|Elephant Rock Pier
When opened in the early 1960s, this pier was “dedicated to all girls and boys under 16 years of age who love to fish.” In fact, no one was supposed to fish on the pier who was over the age of 16 (although many adults did and no one really seemed to object). Today it is shared by anglers of all ages. The pier itself is both tiny and unique. The entire pier is only 75 feet long and most of this is a walk-way that extends from the rocky shoreline to a circular fishing platform built around Elephant Rock. Hardly more than a dozen anglers will fit on the platform but fishing here can be quite good. In fact, fishing here is among the best to be found among Bay Area piers. If the pier was larger, and provided space for a greater number of anglers, I might rate it among the best in the state. Personally, it has been my number one pier for leopard sharks.
Environment. The pier juts out a short way into Raccoon Strait from Point Tiburon. Across the strait is Angel Island; adjacent to the pier is Belvedere Cove and the ferry launch to Angel Island. Fishing from the pier is for the most part like rock fishing. Excellent fishing exists for brown rockfish, blackperch and striped seaperch most of the year; seasonally, mid-winter to spring, fishing can be good for rubberlip seaperch and rainbow seaperch. Casting away from the rocks, and fishing on the bottom, will often yield white croaker (kingfish), striped bass (in the fall), or sharks and bat rays. Fishing on the surface often yields nice strings of jacksmelt. Wintertime, December through February, can see huge schools of Pacific herring massed around the inshore rocks. When the herring enter local waters and begin to spawn, sturgeon will be close behind and eager to vacuum up some of the tasty eggs.
Fishing Tips. Best bait here is fresh mussels or pile worms baited on a size 6 or 8 hook. You should fish directly under the pier, in and around crevices in the rock. Watch your line and bait, keep the line taunt, and strike as soon as you feel a nibble. If a perch strikes and you miss it simply continue to fish in the same spot, the perch will return. You will, using these small size hooks and this type of bait, also catch a number of other small fish. Most of these unfortunately will be too small to keep or use but they can provide fun for young anglers. Commonly caught fish are small brown, blue, black, and grass rockfish, cabezon, kelp greenling, kelpfish, fringeheads and a few Irish lords.
Another good spot for perch is the water in front of the Caprice Restaurant (which requires a short but very accurate cast since the picture windows would be pretty expensive to replace); pile worms sometimes produce good-sized rubberlip perch in that area.
For jacksmelt, use a multi-hook leader loaded with three size 8 or 6 hooks baited with small pieces of pile worm or shrimp. Use a float to keep the line just under the surface of the water. Most of my best catches of these fish have been on an incoming tide when the current was sweeping the water past the rock. Schools of jacksmelt often seem to hang twenty or thirty feet past the rock and will hit the baits if they are in the correct mid-depth location. Many of the jacksmelt that frequent these waters seem to be of the gargantuan variety, fish 15-17 inches long that somehow have the mistaken idea that they are trout (or maybe baby tarpon). They fight hard and occasionally even jump. Some of the locals try small spoons and spinners for the large smelt and have a blast on ultra-light tackle. The most common lures seem to be Mepps and Roostertail spinners as well as light, quarter ounce spoons.
Casting away from the pier can yield kingfish and brown rockfish by using small pieces of anchovy, shrimp or squid.
There are also a lot of sharks and rays landed at this pier by using squid or small fish as bait (and fishing at night for leopard sharks is a tradition here). A long cast straight out from the end (or slightly to the left) seems to provide the best water for the larger sharks and bat rays (called stingrays by almost everyone). I have had my best luck on an incoming tide but have seen then landed on every tide. Be sure to bring a net or treble gaff with you since many of the sharks and rays are pretty good size, far too big to handline up onto the pier. Also, remember to bring extra sinkers and leaders since there are a lot of rocks to grab hold of your riggings. However, this is also one of those areas where there is often an overabundance of bullheads and crabs, especially as you cast away from the pier. One caution here is that currents can be very swift, a good reason for fishing straight down around the rock.
In the fall, the nearby shoreline is a favorite place for striper fisherman to cast lures for stripers, some which reach very impressive size. I see no reason why anglers fishing from this pier shouldn't have similar success.
As mentioned, the area can see quite a few sturgeon when the herring are in the spawning mood. Sturgeon rigs can be cast out here and when baited with masses of the eggs should yield a few sturgeon. If you can't procure any of the eggs (and they should be available at local shops) try a slab of herring itself or switch to the old standbys—ghost shrimp, mud shrimp or grass shrimp.
You can also hook fairly large fish straight down by the rock. One mid-June trip to this pier nearly resulted in the capture of a large monkey-face eel and the story of that fish can teach a lesson. By investigation, I had found a deep-water hole that curved under the rock. Several drops into the hole saw repeated taps on a bait but no hookups. Thinking it was a perch, I dropped a size 6 hook baited with pile worms into the hole. I had an immediate bite! A quick jerk hooked the fish and also prevented it from getting back into any crevice. With the bend of the pole I knew I had a good size fish but at first I had no idea as to what I had hooked. Nevertheless, after a short fight, I had the fish to the top and it was an ugly-looking monkey-face eel around 2 feet in length that twisted and turned the way eels normally do. Unfortunately, I was using my light pole rigged with 6 pound test line and I felt I might lose the fish if I tried to lift it up to the pier. Instead, I tried to gaff it with my treble-hook pier gaff (which really wasn't too bright of an idea considering the shape of the fish). I held the pole with one hand and tried to gaff it with the other. Just about the time I was ready to gaff it, Mr. Ugly gave a jerk, the gaff hit the line, the line snapped, and the fish said adios.
Although I had lost the fish, I made two subsequent trips to the pier in hopes of rehooking the eel. I knew that many fish will stay in a favorite hole for months or even years depending upon the type of fish, and eels such as monkey-face eels and wolf eels are prime examples of fish with this trait.
I returned in mid-July and caught only a few small perch. I returned again in mid-August, just three days shy of two exact months. Two drops into the hole quickly resulted in two fish, a medium-sized brown rockfish and a black seaperch. Action then centered on a school of large jacksmelt that were attacking pile worms just under the surface of the water. Finally, I dropped one more pile worm-threaded hook down into the hole. Just as two months before, I had a hard strike and soon saw the twisting and turning body of an eel thrashing at the surface. Nervous that I would once again lose the fish, I worked the fish completely around the pier and then up along the pier to the shoreline where a helpful angler netted the monkey-face eel for me (yes, I had brought a net this time). It was 24 1/2 inches long and I am convinced to this day that it was the very same fish I had hooked two months before (since these types of eel are rare off of piers, especially two of the same size, from the same hole). Remember, if you lose a good fish in a favorite hole, return and fish that hole. It may be several hours, days or even months later but unless the fish has been caught by someone else, or used as food by a fellow denizen of the deep, there is a good chance the fish will still be using the hole for its home base.
Date: June 10, 2000
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Fish Fool
Subject: Elephant Rock Pier
Fellow Pier Rats: Went to The Rock today, got there at 3:20 and fished until about 7:00. After about 15 min., I hooked into something. I had not even finished getting out all the poles. The fight was on, it didn't feel to big, but to bad. After a short fight on my brand new reel (my Graduation Gift from my family) we got in the Bat ray that went about 15 pounds. We netted it and let it go back to her family. Before we had that one in we had another one on. Had to have my Mom fight the fresh one for a little bit until I could get the other Ray back into the wild. Then with the small Ray back, I could fight the new Ray that was on (not that my Mom can't fish). After a longer fight then the first, we got it in, had a hard time to get it into the net because the wing was hooked. Finally got it in and after a fast picture we let it go. 60-70 #s? That was all for about an hour. I still didn't have all my poles out.
The rest of the day was only done catching perch small and large. Towards the end of the day I caught a small to medium sized shiner perch and sent him out on the rod with my new reel and let him swim around for a while. After about twenty minutes in the water I started to reel in the Shiner to replace it with a Bullhead that one of the other people let us have (we let them have the perch we got) after about 25-30 cranks it got noticeably heavier. I thought that it was just seaweed, but when I got it in it had a BIG bite out of its side just missing my 3/0 Owner hook. I let the Bullhead out to no avail. We left shortly after. Had a great day there and that pier is quickly becoming my favorite.
P.S. I did catch some small mystery fish. This time I took some pictures. I'll post them later too see if anyone can I.D. Good Luck and Tight Lines, Fish Fool
Date: February 27, 2002
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Ken Jones
Subject: Elephant Rock Pier—Tiburon
Fished the pier this morning from 8 to 10 using pile worms and ghost shrimp as bait. An absolutely BEAUTIFUL day!
Results: 2 Cabezon, 2 Striped Seaperch, 2 Brown Irish Lord, 1 Blue Rockfish, 1 Kelp Rockfish, 1 Kelp Greenling, 1 Blackperch, 6 Rock Crabs, 1 Kelp Crab, 1 Dungeness Crab (all crabs caught on the fishing line).
Nothing over a pound and a half; all of the fish except for the blackperch caught in the same hole of the rock that supports the pier; and all caught on worms except for the blackperch.
It was nice variety but none of the fish were big. As mentioned, almost all of the fish were taken in the same spot that, with the current running at a fairly rapid rate, required constantly reeling in the line and repositioning the bait. The pier basically sits over a rock and the fish like to hang in the crevices of the rock. Unfortunately most anglers simply cast out away from the rock. By the way, although this can be an excellent pier from which to fish for jacksmelt OR sharks/rays, none were in evidence today. One lady was trying for jacksmelt but not getting any hits. The schools are either around or they're not—it's hit and miss. As for the sharks/rays, that's a better nighttime proposition.
I was a little surprised by the number of crabs that hung on the line until reaching the pier. More normal is to have them drop off on the way up. And, I'd forgotten how strong the pincers of a kelp crab can be. I got a little careless and my left hand provided an appealing target. Ouch!
Date: April 18, 2002
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: Elephant Rock Pier
I used to work in Tiburon; my ex-boss still does. This morning, I took the morning ferry over to Tiburon to work with him a little bit on a project. Anticipating some afternoon fishing at Elephant Rock, I took my full fishing kit, including my brand new Ugly Stik Tiger 7' spinner loaded with 15 lb. test. I also brought along a half dozen pile worms I had bought at Hi's the day before, as well as a dozen or so frozen anchovies.
I wrapped up my meeting around noon and grabbed a sandwich and a box of Junior Mints for lunch at the local supermarket deli. I sat by the water and ate, and when I finally made it out to Elephant Rock it was 1pm. I figured I would fish for about four hours on the incoming tide (the high was at six), then catch the ferry back to downtown San Francisco. Thinking I'd have a shot at some lingcod, rockfish, and greenling, I rigged up a Pucci catfish/pier hook and leader kit I had purchased the day before. I rigged the small hook on the bottom of the rig and baited it with a bit of pile worm, and rigged a large hook on top, baited with a whole anchovy. I put a 1 1/4 ounce sinker on the end of the arrangement, and it was ready to go.
I stuck to the left side of the pier, casting in the direction of the Caprice restaurant, thinking about rockfish, but too skittish about breaking a window with my sinker to cast close enough to the pilings holding the restaurant up over the sea. After losing a few anchovies to the violent yanking of the 1 1/4 oz. sinker, I scaled down to a 1 oz. sinker, and that seemed to help quite a bit. Once I was sure my bait was getting out there without being yanked off, I settled down and waited.
After a few minutes, I started getting gentle taps on my line. The tip of the rod would shake slightly, but the punch line, a violent shaking indicating a fish was on the line, never came. Then finally it did. Once I was confident I had a fish hooked up, I reeled it in and discovered that I had caught a little shiner perch, no more than 4” long. It was unhooked and returned to the sea. I got several other tiny bites, all of whom seemed to be hitting the pile worms. The next time I baited my rig, I cut an anchovy into thirds, hooked the middle third, and cast the rig about thirty feet out, roughly speaking between the restaurant pilings and the boat harbor at Angel Island.
I waited. I held the rod for a while, but when nothing seemed to be going on, I set it down on the railing. I looked over my shoulder at the man on the rocks tossing a hair raiser. He wasn't having much luck. I wondered what he was trying to catch. I thought it was maybe too soon for striped bass.
Time passed. I was alone on the pier. It was a beautiful day, and the sea was calm. No wind. Wind seems to come late to Elephant Rock, it seems to be partially sheltered from the sea winds by Sausalito and the Tiburon peninsula. Anyway, that's just my guess. A few comorants paddled in the distance.
Suddenly, the tip of my rod buckled. Then it buckled again, harder. I lunged for it, picked it up, and felt it twitching and lurching forward, towards the sea. I whipped the rod backward to set the hook, and while doing so looked at the tip of the rod, and in the distance, in my peripheral vision, saw a fish jump. A flash of what I thought was a white belly and it was gone, back underneath the waves.
There was a screeching noise I had heard before in the past, but never so close. I realized it was my own reel and it was letting out a lot of line. The fish was making a run for it, seemingly in the direction of the East Bay, specifically Richmond. I looked down and saw the point at which the line enters the water move quickly away from me.
Throughout the entire run, I was reeling in line. And yet the fish was still getting away from me. Whatever it was. I figured it wasn't a halibut. I really had no idea what it was, it was a total mystery. I had never fought a lingcod or a greenling before.
The run stopped, and I continued reeling. I tightened the drag a bit, and just as I did so, the fish started running again. At first I thought I'd just let the fish run, not even fight it, and when he stopped again reel in the line. I was beginning to calm down and think logically, after the initial surprise and shock that some kind of powerful fish was on my line. (The biggest fish I had ever caught from shore had been a sixteen inch trout.) This time, however, it ran in the direction of the restaurant and apartment pilings. I became alarmed, realizing that if the line got wrapped around the pilings, I could be in a lot of trouble. I cranked hard and fought to slow the fish down. He stopped just short of the pilings. Relieved, I continued cranking.
The fish continued to fight, but I sensed it was running out of gas. I kept cranking, trying to bring the fish close to the surface so I could get a good look at it. It took a while, but I finally brought it up to the surface. I saw a gray head, a spiny dorsal fin, and horizontal gray and black lines running the length of the body. Oh god, striped bass. I looked at it again. Definitely legal.
I had to figure out how to land the fish. Elephant Rock is a short pier, and from the street to the rock itself is only about thirty feet, but the walkway is an ADA compliant ramp that runs for a good deal better than that, doubling back on itself to provide a gentle, wheelchair-friendly slope. I had to get the fish towards the rocks under the pier, and then somehow land it. I quickly pocketed my Shimano pliers and began to gently pull the fish from the left side of the pier to the right, towards shore.
In the meantime, the fish had other ideas. Twice it took off on another run, once trying to go underneath the pier itself. In the meantime I was distracted by the problem of how to land the fish. Fortunately, the fish was tired and the runs were short-lived. If it had had enough energy left to make a decent effort of it, I could have lost it then.
It was more or less at this moment that the thought entered into my mind: I don't have a striper tag on my license.
Oh no. Oh, no. I couldn't believe it. My aging grandmother had bought me a fishing license for Christmas, and hadn't thought to also get me a striper tag. I had bought tags the previous two years hoping to catch a striped bass, and never did. Now...the irony hit me as though someone had slapped me in the face with the fish itself. I struggled to think of some way I could get around not having a tag. That mental runthrough of options lasted about two seconds. There were none.
The fish had to be let go. Well, that's the way it goes. In the meantime, I still have to land it. The tide hadn't yet started to really come in and the wind was still down, and looking down at the rocky shore below, I hit upon the idea of just beaching the fish from above and then climbing down the rocks and releasing it. So I did. I dragged the fish into a half-ring of rocks that seemed kind of calm, and dragged the front half of the fish up on the shore. Then I let out more line and started to race up the ADA-compliant ramp. I got halfway and left the rod there, notching it in a break in the railing.
A man in sunglasses looked at me, grinning, and said, "That looks like just about the nicest fish I've seen brought out of there."
"I don't have a striper tag. I have to let it go." I said. I could tell my voice was almost pleading, as if seeking an answer from him.
I scrambled down the rocks and under the pier, following the fishing line with my hand. It got caught on the rock. I pushed on anyway. If the fish tried to run again, the line was pinned and would hold it.
The fish was floating on it's side in the water, drifting and swaying with the current. It was beautiful. It looked like a weapon, metallic and sleek. Nothing but power underneath the hood. But the eyes, although there was no expression in them, the eyes remind me it was an animal.
An animal that, at least today, I wasn't going to kill. Well, that's the way it goes. This way, we both go home happy and dream about how the rematch is going to go.
Right away I could see that the size 2 baithook was in the crook of it's mouth, and that a simple twist of the pliers would free it. As I approached it it splashed as if to get away, but I pulled it back in close and gently removed the hook. I was reminded how "hard" a striper's mouth is, something my father told me a long time ago, back when he thought I would catch a striped bass a lot sooner than I actually did.
The striper did not, sensing freedom, make a quick bolt for the open ocean. In fact, it did nothing at all. The fish was obviously exhausted. I touched it and gently pushed it away from shore. The receding wave action pulled it backward towards the ocean, and it turned around and started moving away under it's own power. Two seconds later, it was gone.
I sat back on a rock covered with drying seaweed and let out a tremendous sigh. The adrenaline stopped pumping and my shoulders collapsed. The tension and excitement left my body and a warm feeling of contentment took it's place. I had caught my first legal striped bass.
I slowly clambered back up the rocks, retrieving my line by hand, fouling it so badly I would spend ten minutes trying to straighten it out before cutting the whole munged section out entirely. But I did not care, and I did not stop smiling for the next three hours.
Date: May 26, 2002
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: Elephant Rock, Sunday
Went to Elephant Rock with my father and a few of my friends. Got there at around 11, in anticipation of a high tide at 1:30 or so. The wind was up a bit and the water was cloudy. Over the next two hours, using cut salted anchovies (my deepest appreciation to those authors of the archived posts on how to salt anchovies) we caught about seven rockfish, six of which were released. Didn't catch anything else, either. Well, except for a crab and a bullhead.
As for stripers, when we arrived there were about nine anglers tossing hair raisers and what-not in a stretch of about twenty five feet of brick-a-brack, about sixty feet to the right of the pier. Not sure why everyone was packed in so close to one another. One good-sized striper (24-26”) was observed floating in the water in front of them. We also observed this group catch a ray, which was released.
At around 2pm, as we were packing up to leave, a man told us that he had seen anglers on the brick-a-brack catching limits of striped bass and then going home. When asked the time this was observed, it was said this was observed around noon. The veracity of this report is judged to be questionable, since we were at the pier by 11 and nothing was doing. It was concluded that this individual was probably an enemy agent and his information should be disregarded.
There was also one young guy tossing a lure from an Ugly Stik and who said he had gotten a bite from a halibut. All in all, nice day. On the continuum of fishing satisfaction, this trip fell somewhere in-between "why did I bother?" and “best trip ever,” more towards the former, but definitely not the latter.
Date: June 17, 2002
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: Elephant Rock Pier
Living in Berkeley and having some business to do in San Fran today...packed a grungy t-shirt and shorts...decided to hit Tiburon for the first time...from 5-7:30pm...just a smidgon of a different atmosphere from Richmond piers... is it Caprieeee... restaurant like the car or caprice? After investing in a 50-pd. max fish weigh scale...parked across st. wandered down to the rock...what a beautiful spot, tides a churning, flung 1 pole w/ one 10/0 hk and 1/2 a sardine (tail)...1/2 hr later as stinky and sinker would say zzzzzzz 747 take off... 20 min later walking rig over to rock landing next 2 caprieeeeee... a 42 pd. ray... released unharmed...1hr later zzzzzzz 747 headed to the far east.....same deal got to rock landing people eating in rest... noses to the window... maxes out scale... pliers handy, hk out and released...Chinese lady present wanted the wings, but w/folks chomping on their 30$ steaks didn’t think it was wise to carve up this great animal w/ my pocket knife....Bay Bridge, Golden Gate, and now...
Date: July 7, 2002
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: Elephant Rock Pier
I went to Elephant Rock this afternoon with a few friends. We fished cut anchovies from the left side of the pier, and ended up hauling up the usual suspects: several (very) small rockfish, a cabezon, about three perch (silver and barred)...and one fish I can't quite identify. The photo is below. The color was striking, the same color as the local kelp. Very pretty fish. Anyone have any idea what it is?
We also had a rather bad experience with a family of fishing jerks that shared the pier with us. There were six of them: three sons, the mother and father, and what I would guess was an uncle. They set up their spread on the right side of the pier (we saw them coming and staked out the left half for ourselves). They were fishing squid, anchovies, and whole shrimp.
The first fish they caught was a rockfish, approximately THREE inches long. I saw them haul it up, unhook it...and then throw it into a bucket. I was incredulous. I said out loud to the closest one in their family, one of the kids,
“You gotta be kidding me.” I said.
“What?” The kid said.
“You're keeping that fish?” I didn't want to give the kid a hard time, but I was genuinely shocked.
“I dunno,” the kid said, then walked off. Shortly afterward he left the spot and went to fish on the other side of the pier.
I recognize that there is no limit on such rockfish, but at the same time, I was beginning to figure out why there were no decent-sized rockfish to be caught there. Generally, I go to great pains to leave people alone while fishing. But this was making me angry.
Some time later, the father caught a small (4”) striped perch. His family marveled at it...and then threw it in the bucket. I spoke up and told them that it was illegal to keep perch. They started talking to me in... well, people get edgy when you identify race on this board, so let's just say I didn't understand their language (though they thought I might, which is a clue in and of itself for those who have met me.) They acted confused, then acted as though they got it, and the mother did a half-smile and moved towards the bucket as though she was going to release it. I stopped paying attention, until a few moments later I realized she was shoveling all of their fish (including two 3” rockfish and a 5” rockfish) into a plastic bag. She scurried off with the bag to the car. Inside the bag, I have no doubt, was the perch.
We had to stop them from poaching two more times, once on an under-sized crab and the second time on yet another perch, a nice barred one. I was starting to lose patience with these people. I told them that you couldn't take perch until after July 31st. They kept trying to talk to me in, er, their language, though I know for a fact that the kids spoke English. I finally got the point across, and the woman put the fish down to take the hook out, and then, feeling my eyes burn holes in the top of the head, gradually gave in and tossed the fish over the side. I watched her wait for me to turn away again, but I wasn't having that. The fish went over the side and I left her alone. She looked kind of disgusted with me, which made me feel really good.
The great thing about this is that, aside from the 5" rockfish (which was no catch in and of itself) we completely outfished them. We caught more fish in more varieties, and caught quite a few keeper perch. And we released EVERYTHING (in good shape, mind you) and made a big show of it. "Oh, look at this beautiful fish I caught! I think I will let it go!" I could feel the envy from the right side of the pier. I dislike triumphalism, but in this case I found myself relishing it. IN! YOUR! FACE! POACHERS!
These people really made me angry. Not only were they deliberately breaking the law, they were doing so in front of their kids. They were also using language as an excuse in breaking the law. And they were keeping THREE INCH ROCKFISH! There was maybe two teaspoonfuls of meat on each of those fish. How much meat are you going to get off a four-inch perch? What's the point? They were just incredibly stupid, wasteful, and ignorant. It's people like them, whether they're wearing a suit and tie and skirting clean air laws, or fishing illegally and recklessly, that are screwing up my planet, and they all better knock it off soon and fly right, or they're all going to hear from me soon.
Date: July 26, 2002
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: Not a whole lot going on at Elephant Rock
I spent most of today at Elephant Rock, fishing with the ex-boss in the morning, and then solo in the afternoon. Very slow, I picked up one tiny rockfish for about five hours of fishing. Sigh. However, there are some mentionables/items of interest/questions I've culled from the day:
1. I met some guy who was fishing the pier for a while, we were talking, and he seemed to know a great deal about fishing, particularly Ben Lomond, where he's had good luck with pearl-colored Storm swimbaits for striped bass. He also mentioned actually seeing striped bass school underneath Elephant Rock. As I left to get some lunch, I saw him rig up his line with a leader with about five large stainless steel hooks attached to it. It looked like something out of the “Hellraiser” horror films. I asked him about it, he said it was a good rig for stripers, jacksmelt, whatever, his voice kind of drifted off. I didn't press and I left. I don't know the law on hooks, really, all I know is that I never use more than two. Kinda felt like he was on the other side of the law on that one. Anyone set me straight on that?
2. After lunch, I returned to see Captain Hook had been replaced by three other people, a man in his twenties and two twelve year old boys. At first I thought oh great, another delightful day of fishing with poachers. I chatted with the older guy a bit, it turns out he knows perch are no-take for another week, and I begin to think he's ok. The kids are busy hauling up jacksmelt. After a while, he gets a small bat ray, and then another, a larger one. Takes him a while to fight it, it's a real fighter. He gets it under the pier and then suddenly hollers for me to take the rod so he can land it in his crab net. I think, “Oh #$*&": I've never fought a bat ray before. I grab the rod anyway, keep the tip up, follow it when it moves, and keep reeling the line in when the thing starts to run. Jeez, what a workout. After five minutes, I want to hand the rod to someone else. Eventually we get the ray up on the deck. He says it's forty pounds, but I think it's more like thirty. The wingspan is probably about 36”.
The guy pops the hook out (which has been bent considerably out of it's original shape), the fish is in good condition. I tell myself now is not the time to interfere, he caught the fish, it's his business, and whatever he wants to do with twenty pounds of meat that has to be soaked in lemon juice or vinegar or whatever and that just tastes like imitation scallops is up to him. I go back to my rod.
A few minutes later, I notice he hasn't budged the ray out of the crab net. I get up to look at it, and the stinger is missing, apparently he cut it off. He's talking with a couple of spectators, and I hear him say, “I don't know what to do with it!” I point out it's still in the net and we could just heave it back over the side into the water (it's about a ten foot drop.) He quickly agrees, we grab the crab net rings and lift it up, and it goes back into the water. I'm not sure what its chances of surviving are without the stinger (the rest of the tail was uncut), but otherwise it was in good shape.
3. After he had landed the ray, one of the kids who was with the guy grabbed a filet knife and asked if he could stab the ray because it was “really fun”. I was horrified. To my relief, the guy said no. The kid was disappointed. Throughout his stay on the pier, the kid wanted to stab fish, even little jacksmelt they were catching. To their great credit, the other kid and the guy weren't having it: once the other kid was holding a fish, and stab-boy came along with the filet knife and tried to stab it, whereupon the other kid let it fall between the metal planks of the pier floor back into the water.
I fear this new generation, with their blood and gore first person shooter games (not heady games like the great WASTELAND), taste for actual violence as entertainment, complete lack of empathy, antipathy to everything, and desensitized to anything that doesn't happen to them personally.
Special Recommendation. This pier is located in an extremely nice area, an area that receives considerable use from both locals and tourists. Weekend parking can be at a premium so if possible arrive early or late in the day, especially on summer weekends.
History Note. The name of the town comes from the Spanish Punta de Tiburon (Shark Point). It should not be a surprise therefore that this is an excellent spot to fish for leopard shark and brown smoothhound shark.
As mentioned, the area is an extremely nice tourist area with manicured lawns adjacent to the bluffs, nice landscaping, good parking areas and an attractive shopping area on the nearby Main Street. It is hard to imagine that up until the 1960s this was basically a railroad town. The railroad controlled most of the area and tracks ended just across the street from the pier where the parking lot sits today. In fact, a newspaper article in 1950 characterized Tiburon as “a bundle of tracks and a clump of smoky buildings and 42 Acres of land...a workshop of noise, oil, welding, and hammering.” The shoreline was dominated by commercial activity with ferry slips and cargo wharfs covering much of the beach area between Elephant Rock and the Main Street part of Tiburon.
This activity had begun back in the 1880s. By 1883, the point contained a ferry slip, a long wharf and a railroad track, all built for the San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad and its ferry. As business grew so did the number of wharfs and pilings.
Passenger use of the area did decline in 1907 when the SF&NP merged with the North Shore Railroad to become the Northwestern Pacific Railroad. Although a smaller passenger ship continued to run to Belvadere and Tiburon, ferry service shifted to Sausalito while the Tiburon shoreline was primarily used for cargo shipping. The opening, in 1937, of the Golden Gate Bridge signaled that the end was near for the north bay ferries and just five years later, in 1942, the Sausalito to San Francisco ferry ended operation. Cargo operations continued until the 1960s but by 1958 most operations had ceased and Southern Pacific (the parent company since 1929), had shifted operations elsewhere. In 1967 the last train ran out of Tiburon and the change began.
In 1984 20,000 cubic yards of soil containing oil and lead from the railroad operations were removed and replaced by clean fill. Next, a 38-acre site was leveled for the expensive and beautiful condominium complex called Point Tiburon. The only reminder today of the railroad years are pictures and the old railroad depot. Just up the street from the pier sits the Donahue Building, the building that once was known as the Tiburon Depot.
Although relatively new, being constructed in the ‘60s, wave damage led to the closure of the pier in 1996. Waves had uplifted and damaged the old wooden platform that surrounded the rock. In addition, the steep walkway out to the pier needed repair. Unfortunately, the city needed federal money to repair the pier and the resulting legal entanglements would lead to a long, three-year ordeal before the pier was repaired and opened. In order to satisfy the requirements of the American Disabilities Act, the switch-back ramp to the pier that you see today was created. In addition, to prevent future damage from waves, a new steel grid was used instead of wood around the rock. It gives the pier a somewhat colder feeling, and allows an occasional bath from the waves, but it is designed to dissipate force from the waves and thus hopefully, prevent damage. Because of the legal requirements and paperwork, the less than 100-foot-long pier, and its fancy new ramp, was not opened until the summer of 1999.
Elephant Rock Pier Facts
Hours: Open 24 hours a day year round.
Facilities: There is some free parking just across the street from the pier—two hours only from 8 A.M. to 6 P.M. There is additional parking down the street or on residential streets. There are no lights, fish cleaning stations or restrooms. The upscale Caprice Restaurant is located at the foot of the pier.
Handicapped Facilities: This is not the best of sites for handicapped anglers. There are some handicapped parking spaces in the lot across the street from the pier but the ramp leading down to the pier is fairly steep and narrow and the walkway around the pier itself is also narrow. The railing is approximately 40 inches high.
How To Get There: From Highway 101 take the Tiburon exit west and follow Tiburon Boulevard (State Highway 131) to Paradise Drive where you will see the pier. The pier is at the corner of Paradise Drive and Mar West Street.
Management: Tiburon Public Works Department.
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