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>> Redondo Beach Pier — Update [topic: previous/next]
PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 6:39 pm
Ken Jones

Posts: 9768
Location: California

“Fishing from the pier, the takes were so good that no one worried about taking home the specific fish he caught. You just piled them up behind you, as they came through, chasing the bait. If you caught five, you got to take five home.” (Personal memories of Bob Goldstone)
—Dennis Shanahan
Old Redondo, A Pictorial History of Redondo Beach, California

Redondo Beach Pier

One of the arguments I used to have with a few of my southland pals concerned halibut and the piers that were best for catching the prize flatties. We tended to agree that Crystal Pier was best in the San Diego area and Goleta Pier was the best in the Santa Barbara area. The argument arose over the Los Angeles area piers. Some preferred Redondo Beach, some claimed Hermosa was better, and a few gave votes to Seal Beach and Malibu. I voted for Redondo Beach. At the time my vote was simply a hunch based on a few visits to the pier; I had no data to back up my claims. Then, in 1982, I spent some time interviewing one of the men who worked at the bait shop on the pier. One statistic that he mentioned stood out, a recorded halibut count of 1,266 fish the prior year at the pier. This was not the number caught, but the number of good-sized fish brought to the bait shop. The actual number of halibut would have needed to be several thousand. That figure clinched my vote.

Of course, when live bait is available (and generally that means catching it yourself today), there is tremendous pressure on the species. Most summer days see anglers lining the rail at Redondo and most of them are fishing for halibut; it would be a rare fish that would not be hooked with all of those lines.

Environment. The Redondo Beach Pier is a huge complex containing numerous shops and restaurants, fresh fish markets, amusement games, ample underground parking, and lots of space for fishermen. The misnamed pier is actually two distinct piers. The first is the beautifully rebuilt Redondo Beach Municipal Pier. Its shape, which resembles a large horseshoe, explains the name affectionately bestowed upon it by many locals—the Horseshoe Pier (although some anglers also like the term Ol’ Dondo Pier). Just to confuse matters some also call it the “Endless Pier” since it loops back on itself. Connected to the Municipal Pier on the south end is the smaller 300-foot-long Monstad Pier, a pier basically reserved for fishing.

The Municipal Pier itself is 1,550-foot-long but because of its shape and the various shops on the pier it has the feel of a shorter pier; it sits 25 feet above the water. Although there is a sandy beach here, most of it is under the complex of shops on the pier and angling for the smaller, shallow-water surf fish like croakers and perch is generally only fair. Anglers on the Monstad Pier, can fish from fairly shallow to moderately deep water and numerically more halibut are probably taken from this section than out at the end.

However, what gives the pier distinction from other nearby piers is the deep-water Redondo Submarine Canyon that curves in close to the pier. The end area itself offers exposure to this water. Pelagics such as Pacific mackerel can be thick and indeed the pier is probably the top “mac” pier in the L.A. region, producing mackerel when sparse elsewhere. The macs are joined by mackerel jack (Spanish mackerel), sardines and jacksmelt and sometimes the water is unbelievably thick with several different species. The pier may also be the top “bonito” pier in the area—some years—although the nearby Redondo Sportfishing Pier catches more on a fish per angler basis. The good news is that these smaller bait fish attract in larger game fish such as barracuda and yellowtail (generally late summer to fall). Good-sized sharks, guitarfish and bat rays are fairly common.

This end area also sees the most unusual variety including infrequent catches of deep-water fish like hake, sablefish and sanddabs. Sushiman, a regular on the PFIC Message board commented in 2007, “Redondo is certainly one of the most intriguing piers around for it's sheer amusement value. It kicks out a good variation of fish as well. Just this past month, I saw a triggerfish, a Humboldt squid, a 45-inch halibut, and a black seabass caught on this pier. The occasional ‘cuda attack is also fun as well.” His reference to triggerfish was interesting since an early F&G record for triggerfish concerned two finescale triggerfish (Balistes polylepis) taken from the pier in June of 1950. The pier has also seen reports of a few striped bass being taken from the pier (see below) including a 30-pound fish in December of 2001.

The F&G reported “a Paloma pompano (Trachinotus paitensis) (500 mm. total length and weighing 1,655 grams was caught on hook and line in the surf at Redondo Beach on November 18, 1959.”

The variety of anglers is also interesting and though the complex actually has an “International Boardwalk” filled with a number of different shops, the pier itself could be given that name. There is an unending mix of different nationalities and whole families camped out on the pier. The mix of restaurants, shops, and games makes it a great family venue while the ample parking makes it an easy destination.

Fishing Tips. Ninety percent of the time when I call for a report from the pier I am told “it’s the same old thing, mackerel and crabs.” And night after night there will be pier loads of people seeking out the mackerel and crabs. Given the proclivity for the macs it might seem natural to target them when visiting the pier. However, I always suggest bringing two set-ups, one for the top fish, i.e., mackerel and bonito, and one for the bottom fish, i.e., halibut and croakers.

For the halibut, use small live bait, and here that usually means smelt, shinerperch, sardines or baby macs that you have caught. Use a Carolina rigged leader with the live bait or use a slider rigging. Traditionally the seats along the Monstad portion of the pier have been considered the prime halibut area, especially the inner portion of those seats.

Hashem, a regular at the pier, confirmed that spot when he submitted what he considered the three “primo” areas. His first choice was the area across from where the bathrooms and seafood restaurant sit. This is the Monstad area of halibut fame and when the tides are right it can be elbow-to-elbow fishing. And, with lights available, the regulars will be found fishing the area day and night. But there’s more than just the Monstad area—or the end railings. According to Hashem, “a second area is the surf area located between Kincaid’s Restaurant and the north walkway to the pier. The area can’t be fished from the beach but is accessible to anglers casting from the pier toward the surf. The third and least fished area is between the north walkway and the south walkway. From personal experience, I know that the latter areas can yield up some decent croakers as well as halibut (but few people seem to fish in those areas).” I might add that I too have caught several nice yellowfin croakers while fishing the early evening hours in the inner section of the horseshoe pier, and surprisingly these were caught on cut anchovy. Although most anglers seem to want to automatically fish the deepest water and cast out from the outer railings, don't be afraid to try the inner waters.

For the mackerel, fish the end railings and use pieces of mackerel (or strips of squid) and fish the mid-depth area. You might also encounter schools of sardines or jack mackerel. For these, use bait rigs and fish mid-depth to the top. When bonito make a showing, use live anchovies, a bonito feather with a splasher, or a cast-a-bubble.

Night action will also often see a variety of sharks and rays. Large bat rays as well as some of the deeper water sharks, including thresher sharks and blue sharks, will be landed. Best bait seems to be squid or a whole small fish, such as mackerel. Remember to bring a net or a treble hook gaff and strong rope to heft the prize up to the pier (but only use a gaff if you intend to keep the fish). I have been told, but can't verify it, that both hammerhead sharks and bonito sharks (mako) have been landed at the pier.

An interesting technique that I first heard about at this pier concerns squid and bat rays. On a Message Board discussion concerning the best techniques for large bat rays, one communicant, YTail Stud, said he used squid and live bait. He said you first catch a small sardine or smelt and then place it in a bucket. Next, using a whole thawed squid, cut an opening in the squid and place the live bait inside the squid body. Hook the live bait through the squid body. The result is a squid that appears to be life-like as it moves about because of the enclosed fish. He recommended using this with a heavy rigging near the breakline on an incoming tide.

A final note is that the pier is also home to lobsters and some big, old gnarly spider crabs. Both can provide an excellent meal but the number of legal-size lobsters seems to go down each year. It’s not surprising considering the persistent, year-round lobster poaching that goes on at the pier.

Author's Note No. 1. The new Redondo Beach Pier is not only beautiful but also one of the best-designed piers, from an angler's viewpoint, that I have seen. Especially thoughtful are the bait cutting platforms located every few feet along the railing. Now, if someone from Huntington Beach would just pay a visit!

Author’s Note No. 2. This pier was the site of the first California capture of a longnose puffer, Sphoeroides lobatus, a species more commonly found from Mexico to Peru and considered rare north of Magdalena Bay. That fish was caught on December 23, 1972, by an angler using live anchovies for bait.

1972 was an El Niño year as was 1984 when five additional specimens were caught at the “Redondo Pier” between late September and October. As reported by the F&G, two fish were caught on September 29, one a nine-inch fish by Scott McKelvey, an employee of the Redondo Beach landing, and a second fish by James Sanders of Woodland Hills. Dan Armstrong, manager of Redondo Sportfishing, initially identified both fish, and these two fish, as well as the one in 1972, evidently would up at Marineland in its “Baja Reef” display. The fact that one of the 1984 fish was caught and identified by employees of Redondo Sportfishing makes one wonder if the anglers and fish might have actually been at the Redondo Sportfishing Pier? As mentioned, three additional fish were also caught at the “Redondo Pier” in 1984. A decade later, during the 1997-1998 El Niño, longnose puffers were once again sighted in California. This time two of the fish were spotted near La Jolla.

Author’s Note No. 3. Redondo’s Wharf No. 3 was used by the railroads as a seaport until 1926 when damaged and abandoned. The pilings that still exist today harbor an amazing variety of sea critters including sea anemones, nudibranchs, octopii, sheep crabs, welks and a wide variety of fish. The sandy bottom near the pilings also yields up turn-of-the-century artifacts from the wharf to divers who frequent the now underwater pier. Apparently the outermost pilings sit about 800 feet from the shore in water that is nearly 40 feet deep and near the edge of the submarine canyon.

Author’s Note. No. 4. If you think things are tough now when it comes to fishing, at least you don’t have to keep an eye out for the trains. Not so for the unlucky fisherman in the following story.
Train Dumps Fisherman Off Pier Into Ocean
Santa Fe Accident Brings A Damage Suit

”Suit for $5,250 against the Redondo Improvement Company was commenced before Judge Gibbs of the superior court yesterday by John G. Thompson of Redondo. The plaintiff alleges that while he was fishing on Pier No. 1 a Santa Fe switching train knocked him from the pier into the ocean, at the same time inflicting a severe scalp wound upon him.
Pier No. 1, which is named in the complaint, is the property of the Santa Fe company and the one through which an engine plunged several months ago, carrying to death the fireman. A spur track is operated upon the pier, hauling cars to and from the point where steamers are loaded. The complaint alleges that on the occasion named in the complaint the train was handled carelessly.
The pier is said to be crowded daily with fishermen and Thomas alleges that on August 12, 1904, he was seated on the track when a free freight car was bumped into by the switch engine, causing the car to move forward a distance of ten feet, striking Thomas and hurling him against a timer, inflicting a scalp wound.
When Thomas was jammed against the timber he claims he was in such a position as to render it impossible for him to regain his balance, and consequently he fell into the ocean, a distance of thirty feet below.
The impact with the timer rendered him unconscious and in the complaint it is alleged he was in danger of being drowned. Since the accident, Thomas says, he has been ill a great part of the time and medical attention has cost $250.”

—Los Angeles Herald, February 14, 1906

Author’s Note No. 5. There are several good restaurants on the pier albeit some can be a bit pricy. Several however are moderate in price and quite good. One of the best seafood dinners I ever had was at Tony’s (aka Old Tony’s) on the pier. If you like ethnic food you might try Gambrinus, a Russian restaurant on the International Boardwalk. They have a number of interesting dishes including belashi, a Russian-style hamburger (actually a meat-filled fried bread), a tasty beet salad, herring, hard boiled eggs, etc., and their specialty, “trout the Russian way.”
Not too far away is Naja’s, another interesting place (with reportedly the largest selections of beer in southern California). It’s basically a bar but also has good food and has received mostly good reviews, all except for one where the person wrote “Yeah sure, Naja's is great if you like too loud cover bands jarring your sensibilities, and stupid toothless pier rats hitting on your lady every time you go for a pee.” Now that’s an interesting observation but come on, stupid and toothless?

Special Recommendation. Due to elevated levels of DDT and PCB in tested fish, the Cal OEHHA recommends that anglers limit themselves to one meal every two weeks of corbina caught from the Redondo Beach Pier.

E-Mail Messages

Date: March 30, 1998
To: Ken Jones
From: Chad & Steve
Subject: Redondo Beach Pier

It was not the best day at Redondo for me and my pal Steve. It was freezing cold (due to the recent storms) and we caught few fish. We started fishing at 8:00 a.m., the tide rolled in at 10:04 a.m. and we saw a little action. Steve was going for the BIGGIES; he had a huge tri-hook on 14-LB line When he put that thing on I laughed at him, I thought he wasn't going to catch a thing, but sure enough five minutes later he saw a little tug on his pole and reeled in the tiniest little half-pint corbina I have ever seen—we still don't know how that little thing got itself on that monster hook. About 10 min. later I caught a 5-lb sting ray on a number 2 hook. Both fish were caught with anchovies.
The other fishermen were a little luckier. The guy to the right of us was using cut squid for bait; he caught a good-sized shovelnose, and a couple of mackerel. When were about to leave a guy came and showed off his bucket to us. He had about six big (and I mean BIG) corbina. He said he used squid on a fish finder rig (a fish finder rig is the rig used so that fish can not feel the line when they bite). This guy was a total nut case but that's another story...

Date: May 6, 1998
To: Ken Jones
From: Chad and Steve
Subject: Redondo

Hi Ken, We went to Redondo three times in April and YES the bonito have started showing up. I haven't seen any halibut though. Pretty much all mackerel, but some sea trout showed up with them. On the bottom we were bringing up shovelnose, stingrays, spider crabs (tasty), croaker (in shore), and star fish. People were catching bonito on heavy Lucky Lura rigs, using 5 or so plastic squid jigs strung up the line...

Date: January 6, 1999
To: Ken Jones
From: The Fishman
Subject: Redondo Pier is still kicking out the fish!

Now get this! Some pretty big stripers are hanging around the Redondo Pier, and several locals are catching them. According to a restaurant employee, he caught a 13-pounder on squid and all the staff in the restaurant spoke of eating that fish! I went on a nighttime high tide.... no stripers, but to my surprise I landed two short but not small halibut in the surf under the bright lights! Halibut at night! I was using these small glow-in-the-dark rubber skirts that I picked up in Japan along with a squid tentacle that I cut off some large squid that I picked up at a Korean fish market. I also caught an 18-inch corbina on the same set up but with a strip of pike mackerel (also available at Korean markets) for bait. It was fun fishing for night halibut in those lights and I actually got to see them take the lure on a slow retrieve. It was awesome to see how they ambush their prey; you should have been there! The rig also included a red Owner hook with a glow bead and a 3/8 glow in the dark sinker. I have had the best luck with the rigs I buy in Japan! I guess under that much light the halibut keep on biting into the night? I was right up on the surf, there was no one around, and the restaurant go'ers seemed to enjoy watching me fish. I'll tell you, I got short bit and chased more times in that 30-40 minutes than I could ever remember and as soon as the lights were shut off, the bite went totally dead! I will venture back during the day and will let you know if the stripers are present. Rumor has it that around noon when the fish market dumps buckets and buckets of the scraps and innards from prepping the calamari, the stripers are aware of this easy lunch and await this time daily. This is the word on the street and the cook at the market said they have landed many on squid, straight down, 20+lb. test, and the drags buttoned down to avoid the wrap around the pilings. I am excited that this fantastic sport fish has entered our so. Cal. waters and invaded the beaches. How about a night striper derby from Zuma to Torrance Beach on a night time high tide, no license required for that one tide derby to gather data on the stripers presence? DFG probably wouldn't go for it. I guess it's time for a new license! Do we need a salt-water striper stamp? Gotta call 'em I guess!

Posted by Danny Batastini

Pier fishing is how I got started fishing. Back in the late 40's my dad used to drag me along down to the Santa Monica Pier, hand me a drop line, and that's how I got started. In the 50's we used to fish the Balboa Pavilion quite a bit, caught some nice halibut and spotties off of there. From the late 50's through the 80's I was one of the Monstead regulars. I think we were the original “Wharf Rats.” Some of the guys I used to fish with you've probably heard of over the years—Ron Schmit, Fred Oakly, and the likes. I learned a lot about fishing from them and others. So you can understand why I think your pier site is great. I hold pier fishing very close to my heart! I'd like to thank you for creating such a site and I will be checking it out regularly. Good luck Ken and I really mean that. DB

Date: August 16, 2000
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Mola Joe
Subject: Redondo halibut

I don't fish the piers at Redondo any more, but I do walk out there every couple of weeks and talk to the local halibut guy's on the old Monstad section, and from what they tell me, this year was excellent. This is the pier you want to be on if you want to get a legal. Fish the side facing Torrance Beach, right in the corner by the ice cream store. The one guy who's always out there is working on his 24th legal of this year. Try and fish live smelt, but other live baits will work. Oh, don't forget a big net, your going to need it. Good Fishing.

Date: February 12, 2005
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Wings42
Subject: (In reply to: Monstad Pleasure Fishing Pier Picture—Redondo)

I used to fish on that pier, and saw more than one yellowtail caught on it. Redondo Sportsfish was owned by the singer/actor Gordon McCray. The fishing boats loaded from a floating dock besides the pier, which was sometimes an exciting start of a day's fishing at nearby Rocky Point (Palos Verdes) or Venice Reef. One of the shops toward shore from the Sportsfishing office sold delicious smoked fish that they smoked themselves really cheap... Also, the pier had a rowboat rental. All in all, a fun place.
I forgot to mention. I'm 63, and started fishing about 1955. The picture looks like the late ‘30's but the pier was essentially the same until they built the ‘new’ horseshoe pier in the late ‘50's, early ‘60's. We used conventional and spinning reels when I started fishing. All the reels in the picture are conventional.

Date: June 17, 2008
To: PFIC Message Board
From: squidder
Subject: opaleye

When I was a kid long ago (1970's) on Redondo Beach Pier, I saw an unusual method one guy used to catch opaleye. He would cut open a mussel and insert four small hooks into the meat without cutting the meat out of the shell. Picture four quadrants with hooks in each. Then he would lower the entire thing near one of the pilings where the opaleye tend to feed. Worked really well at the time. I'm sure techniques like this withstand the test of time.

Pier Fishing In California Fish Reports

October 1998—Josh Wilson sent along a nice report this month. He said, “the pier is doing very good on mackerel right now. If you go early in the morning you will catch about 50 or so. These little guys are always biting in the morning on anything and they really love frozen shrimp raw on the shell .The smelt and sardines are falling to small bait rigs with cut up squid frozen. The flounder and halibut are starting to come in and are biting on live sardines so get out the bait nets and catch the little guys. All kinds of perch are biting right now but not a lot of hook ups. No sand sharks or rays are showing up. The bonito are starting to bite but they are really hard to catch. If you want to catch one, catch a live sardine and float it under a red & white bobber in the morning and check your bait every 30 seconds. If the bobber goes down fast then it is a bonito and if it goes down just a little fast then it is a mackerel.”

April 2002—Sunny, at the Bait Shop on the pier, says that fishing has been only so so during the day—a few perch and jacksmelt. However, action appears to be good at night on mackerel and lots of big spider crabs. She has seen a few halibut lately but all were under-sized fish. She says there are also a few sharks and rays hitting—mostly at night—sand sharks (guitarfish) and bat rays.

July 2002—Sunny, at the Bait Shop, reports that there's a pretty good bite going on with mackerel—finally. She's also seeing lots of halibut, including many keepers, and more and more shovelnose sharks (guitarfish).

October 2004—Sunny, at the Bait Shop, reports good runs of mackerel and bonito together with an occasional halibut. Bonitolover reported that anglers using bright florescent green flies (with a cast-a-bubble) are catching a lot of bonies off the pier.

November 2005—Bill, at Paul’s Bait and Tackle, 803 South Pacific Ave. in San Pedro, reports lots of mackerel are present along with quite a few halibut. He also got a report on a couple of sheephead and a triggerfish.

August 2006—Joe, at Paul's Bait and Tackle, says the mackerel bite is sometimes non-stop with Sabiki anglers getting several at a time (until their leader twists up). He says there are also perch and lots of halibut in the water. Pete, at Just Fishing By Pete. 2427 190th St. Redondo Beach, says the pier is yielding up some halibut along with mackerel and some bonito. Sunny, at the bait shop on the pier, reports some bonito and mackerel on top with a few halibut being taken on the bottom.

January 2007—Bill, at Paul's Bait and Tackle, says some croakers and corbina are showing up in the inshore section while mackerel are still available in deeper water. Sand bass are also fairly good but most are too short to keep.

October 2007—Hashem reports sporadic mackerel action along with too many small bonito. He says there’s also too many lobster poachers (though the Fish and Game says they will be out in force this year.

History Note. The city was founded in 1881 and named after the adjacent Rancho Sausal Redondo (round willow grove). When surveyors, in 1887, discovered that a deep-sea trench lay just offshore, one, which would allow ships to be brought within 200 feet of the surf line, many began to hope that Redondo could become a major seaport. The result was a series of wharves (or piers) that changed forever the character of the area.

In 1889 Captains J.C. Ainsworth and R.R. Thompson, men who had recently taken over the Redondo Beach Improvement Company, put into action their plans to attract tourists and settlers. An initial effort was the formation of the Redondo Railway Company and Redondo Hotel Company. Next, they persuaded the Santa Fe Railroad to complete a line from Los Angeles to Redondo. At the same time, they began construction of Wharf No. 1 at the foot of Emerald Street. The pier was designed to handle shipping, especially lumber from the Northwest, and soon two sets of track ran out onto the wharf, the standard gauge tracks of the Santa Fe and the narrow gauge tracks of the Redondo Railway (and for much of its life the pier was known as the Santa Fe Wharf).

The Santa Fe carried mostly freight while the Redondo Railway brought three trainloads of beachgoers (including anglers) every day from Los Angeles—and a fourth on Saturdays. In 1890 Ainsworth and Thompson built the elegant Redondo Hotel, and then, in 1892 they added a pavilion, auditorium and dance area near the foot of the wharf. Soon after, they built a “tent city” to accommodate those unable to afford the hotel. In 1894 Ainsworth and Thompson sold both the railroad and wharf to the Los Angeles and Redondo Railway. Wharf No. 1 would remain a local landmark until destroyed by winter storms in 1914, a year that saw 85 M.P.H. winds and 14 inches of rain in January and February.

The success of Wharf No. 1 meant additional wharves would be built. In 1895 Wharf No. 2 was built, a Y-shaped pier that had two prongs extending out from the shoreline, one for the railroad and one for fishermen and sightseers. The prongs joined 300 feet out over the water and then ran for an additional 180 feet. It was built near Ainsworth Court. Wharf No. 2 was nearly destroyed by a storm in 1915 and then torn down the following year. Wharf No. 3, 460-foot-long, was built in 1903 at Sapphire Street. It would last until 1926 when the Pacific railroad failed to renew their lease to Redondo Beach.

These original piers were working wharves used primarily for coastal shipping and they vied with San Pedro and the piers at Santa Monica for shipping dominance (although the McFadden Wharf in Newport Beach was another competitor and it was often used by the Santa Fe when storms would damage the Redondo wharf). However, commercial shipping declined in the new century and the wharves at Redondo, like most of the oceanfront piers in southern California, saw a drop in usage and revenue.

Tourism, already important to Redondo, would become even a bigger part of city life. In 1905 Henry Huntington bought out Ainsworth and Thompson (thus acquiring nearly 90% of Redondo Beach); just four days later he bought the Los Angeles and Redondo Railway Company. Huntington's Pacific Electric Railway (and its “Big Red Cars”) were soon on their way to Redondo Beach and Huntington began to turn Redondo into a pleasure center which could compete with the attractions at Venice and Ocean Park. In 1907 he erected a three story high, 34,069 square foot pavilion that ran 217 feet along the midway and 157 feet to the shoreline. The building, complete with its Moorish architecture was bordered on the north by an extension of Emerald Street. The second story ballroom alone could accommodate 4,000 people at a time.

Good Fishing in Past Week

From Catalina come stories of catches of black sea bass, yellowtail and barracuda which cause local rod and reel Sportsmen to pull out their tackle and examine the date book...
Redondo has been another point of interest during the week. From mackerel fishermen and hand-liners catches of as high as a hundred “cornfeds” have been reported. Many of these fish have been as much as a foot in length. Several local fishermen have paid night trips to this beach, returning on the last car with a fine mess for breakfast. The best bait for the mackerel is the mackerel steak, cut from the side of the first ones caught. There have been a good many catches during the week with the Jftp fly bait, the fish rising to it if it is sunk and jerked about a bit.
As is usual when the mackerel are running there have been some yellowtail and a few halibut taken by hand-liners. Surf fishing has been unusually good at Redondo, and the wharves at the beach town have been lined with fishermen seeking the little fish each day.
At Port Los Angeles there has also been good fishing, especially during the last four days. A number of yellowtail have been caught and it is probable quite a few will be landed today, as the sardines are still running near the long wharf.

—Los Angeles Herald, Sunday Morning, June 30, 1907

That same year Huntington brought George Freeth over from Hawaii. Freeth, California's first surfer and first lifeguard, became the aquatic director of Huntington's plunge, the world's largest when it opened in 1909 (and which would last until 1945). Thousands flocked to the area every Sunday to see Freeth's surfing demonstrations and to visit the plunge. By 1909 nearly a million visitors rode the trolleys to the beach. A year later, the number was over two million. Visitors to Redondo would now see a casino, saltwater plunge, and music pavilion. By 1913 attractions would include a midway (named El Paseo) that housed a theater, bowling alley, and the Great White Lightning Roller Coaster. Visitors could also fish from the wharves or try deeper waters from Sportfishing barges and boats.

The destruction of Wharf No.1 in 1914 and Wharf No. 2 in 1915 created the need for a new pleasure pier. The city responded. In 1915 construction started on a new “Endless Pier” which was to be “the most unique over-the-sea structure in the country.” One leg began at Coral Way, the other at Emerald Street. It was built of concrete and steel and shaped much like today's horseshoe pier. Nearly a dozen large coverings provided shelter from the sun or rain and out at the end of the shorter, northern, leg of the pier set an attractive restaurant. However, the pier was apparently poorly engineered and unable to withstand the area's frequent storms. Within 20 months of completion much of the pier had been destroyed (by storms and waves which also damaged the roller coaster). Repairs were made but a new pier was needed.

Redondo's most famous fish may have been a 532-pound black sea bass caught on Bill Hall's barge off the pier in 1925. Eli Dessery, the business license administrator for Redondo Beach, caught the fish. He hooked the fish on a one-pound mackerel bait, fought it for 85 minutes, and donated it to the local Salvation Army when he got back to shore. Two of the “Sally” workers, Captain Margaret Rice Cole and Lieutenant Lila Ward, then borrowed a flatbed truck, put on their aprons, and headed out with sharpened cleavers to distribute the fresh food to the needy.

In 1926 a new Municipal (Horseshoe) Pier was built on the same site and this time wooden pilings were the state of the art materials used for construction. Near the foot of the pier set the famous roller coaster and plunge. The next year saw the construction of the Monstad Pier, a 300-foot-long “straight pier” which was built adjacent to, and connected with, the south leg of the Horseshoe Pier. It was designed to be used as both a fishing pier and as a dock for Captain W.N. Monstad's “Pleasure Fishing” fleet. Anglers had their choice of live bait boats or barges like the Big Lahaina, Fullerton, and Thomas P. Emigh. Shoreboats ran out to the barges every 20 minutes and for a mere $1.25 anglers were provided tackle and all the bait they could use. Non-fishermen could catch the daily ride to Catalina on the Enterprise—for a slightly higher $2.00. Business was good and the Monstad Pier was lengthened by a hundred feet in 1936. For many years a competing sportfishing operation existed on the Horseshoe Pier and anglers had their choice of Sportfishing boats or barges from both piers.

(Redondo Beach and its various piers or wharves may have had more fishing barges than any other town in California. The first was the Margaret, perhaps California's first fishing barge. It began operation in 1922 and was followed chronologically by Bill’s Barge, Challenger, Challenger II, Lahaina, Fullerton, Jane L. Stanford, Georgina, Thomas P. Emigh, Point Loma, Bonnie K., Kohala, Aileen, Melrose, Emperor, Oceania Vance and Sea Witch. All of these began operation in the ‘20s to late ‘30s. Following World War II a new series of barges emerged, the Manana, Retriever, Sacramento and California.)

After Monstad died in the late ‘30s, and the Pacific Electric Railway ended its streetcar service into Redondo in 1940, the waterfront area seemed to languish. The number of visitors decreased, the midway ended, and both piers saw damage and neglect. The restrictions of the early World War II years added to the decline.

But the ‘50s brought new life! California was booming and redevelopment became a favorite word. The piers were strengthened, restaurants and tourist shops began to crowd the piers, the International Boardwalk was developed inshore (next to a marina), and by 1964 Redondo had once again became a leading tourist center.

Alas, what man can build, Mother Nature can destroy. In 1983 the end of the Municipal Pier was damaged by winter storms. Then, in 1988 additional storms together with a disastrous fire destroyed much of the rest of the pier. Although the inner sections of the pier were still usable, they were crowded with businesses and much of the feeling and beauty of the pier was gone. After considerable debate, citizens finally approved an $11-million reconstruction in 1991 and work was begun.

On February 11, 1995, the rebuilt 70,000-square foot pier was officially reopened with the usual dignitaries and a crowd of more than 3,000 people. The pier, with its concrete deck and 202 concrete pilings is, according to the city fathers, impervious to fire, tides or waves (a prediction that has been repeated many times, by many city fathers, during the last 100 years). Only time will tell if this magnum opus of a pier does indeed survive and if they were right. Not in doubt is the beauty of the new pier. An ocean theme is stressed with the use of sail-shaped awnings, nautical lights, and rails with portal openings and bronze dolphin insignias. Even the surface of the pier has a multitude of different marine species inlaid into the concrete. Much of the pier has also been designated open space, a boon for anglers and a dramatic departure from its recent crowded condition. Redondo has truly reclaimed its status among California's GOP—Grand Old Piers.

Redondo Beach Municipal Pier Facts

Hours: Open 24 hours.

Facilities: Lights, benches, restrooms, fish cleaning station, snack bars, and a bait and tackle shop are all located on the pier. There is a huge parking lot with rates of $.50 an hour with a $2 maximum. At last count 32 different concessions were located on the pier.

Handicapped facilities: No handicapped parking. The Monstad Pier is wheelchair accessible with a fishing platform at the seaward end. The railing is 44 inches high and there are several handicapped accessible restrooms on the pier. Not posted for handicapped.

Location: 33.83888377189932N. Latitude, 118.39205145835876 W. Longitude.

How To Get There: From the Pacific Coast Highway, take Torrance Blvd. west to the foot of the pier and the parking lot.

Management: City of Redondo Beach/Redondo Beach Harbor Department.

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