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>> Newport Pier — Update [topic: previous/next]
PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 9:47 pm
Ken Jones


Posts: 9461
Location: California

It’s nothin’ fancy, but it will do
Sun is rising, day is new
Birds are singing a sinful tune
It’s nothin’ fancy, but it will do

It’s nothin’ fancy, roll out the folding chairs
Leave your worries over there
The lines in the water, there’s one for you
It’s nothin’ fancy, but it will do

I’ve been coming round here since 1962
and the boys are real friendly, and the ladies are too
Fishing’s slowed down, but the water’s still blue
It’s nothin’ fancy, but it will do

It’s nothin’ fancy, it’ll do.

Nothin’ Fancy—Gary Shiebler
The World’s Greatest Fishing Band


Newport Pier/McFadden Wharf

Every angler has his or her favorite spot and mine, until recently, was this old pier. It isn't the longest of piers, fanciest, or the prettiest. It no longer has either of the two bait and tackle shops that once graced McFadden Place, and many times a parking space can be almost impossible to find. It doesn't even rank among the top piers in my record book. However, this is where I first became a regular on a pier, where I learned the basics of pier fishing, and where I developed a love of the piers. It’s also where I began a lifelong appreciation of the different fish to be caught on piers. Most important, it’s where I became a “pier rat,” a term I use with eternal affection. Newport rates 100% on the nostalgia meter—and I'm a sappy kind of guy when it comes to the “good old days.”

It was 1962, I lived nearby in Costa Mesa, only a few miles from the pier, and it was a short ride on my heavy, but trusty, old red Schwinn Corvette bike. I would get up at 4 A.M., grab some bait out of the freezer, tie down my bait bucket and tackle box, hang onto my rod, and take off on what was often a somewhat eerie, quiet journey through the fog. I'd bike down the street past Newport Harbor High School, then zip down the steep cliff to the Pacific Coast Highway. If traffic was light (and it usually was at that time in the morning), I'd make a quick cut across the road, then pedal down the peninsula to the pier. After locking my bike, I would hurry out to the far end of the pier and Mecca—the coveted northwest corner. Sometimes someone else would already have that spot—but generally it was one of the regulars. If so, it was only fair. I would often be soaked from the morning dew but I really didn't care; it was simply a price one paid to catch some fish.

I did catch fish but it took some time before I became proficient. My first few trips saw an occasional small halibut or more often a sculpin (scorpionfish). It wasn't until my seventh trip that I caught a decent-size fish, a barracuda, and it wasn't until the tenth trip that I caught as many as ten fish. However, I soon began to get the hang of it and started to catch a variety of fish: bonito, mackerel, jack mackerel, queenfish, jacksmelt, perch and hake. I was finally becoming an angler.

At last, on an early September morning, I had my first “big day.” I had arrived, as usual, at the crack of dawn, and was fishing just down from the northwest corner. I was using squid for bait and had experienced very little early success. However, around 5:30 A.M., I had a strike and pulled in an ebony-colored fish—a type I had never caught before. The next cast yielded two more of these strange colored fish and I continued to catch fish, nearly every cast, for the next two hours. Strangely, only two other anglers were having similar success. Most anglers were fishless. Later, I found out the fish were sablefish, a deep-water fish more common to northern waters. Upon cleaning the fish, I also found the reason for my success. The fish were stuffed with squid that were schooling in the waters near to the pier. Anglers who were using squid for bait, and there were only a few, were catching the fish. I caught 47 sablefish that day, but it was only a start. I continued to catch fish: large jacksmelt, Pacific mackerel and jack mackerel—77 fish in all. And, quite appropriately, I also caught a small squid. It was, mirabile dictu, one of the best days I ever had at the pier even though the fishing probably would have been considered poor for most of my fellow anglers that day. You just never know what is going to happen.

Unusual fish, or at least fish uncommon to most southern California piers, are one of the attractions of this pier. The deep-water Newport Submarine Canyon begins (or ends depending upon your point of view) just a few hundred feet southwest of the end of the pier and within 600 feet the water is over 100 feet deep. As a result, fish such as Pacific hake, Pacific sanddab, and longfin sanddab are commonly caught; fish like sablefish are an occasional treat.

In April of '00 a spotted ratfish (Hydrolagus colliei) was reportedly caught at the pier, a fish which is common to inshore areas north of Washington but one which is typically found several hundred feet deep in southern California waters. In May of ‘01 a triggerfish was added to the list of unusual fish while February of ’05 saw a California skate (Raja inornata) added to the mix after it grabbed a live queenfish. So many yellow snake eels (Ophichthus zophochir) have been caught in the last decade that it seems to make their “rare” status in the fishery guidebooks out of date. An angler reported catching a “white eel” about three foot long in 2005. No one has a clue as to what eel species the report referred. Another, more common eel was reported from the end section in 2005—a small foot and a half long moray eel. In October 1962 I caught a basketweave Cusk-Eel (Ophidion scrippsae) at the pier, a feat that was duplicated in a visit to the pier forty years later in December of 2002.

Although near the deepwater canyon, the pier also sits just down the shoreline from the entrance to Newport Bay so inshore, bay dwelling forms will also be seen. One such is bonefish and two of the fish were reported in 2002. A sarcastic fringehead was reported the same year.

An impressive catch in the summer of ’99 was a 180-pound black (giant) sea bass. According to the PFIC post the Brobdingnagian (and today illegal) fish was hooked on a live smelt, battled the angler for two and a half hours before being landed, and then was released. (Only question I have is why a 180-pound fish would hit on a smelt bait? A mackerel or something equally big seems more appropriate.) In the earlier days of the pier such fish were a common catch and anglers targeted the big fish with appropriate heavy tackle. Most anglers hooking such a fish today would simply be spooled and left wonderin’ “what the heck was that?”

I have caught nearly 40 species of fish from this pier, everything from the shallow-water cusk-eels to the aforementioned deep-water sablefish and hake. I've even caught a fish that most guidebooks say doesn't exist in the area—a starry flounder. I caught the flounder on July 4, 1962, and it was the only fish I caught that day with the exception of a sculpin (California scorpionfish). Since no one seemed to know what the fish was, I saved it and consulted the various fishing books I had, as well as the reference books at my high school. All carried the descriptions and drawings that matched my fish but most said that the southern limit for the flounder was Santa Barbara. One lone book showed a “southern” starry flounder whose range was listed as south of Newport. To this day I believe that book was right and that I caught a starry flounder, or perhaps “southern” starry flounder.

The pier has never been noted as a good producer of lobsters but it is an excellent producer of large spider crabs. Some years will also see visits to the pier by the cephalopod family, generally the smaller market squid (Loligo opalescens), but increasingly their larger Humboldt relatives (Dosidicus gigas). Visiting the pier one night in 1976 I saw a tremendous run of the giant Humboldt’s, multi-tentacled creatures that exceeded ten pounds in most cases, and put up a surprisingly good fight. Unfortunately, I didn't have a squid jig, no one would sell me a jig, and the jigs were the only thing working on the squid. I still tried to catch one of the exotic animals by using conventional riggings, but my efforts produced 0 squid, not a one, nada, zilch. But those anglers lucky enough to have the jigs were hauling them in on nearly every cast. The next morning fishermen were selling excess squid and trading for more desirable species of fish, while squid and squid ink seemed to be everywhere. Similar runs of Humboldt squid took place during the summers of 2002 and 2005 resulting in frenzied crowds, sorrow for those without the coveted squid jigs, and more ink-covered railings and anglers. When you fish on the deep-water end of this pier you never know what might latch on to your line.

Another attraction for newcomers to this old pier is the dory fishing fleet that has used the sandy beach just north of the pier since its founding by Portuguese fishermen in 1891. Today it is the last remaining fleet of its type. The boats head out early each morning to collect their fish, return, and then sell their fish right next to their boats on the beach—along Rock Cod Lane. It's a hard life for the fisherman but a life few if any would give up. The dory fleet adds to the environment of the pier and, when pier anglers are unsuccessful, provides a ready market for fish to take home (although you have to get there early).

Environment. The pier fronts on a typical southern California sand beach, extends 1,032 feet out into deep water, and is fairly close to the fish-rich waters of Newport Bay, a major nursery ground for several types of fish. There is little kelp around the pier but the pilings are heavily encrusted with barnacles and mussel. The pier is not particularly long or large, but due to the water depth, various types of angling are available.

Inshore, one can expect to find some barred surfperch, corbina, spotfin croaker, yellowfin croaker, round stingrays, thornback rays, smoothhound sharks, leopard sharks and guitarfish. A sometimes summertime visitor is mullet that will mull around the pier pilings teasing the anglers up above who are shocked by both their number and size. Eventually the snaggers will get to work snagging the mullies although it’s quite a different proposition from the surf snagging. The mullet but the way can be anywhere from the surf area out to mid-pier.

Midway out on the pier is the best area for halibut, walleye and silver surfperch, pileperch, jacksmelt, topsmelt, Pacific butterfish, queenfish, and white croaker. A lot of sharks and rays are also taken in this area, especially thornback rays and shovelnose guitarfish.

The far end is normally best for most of the top feeding pelagics—Pacific mackerel, Spanish mackerel (jack mackerel), Pacific sardines, bonito, and barracuda (some years). The end is also typically the best for a number of bottom dwellers—sculpin (scorpionfish), sanddabs (both longfin and Pacific), small rockfish, kelp bass and sand bass. Ditto some large sharks and bat rays (generally at night). Since the end has the deepest water, and is closest to the submarine canyon, it is the spot where most of the deepwater species are seen. The far right corner is where I caught most of my hake and sablefish but today, with the pier closed midnight to 5 A.M., the number of deepwater fish (that sometimes travel up in the water zones at night) seems to have been reduced.

An unfortunate aspect of this pier's environment, and one that has caused many anglers to give up on the pier is the large number of “commercial” fishermen, a fairly recent phenomenon. By this I mean the anglers who are out at the pier with 4-5 rods and whose goal it is to catch, keep and eventually sell as many fish as possible. Whether it is mackerel or other species, they will often fill bucket after bucket with fish. Do they have commercial licenses? No, but the fish are destined to be sold. Some locals suggest the “commercials” outnumber the recreational anglers by three to one (especially when the mackerel, bonito or giant squid are running) and that it is a reason why many locals now head over to the Balboa Pier (although it too can have problems with the “commercial” anglers at times). Most locals suggest that it is primarily these “commercial anglers” who have caused the bad reputation for local anglers—especially due to their sometimes-aggressive conduct and failure to keep the pier clean.

State Fish and Game regulations limit the number of rods that can be used on a public pier to two and many cities have corresponding city regulations. Newport does the same but the rule just doesn’t seem to be enforced. (Of course one PFIC member pointed out that some of the mackerel fishermen put a dozen or more hooks on their line so even a two-pole limit doesn’t totally solve the problem.)

As a result the pier has become one of the hottest poaching areas in the region and it’s all open and viewable by the public (who often walk away in disgust muttering about the number of fish being kept and the slovenly fishermen). Unfortunately “recreational” anglers suffer the consequences when changes are made in response to these actions (as in more restricted hours).

Another detriment to the pier's environment is the number of scullions aka snag-heads who snag corbina, mullet and other fish in the surf area. Equipment is simple: heavy rods and reels and long leaders loaded with really large treble hooks. Add a couple of pieces of cloth to attract the corbina and you're in business. Once done primarily in the evening for corbina, today it’s common to see the entire inshore railing lined with these “sportsman” much of the day. Although some argue that it is merely another form of angling, I feel that snagging corbina (or any sport fish for that matter) should be made illegal by the California Fish & Game Department. As practiced, if a white seabass, halibut, spotfin croaker or other sport fish is mistakenly snagged; the fish are just out of luck (and it happens daily). Given that it is legal to snag the fish, there would seem to be little motivation for a warden to visit the pier (at least in regard to snagging). However, regular enforcement of the existing rules would help because under-sized sport fish are regularly snagged, and generally kept, and that IS an illegal practice.

Fishing Tips. Live bait (anchovies or small smelt), which you will have to net or snag yourself, is the most desired fare for many of the fish. In deeper water, use live anchovies near the surface for bonito and mackerel, in shallower water, fish on the bottom for halibut using anchovies, sardines, shinerperch or smelt. The left side of the pier, midway out toward the end, used to be called “Halibut Corner” by the regulars. The right corner, where I liked to fish, was the spot for the bonito. Today, the number of halibut (especially legal size fish) and bonito are much reduced (although a 38-pound halibut was reported in May of 2001). However, my visits still seem to show more halibut on the left and more bonito and mackerel on the right. Near shore, use live anchovies or smelt for guitarfish, sharks and an occasional halibut.

Around the far end, a high-low outfit equipped with short leaders and number 6-4 hooks can be effective. Bait the hooks with small strips of anchovy (no more than an inch long), cast out and retrieve slowly. Often a hungry sanddab, scorpionfish, small rockfish or bass (both kelp bass and barred sand bass) will attack your bait. Some years will also see large numbers of lizardfish caught from the end to the mid-pier area.

Unlike most piers in southern California, Newport has never really been considered a good pier for white croaker (tom cod). Having said that, I must admit that I have some days where the tommies wouldn't stay off the line; cases where an angler could literally catch a fish or two every cast until the arms got tired. What is strange is that all of these occurrences took place between late February and early April. This is a little unusual because the standard wisdom on white croaker is that they travel out to deeper water during the winter months and come inshore during the late spring to fall months. Nevertheless, I have never caught more than five during a summer or fall visit. If the tommie croakers are around when you visit, the same rigging and bait mentioned above (high/low leader and strips of anchovy for bait) should guarantee success and generally the fish will be found mid-pier to the end. However, begin the retrieve just as the sinker hits bottom and be prepared to strike even as the bait sinks. A shiny sinker will also increase your chances of success.

A bait-rig-type outfit, made with number 8 hooks and baited with tiny pieces of anchovy, will tempt walleye surfperch when fished mid-depth. Silver surfperch will generally be above the walleye, and jacksmelt and topsmelt will be above the silver surfperch. However, the jacksmelt will bite better on small pieces of bloodworm or lugworms. Although I never caught a single sardine when fishing the pier in the’60s, they have returned and I’ve caught them regularly since the ‘90s; the usual ways to get the 'dines is with a bait rig. These rigs may also attract a few pompano (California butterfish) or salema. Of course, the best use of these bait rigs is to catch some live anchovies, small smelt, baby macks, small Spanish mackerel (jack mackerel) or shinerperch. All make good live bait for halibut and at least decent bait for bass, sharks and rays. The small jack mackerel seem to be especially good bait if any yellowtail show up in the fall.

To catch the large pileperch, which are often seen grazing on the mussels on the pilings, requires both skill and perseverance. Use fresh mussels, small hooks, and light line, and be able to hold your bait near the pilings without getting it snagged. If you've hid the hook well you might catch a fish! Old-timers would take a clump of mussels (still in their shells), wrap several short leaders around the mussels (while trying to hide the various hooks), and then drop the entire mass of mussels down by the pilings. If everything worked to perfection a pileperch might be foolish enough to grab one of the hooks entangled in the mass of mussels. Another trick was to put a hook through a small, unopened, thumbnail-size mussel or a small sidewinder crabs (if you could find them). Both produce big perch.

Although sand crabs, especially soft shelled sand crabs, seem the top bait for surfperch and corbina, fresh mussels, ghost shrimp, bloodworms, and lugworms will all produce the normal inshore species—barred surfperch, spotfin croaker, yellowfin croaker, corbina, and an occasional sargo or black croaker. For the corbina you need to practically be fishing in the sand, the others will be found from the shallows to the mid-pier area. Of course many of the regulars today use nothing but artificials for the barred surfperch—root beer or motor oil colored grubs and Berkeley Gulp being most popular.

I’ve long felt that Newport and Balboa just might be the best piers in the state for California scorpionfish (called sculpin by the locals). Nighttime is the prime time for the scorpies and squid strips are the best bait (a small strip squid no more than a half-inch by an inch cut in a V-shape). The end is the best spot and some say the left side of the end is the “primo” spot (although I’ve caught them mid-pier to the end). Do check the regulations on sculpin since their capture is now restricted part of the year and do make sure you return the little ones that outnumber the keepers at least five to one. The small strips of squid may also pull in a mislaid rockfish if they’re around and I’ve caught bocaccio, olive rockfish, and calico rockfish at the pier. By the way, even though the scorpionfish are called sculpins, they and their rockfish cousins are all members of the Family Scorpaenidae, they are not members of Family Cottidae, the true sculpin family. Such confusion among families is enough to make a genealogist weep.

At night, this can be a good pier to catch both sharks and rays. Although most of these will be of modest size, some are true showstoppers. Included in the list have been a number of fairly large thresher sharks, a 225-pound hammerhead shark, a 246-pound bat ray (see below) and a 176-pound bat ray. A 15-year-old angler took the eight-foot-long hammerhead in 1978. For these bruisers, a heavy rig is required as is a way to get them onto the pier. Come prepared with sufficient equipment (and friends) if you plan to tackle these fish at night. The only surprise to me is the lack of reports concerning either a seven-gill or six-gill shark. Both of these big deep-water sharks would seem to be naturals for the pier but I haven’t seen a report on either species. Smaller horn sharks and swell sharks have been reported but both are uncommon visitors to the pier.

The pier is noted for large shovelnose sharks (guitarfish) and bat rays. Shovelnose approaching five feet in length seem to be caught every year as do bat rays topping the century mark in weight. Although my records show that most of the large shovelnose traditionally have been landed in the mid-pier area, a lot of the big fish have been landed out by the northwest corner in recent years. I don't know the reason for the change, I only report it. The bat rays on the other hand seem to mostly congregate mid-pier although they are caught inshore to the end area. The shovelnose will hit everything from live ghost shrimp and live small baits (smelt, queenfish, white croaker) to cut mackerel, anchovies and squid. It’s somewhat the same with the bat rays although squid seems to be most preferred. Remember when you’re seeking out the shovels that they may weigh upwards of thirty pound so have appropriate gear. The same is true with the bat rays but they can be even bigger and stronger. Also remember to have a way to bring them up onto the pier. Although I used to recommend using a treble-hook-gaff, today I always recommend using a net for the large fish. Only rarely will a fish be too big for a net. If you do use a gaff, be sure you intend to keep and use the fish. In most instances a gaffed fish will not survive and in the case of the big bat rays, they’re all females and often carrying young.

This is also a pier that sees a lot of the maligned throw-‘em-back rays (thornback rays). Why maligned? They’re small, they don’t have enough meat on them to keep for eating, and they took the bait that’s quietly sitting there for a more desired catch. An alternative view—the small rays are fun to catch on light tackle and should be released gently back down into the water.

Lastly, artificials can be used very effectively here when the pelagics such as bonito and mackerel are running. Bonito feathers used with a splasher or a cast-a-bubble, and several types of spoons and plugs, have been proven to work for the boneheads. Most mackerel are caught on multi-hook riggings but fairly light tackle with a single hook can be more fun. More and more of the regulars are even using artificials for halibut. Most use curlytail jigs on the south side of the mid-pier section, or even closer toward the beach. Early morning hours when it is not too crowded offers the best chance for success and I am told that while the larger jigs work well in the winter and spring, smaller jigs are more successful in the summer and fall months.

White sea bass also visit certain piers at times, and heavy specimens are pulled up. An instance of this occurs at Newport, where during the dark of the moon in late spring these fish make nightly raids on the hopeless sardines quaking under the pier. Word of this situation drifts inland, and thongs of ardent anglers jam the pier from dusk until the wee hours of the morning, all bent on hanging up a few fine tasting lunkers... Sardines are obtained for bait by snatch-hooking them, and when impaled on 2/0 to 5/0 size hooks of O'Shaughnessy brand it seems that 15 to 20 pound bass are commonly duped into grabbing hold. Some even run as high as 50 pounds...and you can imagine the furor one of these babies creates among the pier fishermen!
—Mortimer Norton, Pacific Coastal Fishing, 1950

E-Mail Messages

Date: Date: May 11, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: John W Gray
Subject: Newport Pier

After the gang came back to Azusa after WW2 we used to go down to Newport Pier every Sunday. We would go early so we could get the left hand corner at the end of the pier where somebody had dumped a bench into the water at some earlier time. We never failed to limit out by 2:00 in the afternoon. I just found your interview in the USA Weekender magazine in the Sunday paper. The article about Newport Pier brought back a lot of memories. I was a born and raised southern Californian. I live in Santa Cruz now and although I fish the wharf's here they leave something to be desired after growing up with So. California piers. jwg

Posted by Ken Jones

John, Glad to hear from you. Newport was where I first fished (in the early '60s) and it's still a favorite place to visit and fish. I imagine the fishing was better in the '50s, although there are still some fantastic days at the pier. Unfortunately, there has been a big anti-fishing push at the pier for the last year and a half and it finally resulted in the city limiting the hours the pier is open. Merchants complained that the pier was too messy—and basically said that anglers shouldn't be able to use the pier. They wanted it saved for the tourists and the people who eat out on the restaurant at the end of the pier. Luckily that crazy idea was rejected but the hours were cut so some prime nighttime fishing was lost... Keep in touch and catch some big fish, Ken Jones, The Pier Fisherman

Date: September 24, 1999
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Snookie
Subject: (In reply to: Question for Snookie posted by flip on Sep-23-99)

Dear Flip, Interesting question. The biggest gamefish that I landed was on Newport Pier quite a few years ago. It was a 36-pound thresher (yes, a baby, but a fighter). I caught him on an anchovy with a light rod and 6 pound test. I think back and wonder how I ever landed him, but I did. He was spectacular with his leaps and bounds. If that was today, I would release him because that is just too much of a baby.
My biggest halibut I have landed on the pier (Balboa Pier) is 16 pounds using a smelt. I was using 8-pound test line on a lightweight Cal Star rod. Fortunately the fish was gut hooked or I would not have gotten her in.
As to the biggest halibut I have caught she was about 40 some odd inches long, and it took all my strength to left her to the surface. That was on a very large smelt. I caught her on my larger rod with 15-pound test, but although I had her on for several minutes (enough time to excite all that were watching her) when she finally made a second run for under the pier, and that was my loss, her freedom. She didn't get that big by being stupid.
The actual biggest fish I have caught is a 10-foot hammerhead. We all saw two of them approaching, and I grabbed a large live mackerel, and I attached it to a rod of mine with a large hook already on the leader. That shark came right for the mackerel, picked it up, swallowed it, and he kept right on going with me hanging on. Did I get him—Of course not! He didn't even know he had been caught.
There's more, but this will do for now. Thanks for asking. Snookie

Date: December 23, 1999
To: Ken Jones
From: Terry Salmans, Fish Talk Radio
Subject: Newport Pier

Ken, Thanks for the attachments (on Newport Pier). I enjoyed them a lot. I had similar experiences on the Newport Pier. I remember one day about noon. The fishing was slow and many of us were cat napping and waiting for the bite to pick up. Suddenly someone yelled, “Look at that!” Right off the end of the pier a huge “fish head” jumped out of the water and landed with a tremendous splash and disappeared into a swirl of aquamarine colored bubbles. I later looked the fish up in a book to discover that I'd seen my first mola mola. Yes indeed, some odd things swim up Newport Canyon from time to time!

Date: March 3, 2000
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Mike G
Subject: Live Bait Shark Fishing

I am new to saltwater fishing, but not fishing in general. I was planning on a live-bait set-up as follows for shark and I was wondering if I can get any advice or pointers from anyone: 40-lb test line, 4-oz egg sinker, black heavy duty swivel, 45-lb steel coated black leader 36" and a 6/0 hook. I plan on hooking a live baitfish through the lips to keep him alive as long as possible. Any other good places I could set-up the hook like through the gill and put the hook just under his dorsal fin? Any help or suggestions will greatly be appreciated.

Posted by Scott L

Good set up Mike except maybe for the bait. Unless you catch a mackerel. Sharks tend to do pretty well on either mackerel or squid. Now it is best if you use a bait-casting reel, as you may be able to cast out a little farther. The idea is to get a cast of around 50 yards or so and let the weight sink all the way. Depending on how the tide is you may have to go with a triangle type weight or an anchor type. If the water is rough then go with a 5 or a 6-ounce weight. Just remember when using the slider method that you have to let the shark take the bait. You can't pull back to set the hook as you will only pull the weight. This setup is also good for rays.

Posted by tacofish

I agree with Scott, but I would like to add the following: You should identify the species of shark you are after and the feeding habits of that fish. Once that has been done, then you should build your rigs according to the habitat in which that species lives in and the bait that you are going to use.
Bait selection: match the hatch... As with any predatory fish, you should identify the abundant forage fish. Especially with shark, seek the larger forage fish. This could be mackerel, herring, sardine, smelt, tom cod, even opaleye perch! Really, it's dependent upon the environment that you are going to fish. Once identified, you should choose bait that is five to eight inches long. Again, this is dependent on the species of shark and the species of bait. My preference is to hook the bait between the caudal (tail) and anal fin and not above the lateral line. If no forage fish can be determined, use fresh squid. Usually, grocery stores sell the freshest squid in the seafood section. In my experience, oriental grocery stores have the best selection.
Sinkers: From a stationary location (pier, jetty, surf, or anchored boat), an egg sinker is not the best sinker to use. Tidal movement will cause your rig to “wander,” thus causing slack line and snags. All predatory fish will use the tidal movement to conserve energy while foraging. From your main line, you may want to use a slider or snap swivel and bead to hold a pyramid (triangle) or claw (anchor) weight. The principle is still the same as an egg sinker, but this configuration will hold to the ground better. The bead keeps the knot attaching your leader from being nicked by the weight. Due to aerodynamics and casting, use a claw weight only if you need to.
Leader: steel, mono, or braided lines are really personal preferences and should be chosen when identifying the species of shark you are after. Teeth and habitat are the major factor. Some sharks have sets of teeth that are soft (brown smoothhound, shovelnose) while others... well, you know... Regardless, choosing a leader material that does not inhibit bait movement is imperative.
Hooks: Match the hook size according to the bait that you are using. Remember, the larger diameter hooks (live bait, circle) cause a faster mortality rate of your bait. The smaller diameter hooks can easily be straightened out. My preference is a Gamakatsu Octopus hook 2/0 to 8/0, depending on the bait.
Finally, main line and reel: when fishing for shark from a stationary location, you must also consider rays. My biggest fish of any species was a ray taken while shark fishing off the Newport Pier in the early '80s; a 246-lb bat ray with an 8.5-ft. wing span (I was young and stupid then... I kept the fish). The only reason I landed this fish was because I had spooled my reel with 350 yards of 20-lb test. The point is, you need a big casting reel like a Penn 500/505 Jigmaster or Newell 235/332.
Good luck, tight lines, and release what you won't use.

Date: December 9, 2000
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Snookie
Subject: Bean Clam Alert for Newport Pier Area

The Bean Clams have arrived by the millions if not by the billions on both sides of Newport Pier. They don't stay long, but if you are lucky enough to be there with a big bucket to collect them, they make excellent broth for clam chowder. They are in the swash area of the LOW tide zone. Just look at low tide and if they are still there, you won't have trouble seeing them. They are only about 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches long and are right on the surface. Their size is why they are best just for broth. Wash them off the best you can and either steam or put them in boiling water just long enough to open them. Strain the juice with several layers of cheesecloth. You are then ready for some delicious soup.
The last time this happened was about 38 years ago in the same place. There are many times more clams this time.
One very important thing to remember is to have your fishing license displayed on your person. You are on the beach and picking up seafood which means you are required to have a fishing license. Good luck, and I hope the clams are still there today and tomorrow. Snookie

Date: June 21, 2002
To: PFIC Message Board
From: imapodaddy
Subject: Lizard Fish-what are they good for?

I fish Newport Pier almost every weekend. I often hook up more than a few lizardfish. I normally throw them back, but I am curious...are they good for anything? Are they edible? I notice that the most of the fishermen throw them back too. RL

Posted by Snookie

Dear RL, Lizardfish are very good for halibut bait. They are also good to eat according to the Taiwanese. We had an old man from Taiwan who targeted lizardfish to eat. Since I did not speak his language, and he didn't speak mine, a recipe was never discussed. He took home many lizardfish every time he was at the pier, and he took great care in cleaning them for whatever he made with them. He has also disappeared. Could it be the lizardfish caught up with him?

Date: July 23, 2002
To: PFIC Message Board
From: John Mykkanen
Subject: Pier squid

Newport went full speed last night. Squid jig and a torpedo. From sunset to 10 PM. I caught 16 and gave half away. Too heavy to carry.

Posted by caffeinehigh

How big a squid jig did you use? Did anyone use strips of squid as bait?

Posted by John Mykkanen

I used the regular small white ones. Two of them with a torpedo sinker just below them. No need for bait, they hit the jig that is slowly moving. You could see them chase it up to the surface, then you stalled the retrieve and bendo. Use heavy gear to ease the landing of them.

Posted by badf1sh

Sounds like the squid are showing with the full moon phases.
GREGGO ahhh!!!

Date: August 29, 2002
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Nopal
Subject: Check out the scorpionfish.

While we are on the subject, I'd thought I'd point you guys to something that I find interesting.
The sculpin caught from Huntington Beach Pier are usually greenish-gray with a hint of brown. The ones caught from Newport pier are deep orange-red.
Why is that? Here's my take: Newport is next to a submarine canyon where the water is quite deep, so the best camouflage color is a red-orange, which looks like dark gray/black at depth. Huntington by contrast is in much shallower waters, with an artificial reef just off the west-northwest corner, so the best camouflage there is simply to look like a rock: Greenish-gray. The local populations from the same species look different as a result of their environment. That is not to say that they are subspecies or something, but it’s cool that they can adapt like that.

Date: October 17, 2003
To: PFIC Message Board
From: tunanator
Subject: Too many “meat” fisherman

Man, I don't mean to sound like a total jerk or something, but MAN these 6 at a time bonie/mackeral fisherman are getting out of hand. They are flocking like vultures and seem to be multiplying. There were NO spots at the back rail today and EACH guy was fishing a cheap heavy spinning rod with 30 or 40#, 6-10 hook Sabikis with jigs at the bottom, and catching 3-6 bonies at a time. Half of them don’t cast straight, DONT look behind them when they cast or bounce fish, or are tangling lines. One even hooked a buddy in the leg with a jig, PAST THE BARB, 2 POINTS OF THE HOOK. They care about ONE thing, catching as many fish as they can until they fill their COOLERS (not just buckets). There seems to be little or no regard for common courtesy, safety, avoiding tangles, or let alone that hooks are sharp.
Catch a limit and let someone else in please... when bonies are around, try ONE jig, not a meat hook Sabiki. But I guess they aren’t there for the fun of it.
I was only able to get ONE bonie during wide-open flurries because they were literally catching most of the school by the time they got to my side of the pier. And the only one I did manage to catch was when one guy left a spot open and I got a jig back there. The guy who got hooked in the leg by the jig didn’t even get to catch any bonies. And the meat fisherman didn’t leave until the bonie bite stopped and turned to straight mackerel, and even then they didn’t leave till they were full of mackerel.
What do they do with all of those? They seem to do it a few times a week if not daily.
Sorry for the rant, but this was WORSE than a 1/2 day boat on a Sunday in July, at least on the boats most people respect limits, and they DON’T leave a bunch of trash, rubber gloves, rags, chopped up fish, you know what I’m talking about... the same reason OC piers close at midnight now.
Next time that happens I’m over it, just gonna fill a bucket with dines from the Sabiki, go closer to shore, and try for halibut...
Again I’m sorry, but I had to say something now that I experienced how bad it can get, and this was a weekday, and heard it gets worse.

Posted by the fisherman

They have to eat and feed their family. They probably think the way you fish is crazy as well. Chris “Farmer John”

Posted by Ken Jones

These aren't subsistence fishermen! They are commercial anglers and their practices hurt the resource as well as give the rest of us a bad name. In addition, antics such as this led to the restrictions on hours at Newport and Balboa back in the '90s.

Posted by snookie

Ken, These fishermen are illegal as far as commercial fishing goes. It is not allowed on the pier, and most of them can't afford a commercial license. I can't understand why one or more of the guys have not called at least the police. They can cite these people, and once cited the rest will fall into line and practice following the law on how many fish they keep. I know that some of the regular “meat” fishermen do sell in the Garden Grove area. One has been caught years ago and got a slap on the hand. Perhaps now it would be harder on them... Overfishing and lack of cleanliness. They will always be there when something is free if you can get away with it. Snookie

Date: September 28, 2004
To: PFIC Message Board
From: wang
Subject: DFG at Newport Pier 9/28

Went to NP to fish for some mackerel for bait to use for some kitties. Got there at 10:45 am. I was a little late as the macks were already gone. But the bones stayed around. At around 11:20, F&G came out looking at every bucket. Most people who caught the limit had already taken them to their cars. He did get this guy who still had a bucket full of them (bones). Although he was way over limit, he got lucky with just a warning. I guess the guy didn't have any ID on him; so in order to do something the warden had to arrest him. All the bones were taken away except for his limit. Got back to my truck to find out he had parked next to me. Spoke with him for a little bit and took two bonies from him to use as kitty bait. Glad to see F&G out patrolling the piers.

Date: August 3. 2005
To: PFIC Message Board
From: 5focus
Subject: Does anybody remember the old Newport Pier???

I used to fish it when I was a kid. It was a scary experience for me then because there were no rails. Safety wasn't much thought of in those days, but we did catch a lot of halibut.

Posted by Snookie

That's where I spent all my youth fishing, which was in the forties. I didn't know how to swim, but I was never concerned about falling in. The only people who ever fell in were two drunks together and a child. The father of the child jumped in to save the child before he remembered he couldn't swim. Betty Heiner (baithouse owner’s daughter) saved them with the “big” net. Fishing was great, but remember we didn't have the same regulations. There were some very large halibut caught, and the contests for catching the biggest of the week and month were fun. Those were also the days that bonito were “gone,” and no one expected them to return. We didn't have red tide to any extent then either. Things are different today but still fun. Snookie

Posted by landingcrewman

Yes I remember it well; my friends and me use to run bait for Bill and Erica. That’s when you could go down stairs and fish (halibut); we would also sweep up the pier and clean it all up for bait and live bait tickets. That’s also I spent most of my childhood at good old zooport. There was a guy BIG ROB and Gramps Rob would walk up during the summer and say Sean jump so I did hahaha

Posted by outtosea2

Are you talking about the early 1900's pier that went out to the T end where they unloaded lumber onto the railroad tracking on the OLD pier?? Or do you mean the old pier after they completely tore down the original restaurant in the late 80's along with the bait shop and then you now have the present day NEWPORT OYSTER BAR & GRILL is it. I fish there so much I lose track of the name now! Frank

Date: August 21, 2006
To: PFIC Message Board
From: outtosea2
Subject: Two Newport Pier fishing old timers pass away recently

To many of you local NEWPORT PIER fishing guys that knew HENRY, and more recently ART, I have to tell you of their passing.
HENRY, I didn't know as well, as he did fish all day on TUES and SAT, those were his favorite days to fish from 6am usually till 7pm. He always fished the SOUTH RAIL just west of the lookout points down one or two light poles from the TELESCOPES. He loved FLATTIES!!
I usually fished on TUES and FRI because those were ART'’S days to fish and we always watched each other’s fishing gear when we had to do a LEAK RUN or FOOD RUN. That was a great system until they both passed on. More on ART to follow below.
Henry was a small dark-skinned man; I think he had a mixture of origin gene/nationality wise, though he looked Puerto Rican to me. I never asked him so I wouldn't know. Could be SPANISH? After 7pm it was CHARLEY'S CHILI time for HENRY at the NPP boardwalk restaurant b4 beating the traffic home, which by time had all thinned out driving wise.
Henry was from FONTANA and left behind a wife and probably grandkids, but I never knew about the kids, etc. I knew he was married and had a wife(s?) is all, as I didn't get a great amount of time to talk to HENRY, as he always liked to keep to himself and never liked to be crowded!
He'd drive down every week starting in around late APRIL and fished through SEPT until it would start to get cold, as he hated the cold weather and put up his fishing stuff for the winter months. Henry smoked a lot and it was the smoking that ended his fishing life short! Sad end to a great fishing life no doubt!
I learned of HENRY passing late last year 2004 and he actually passed in late 2003 or else early 2004 I believe it was, as no one really knew the exact date.
Now, as to my ex fishing buddy ART. You may remember me posting a JPEG of him and his brand new CUSTOM fishing cart some time ago? If not I will post it again to refresh your memory.
I just learned of his passing on SEPT 11, 2004, yesterday SAT, as I got a letter from his wife ANITA telling me what happened to him after we parted ways. He got so angry at everything and everybody at one point in his life back in about OCT 2002 that it caused a split in us even fishing together.
What was happening, so his wife found out from doctors through an MRI, was that he was suffering from many minor strokes that eventually took him. He got worse and worse as to his demeanor and was harder then ever to deal with what with bad knees and a bad back and everything else going on inside. Too many demons inside fighting against oneself isn't good either when you dwell on all this petty small stuff! That can cause STROKE and HEART ATTACK just by itself! STRESS that is.
He did suffer one bigger initial STROKE about 7 years ago, while in church of all places, that started the ball rolling so his wife told me. There was also a family history of them on his side, so his number had come up I guess.
Anita spoke of me in very kind words, as she couldn't believe ART even blew up on me when he did! She was sad about that part as she said ART always loved his fishing days and he always talked about me being there to fish with him all day and help him out landing those big bat rays, sharks, and shovels!
My making his CUSTOM FISHING CART for him was his life's highlight! He was so jazzed having it and getting to use it b4 his passing that it gave her comfort in that he died happy fishing those last 10-15 years of his life! That was his outlet!
So, while many of you NP PIER fishing guys never knew him by name, the pix of him might bring back memories. FRANSICO, DANIEL, HALIBUT JOHN, RON, and all the others that new him well now know where he is. Henry also!
That BIG FISHING POND in the sky...
Enjoy the good life up there guys, as you will be missed down here!

Date: September 11, 2006
To: PFIC Message Board
From: eddog
Subject: Newport Pier 9/10

I fished Newport Pier yesterday arrived around 1pm. started making bait right away small dines about 3-6 inches. Also caught some small minnow size smelt with my umbrella net. Threw out a halibut rod for my wife and I threw out the big rod with a chunk of mack that I got from some guy. There was bait everywhere from smelt to mackerel. I walked to the end of the pier to see what has been caught and I saw some small bonito and a big shovelnose on the deck. Went back to check on my poles and saw I got hit. Bait was all raked up so I put a fresh bait threw out and wham fish on but I knew right away it was small it was about 11 inches so back it went. At that time my wife walked back to the truck and on her way back she calls me and says you have come see this halibut this guy caught it HUGE. I went to look and OMG this Halibut was huge. The guy said it was 45 inches. I asked him what did he catch it with and he said he snagged it while fishing for corbina and mullet. Well anyways I went back to fishing thinking about that huge flattie. I got my Mega Bait with two bonito flies and went to the end to try and catch some bonito but no luck. Didn’t catch anything worth keeping and left around 9:45pm. All in all a beautiful fun day fishing with the wife.

Posted by riorust

Damm snaggers! Taking the sport out of fishing, and the fish of a lifetime away from a fisherperson, for the sake of snagging. I spit on them.

Posted by eddog

Tell me about it. I was sitting there thinking of how many hours I have fished on that pier for flatties and only came up with a lot of shorts and these guys sit there and snag everything that comes over there snag rig. If he was fishing, that fish would have been a catch of a lifetime and it would have been awesome to see a huge flattie like that attack your bait. (snag-heads)

Date: December 20, 2006
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Crust
Subject: Newport Pier 12/19/06

Went to Newport Pier Tuesday, 12/19/06. Fished from 6:30-10:30
Good news and bad news.
(1) Good news: Constant bite. Always pulled up a fish.
Bait: Squid and mackerel. Most of the macks were biting on macks and the sculpin and bullheads didn't care. The undersized halibut (released, of course) bit on a Krocodile spoon.
Mack attack + Constant sculpin bite + undersized halibut + the usual bullhead.
1. Mackerel: Large (not the usual small mackerel we've been seeing in the last month or so). You could pull out as many as you want, but I hope people don't do that. It's such a shame to see a whole school of mackerel be decimated. Kept a few for food and a few for bait.
2. Sculpin: Still haven't caught a legal one. I've caught more than 10 yesterday, but 1 was a baby and the others were 9~9.5 inches. All released, of course.
3. Halibut: 2 undersized. All babies. All released, of course.
4. Bullhead: Were biting in force. Didn't keep any.
The bite progressed from bullheads + sculpin to mackerel with the occasional halibut on the bottom.
Total catch (for just me):
Countless mackerel: kept a few
Countless bullheads: all released safely
2 undersized halibut: both released safely
10 undersized sculpin: all released safely
(2) The bad news: The poachers were out in force. One guy had a bucket full of undersized sculpin. This may be why I've never caught a legal one. It made me sick. I told him they were undersized and he shrugged me off. He asked me the legal size for halibut and I told him 22 inches. He then bragged about keeping two babies (12 and 14 inches long). I told him that there is a steep fine for keeping them and that he should release them even if they are dead. He got angry as I pressed on. I didn't want to escalate the situation and kept fishing. He proceeded to move the halibut to his car and fished on. Most of the poachers were using Sabikis with squid and leaving it on the bottom and pulling in 6 undersized sculpin at a time.
Kids were watching and asking questions. I explained the different traits of the different fish and explained why I was releasing most of them. They kept saying, “The guy over there is keeping them, why don't you?” I told them that if you keep on keeping undersized fish, you won't have any big fish anymore in the future. The kids got angry and told me to stop “wasting fish” and asked me to please give the undersized fish to the poachers. I told them that it was against my principles and tried to tell them about ocean conservation. The poacher who got angry with me left right before I left and said one last sentence to me: “I eat all the fish I catch.” The result: The kids went over to join the poachers and their “fun” buckets full of illegal fish.
I'm even hesitant to post this report. I'm worried it may attract even more poaching to the pier. It should be easy to cite these guys. They have buckets full of illegal fish in plain view. I'm feeling sad even after a good fishing day. It's an odd feeling.
P.S. I know somebody is going to say something about why I didn't do something about the poaching. Please rest assured that I tried my best without getting into a big fight. I convinced one family to release all their undersized sculpin, so there may be (a little) hope left in the world.

Posted by corki

I have fished Newport just three times, all in the last month. Its pretty clear that this place is a poaching hotspot and is almost unfriendly to 'legal' fisherman. I’ve seen all sizes crabs, sculpin, small halis taken there in the short time I’ve fished it, and on one such occasion I got into a long (10 min) argument with a poacher which was frustratingly fruitless. I’m amazed how many fish the pier still turns out considering how heavily pressured it is.
Crust—the only two sculpin I’ve caught there were 10" and 10.5" while others were catching 7-8"ers; caught ‘em on a Carolina rigged squid strip retrieved slowly across the bottom.


May 20, 1999
Dear Mr. Jones,


I have not done much pier fishing since the early 1960s. My family and I used to catch some pretty good-sized bonito at the end of Newport Pier, and I am very pleased to have caught some of the memories on 8 mm film.
I happened to be there when the giant squid made their appearance after about a 40-year absence. I was told about the “invasion” while on the Balboa Pier and came back with poles wondering what everyone was doing with their gear resting against a pier railing. I saw the funny looking jigs and people bringing 33-gallon trashcans and ice chests. I even saw a young lad with a wheelbarrow. I commented to my wife that he must have been expecting to land a whale. At my request, my oldest son ran down to the bait shop to find out more about the squid jigs and their cost. He came back to inform me that they only had two left at $1.00 each. I gave him the money, and fortunately he did get the last two jigs. In 45 minutes of jigging we caught 90 lbs. of squid and by the end of the 3-day run, we had 150 lbs. in the freezer. Never having eaten squid before, we quickly learned to enjoy it.
Yesterday I got into my tackle box to inventory its contents and make up a list of some of the odds and ends I needed as my granddaughter, age 5, has been getting the urge to go fishing. I wanted her outing to be a success so I’m really reading as much as I can about your recommendations. Found three of the bait tickets from Newport and am enclosing one for your scrapbook.

Thanks again for your excellent book. Sincerely yours, Laddie Kosmal

Pier Fishing In California Fish Reports

July 1997—I visited the pier near midday on the 17th and saw lots of fish—bucket loads of BIG mackerel, a few walleye surfperch, and several large shovelnose guitarfish. In fact, I saw six guitarfish caught in thirty minutes. Most of the action was out at the end of the pier, especially the northwest corner—my favorite spot when I fished the pier in the early '60s. They've also been getting a few bonito and some croakers and corbina in the inshore area. Halibut fishing remains slow.

February 1998—Tom Ran reports that he's heard stories of people catching thresher sharks to 70 pounds at the pier and plans to give it a try. We'll let you know what he discovers.

April 1998—Shawn Cotton reported mid-month that “the sculpin (California scorpionfish) are still hitting pretty hard at night. And, the sand sharks are going nuts. Both are hitting on anchovies but the sand sharks are hitting better on the cut mackerel if you can get it. I do not think any mackerel are being caught on the pier. Also a few jacksmelt are hitting anchovies. And in the surf, the fishermen are catching perch on small pieces of anchovies. Also, saw another spider crab caught on a rod 'n reel.”

October 1998—Trudy, aka Bombermom, reported a good catch of mackerel on her most recent trip to the pier. She said, “I went fishing on Newport Pier today. I got there at 5 a.m. and there were already about 20 people on the end. It was weird fishing in the dark. I fished till 11:30 and I caught 51 mackerel!!! I was not the only one hauling them in either. Lots were being caught by everyone. I also got three smelt. It was a bit windy so the lines were going sideways and got easily tangled. All in all a good day for the macs.” Well, I'm not sure the macs would agree.

October 2004—On September 18, Snookie, our Balboa reporter, noted “sardines hit the beach again for the second time this year. They were between 13th and 24th street. That area surrounds Newport Pier. The city had to remove “tons” of the sardines with three people, two mechanical beach cleaners and a dump truck to cart them to the county landfill. The fish covered a 20-foot wide band along the beach.” Snookie speculated, “The sardines may have been chased inshore by the squid that have begun to show up at the pier. The squid, 15-20 inches long, are only showing up some nights but bring some squid jigs and something to keep the ink off your clothing in case they do make an appearance.”

Author's Note No. 1.
I rarely discuss specific tackle shops, but Baldy's, which used to sit at the foot of Newport Pier, was a special shop for me. In1962 while still a neophyte to pier fishing I bought my first “good” reel at the shop, a Penn 700 that I used for many, many years.

Later I moved from the area but whenever I would return I would make sure to stop in whether for bait and tackle or just to see what changes had taken place. Eventually, when I began my annual trips down the coast, it was always a destination spot when I got to Newport Beach.

In my later visits two unique items at the shop always impressed me. The first was a mounted fish hanging on the wall—the largest yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) ever caught (at that time), a gigantic 399.6-pound fish. Even more amazing, on the counter under the glass was a picture of a 34-foot-long, 4-ton basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) which was landed by the dory fleet and hauled onto the beach back in the early years of the century—a gargantuan prize from an earlier time.

Alas, in 1995 the lease was up, the rent was increased, and the shop was forced to close. Combined with the asinine threats to restrict angling on the pier by the local authorities (spearheaded by a local business group), it reflected the change in Newport Beach, an upscale town which no longer seems to recognize the special status that should be reserved for our lowly pier fishermen.

Baldy's Forced to Cut Bait After 73 Years

Even now, 79-year-old Tony Scarich remembers that moonlit night in the '40s when he and his brother caught more than 100 spiny sculpin off Newport Pier and hauled them home by wheelbarrow—so many that the boys at Baldy's Tackle wondered if they weren't just hearing another Big Fish Story.
Even now, salty old-timers swear by the wiggle of the store's mint-green Baldy Jig, a lure so irresistible to fish that fishermen still mourn the loss of the original mold in a fire in the '60s. Nowadays, small boys with no fish smarts but plenty of moxie still drop by Baldy's to hoist their big catch by the gill—maybe a 2-pound bonito—and lay claim to the day's bragging rights.
But Baldy's, the oldest tackle shop in Orange County, isn't the hot spot that it once was—these days, a sushi bar packs in crowds at the end of the pier, and locals peruse a boardwalk shop that sells sterling silver toe rings. Baldy's, a victim of changing times and competition, closes for good on Sunday after 73 years at the foot of a pier that was originally built as a fishing port. “It's an end of an era,” said John Horst, 84, a man with a sun-freckled face who got his first pole at Baldy's at age 12 and still fishes off the pier every week. “The town is going modern, I guess, away from the old times. They don't want us fishermen around anymore.”
Others contend that the city is long past its fishing village days, when steam whistles summoned workers to the canneries for mackerel slicing duty, when fishermen plopped on their bellies and dropped a line with a hook and a weight through holes in the planks on the pier. (Good luck in pulling a big fish through the small openings.)...
“The fishermen at the end of the pier don't maintain the pier,” said Assistant City Manager Ken Delino, who suggested that a nice restaurant or art galley would be a good replacement for Baldy's. “For years, we've been dealing with their trash, their fish guts. It's filthy out there... It is sad that it is a passing of an era, but the era is long gone, at least on Newport Beach Pier.”
Earlier this year, the City Council delayed a decision on a plan to limit pier fishing after residents complained that fishermen left behind a smelly mess and sometimes hooked people while casting...
At Baldy's, owner Patrick Kennedy, 44, said business has been flagging since he took over the business in 1973... Kennedy had planned to stick with the fishing business. This summer, he said he worked with the Racker family on new terms for his expiring 15-year lease...But Betty O'Connor, whose father, Walter “Baldy” Racker, opened the original store, said Kennedy was told the new terms of the lease were not negotiable. She said Kennedy simply chose not to renew his lease when the rent was more than doubled to $3,500 a month...
Fishermen still tell stories about Baldy's, the last stop on the boardwalk before the pier begins. Baldy's was the last-chance store for fishermen to arm themselves before that long walk down the pier to do battle at the edge of the sea.
“The pier's old—like 100 years old,” said Jeff Erickson, 19, on a recent afternoon at the pier, squinting into the sunlight at his fishing rig. “Baldy's was a part of it, and they've always been there. Now, it's like a part of it dies.”

—Renee Tawa, Los Angeles Times, October 28, 1995


Author’s Note No. 2. It’s nice to know that sometimes we help!

Date: September 26, 2003
To: PFIC Message Board
From: cabo395
Subject: Eagle Scout Project Complete

Several months ago, we posted a request for suggestions for my son's Eagle Scout Project. Eagle projects are to benefit the community, and my son wanted to give something back to the piers on which he learned to fish. The message board response was overwhelming, and, I am happy to report that he took one of your suggestions and turned it into reality.
He led the design, construction, and mounting of two display cases, one on the Balboa Pier, and one on the Newport Pier in Newport Beach. The cases have pictures of commonly caught fish, along with tips on baits, tackle, fishing techniques, and DFG contact information. He also installed stainless steel yardsticks along the railings of both piers, so that anglers could measure their catches.
Last Tuesday, the City of Newport Beach honored him at their City Council meeting. He has you guys to thank for the suggestions that led to the project.
You guys are the greatest. Thanks to all the contributors that helped make his project a reality!!! Drop by Balboa or Newport Piers and take a look! Yours In Scouting, Jim Kruse

Author's Note No. 3. For years there was a human fixture at the pier that I will admit I avoided. But maybe I was wrong?

Pier Monument Crafter Dies at 84


Isadore Greenbaum, known around Newport Per for his penchant for building displays and snapping photos of people holding fishing poles, died Sunday at Irvine Medical center of natural causes. He was 84.
Mr. Greenbaum, a longtime Tustin resident who had recently moved to Irvine, kept up a 30-year tradition of making “monuments” at Newport Pier out of newspaper clippings, Bible verses and American flags.
Near his displays he kept fishing poles with fish on them—if passerbys picked them up, he’d take their photo and send it to them in the mail. His name is even carved in the pier itself...
A former Merchant Marine, Mr. Greenbaum worked at a variety of jobs—such as plumber and taxi driver—before retiring...
Family members honored him Monday by building a display at Newport Pier.

—Los Angeles Times, February 11, 1997

Author’s Note No. 4. A small plaque sits near the entrance to the pier. It is California State Historic Landmark #794 and encapsulates a long story in a few words: “12/04/96, #794, McFadden (Newport) Wharf, The original wharf at this site was completed in the winter of 1888-89 and was connected by railroad with the hinterland in the winter of 1890-91. It served as a shipping and distributing point for Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties until 1907, and provided the nucleus from which developed the city of Newport Beach.”

Author’s Note No. 5
. California Fish and Game Bulletin #96 in 1953 stated: “There have been two features of the fishing at Newport that have attracted notice to the town. The most unique is the open air fish marketing on the beach, the only place in the State where this practice is followed. A dozen outboard skiff setliners fish off Newport the year round. At the end of a trip they pull their skiffs up on the sand, fillet the catch and sell direct to tourists and housewi

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Last edited by Ken Jones on Fri Apr 03, 2009 5:47 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2009 9:54 pm
Ken Jones


Posts: 9461
Location: California

And the rest—

Special Recommendation. Because of elevated levels of DDT and PCB in tested fish, the Cal OEHHA recommends that no more than one meal of locally caught corbina be consumed every two weeks.

Special, Special Recommendation. Since 1995, there have been continual threats by the city to restrict the fishing hours on the pier—or perhaps even close the pier to fishing altogether (although this is a WCB pier and closure would be illegal). The problem, as seen by the city fathers, and the pier concessionaire (the owner of the restaurant that sits out at the end of the pier), has been the unsightly and smelly condition of the pier, especially the area out at the end of the pier (a.k.a. best fishing area and area adjacent to the restaurant). The source of the problem was seen as the fisherman themselves, at least those whose trash and fish guts frequently littered the pier. The city declared it to be a problem that would no longer be ignored or tolerated. After several meetings, and considerable organization by local anglers, fishermen joined together in an effort to keep the pier clean (as well as instruct newcomers to the pier about regulations). Conditions on the pier did improve and, for a period of time, the city backed off on reducing the hours. Then, in February of 1996, the city closed the pier to angling from midnight till 5 in the morning. Today, signs are prominently posted throughout the pier warning of the possibility of additional restrictions. PLEASE, help the local anglers keep the pier clean by doing the same yourself!

(This, by the way, is not the first time the pier was closed. More than a hundred years ago, August 24, 1889, to be exact, the Santa Ana Herald reported that Robert McFadden would be closing the wharf each day from 6 P.M. to 7 A.M. He said he was obliged to do it to stop wood thefts on the wharf. The paper was opposed! It said the action “prevents early to late fishing...not considered right... as likely to discourage reader use...it being more pleasant to pursue sport in the cool of the day.”)

History Note. The McFadden Wharf, which preceded today's Newport Pier, was built in 1888 by the McFadden brothers, James and Robert. Their wharf, longer and higher than today's fishing pier, became the focal point for Newport Village, the small area around McFadden Place that fronted the wharf with restaurants, tackle shops, a dory fleet in 1891, and the Newport Hotel in 1892. The McFadden’s, their wharf and their railroad, all had a tremendous impact on the development of Newport Beach.

However, one must go back to 1870 to understand why the wharf was built. That year saw Captain Samuel Dunnells pilot his small sternwheeler steamer Vaquero into the San Joaquin slough (today's Newport Harbor) while looking for a suitable site to establish a landing. The site he chose was on a beach used by shark fishermen just east of where the Santa Ana River ran into the slough (below Castaways Bluff). Together with William Abbott, he built a dock and landing.

The same year a new name for the bay and landing was offered by a Mrs. Perkins. She suggested that it be called New Port or Newport, and her suggestion was adopted. It was hoped that the port would compete with the larger port north at Wilmington, and the nearby Anaheim Landing (moved in 1868 from Alamitos Bay to Bolsa Chiquita—near today's Seal Beach).

By 1874 Dunnells had left the area and the Newport Landing seemingly had lost out in the competition with the other ports. The McFadden brothers acquired the site and landing the same year, and soon they ordered a new 331-ton freighter from the Dickie Brothers shipbuilding company in San Francisco Bay. They named their new ship Newport and planned to use the landing and their steamer to ship lumber into the area.

However, the shallow bay and its dangerous entrance continued to endanger their venture. Finally, the brothers asked Congress for a feasibility study. Should Congress finance the dredging of channels and the building of jetties? Eventually the study was completed. It said the physical work was feasible but that the estimated cost was too great for a bay with such little commerce.

With their hopes for a safer bay entrance stalled, the brothers decided to build an oceanfront wharf capable of handling large ocean-going vessels. They chose to locate the wharf at McFadden Landing, an already existing beachfront location they had used since 1884. Calmer than usual surf conditions in the area had prompted investigation that showed a deep-water submarine canyon existing offshore and the ten-fathom line (60 foot depth) curving sharply within a thousand feet of the beach. Whenever tidal conditions prevented the safe passage of ships into the bay, they had been unloaded at the Landing.

The site of the new wharf was similar in many ways to the deep-water submarine canyon at Redondo Beach, a site where the Santa Fe Railroad would soon build their own wharf. Deep water would be needed if the wharf were to challenge other ports for coastal trade.

Construction started in August of 1888 and on December 31, the last day of the year, work was finished. The wharf stood 19 feet above the water, was 1,300 feet long, and was 60 feet wide at the end. The wharf quickly became a center for both commerce and recreation. Then, on February 22, 1891, a terrific storm lashed the area and the outlying 600 feet of the wharf was destroyed. Also lost were a warehouse at the end of the wharf and three railroad freight cars. The wharf was quickly repaired and reopened on April 1st for shipping.

The loss of the warehouse and railroad cars reflected the wharf's use by the Santa Ana and Newport Railroad. This railroad had been finished by the McFadden’s in January of 1891 and ran eleven miles from the wharf to Santa Ana. Primarily built as a needed link between the interior and coastal parts of Orange County, the railroad also served as competition for the Southern Pacific Railroad and acted, at least in part, as a feeder line for the Santa Fe Railroad.

Initially, freight was the main item hauled but soon passenger service was added and for $.35 a person could travel from Santa Ana to Newport Beach ($.50 round-trip). During summer months passengers could ride to the wharf and for $2 ride the S.S. Hermosa to Catalina (which represents about $30 in today's dollars). Passengers deciding to stay overnight could stay at the Newport Hotel built near the wharf by the McFaddens in 1893.

The wharf quickly became an important port and by 1893 cargo handled at McFadden's Wharf represented 25% of the total “Los Angeles” port traffic. In fact, Newport was second to San Pedro among Los Angeles ports that year. (The Santa Fe Wharf at Redondo Beach normally carried a greater percent of the traffic than Newport, but when it was damaged by storms, the Santa Fe would generally switch their loads to the McFadden Wharf.) By the mid-1890s, the railroad had become the largest business in Orange County.

Trains didn't run on Sunday and on that day anglers fishing the productive waters around the wharf would jam the pier. However, local railroad historian Steve Donaldson, an expert on the McFadden’s, reports that they apparently closed the wharf for a period of time to anglers (although he doesn't know the cause of this Grinch-like behavior). A.J. McFadden himself is quoted as saying that he could catch a dozen yellowtail anytime he wanted from the wharf.

In 1898, the McFadden brothers decided to sell the railroad and its wharf. A year later, in 1899, William Andrews Clark and his brother J. Ross Clark (a millionaire sugar-beet tycoon and U.S. Senator) bought the railroad. That same year Congress appropriated nearly three million dollars for the harbor at San Pedro, an act that spelled doom for the McFadden Wharf (since it couldn't compete with the well protected harbor to the north).

And then, in a strange twist of fate, the Clark’s sold the wharf to Southern Pacific, the long time foe of the McFadden brothers and the Santa Fe Railroad. When Southern Pacific raised the rates at the wharf, the McFadden’s transferred their lumber business south to the Santa Fe line, and the use of the wharf by coastal schooners declined steeply. Perhaps sensing an end to their dreams, the McFadden’s sold the Newport Hotel, their half of the Balboa Peninsula, and the swamplands that today are known as Balboa Island, Lido and Harbor Island.

Despite reductions in cargo, the wharf did continue to be used by Southern Pacific and was reportedly repaired in 1903 and again in 1904. 1906 saw additional repairs but also turned out to be the last year for commercial shipping from the wharf. Although use of the wharf itself stopped, the depot station at the foot of the wharf continued to be used by Southern Pacific and passengers could ride the tracks to the foot of the wharf. Eventually, Henry Huntington's Pacific Electric “Red Cars” used the depot and brought tourists and anglers to the beach. In 1910, the outer 144 feet of the wharf were removed for insurance reasons and then, in 1916 a fire damaged the wharf and caused part of it to collapse.

How Newport Beach Acquired the Wharf That Became The Pier

FINAL JUDGMENT. IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, IN AND FOR THE COUNTY OF ORANGE. THE CITY OF NEWPORT BEACH, (a municipal corporation), Plaintiff Vs. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, a corporation, Central Trust Company of New York; Equitable Trust Company of New York, a corporation, Trustees, John Doe Corporation, 1-2-3-4-5, Defendants.

Interlocutory Judgment in the above entitled action having been given, made, and entered by the Court on the 3rd day of January, 1923, and awarding to the defendants the sum of $5,000.00 as full compensation to be given upon condemnation of the property in suit...It is therefore ordered, adjudged and decreed that there be and is hereby finally condemned of and from the defendants to and for the use and benefit of the city of Newport Beach the following property, located in the City of Newport Beach, County of Orange, State of California, a particular description of which is as follows: (a) That certain wharf now erected at or near the point where Coast Boulevard (formerly known as Bay Avenue) unites with Ocean Avenue, public streets in the city of Newport Beach, Orange County, California, and extending thence into and over the waters of the Pacific Ocean a distance of approximately 1120 feet, together with the approaches to said wharf and the buildings thereon constructed...

Done in open Court this 28th day of June, 1923. Z.P. Vest, Judge of the Superior Court.

Book 474, Page 287 of Deeds, Orange County Records


The McFadden Wharf sat relatively little used (except by fishermen) until 1922 when the City of Newport Beach condemned the wharf and brought suit against Southern Pacific. As noted above, the city won judgment against S.P. and for the sum of $5,000 gained control of the wharf. Under the direction of the city, the commercial McFadden Wharf was redesigned and rebuilt. It now became a public fishing pier—the Newport Pier.

That same year, 1922, saw Baldy's Tackle Shop open adjacent to the front of the pier. For years a common sight was the long cane or bamboo “mackerel poles” lined up for rental against the side of the shop. Walter Recker, the son of the original owner, recalls how fishermen would sometimes hook a large yellowtail or a fish like the 83-pound white seabass caught one day. At times, “the fisherman would have to toss the poles into the water and engage a dory boat in the battle. The fisherman would be lowered down to the boat, the pole would be retrieved, and the battle would begin anew.” A few anglers even fished for the giant black sea bass, which were called “Jewfish” at the time. Most of the “Jewfish” were too big for poles and required a stout and heavy hand line and, I imagine, a stout and strong back.

The “Newport Pier” quickly became one of the favorite piers in southland waters as catches of fish were often better than that found at the more shallow water piers. Mr. Donaldson quotes one report that said, “There were no limits to the variety that could be caught. When the fish were running good, fishermen frequently quit before the day was half over, a gunnysack full often being enough. Fishing at this point, in the submarine canyon penetrated by the wharf, was a paradise in those days.” In his History of Newport Beach, H.L. Sherman estimated that 750,000 anglers a year fished from the pier in the period surrounding 1931 and reported that runs of albacore would sometimes come close enough to the pier to be fished.

Another report, from a long-time worker at Baldy's, said that in 1937 a huge 435-pound black sea bass was hooked on the pier, fought, and eventually walked down to the shore end of the pier where it was gaffed. Apparently a visiting 27-year old New Jersey man was the angler who hooked the huge fish on an otherwise slow day of fishing. If true, it would be one of the largest black sea bass ever caught from a California pier. However, some local “experts” dispute the report and verification is still needed.

In September of 1939, a southern-spawned chubasco (or tropical hurricane) hit the coast with 60+ mph winds and waves estimated to be 30 feet high. Local streets were flooded, dory men were forced to tie their boats to local lampposts, and nearly 500 feet of the end of the pier was destroyed. Luckily, by 1940 it had been repaired. Additional repairs took place in 1965, 1986, 1988, 1999 and 2002.

Two of the repairs did change the face of the pier. The first dates to the 1980s when railings were added to the pier. Prior to that time there were benches but no railings and every so often a person would fall off the pier and a new rescue would be added to the list. The city finally said enough and installed railings, which to old-timers like myself, were never felt as necessary. In fact the railings made/make it harder to stand near the edge and get that perfect swing for the underhanded casts under the pier.

The last repair, finished in March of 2002, saw much of the pier’s wooden surface replaced by a concrete decking covered in plastic over reinforced steel. The goal was to assure a safe pier for “the next twenty years.” I commend the work but it certainly doesn’t have the same feel as the wood.

From the early '20s, the Newport Pier served as home base for a number of fishing barges and sportfishing boats. In Beach Rat Days, Hugh McMillan describes the first local fishing barge, a 20 by 30-foot flat-bottomed barge operated by his father. The Esther Buhne soon joined that barge. In the '30s, a number of new barges joined in the fun—the Annie M. Rolph, the Melrose, the Mindanao, the Paramount and a barge with the simple name of The Barge.

Live bait sportfishing boats also operated from the pier. In 1925 Ozzie Ozene began running the Sunshine daily from the pier (much, according to McMillan, to the chagrin of the barge operators). Later boats would include the Sunshine II, Big Sunny and Little Sunny.

Around 1933, Ozzie Ozene was bought out by Darrell King who added the Valencia III and May B to the fleet. However, after the “hurricane” of 1939 destroyed much of the pier, King moved his Sportfishing operation into the harbor. (In 1935 the main channel into Newport Harbor had been made safe for all types of boats and Newport Harbor became, for a period of time, the main sportfishing center in California, eventually having 15 ticket boats and 121 charter boats.)

During WW II Newport remained open to commercial boats so in 1944 the McCullah Brothers brought the barge Gander to the pier along with the Iwo Jima, the McCullah Bros. #3, and the Dixie. In 1949 the brothers moved their operation to Oceanside and were replaced by Keith Rima who took over the pier’s concession. His boats included the Zootsme II, the Nobilia, the Westerner, and the barge Georgia.

Anglers would load from the pier onto a water taxi that journeyed out to an anchored barge. Once on the barge, an angler could spend the day fishing for the larger fish found in the deeper water (at least that was the theory). In fact, my first barge-fishing trip was on the Georgia in 1963—at a cost of $4.00. Unfortunately, the larger fish that day were found back at the pier. Even worse, the barges are now history.

Newport Pier Can Take a Long Walk in History

A carving at the end of the Newport Pier has become part of its lore. Etched into the wooden railing creased deeply by the fish hooks of time, the word “POPS” stares up at anyone who bothers to look. Only a few do. And fewer still understand what it means. The man called Pops “was well-known,” says Scott Nakata, 37, a Garden Grove fisherman who's come here for years. “He used to fish in this corner and always had a billboard up with pictures of himself and the big fish he'd caught.” Call it a piece of Southern California's pier culture: Fishermen may die, but piers never do. Well, only rarely, and usually in the clutches of major storms. Four other stilted structures grace coastal Orange County.... The one that stands out as the most historic and—to hear fishermen tell it—the most generous is the place that Pops once called home. “He fished here until he was in his 80s,” Nakata said. “He was very friendly when people asked questions. He died of a heart attack seven or eight years ago.”
Newport Beach officials say they don't know how many of the estimated 8 million to 10 million people who visit their beaches each year also tread the concrete-decked pier, but they believe it's a high percentage...
On a recent weekday afternoon, the only sound at the end of the pier, besides the gush of the wind and the gentle whoosh of fish lines, were the distant strains of Christian music coming from a portable radio beside one of the fishermen. Richard Adame, 39, of Brea took a day off to spend it fishing with his 11-year-old daughter, Sydni. “I've been doing this since I was a kid,” he says. “I used to come out here on the bus with my poles. I want her to remember fishing with her old man when she was a kid.” Sydni, meanwhile, is too busy pulling up sardines to say much at all. “It's fun out here,” she finally offers during a lull in the bites. “I like hanging out with my dad.”

—David Haldane. Los Angeles Times, May 17, 2004


Newport Pier Facts


Hours: Open from 5 A.M. till midnight.

Facilities: Restrooms are found near the entrance to the pier. Fish-cleaning stations, lights, and benches are found on the pier. The Fisherman's Gallery restaurant is located at the end of the pier and has a window for take out orders. Years ago, this was the area of the snack bar and a bait and tackle shop that had live anchovies for bait. There is limited pier parking at $.75 per hour (6-hour maximum), located near the entrance to the pier. Year round the area around the pier is crowded with people (there’s a reason why some call it zooport). Other than early morning and late night, the pier parking spaces are quickly gone. Be prepared to spend time looking for a spot at almost any other time.

Handicapped Facilities: Handicapped parking spaces near the pier entrance, a ramp leads up onto the pier and handicapped restrooms are available. The pier surface is concrete and the railing is about 36 inches. Posted for handicapped.

Location: 33.60654189063786 N. Latitude, 117.93035745620728 W. Longitude

How To Get There: From the Pacific Coast Highway take the Newport Blvd. turnoff and proceed west watching for signs directing traffic to the pier. The pier sits at the foot of McFadden Place.

Management: City of Newport Beach.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2016 9:19 am
Socalman


Posts: 6
Location: San Gabriel Valley, Ca.

This was great reading! My introduction to any type of saltwater fishing was at the Newport pier, around 1957. I was just a young kid so I do not remember exactly. For several summers our family vactioned in the Newport-Balboa area. By the time I was 11 I was allowed to go fishing on my own at the piers. Yes, plural. Sometimes I would walk up the coast to Balboa, sometimes down to Newport.

I recall cathing many bonito, mackrel, some barracuda, one good sized halibut and a small yellowtail and porbably more perch than I cared to count. I will always remember the bait and tackle shop where I would use my tickets and buy a live bait or two.

After many years away from fishing piers, I recently took a trip to Newport. I chose a spot that seemed close to where my father first took me as a kid and spent a few hours. I am not sure if I caught 4 small perch, I believe they were barred surf perch or the same little one four times! After a few fun hours I headed home, happy and waiting for the next day to get back down. Retirement gives me that opportunity.
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