California’s Longest Piers

The question in regard to the length of California’s piers is one that has come up fairly often and there is a lot of misinformation out there. Here’s the lengths —

Pier— Length — Comments

1. San Mateo Pier — 4,135 feet — Part of the old San Mateo Bridge — now closed
2. Berkeley Pier — 3,000 feet — An old pier originally used by cars to reach the Berkeley- San Francisco Ferry— now closed

3. Santa Cruz Wharf — 2,745 feet —Large old commercial wharf; shops, restaurants and fishing

4. Santa Monica Pier — 2,000 feet — Much of the shore end is over beach instead of water; used mainly for recreation

5. Ravenswood Pier — 2,000 feet — west end of old Dumbarton Bridge — now closed
6. Dumbarton Pier — 2,000 feet— east end of old Dumbarton Bridge

7. Ocean Beach Pier — 1,971 feet — Supposedly the longest concrete pier in the world

8. Ventura Pier — 1,958 feet — Supposedly the longest wooden pier in California

9. Stearns Wharf — 1,950 feet — Large commercial wharf; shops, restaurants and fishing

10. Oceanside Pier — 1,942 feet— Some sources say 1,950 feet
11. Seal Beach Pier — 1,865 feet — End section under reconstruction
12. San Francisco Muni — 1,850 feet — Could use some help (repair)

13. Huntington Beach Pier — 1,830 feet

14. Avila Pier — 1,685 feet — Closed for indefinite time, may need to be totally rebuilt

15. Monterey Wharf #2 — 1,636 feet — Large commercial wharf; used by commercial fishing boats at the end, recreational anglers inshore.

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Pacific Glasseye

Phylum: Chordata — Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fish)— Order: Perciformes (perch like)— Family: Priacanthidae  (bigeyes or catalufas)— Genus: Heteropriacanthus (Fitch and Crooke, 1984)

Species: Heteropriacanthus carolinus (Cuvier, 1829); from  the Greek heteros (different), prion (saw), and akantha  thorn) and the Latin carolinus (in reference to geographic area).

Identification: Silvery pink, mottled red or solid red in color; median fins with faint dark dots. Pelvic fins dusky or pale and without distinct spots. Section of preopercle behind canal striated and without scales. Dorsal spines (total): 10; Dorsal soft rays (total): 12-13; Anal spines: 3; Anal soft rays: 13 – 14.

Size: Most that are seen are around 8 inches in length; maximum length about 20 inches.

Range: Circumglobal in tropical and tropically influenced seas. Common in island habitats throughout the central Pacific. In the Eastern Pacific found along island habitats from off Baja California to the Galapagoes; probably uncommon along coast of Mexico, Central and South America, questionably to Chile.

The stressed fish prior to release

Habitat: Common in lagoon and seaward reefs, primarily around islands. Typically found in water 10 to 100 feet in depth although recorded to a depth of about 900 feet. Under or near ledges by day.   Nocturnal, feeding mainly on octopi, pelagic shrimp, stomatopods, crabs, small fish, and polychaetes . Solitary, during the day usually occurring singly or in small groups; at dusk it may gather in large numbers. Known to produce sound.

Piers: In California, only recorded at the Cabrillo Mole, Avalon, Catalina Island.

Shoreline: Not recorded in California.

Boats: Not recorded in California.

Bait and Tackle: The one caught was at night on a piece of shrimp.

Food Value: Marketed in fresh fish markets although some reports of ciguatera poisoning

Comments: In December 2017, I made a trip to Avalon on Catalina Island. The last afternoon was spent fishing on the Cabrillo Mole with the usual species being caught. At 5:30, with darkness descending, I stopped fishing and headed over to get a cup of hot chocolate. Upon my return I packed up the gear and sat down to relax and wait for the last ferry back to the mainland.

My rest was interrupted when I saw a nearby angler pull in a fish. I walked over to see what he had caught which, I expected, would be a type of rockfish or a salema, both of which hit well at the Mole after it is dark.

However, the fish turned out to be a species that was new to me (and a quick check of my reference book did not reveal a picture). My first thought had been of a tiny, juvenile giant sea bass (it was only 5-6 inches long) but the fin structure was wrong. My next thought was of a was a popeye catalufa, the fin structure was about right but the color was wrong. My friend Hashem and I talked the angler into letting us take a couple of quick photos before returning the fish to the water.  Since I am always seeking out new species, that fish, even though I didn’t catch it, put the final cap on the trip.

Upon returning home I sent a copy of the pictures to Milton Love at UC Santa Barbara for identification but he said he’s never seen it before. He said he would send the pictures out to a network of experts who should be able to identify it. It took a while but eventually it was decided that the fish was probably a  Pacific glasseye, Heteropriacanthus carolinus, a fish more common to indo-Pacific waters like Hawaii and Australia.

Unfortunately, we had returned the fish to the water which Mr. Love let me know is generally good but in this case might have provided a definitive answer to the species (me bad!). Nevertheless, it may be the first recorded sighting of the fish in California.

Main Reference: FishBase — Starnes, W.C., 2018.FishBase.World Wide Web electronic publication., ( 06/2018 

“The glasseye fish Heteropriacanthus, previously known as a monotypic genus, is now divided into three species based on morphological and genetic features. After examination on the type specimens and literature, herein we resurrect two junior binomens, H. carolinus (Cuvier, 1829) from the Indo-Pacific Ocean and H. fulgens (Lowe, 1838) from the northeastern Atlantic Ocean. Heteropriacanthus cruentatus (Lacepède, 1801) is now considered to be restricted to the Atlantic and southwestern Indian oceans. In light of these observations we discuss the evolutionary history of the genus.”

“Glasseyes or glass bigeyes (Heteropriacanthus) are a genus of the bigeye family found in all tropical seas around the world. It occasionally makes its way into the aquarium trade. It grows to a size of 50.7 cm (20.0 in) in total length…  All glasseyes used to classified in a single species, Heteropriacanthus cruentatus…but recent morphological and genetic analysis indicates that glasseyes should be divided into three species: Heteropriacanthus cruentatus (Atlantic Ocean and southwest Indian Ocean), H. fulgens (northeastern Atlantic), and H. carolinus (Indo-Pacific).



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2018 Trinidad Pier Youth Fishing Derby

Sunday, September 9, saw youth assemble at the Trinidad Pier (in the beautiful redwoods just 24 miles north of Eureka) to participate in the 5th 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.

Although the day would turn a little windy and cold as it progressed, both the 36 youth and the total crowd estimated at close to a hundred people agreed it was a fun day at the pier.

Some of the loaner rods

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. Of course catching some fish also helps and the fishing was improved from the previous years with quite a few perch caught along with brown rockfish, kelp greenling and two lingcod.

Volunteer John “Grondo” Grondalski

The loaner rods are rigged and ready to go

David Shigamatsu with an undersized lingcod

Crab caught by David Shigamatsu

Ed Roberts IV and Seth Noel

Rex Bertrand and a brown rockfish

Kelp greenling caught by Emma Sobrehad

Warden Agoitia, Patricia Figueroa, Grondo Grondalski and Warden Hampton

David Shigamatsu and his dad with a legal-size lingcod caught on a shinerperch

Due to the wind that was picking up, and the chill that was creeping in, the derby was called a little early which meant time for some hot dogs and the raffle prizes.

Hot dogs, chips and drinks were available for all participants. The chef was CDFW volunteer Patricia Figueroa

Next up was the raffle. Prizes were provided by the Humboldt Area Saltwater Anglers and Pacific Outfitters.

Dan Troxel (who made and donated fishing rods) on the left and Warden Norris with the tackle box

The age group winners were then announced.

The under-6-year-old winner was Karter Quinn of Trinidad

The 6-year-old winner was Rex Bertrand of Arcata

The 7-year-old winner was Leona Sobrehad of McKinleyville

The 8-year-old winner was Robert Pitts of Eureka

The 9-year-old winner was Jordan Taylor of Fortuna

The 10-year-old winner was Dillon Dirrocco of McKinleyville

The 11-year-old winner was Alise Walker of McKinleyville

The 12-year–old winner was David Shigamatsu of Davis

The 13-year-old winner was Jonathan Pitcher of Arcata

The Grand Champion was David Shigamatsu of Davis

Many thanks to the entire group that once again made this  a fun event for all the participants and their parents!

Back row: Katie Terhaar (CDFW), Ed Roberts IV (CDFW) Dan Troxel (CDFW Volunteer), Patricia Figueroa (CDFW Volunteer), “Grondo” Grondalski (CDFW Volunteer), Grant Roden (Trinidad Rancheria)

Front row: Ed Roberts III (CDFW) and Todd Rowan (Trinidad Rancheria)

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Marin Rod & Gun Club — 30th Annual “Kids Day On The Pier”

August 15, 2018 saw the 30th Annual “Kid’s Day on the Pier” at the Marin Rod & Gun Club on San Quentin Point in San Rafael, California. The event was co-sponsored by UPSAC (United Pier and Shore Anglers of California), PFIC (Pier Fishing In California), and the IGFA (International Game Fish Association).

The day saw an enthusiastic group of 67 youngsters amidst a crowd of 175 people. The weather was great and the kids caught a fine mess of fish, which meant a lot of happy, smiling faces.

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

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

Dr. John Evans and his heavy pole for the big ‘uns

Dave DeJong and a California Halibut


52-inch leopard shark caught by David Shigematsu

After the fishing, it was time to retire to the clubhouse for lunch (hot dogs and chips), the award ceremony, and the raffle.

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

The 5-year-old and under winner: Ryan Radomski   

The 6-year-old winner: Owen Radomski  

The 7-year-old winner: Tyler Green

The 8-year-old winner (tie): Vincent DeJong,

The 8-year-old winner (tie): Logan Jackson

The 8-year-old winner (tie): Lucas Strosahlortega  

  The 9-year-old winner (tie): Parvati Nag

The 9-year-old winner: (tie) Parker Thompson

The 10-year-old winner (tie): Michael Monteiro

The 10-year-old winner (tie): Kody Monteiro

The 11-year-old winner: Kiana Choi

The 12-year-old winner (and overall champion): David Shigematsu

The 14-year-old winner: Dylan Monteiro

The largest fish of the day was a 52-inch leopard shark caught by David Shigematsu and a total of 77 fish were caught by the participants. Included were three leopard sharks, two California halibut, one striped bass, one bat ray and 69 large jacksmelt (12-14 inches).

Raffle Prizes — Every participant received a rod and reel

All agreed that it was another outstanding derby.

Representing the Marin Rod and Gun Club: Chairmen Gary Colmere, Vice-Chairman Roy Jackson, John Evans and upwards of 20 or more club members who performed a plethora of duties—serving as judges on the pier, cleaning and fixing rods and reels for both the derby and the raffle, cooking the hot dog lunch, setting up and cleaning the auditorium and kitchen, and helping announce the results of the raffle. A special thanks goes to Mary Ellen Smith who was busy doing many things—helping at the registration table, helping to tabulate the scorecards, helping with the certificates, and helping to cook the lunch. She stayed very busy!

Representing UPSAC: President Ken Jones, Vice-President Robert Gardner, and Secretary Brian Linebarger.

Representing the Pier Fishing in California ( website family were the above UPSAC members as well as Melvin Kon (who took the pictures of the award winners and raffle winners), Kris Linebarger, Alex Poon, and David DeJong.

UPSAC Vice-President Robert Gardner

A huge thank you goes to the Marin Gun and Rod Club and the various other organizations and volunteers for putting on this great annual event.


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The “Old” Vallejo Pier — Gone But Not Forgotten

The “Old” Vallejo Pier and the Highway 37 Bridge

This was a pier frequently missed by anglers unaware of its location. It used to sit almost directly underneath the Sears Point/Highway 37 (Napa River) bridge that connects Vallejo to Mare Island and areas to the north. That shouldn’t be surprising since the pier was part of the old drawbridge which once connected the two areas. The pier opened in 1971 and became famous as a producer of large sturgeon. In 1980 an angler, George Gano of Vallejo, hooked and landed an eight-foot-long white sturgeon weighing 194 pounds. This is still the unofficial record for largest fish caught on a Bay Area pier, although there have been unsubstantiated reports of large bat rays nearly matching this weight.

The water here is truly estuarine as the location sits smack dab in the channel connecting the fresh water of the Napa River and the saltwater of San Pablo Bay (which is pushed up the Mare Island Strait by the daily tides). The result is a lessening of the number of species commonly caught by saltwater pier anglers but the pier presented opportunity for excellent striped bass and sturgeon fishing. Around the pier were mud flats and eelgrass that, at low tide, might be exposed. During high tide, flounders would move up into water almost to the foot of the pier. Fishing for the larger species was carried on toward the end of the 1,060 foot-long pier in the deepest water. Here the main problem was very strong currents complicated by strong winds that are common to the area most afternoons. The pier was a popular fishing spot due undoubtedly to the ever present chance for a keeper sturgeon.

Fish caught here were starry flounder, jacksmelt, striped bass, white sturgeon, a few green sturgeon, and occasionally a bat ray or skate. What that meant was that most of the time you would not bring home many fish from a trip to this pier. Sturgeon, flounder, bat ray, and skate tend to be solitary and you were lucky if you caught more than one during a day of fishing. Jacksmelt of course travel in schools; if you were present when the school moved through, and you had the right bait, you could catch a mess of fish. Stripers added one more element, the larger the fish the more solitary they seem to be. At times an angler would catch a large striper, anything over 30 pounds, but those were fairly rare. At times a school of medium size fish would move through or even hang around the area and anglers would catch a number of 5-12 pound fish, but again that was rare. More common, especially September to October, were large schools of small, illegal striped bass, 11 to 14 inches in length, which were too easily caught on light tackle.

Best bait and rigging for the flounder was either pile worms or ghost shrimp followed by grass shrimp. Most baits were placed on a number 4 to 2 size hook on the end of a live bait, sliding bait leader. Easily purchased at most of the local tackle shops, this rigging allowed the flounder to mouth the bait and carry it without hesitation before it was finally swallowed. Generally this rigging worked better than a high/low leader. Flounder are very picky and if they feel any resistance will often drop the bait. Tackle needed only be heavy enough to cast and to handle a sinker heavy enough to hold the line against the strong currents often found here; and it could take four to six ounces of weight.

A similar rigging was often used for sturgeon although wire leader were the norm at the end of the line and bait was grass shrimp, ghost shrimp, or mud shrimp. Anglers also needed to be sure you use a heavy enough outfit—a heavy saltwater rod and reel loaded with at least 30 pound test line. Stripers would also hit this rigging and any of these baits. Another idea was to catch a few bullheads (staghorn sculpin) or shiners, or buy a few live mudsuckers. Often these, as well as frozen anchovies or sardines, worked best for the stripers. In addition, a high-low leader could be effective for the stripers. Finally, anglers occasionally used artificial lures on this pier. When the pier wasn’t crowded, and the wind was blowing toward the new bridge, anglers could cast out around the various bridge supports that were often a good spot for stripers.

61-pound striped bass caught in Vallejo in March 1931

History Note. The town was laid out by M.G. Vallejo and served as capital of the state in 1851 and 1852. The wharf originally located on this site was used from 1892 until the 1920s by the Union Brick and Tile Company. Later, part of that wharf was used by builders who constructed a drawbridge linking the eastern shore of Vallejo with Mare Island. When a new Sears Point Bridge was built in 1971, all but a 1,060-foot section of the drawbridge was demolished, just enough for a fishing pier.

            The old wooden pier suffered fire damage four different times—in 1973, 1983, 1987, and 1994. Each time parts or all of the pier had to be closed but the first three times money was found to repair the pier. Signs said don’t build fires on the pier, but some people never learn. The fire in 1994 finally led to closure, and later demolition, of the pier. The pier, home to a record that can no longer be broken (because of today’s slot/size restrictions on sturgeon) was demolished and no appearance from shore indicates where the pier once stood.


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