|Burton Chace Park Fishing Dock—Marina del Rey
Shelter from the storm is a title of a Dylan song; it’s also one of the main functions of this park. The park is officially a port of refuge, which means that whenever there is a storm, boats are able to come in and use the docks. It seems appropriate since it is somewhat of an oasis of solitude amidst the normal hustle, bustle and glitterazzi of the area. Officially it is the Burton Chace Park, an eight-acre park, which opened in 1978, and a park that offers numerous facilities (mostly free) amid the plush yachts and townhouses that envelop Marina del Rey.
The park includes large picnic grounds and shelters, an observation deck, and transient boat docks. Every summer, a highlight is the Day in the Marina Program, which brings inner-city youth out to the park. Kids are taught how to fish (using fishing poles donated by the Venice Women's Club), taken on a boat ride, and taught arts and crafts. Three times a year free concerts are given in the park and of course during holidays there is a yacht parade. Most weekdays see an unending number of retired folk taking leisurely strolls through the park and perhaps doing a few geriatric calisthenics. All in all, it’s a peaceful small park—at least most days. It’s a place, as mentioned, that offers up a little tranquility and civility amid the huge, sprawling, and sometimes-uncivil area known as Los Angeles, City of the Angels.
Environment. The park itself is well landscaped and well maintained. The pier though is a surprise. It is a floating dock and that means it has none of the pilings and assorted critters on the pilings that attract fish. However, I have caught fish on every visit. The water is fairly shallow, the bottom is sand and mud, and the shoreline is basically a concrete wall although there are a few rocks in the water. On both sides of the dock are additional boat docks and the concrete pilings that do exist have some barnacles and mussel growth. The dock itself is aluminum with a fairly safe walkway leading down to the dock and railings that make it safe for children. Most of the species you will catch here are the typical southern California bay species. Fishing down around the dock primarily yields topsmelt and jacksmelt, salema, a smattering of perch, and an occasional small bass. Casting out to deeper water can yield croakers, bass, barracuda, sharks and rays.
Another interesting aspect of the environment is the kids. It sometimes seems like there are always kids here and they bring a certain youthful excitement and exuberance to the pier. Such a group highlighted a visit in ‘98. First there were two kids, then four and soon eight. None had a pole or hook or bait but all wanted to fish. Someone soon acquired a stick from the park, some discarded line was found in the trashcan, and I supplied a couple of hooks (and eventually more line and bait). Pieces of pita bread were the initial bait. “There's a billion of 'em, a hundred and fifty. Are they tadpoles?” “No stupid, they're fish.” “Why do you want to catch small ones?” “So we can eat them quickly.” Such was the jargon and reasoning of the small group of munchkins which enlivened what had been a pretty typical visit until their arrival—a few bass, a couple of croakers and several salema.
Fishing Tips. If you have kids along, try a light line and a multi-hook leader for smelt. Fish mid-depth, just out of your view. If you don't get fairly quick action, throw a few broken up pieces of bread into the water or sweeten a couple of your hooks with almost any kind of bait. You should be able to catch a few smelt and you may attract a few mackerel.
Best action for the larger species usually is found on the bottom. Cut anchovy on a high low leader will yield white croakers and possibly a few halibut, bass, rays and sharks. A high/low leader baited with fresh mussel, bloodworms or ghost shrimp will often yield yellowfin croaker, spotfin croaker and possibly even a black (China) croaker. The same bait when fished with a sliding bait leader may yield diamond turbot and if you use a small live smelt may yield a halibut. Shovelnose guitarfish, round stingrays, gray smoothhound sharks and leopard sharks are also common with both cut bait (anchovies and mackerel) and squid seeming to produce most of the fish. Bat rays are also common both in big numbers and in big sizes; they seem to prefer squid.
If you have the money and a way to keep them alive, go over to the dock at Marina Del Rey Sportfishing (13759 Fiji Way) and purchase some live anchovies. Cast out a Carolina rigging and you have a good chance for a bass, halibut or big sharay.
Artificials are also appropriate at this close-to-the-water pier. Try curly tails and grubs for bass and even a few perch; try gold spoons at night for small barracuda. If you see a disturbance in the water it may be mackerel or bonito; for these, try a bucktail fly trailing a cast-a-bubble.
Date: May 5, 2004
To: Pier Fishing In California Message Board
From: gordo grande
Subject:: Burton Chace Halibut-AAAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!!!!
Fished Burton Chace Park this morning, from 7AM to 9AM. Decided to fish Big Hammers this morning, since bait didn't do much when I was there with Ken last week. Just as we were leaving that morning, another regular, Tim, caught a short cuda on a swim bait, so that seemed the way to go.
I got there about 7:30, in the middle of a big incoming tide. Threw out a motor oil 3” swim bait on a red lead head. Rod and reel were an old Shakespeare K-mart special, that was badly in need of new line. My third cast didn't go very far, and as I was reeling it in I noticed that my line had twisted. As I said, I hadn't used that reel in a while. I thought, “this isn't good,” so I laid the rod down at one end of that pier, and slowly walked the line out so I could untangle it before I reeled it all the way in. As I was straightening out the line I felt some slight tugging. Hhhhmmmmm....maybe a small little fish grabbed the Big Hammer.
I slowly pulled the line in...and...up came about a 26” halibut!!!!!!!!! Burton Chace is a floating pier, and this fish was right underneath me, with only a fence between us. Holy Cow!!! I am now hand lining a big 'butt on 8 lb. line, and my rod is about 15 feet away. My big landing net is about 10 feet in the other direction. I'm thinking, “I can do this!” I decide to try to hand line him over to the net and try to bring him in. He's hardly fighting at all, and I'm trying to keep his head in the water.
No such luck. The big butt went along with this for about thirty seconds, shook his head, and the line broke. Adiós Mr. Halibut and my new Big Hammer.
I'm going to give up fishing, and take up golf. Fished another ninety minutes, and caught a short halibut between the fishing dock and the WSB hatchery. Released him to fight again. Tim showed up about that time and I told him the whole story. My feeling is that he probably thinks I should take up golf as well! Gordo Grande
Date: October 6, 2004
To: PFIC Message Board
From: gordo grande
Subject: Made another new friend fishing!
Well, I’m supposed to start exercising, so I thought what better way is there to exercise than to ride my bike... to Marina del Rey? I pulled out my old bicycle trailer that I used for hauling my kids around when they were little. Just as I thought, it makes a perfect pier cart! Forty-five minutes later I was at Burton Chace Park, ready to check things out.
I was going to take the whole cart down to the pier, but there was a large group of older people hanging out on the pier enjoying the weather and the view. It’s a small pier, so I thought it best to leave the bike and trailer up top, and just carry down the fishing stuff I would need.
I was setting up my Sabiki when older gentlemen approached me, asking all the usual questions. He told me that he was a fisherman, and he looked really envious, so I talked him into fishing with me. Well, actually, it wasn’t hard, I think he was dying to be asked. I handed him the small rod with the Sabiki, and put him to work catching the bait. I then set up two rods for fly lining...
We talked a lot, and I learned that he was a Russian Jewish immigrant, living in Hollywood. He was excited to hear that part of my heritage is also Russian Jewish. We fished for about four hours, during which he kept going back to his wife and getting more food for me to eat. Fishing was slow, though, but it was a beautiful day.
I eventually switched one of the fly line setups to a sliding sinker. I got three good hits, and landed one short halibut. My new friend, Froelinch, was amazed when I started to throw the short ‘but back in the water, but he understood when I explained it wasn’t legal. Still, he had to show his wife the fish, and pose for a pic. All in all, a great day, and I think I have another new fishing buddy. Gordo Grande
Date: April 2, 2006
To: PFIC Message Board
From: gordo grande
Subject: Made another new friend fishing!
Met up with Mahigeer for some Persian food and some pier fishing. The food was excellent, but the same could not be said for the fishing. The smelt were cooperating, but nothing else was. We were surrounded by curious kids, who we put to work jigging up some bait. We threw out quite a few smelt on sliders, but never got so much as a nibble. It's amazing how long a smelt can live on the end of a hook when nothing tries to eat it.
Still, I'm very happy because I got the chance to try out a few new reels that I got at the Fred Hall Show. I've also been doing a lot of surf fishing lately, and it's been a while since I've set foot on a pier. It was fun getting the old pier cart out again, and using some different gear.
It was great hooking up with Hashem and meeting his extended family. Their hospitality was overwhelming, and of course, I ate too much. But, then again, that is how I got the name Gordo Grande!
The high point of the day: A cute little girl, about 8 or 10 years old, asked if she could do some fishing. We told her she could if she got her parents' permission. She came back with dad in tow, who said it would be ok. We handed her a Sabiki rod tipped with lugworms, and she promptly brought up a juvenile white seabass! Of course, she was afraid to touch it, or even look at it, but we told her that she had caught the biggest fish of the day!
Date: August 19, 2007
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: Fishing to the rhythm of Bossa Nova!
Last night was another free concert at the Burton Chase Park in Marina del Rey. Bossa Nova with Oscar Castro-Neves. So, as usual, I set up the Mrs. on the grass area with a glass of wine in hand, and went to the small fishing platform.
There was a very nice angler who was fishing with one rod. He was also providing some kids with fishing line and hooks and bait. This way they could be busy playing with crabs or fish. I set up my under-water camera to see what is under the platform on the bottom. There were lots of mussels surrounding the platform, but the bottom was only sand.
Perhaps a good place for ray or halibut. As I was putting the camera away the nice angler hooked into something good. He expertly played a fish and brought up a 3’ spiny dogfish. I removed the hook for him and released the fish.
He left shortly after, but left me some fresh mussels. By this time the music started and the original set of kids were replaced by another set of older and well-behaved kids. They quickly found the line and hook set up and wonted to fish. I had lots of mussel so I baited their hooks and begin a fishing seminar. I had two kids bring up YFC’s on my rod, and let them have it. One kid actually caught a smelt, but lost it. Later the same kid got a salema, and brought it over the 36” fence. At one point I saw what looked like some fish boiling at the surface, so I threw out a diamond jig, but no takers.
I packed up around 8:30 PM, when the music was over, but the kids were still there in the dark trying to fish. The fish count for me was two 10” YFC, on mussel which were given away. Weather was warm and scenery was beautiful with all of the flickering lights from the various boats and buildings. Nice way to finish a Saturday.
Date: November 23, 2007
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: Burton Chace Park
Went out for a quick recon of Burton Chace Park and my 11-year-old son pulled in a little barracuda! It was low tide and he caught the little fella on a 4-inch swimbait rigged with a 1/2 oz. jighead. The swimbait was coated liberally in a castor oil/garlic/salt solution. The barracuda was quickly released back into the water and darted away.
My son loves pier fishing and wanted me to share this info with everyone at pierfishing.com. Another pier rat in the making!
Author's Note No. 1. Just down shore to the left of the fishing dock is another dock with an interesting feature for anglers. It is home to a holding pen for young white seabass. It is a project of the Marina del Rey Anglers in conjunction with United Anglers of Southern California and the Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute in San Diego. Hopefully, by raising the fish to larger sizes in local waters, more will survive and this important fishery can be enhanced.
Author's Note No. 2. Surprisingly, for its small size, the park has appeared in many movies and TV shows. Movies include Dragnet and Starsky and Hutch.
Author’s Note. No. 3. Real estate ads from 1905 give glimpse into the marketing techniques used to promote the area that would become a popular resort (see below).
Playa del Rey
The Choicest Beach Property Between San Francisco and San Diego
Playa del Rey... is, without the semblance of a doubt, the most desirable, “all the year round” ocean resort on the South Pacific Coast. This beautiful watering place, only 14 miles from the city, has the largest pleasure pavilion south of San Francisco. It also has a pleasure pier, a natural lagoon several miles in length, and over two miles of beautiful beach frontage that affords a constant view of Catalina and the sweeping contour of the Sierras... You may travel the entire coast length and you'll find no better opportunity for investment than at Playa del Rey—in truth, a beach fit for a king.
—Los Angeles Herald, April 23, 1905
Playa del Rey
• Not an ordinary Beach Resort but one that will appeal to the most critical.
• Pronounced by eminent tourists, noted travelers, writers and globe-trotters to be the most picturesque Ocean Resort on either coast.
• Property in Playa del Rey will easily double in value in a very short space of time.
• A Rare Investment—The reasons why Playa del Rey offers the best opportunity for beach property investment may be set forth as follows: Its proximity to Los Angeles (it is the nearest beach). Its admirable location, scenic advantages and established (not promised) improvements).
—Los Angeles Herald, June 11, 1905
History Note. Originally this was the site where, over a ten-year period (1815-1825), the Los Angeles River drained into the Pacific Ocean. Eventually it became a marshland filled with water from Ballona Creek and a popular area for duck hunting expeditions. .
Then, in 1887, real estate developer M.C, Wicks invested more than $300,000 from the Santa Fe Railroad to develop the area into a great world port, “the future harbor of Southern California.” Within a year a railway line extended from Los Angeles that brought prospective buyers to “Port Ballona” and, for a period of time, things looked good. Then the economy took a dip and the land boom—and harbor plan—went bust. Wicks went bankrupt and the harbor was never completed.
In 1902 new promoters built 12-foot boardwalks, a $200,000 hotel, an aquatic amphitheater, and a “grand pleasure pavilion” to attract land buyers. A bridge crossed the lagoon to the subdivided mesa renamed Playa del Rey (Beach of the King). The area became a popular resort until fire destroyed the hotel and left the pavilion as embers and ash.
For the next half-century locals worked to see a harbor developed with little success (with Burton Chace being one of the main boosters involved in the project). Finally, in 1954, Congress proposed the construction of a recreational harbor; work started in 1960, and the harbor opened in 1962. Today Marina del Rey is an 807-acre marina home to 7,000 boats surrounded by hotels, high-rise condominiums, restaurants and shops. Factoids proclaim it is the largest man-made, small-boat marina in the world.
Burton Chace Park Pier Facts
Hours: Open 24 hours a day.
Facilities: The pier has no lights, benches or bait cutting platforms. Adjacent to the entryway to the dock is an excellent fish cleaning station and the restrooms are just up shore from the dock. There is a small parking lot near the front of the park which has meters; however, the meters only are required from 8-6 on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays (.25/half hour). Other times are free. A larger parking lot is found just up the street ($2 all day). A snack bar is open in the park most summer and weekend days.
Handicapped Facilities: Handicapped parking is found at the entrance to the park. The walkway down to the dock and the dock surface itself are aluminum and both are fairly narrow. There are a couple of spots that look like they could be fairly dangerous to a person in a wheelchair trying to turn around; the rail height is 42 inches.
Location: 33.97708628823296 N. Latitude, 118.44660758972168 W. Longitude.
How To Get There: From Lincoln Boulevard turn west on Mindanao Drive and follow it to the park. To reach the dock you must go through the park.
Management: County of Los Angeles, Department of Beaches and Harbors.
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Last edited by Ken Jones on Tue Apr 07, 2009 4:49 pm; edited 2 times in total