of their pickup). For the “sportsman,” virtually every newspaper had an “outdoors” writer who supplied weekly if not daily updates on local results.

Many if not most cities, big and small, also had “Rod and Gun” clubs. Many of these dated back to the ‘20s and the Bay Area alone had several dozen “Rod and Gun” and  “Sportsmen’s” clubs (not counting the “Striped Bass” and “Surf Fishing clubs”). Most of these are now history.

One of the largest remaining “Rod and Gun” clubs in California, with over 1200 members, is the Marin Rod and Gun Club, which was founded in 1926 (and called the Marvelous Marin Rod and Gun Club from 1927 until the mid ‘30s).

The  stated goals at inception were the conservation, preservation and propagation of fish and game. It has remained true to its original purpose and is as active today in conservation and environmental projects as it was over 90 years ago.

The entrance to the pier

Luckily for anglers, the club has maintained and even improved at times what is now a real rarity—a private pier from which club members (and their guests) can fish. Good thing! Of course being a private instead of a “public” pier also means you need a California fishing license when fishing from the pier (and the rule is enforced).

Maintenance of the pier is a never ending project

Environment. The pier is 2,300-foot long, sits on Point San Quentin, is adjacent to the western end of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, and pokes out into the water of San Francisco Bay. Heading west on the bridge the first exit right takes you to the club, go left and you’ll be headed to San Quentin Prison (but do not stop for a friendly visit).

Given that the bridge sees nearly 80,000 cars a day traversing its expensive lanes, it is probably one of the most viewed piers in the Bay Area. Most of the people sitting in their cars probably have little knowledge of the pier’s usage or its interesting history. On the other hand, drivers who are “pier rats” may see the pier and simply think—“how do I fish that pier?” That’s certainly what I thought for years.

The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge

As for the pier’s waters, it is mostly shallow although the pier’s length allows those at the end to fish in somewhat deeper channels. Inshore, a short distance north of the pier, sees eelgrass beds. At three points out from the pier, also on the north side, sit a series of submerged reefs containing oyster shells, part of a plan to reestablish native oysters to the area. Both projects are cooperative projects between the club and various agencies and are designed to help the health of the bay. If they also help the fishing in the area that’s a plus for the project.

Events are held throughout the year and when they are the pier can be crowded

Being a private pier means members are expected to keep the pier clean—and it shows since the pier is cleaner than most public piers. Club members have also thought of several useful amenities. One is the hoop nets located every hundred feet or so along the pier. When you hook a big fish, especially a big bat ray you need a net to bring it up onto the pier.

Hoop nets are lined against the pier to help anglers bring large fish up onto the pier

Another GREAT addition to the pier is the three-sided windbreaks on the pier. They allow a person to fish is relative peace and quiet on those days when the bone-chillin’ winds come howling in through the Golden Gate and whip the bay into a froth.

A windbreakl

Near the pier’s entrance sit several old shopping carts and these too are a special amenity. Given the length of the pier, they are a godsend for those who do not have their own personal pier carts to use for the rods, reels, tackle boxes, coolers, and assorted goodies that “pier rats” bring to a pier.

The Fish.

Striped Bass—Striped bass are and have been the most sought after fish at the pier since its inception. In fact, the pier was often referred to as the “striped bass pier” back before most of us were born.

The Marin Rod and Gun Club is the proud owner of the largest striped bass pier in the world.

Petaluma Argus-Courier, January 12, 1940

 This picture of a striped bass hangs in the clubhouse

Those days saw a different world. Stripers were seen as the “common man’s fish” and HUGE striped bass derbies were held throughout the San Francisco Bay-San Joaquin Delta region. In fact, the club itself sponsored a “Striped Bass Carnival” that was held at McNear’s Beach in 1934 and 1935 (since the Pt. San Quentin property and pier was not acquired by the club until June 1936). It attracted thousands of anglers to the event and was wildly heralded throughout the region.

Pretty Girls Will Assist Bass Carnival In Marin

Who wouldn’t be a striped bass and get acquainted with all the Marin county aquatic queens? The most pulchritudinous maids of Marvelous Marin are to be participants in the first annual Striped Bass Carnival, to be held at McNear’s Beach, near San Rafael, Sunday, April 15, and even the “stripers,” generally chary of human companionship at the end of a fishing line, must be looking forward to the event. And such an event as it will be! Devotees of the rod and reel from all parts of northern California are joining to make the carnival an outstanding success. The event originally conceived by members of the Marin Rod and Gun Club, has the sponsorship of every sportsman’s club of the San Francisco bay area and will be replete with interesting features. There will be casting and trolling contests, a spectacular motorboat and yacht parade, a bathing beauty contest featuring the most beautiful girls of the bay area, comedy features galore, marksmanship contests and scores of other features to make the day a memorable one.

The Petaluma Argus-Courier. April 7, 1934

Over 10,000 people attended the event, members of the state fish and game commission were the guests of honor, and afterward it was declared a “Great Success.”

Stripers were king and at the time there seemed to be an inexhaustible supply of the fish.

Stripers taken by Preston in August 2013

Newspaper accounts regarding the pier talked of 40 bass in one day (August 1, 1949), 120 stripers in three days (May 1951), fishermen averaging 40 fish a day and catching over 600 fish in a few weeks (May 1951), nearly 1,000 stripers taken in 30 days and 40 fish in one hour (October 1957).

As for size, literally thousands of 10-20 pound striped bass have been taken over the years. Two of the largest stripers were a 34-pound, 48-inch fish taken in May of 1959 and another 34-pound fish taken in September of 1975.

A striper taken in August 2015

Of course times have changed, striped bass no longer receive support from the Fish and Wildlife Department (they’re a non-native species), and there are far less stripers around today than in those days. Nevertheless, striped bass are still the main fish pursued by anglers at the pier.

A small striper taken in 2017

Flatfish— Several flatfish can be caught from the pier and luckily it is pretty much a year round sport. One favored species is most prevalent during the winter and spring months and a second most common during the summer to fall months.

Starry flounder were once one of the most common fish at the pier and when the striped bass were missing anglers concentrated on the flounder.

Newspaper account in the San Rafael Independent Journal chronicled many of the catches including thousands of flounder up to six pounds being taken from the pier (April 1952), flounder being taken in good numbers (March 1953), good-sized flounder being taken at the pier (March 1954), many fine catches of flounder to three and four pounds; best run of flounders in the past five years (January 1956), flounders up to three and four pounds, and plenty of smaller ones caught close to shore (January 1958), exceptional flounder fishing with hundreds being caught each day up to five pounds (April 1958)—and these are just a few of the reports.

As for size, the largest recorded was a 9-pound flounder taken in April of 1949.

However, just as the entire Bay Area has seen a steep decline in the number of starry flounder during the past few decades, so too has this pier. They are still caught, primarily from late November to April, but rarely in the big numbers once seen.

A second flatfish, favored by all, is California halibut. Surprisingly, this is a species rarely caught at the pier until the past twenty years.

Small California halibut caught in August 2015

Halibut are not considered a “resident” Bay Area species by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Instead they are seen as a more southerly species that traveled north during warm-water El Nino years and have managed to live and populate during those years. Just as halibut have become a favored species for the Sportfishing boats, so too have the hallies shown up at Bay Area piers including this pier.

Halibut, both smaller illegal-size fish and larger fish, seem to show up from about May until September and when caught (if large enough) are considered a prize catch. Fish exceeding 15 pounds have been caught from the pier.

The third flatfish occasionally seen is diamond turbot, a pretty little fish rarely exceeding 12 inches in length that will often nibble on a small hooks baited with worms.

Brian Linebarger with a diamond turbot taken in 2017

Jacksmelt—Jacksmelt are numerically probably the number one fish taken from the pier. They’re not that big but put up a spirited fight (especially on light tackle) and often provide some sport when other, more favored sport fish seem to have deserted the pier’s waters.

 Nice jacksmelt caught in 2016

Jacksmelt taken in 2016

Perch— Perch are fairly common at the pier but more often than not are caught as an incidental catch by those fishing for other fish (although a couple of club members specialize in the perch and they know how to “get them.”

This was not always the case; there was a time when big numbers of perch were caught at the pier. One newspaper account reported that thousands of flounder and redtail perch were being taken from the pier (April 1952), another report just a month later said hundreds of redtail perch had been landed (May 1952). Flounder and redtail perch fishing was good with redtails to two pounds in weight (February 1953) while March and May saw similar reports.

November 1954 saw a report saying that “the perch and pogies are in” seemingly overlooking the fact that the “pogies” being reported were perch. January 1956 saw reports of fine catches while “plenty of perch” were being caught (April 1956). January 1958 also saw “fine catches” of perch. In December 1970 one article reported the catch of 32 perch averaging 1 ½ pound in a single day. Such were the reports.

As for large perch, a rubberlip perch weighing 3 pounds was reported caught in March 1977 while a slightly smaller fish weighing 2 pound 13 ½ ounce was caught in March 1976.

However, as with the bass and flounder, the numbers have decreased since those days. But perch are fun to catch and you only need a light rod and reel rigged with 6-8 pound test line.

Most of the perch you will see at the pier will be either the larger seaperch—blackperch, pileperch, rubberlip perch, white perch, and striped perch (a few), or surfperch—the smaller walleye and silver perch or the larger redtail and calico surfperch.

A blackperch taken in August 2013

Most common of all perch, and a good fish to catch for live bait are the small shinerperch.

What must be remembered when discussing perch is that San Francisco Bay sees a perch closure from April 1 to July 31, a time when only shinerperch may be taken. But, as said, the winter and spring months (through March) are the prime time for many of the species. In addition, while years ago people would fill buckets and sacks with perch, today the limit is five perch in San Francisco and San Pablo Bay. For shinerperch the limit is 20.

Sharays—The Elasmobranchi species, sharks and rays, are probably the second most common fish caught from the pier, especially during the spring to fall months.

Leopard shark taken in August 2015

Species vary with leopard sharks and brown smoothhounds leading the shark parade and bat rays (mud marlin) leading the parade for rays. All are common and the “leppies” and “mud marlin” are the fish most often providing the “big fish” fights on the pier.

A brown smoothhound shark taken in August 2015

Intruding into the mix will be a few skate, including big skate, and a fish rarely seen in the bay until a few years ago—shovelnose sharks (guitarfish).

A small bat ray (mud marlin) taken in 2017

Shovelnose guitarfish taken in 2016

Miscellaneous Fish—Although the pier will rarely see the number of species encountered at oceanfront piers, or even see the number caught at Bay Area piers sitting closer to the Golden Gate, it does see a few different species caught each year. Some are saltwater fish that may journey further up the bay when salinity levels increase during summer and fall months; some may be anadromus fish that can travel between freshwater and saltwater.

Saltwater fish have included such fish as lingcod, various sculpin, small rockfish and herring.

Anadromus species include salmon and steelhead. Salmon, most often smaller salmon, have been caught in the early spring months when traveling along the Marin shoreline on their way to saltwater. In the fall, larger salmon take the underwater Marin highway on their way back up through San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay before entering the Carquinez Strait and eventually, the Sacramento or San Joaquin river systems prior to spawning.

Salmon were reported from the pier in March of 1949 and 1954; September reports took place in 1941 and 1949; and a lone December report was made in 1964. The largest fish was a 21-pound salmon taken in September 1941 and an 18-pound salmon taken in December 1964. Undoubtedly more have been caught that didn’t make the news.

Steelhead too make an occasional though less frequent appearance and all were winter-time fish. Steelhead weighing three pounds each were reported in February 1953, January 1956 and January 1958, while a steelhead (weight unknown) was reported in February 1974. Again, there were probably many more fish taken but unreported over the years.

Likely caught, but never reported, are shad that also pass through local waters on their way up to the Sacramento River.

Fishing Tips.

Striped Bass—Most of the stripers taken by anglers at the pier will be caught using the typical leaders—high/low leaders or Carolina-type leaders. In addition, a third special approach is often used by those in the know when using the Carolina rigging.

For the high/low rig simply attach a sinker at the bottom of your line with a snap-swivel (using a sinker simply heavy enough to hold on the bottom). Next attach two short dropper leaders with hooks to the line, one about 18 inches up from the sinker and then a second another 18 inches higher. Hooks can be size 2 to about 2/0 and high/lows are good when using dead bait—anchovies, sardines, etc., or live bait like pile worms, bloodworms, grass shrimp or ghost shrimp.

For the Carolina rigging run the line through an egg sinker (with a hole in the middle) and a small plastic bead before attaching the line to a barrel swivel. To the swivel attach a 36-40 inch leader with a live bait hook (if using live bait). The Carolina rig is best when using live bait, i.e., a small smelt or shinerperch, or when using artificial lures.

A special technique used by members of the “Bass Brigade”—club regulars who fish the pier on a regular basis, is “trolling the pier.” It’s a technique I’ve seen used for halibut in southern California for twenty years or so but it may actually have originated here at the pier for striped bass almost 70 years ago. The first reference to the technique was seen in an August 1952 San Rafael Independent Journal article that said eight stripers had been taken on the pier on bait and trolling. The next reference was in July of 1957 when an article said “a few nice fish were taken Saturday, including an 8-1/2-pounder trolling by walking the pier, which, incidentally, is a uniquely Marin way of taking stripers.” Many references to the technique and its success have shown up over the years.

An angler “trolling” the pier

As the name implies, you walk along the pier with a bait or artificial lure. You keep the bait/lure in motion a foot to two feet above the bottom and are ready for a strike at all times. Bass often like to hang around structure, i.e., pier pilings, and are often in the depressions between the pilings.

As for which lures to use? Many of the same lures used in trolling in boats can be used on the pier. One of the first newspaper stories talked about anglers using Hair Raisers when trolling at the pier. Today more anglers will use plastics, especially swim bait-type lures, i.e, (Big Hammer,  Fish Traps, Berkeley Gulp Minnows or Berkeley Sand Worms). Check with the regulars since they know what’s been working best.

Striped bass taken in August 2017

Flatfish—Starry Flounder. Most starry flounder are caught with live bait—pile worms, ghost shrimp or grass shrimp although pieces of anchovy or sardine will also work (just not as well). Hook size is usually 4 or 2.

For years the standard rigging used in the Bay Area for flounder was a plastic “fish-finder” rigging (same as used for sturgeon) through which the line was run. The line is attached to a barrel swivel and then a leader is attached to the swivel. The sinker is attached via a snap-swivel that is attached to the plastic.

Once baited, the rigging is cast out and the reel is set on a very light drag, or no drag with the clicker on. If a fish picks up the bait, the line can be pulled out without the fish feeling any pressure. Thus the flounder has time to play with and mouth the bait, an important trait when fishing for fish that give a light bite. Flounder prefer to mouth the bait before striking. Give ‘em some line, wait a couple of seconds, then strike.

These plastic rigs are (were) easily purchased at most local tackle shops. The alternative is usually a Carolina-like rigging. The difference is that the plastic rigging works better with a variety of bottom hugging sinkers while the Carolina rigging is usually used with an egg sinker that will drift along the bottom with the current.

Generally these sliding bait rigging work better than a high/low leader although they too are used. Flounder are very picky and if they feel any resistance will often drop the bait.

Flatfish—California Halibut. Halibut are ambush predators that like to lie on the bottom and watch for a reasonable-size baitfish to come swimming along. As soon as that happens the halibut darts off the bottom and grabs the bait. Dead bait simply thrown out and sitting motionless on the bottom rarely interests Mr. and Mrs. Halibut.

Live bait is one option and can be fished using Carolina-type rigging. Run your line through an egg sinker (with a hole in the middle) and a small plastic bead before attaching the line to a barrel swivel. To the swivel attach a 36-40 inch leader with a live bait hook.

Or, you can simply use one of the plastic fish-finer rigs mentioned above. Some anglers prefer using the plastic when using a somewhat heavier sinker. In either case the live bait swimming above the bottom should attract a halibut if they are around.

The key of course is to find some live bait. Some anglers may drive to San Francisco or Berkeley Marina to pick up live bait and then try to keep it alive in buckets using an aerator. Another approach is to catch live bait at the pier and generally that means small perch like walleyes, silvers or shinerperch. Small smelt can also be used.

A small halibut taken by Mikayla Melero in 2016 (and safely returned to the water)

A specialty at the pier is “trolling the pier,” as discussed for striped bass, and the technique  can also be deadly for the halibut.  It can be used with live bait when using the Carolina-egg sinker rigging.

“Trolling” on the pier can also be used with lures, especially swim bait-type lures like Big Hammer, Fish Traps, Berkeley Gulp Minnows or Berkeley Sand Worms. The latest favorite lures used for halibut in SoCal, albeit somewhat expensive lures, are Lucky Craft lures, especially the Flash Minnow design in MS Anchovy or Metallic Sardine color.  I’m not sure if they’ve been tried here but well worth a try.

Set up a Carolina rig and attach the lure to the leader. Hook the swim bait through its nose and then walk it along the pier (typically 2-3 feet above the bottom). Halibut like to lay in the depressions between the pilings and when the bait/lure comes swimming along above it they will rush up to grab the food. Using this approach you always have the rod in your hand, will know when the halibut hits, and hopefully will respond accordingly.

Jacksmelt—Jacksmelt usually are found three to six feet under the surface of the water so that is where you want to place your bait. The most common rigging is a torpedo sinker placed on the bottom of your line (1/2 ounce or one-ounce depending on your float), with three size 8 or 6 hooks placed about every 12-18 inches above the sinker. A float of some type (a piece of styrofoam, a balloon, or a bobber) is attached a couple of feet above the top hook. The float should keep the bait and hooks near the surface.  Baits are usually pile worm, small pieces of shrimp, or pieces of baitfish and you simply need to keep an eye on when the float is pulled under the water. Caution — some people like to use the Sabiki-type bait rigs for smelt. If you do, remember to remove three of the hooks (they usually have six) since the limit inside the bay is three hooks.

A jacksmelt and a happy angler

The jacksmelt will range from about 12 to 16 inches or so and for their size put up a spirited fight. Jacksmelt are caught year round.

A jacksmelt taken in 2012

Perch—The seaperch—blackperch (called pogies by most), whiteperch, rubberlip perch, and striped perch typically are found on the bottom and a simple hi/lo rigging works best. Put a one-two ounce torpedo sinker on the bottom and using dropper loops tie on two size 6 or 4 hooks above the sinker, one about a foot from the bottom and the second a foot or so further up. Prime bait will be live ghost shrimp, pile worms, bloodworms, or grass shrimp but you may have a hard time finding live bait. Next up is small pieces of market shrimp or mussels (and fresh mussels are best). Strips of squid, pieces of clam, or even small pieces of anchovies may bring in a few perch but they are far inferior baits. The larger perch also will hit on small crabs (1/2-inch or so), which you may find by looking under shoreline rocks.

The surfperch—walleyes and silvers, are usually at mid-depth and the same hi/lo rigging but with size 8 or 6 hooks will work. Best bait for these is pile worms and bloodworms but they will hit almost any bait; the key is small hooks and finding the school because usually if you find one walleye or silver you will find more.

Shinerperch take similar bait and riggings with some people dropping the hook size down to 10 or 8. The shiners are too small to eat but do make good bait for striped bass.

All of the perch like to hang around the pilings and a good technique is to drop the line on the side of the pier from which the tide is running and let it drift under the pier near a piling.

The larger perch, especially rubberlip perch will also often hit small artificial lures. Small Kastmaster spoons (1/12 or 1/8 oz. size in chrome or chrome with blue or green) will work while many people like rubber grubs or Berkeley “Gulp Sand Worms” in camo, root beer or oil colors.

Best technique with the spoons is generally jigging them up and down just off the bottom. For the grubs and fake worms, cast out and retrieve the lure slowly back to the pier. give the lure a slow retrieve.

As a general rule the blackperch will be found in the innermost section of the pier just past the entrance building as will most of the seaperch. Given the blackperch affinity for eelgrass a cast out toward the inshore eelgrass beds should prove productive. The surfperch, pileperch, whiteperch and shinerperch will venture farther out to deeper waters and may be found almost anywhere on the pier.

Winter months sometimes sees large schools of pileperch move into the area while spring is often the best time for the other seaperch. Summer months seem most productive for the surfperch.

Sharays—Sharks and rays are reliable species much of the year and, as said, provide most of the “big” fish for pier catches. However, most of the big fish are not that big. Large leopard sharks, some approaching five feet in length, and large bat rays, some approaching a hundred pounds in weight, are occasionally seen but the majority of the sharays will be smaller fish, most 5-20 pounds in weight. You do need heavier tackle—rod, reel and line, with 30-50 pound test line probably being sufficient, but for the sharays a little heavier than a little lighter is probably good advice. The typical high/low or Carolina riggings can be used but move up the hook size; size 2 to 6/0 hooks are common with size dependent upon the bait being used.

Leopard shark taken in August 2013

The sharks generally like an oily piece of fish for bait—sardine, herring, mackerel, or anchovy although they will also hit jacksmelt (whole or pieces); if fish is unavailable try squid. With the rays the preference on bait is switched. Squid is liked the best followed by the oily fish. Live bait is rarely used but a small smelt or perch will take some sharks, especially leopard sharks. An additional trick used by some, especially if using a Carolina rig or the plastic fish-finder rigs is to use two hooks in tandem at the end of the leader., double hooking a whole sardine or squid  A bait tick is to use a whole squid with a sardine placed inside its body.

A small brown smoothhound taken in 2016

For all of these play them out before bringing them to the pier, they can be strong and the hard part if when you are ready to net them. A strong fish that is not played out will give an additional run when spotting the pier and you do not want it wrapping the line around the piling.

 Hans Jones and a small bat ray — 2017

A shovelnose guitarfish taken in 2015

Sturgeon—The plastic “fish-finder” rigging used for flounder also works well for sturgeon The main line is run through a plastic sleeve then attached by way of a snap-swivel or swivel to a leader. The sinker is attached to the snap on the side of the plastic sleeve. Once baited, the rigging is cast out and the reel is set on a very light drag, or no drag with the clicker on. If a fish picks up the bait, the line can be pulled out without the fish feeling any pressure.

Sturgeon require heavier line (typically 30 pound or heavier test nylon coated wire), larger hooks (2/0 to 6/0) and bigger baits. Several grass shrimp, a couple of pile worms, one or two large mud shrimp, or a fresh piece of herring should do the trick.

Do remember if seeking out sturgeon that you need a sturgeon card in addition to your regular license. Also remember that the sturgeon must be between 40 and 60 inches, (fork length) to keep.

Measuring a leopard shark, 2014

Nope, too small. Time for a quick picture and then back into the water.

E-Mail Messages

Date: December 6, 1997; To: Ken Jones; From: Keith Korsgal; Subject: S.F. Bay Fishing

Fished Friday, Dec 5 at the Marin Rod and Gun Club Pier. Lots of bullheads, a few stripers and the perch and flounder are starting to pick up. Anchovies are the bait for the stripers, with pile worms and grass shrimp are doing well for the perch and flounders. Make sure to dress warm and be prepared for wet weather.

Keith, Can a non-club member visit the pier for a fee or do they need to be a member, and if they do, how much does it cost to join the club? Thanks, Ken Jones

Ken, Regarding the Rod and Gun club pier. A non-member can go as a member’s guest. To join the club costs $135 initiation fee and then $35 a year after that. There is no longer a shooting range available, so the only facilities available are the fishing pier, and the club house which is open from 12 noon until 6 p.m. They have drinks, sodas, soup and chili at very reasonable prices.  Keith

Keith, Sounds interesting. I may be down over the new year and if so I will drop you a message. It would be interesting to try a new pier. Best wishes, Ken

Date: March 9, 1998; To: Ken Jones; From: Keith; Subject:  Marin Rod and Gun Club

Ken, The Rod and Gun club pier has been pretty good lately. Lots of stripers up to 30 lbs., quite a few sanddabs, and even an occasional sturgeon.

Date: Mar 31, 1998; To: Ken Jones; From: Keith &Jackie; Subject: SF Bay area Piers

Ken, Here are short reports on the following Piers: Marin Rod and Gun Club:  Lots of small stripers, a few large ones and lots of flounders and sanddabs. Most fishing is best two hours before the high tide to two hours after. Bait used is anchovies and sardines for stripers, pile worms and grass shrimp (if you can get them) for the flounders and sanddabs.

Date: October 5, 1998; To: Ken Jones; From: Keith & Jackie ; Subject: New Pier

Ken,  The fishing at the Rod and Gun club has been busy.  A lot of small stripers on up to 27″, lots of smelt, and a few rays.

Date: January 14, 1999; To: Keith Korsgal; From: Ken Jones; Subject: Marin Rod and Gun Club Pier

Keith, Hope you’re enjoying the new year and catching some fish. About this time of the year used to be the time when the big piling perch would be hanging around the Red Rock Pier. Do you find the same holds true at the Marin Rod and Gun Club Pier? Seems like it would although they’re on the opposite ends of the bridge. Of course, there used to be a lot of sunken boats and other perch-attracting objects by the Red Rock Pier. Best wishes and hoping you’re catching a lot of fish, Ken

Ken, The perch fishing at the Rod and Gun club is pretty good.  The pilings all have a heavy growth of barnacles and other things, and the perch bite really well on grass shrimp, pile worms, and small strips of anchovies.  I like to fish with an ultra light pole with 6# line and use crappie jigs.

The fishing is best right under the pier.  There used to be some of the pier boards with hinges so you could open them and fish straight down, but some people weren’t closing them when they were finished, and the club closed them.

Members with small boats go to the pilings just 30 yards off the end of the pier, and catch lots of big perch, especially when the tide is moving well, usually right after the top of the tide. Hope this helps.  Keith

Keith, Thanks for the reply. I assumed it was a good perch area but it is always dangerous to assume anything when talking about fishing. Best wishes, Ken

Date: June 15, 2008; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Ken Jones; Subject: Marin Rod and Gun Club Pier

Yesterday I got an early Father’s Day present, the chance to fish on a new pier, or at least a new one for me, the Marin Rod and Gun Club Pier. I arrived late, the tides had changed, and action had slowed by my arrival, but I managed several nice-sized jacksmelt. But that’s all. Still, I saw a good-sized leopard shark landed along with several more jacksmelt and was told some under-sized halibut had been landed during the morning tide.

It’s a long pier and one of the nice things about it is that it is rarely crowded which allows the regulars the chance to troll their bait (or lure) along the pier without tangling other lines. Apparently that’s been the success recipe for most of the recent halibut and though I tried some trollin’ of my own the fish gave me a big snub. As usual live bait is preferred but it was unavailable and uncatchable yesterday.

But now I’ve fished from 128 California piers. However, since the specie list from those piers is 127, I need to go out and catch a new ‘un. Still looking for a green sturgeon or a moray eel from a pier.

A leopard shark taken in 2016


Author’s Note No. 1. Unfortunately I’ve only had the pleasure of visiting the club and its pier for about ten years. My first visit took place in June of 2008 when I was invited to the club to receive a “Randy Fry Award” from the Recreational Fish Alliance (RFA).

The award was for volunteer work I had done while serving on (1) the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) North Coast Project (as a member of the Regional Stakeholder Group); (2) my service as a member of the California Bay-Delta Sport Fishing Enhancement Stamp Committee (BDSFESC); and (3) my service as   president of United Pier and Shore Anglers of California (UPSAC).

The award ceremony was held at the club where I met up with two friends: Jim Martin, the Regional Director for RFA, and Jim Edgar a fellow member of the Bay-Delta Stamp Committee.

Jim Edgar facing the camera in the center, Jim Martin to the right

Jim Edgar was also a long-time club member and owner of the large Western Sports Shop in San Rafael. Jim invited me to visit the pier and do a little fishing and I took him up on the offer. I didn’t catch much—three large jacksmelt, but was very impressed by both the pier and the friendly members in the clubhouse.

Several years later, in 2012, UPSAC as part of its Kids Fishing Derby program asked and was granted permission to hold a derby at the pier. However, the club already had its own successful  “Kids Day on the Pier” event. Why have two events? Thus UPSAC became a partner with the club on its annual derby and has done so since 2013. The club is the main sponsor and event organizer but UPSAC has been fully involved both with organization, loaner rods and tackle, prizes and people to help at the event. It’s turned out to be a great alliance.

One final aspect to the story was when I was invited to join the club in 2017. I now consider myself a proud member of the club.

Author Note No. 2. From its beginning years the club has been at the forefront of conservation efforts in many areas. One of the most recent examples has been its efforts to help oysters once again be a viable species in the area.

San Francisco Bay Shell Game For Oysters — Scientists building reefs to allow the return of the natives

Biologists dumped a dozen boatloads of oyster shells into the shallow waters off Point San Quentin over the weekend, hoping the castoffs will seed the comeback of native oysters that once flourished in San Francisco Bay.

Twenty volunteers did much of the heavy lifting near the wooden pier of the Marin Rod and Gun Club, which provided a convenient jumping-off point for what sponsors say is the largest native-oyster restoration effort in California.

Oysters that once blanketed the bay largely disappeared after the Gold Rush and urban settlement brought overharvesting, pollution and habitat loss. Now that bay restoration has helped restore water quality, ecologists want to expand the few oyster populations that managed to hold on.

Drake’s Bay Oyster Co. donated 24 pallet-loads, about 55 cubic yards, of oyster shells for the project. About 30 cubic yards were dumped Saturday and Sunday, the rest being saved for next spring.

Forming 2-foot piles on the bay floor, the shells make just enough of a solid, calcium-rich foundation to anchor living shellfish reefs in the bay’s otherwise unholy muck.

Oyster larvae typically die in a couple of weeks if they can’t find suitable bottom substrate, or cultch, upon which to attach and form their own shell. Other oyster shells are an ideal surface — even though the donated shells in the restoration project are from a different variety, the Pacific oyster, or Crassostrea gigas, not the West Coast’s native Olympia variety, Ostrea conchaphila. There aren’t enough native shells available for the project.

 Even if the restoration plan works, the tiny bay oysters will be too few to harvest. And because of copper and other heavy-metal contaminants in the estuary, the oysters that grow will be metallic-tasting and potentially unhealthy for humans.

Still, biologists financed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which contributed a $50,000 grant for the current phase of the work, say oysters are vital for the health of the bay.

“The goal is to build up these remaining populations to the point where they can sustain themselves,” said Summer Morlock, a marine specialist with the agency. “It would be wonderful to imagine the day when we can have an oyster harvest. But that isn’t really the goal.”

The project is still very much in the small-scale, experimental phase. Biologists at the conservation group Save the Bay are also working on oyster-restoration projects at different sites around the bay. Restoration spots were picked based on where native oysters can still be found — and where landowners are willing to allow access from shore.

On Sunday, Bill Craig, a Marin Rod and Gun Club volunteer, used his small motorboat to ferry out the last few sacks of oyster shells, along with scientists Rena Obernolte and Larry Floyd, both employees of MACTEC Engineering and Consulting Inc., a Petaluma company under contract to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The donated shells had undergone a long drying-out period at the Point Reyes oyster farm to keep any oceangoing invasive species from being imported into the bay. Volunteers bagged the shells in black mesh and stacked them like hay bales on wood pallets.

 They were loaded by hand into the boat and hauled out under the pier. Wearing wetsuits, the scientists jumped into the chest-deep water to guide the shells to their resting place.

A few early-morning anglers watched from the pier, along with project manager Robert “Bud” Abbott, a MACTEC senior principal biologist. Abbott said he hopes to eventually build oyster beds over wide expanses of the bay floor.

 “What we want to do is acres,” he said. “But we need to be sure we are doing it right. Before we can do acres, we have to do the research. There’s no textbook for how to go about this kind of thing.”

Each 2- or 3-inch oyster can filter several liters of water an hour. As their shells pile up, the growing reefs become habitat for other bay creatures, such as fish seeking shelter from predators or a spot to lay eggs.

The oysters’ filtration helps keep the water clear of phytoplankton and sediments, which may help sunlight make it through for the benefit of vegetation — such as native eelgrass, the focus of a separate restoration project under way nearby the half-mile-long Marin fishing pier.

Over time, the featureless mudflats could become thriving oyster meadows, the reefs forming a series of water breaks that retard sediment buildup and support a complex ecosystem — lunch stops, perhaps, for migrating juvenile salmon on their way to the sea.

“Oysters really can help build the food chain,” Morlock said.

The project faces many unknowns, including such threats as water pollution and invasive water snails, which have a rasplike tongue that can bore through oyster shells. Scientists plan to return to the experiment monthly to check how many oysters are taking up residence.

—Carl T. Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, August 14, 2006

Author Note No. 3. As mentioned there was a time when Rod & Gun Clubs, Sportsmen’s Clubs, and other fishing clubs existed in most towns.

As example, lists in 1937 and 1938 included the following (alphabetically):

Rod & Gun Clubs—Alameda Rod & Gun Club, Fort Mason Rod & Gun Club, Livermore-Pleasanton Rod & Gun Club, Pacific Gas and Electric Rod & Gun Club, Rodeo Rod & Gun Club, Salinas Rod & Gun Club, San Bruno Rod & Gun Club, Santa Cruz Rod & Gun Club, Southern Pacific Rod & Gun Club

Sportsmen’s Club—Berkeley Junior Sportsmen’s Club, Foothill Sportsmen’s Club (Oakland),  Hayward Sportsmen’s Club, Ingleside Sportsmen’s Club (SF), Los Gatos Sportsmen’s Club,  Newark Sportsmen’s Club, Redwood City Sportsmen’s Club, San Francisco Sportsmen’s Club, San Leandro Sportsmen’s Club, San Pablo Avenue Sportsmen’s Club (Albany), Washington Township Sportsmen’s Club (Centerville)

Others—Chevrolet Striped Bass Club (Oakland), Napa County Fish and Game Association, Oakland Striped Bass Club, Richmond Fish and Game Protective Association, San Francisco Surf Fishing Club, San Francisco Striped Bass Club

History—A second article, one devoted to the history of the pier will soon be posted.

Marin Rod and Gun Club Pier

Hours: the pier is open sunrise to sunset.

Facilities:  Small windbreaks are scattered along the pier and can be turned around as needed. A fleet of several old grocery carts are stationed near the front of the pier to help carry equipment out onto the pier.

Management: Marin Rod and Gun Club


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