|This is still a work in progress—
Paradise Cove Pier
If you have a few bucks and a fishing license, and you want to try something different, you can try this little pier that is located in a private cove and beach. Jacketed attendants let you into the parking area for a $25 per car charge, although you can walk in for less, and then you’re entitled to use the beach or pier.
Of course, the pier today bares little resemblance to the pier that existed before the storms of 1983. Prior to that year, a 600-foot-long pier graced the cove’s waters. The pier was well maintained, had rental boats, and the Paradise Cove Sportfishing fleet operated from the pier. Today, that is all gone. The El Niño-driven winter storms of 1983 that damaged so many piers included this pier as a victim. Huge waves destroyed much of the pier and left only a small 220-foot-long, inshore section intact.
Although still in use until the year 2000, it was closed for a period of time but is now once again open. Good news because this is a popular (sometimes too popular) and pretty area. It is a site that has been used in many movies, television films, and commercials, and is a pier that, at one time, had better-than-average fishing. Even given its reduced size, it still manages to offer decent to good fishing and, at times, offers an interesting variety of species.
Environment. Paradise Cove is located just south of Point Dume, the northern end of Santa Monica Bay, and has long been a favored destination for boaters and fisherman. Wind and waves can be somewhat deflected by the point, and the area is known for large growths of kelp, conditions that attract the fish—and fishermen. The pier sits in fairly shallow water, the bottom is primarily sand, pilings have some growth of mussels, and, during the summer, the pier itself is often thoroughly surrounded by a luxuriant garden of kelp and seaweed. Because of the light surf, the area usually had only fair surf fishing (although some surfperch and corbina are caught). However, because of the extensive beds of kelp and other assorted algae that often surround the pier, there can be a pretty fair variety of kelp-loving species available to anglers who know how to catch them. The numbers are usually not that high but an angler is often able to get a surprising variety of fish and a few good quality fish.
Fishing Tips. Normal southland baits and procedures work here: sand crabs, sea worms, mussels and ghost shrimp in the surf area, live bait, cut anchovies, cut mackerel, and strips of squid further out on the pier.
Inshore, anglers primarily land barred surfperch, corbina and several types of croaker. I’ve never thought the pier was particularly good in the surf but I’ve been told by some regulars (not seen it) that the surf fishing is just as good as at the Malibu Pier. Artificials will work here as seen by the regulars using grubs for perch
Just past the breakers all the way to the end (because the pier is short) is the area for halibut. At times, especially spring to early summer, quite a few halibut are caught. Anglers fishing plastics such as Big Hammers or Fish Traps take most of the flatfish but the vast majority of the fish are under the legal size. In fact, I watched an angler during a visit in June of 1995 land over a dozen flatties in just over an hour using plastics but not one was more than about 15 inches in length. Live bait will also attract the halibut and a small perch or white croaker used as bait will generally see larger fish than the plastics—in my opinion.
Mid-pier to the end can see invasions of jacksmelt as well as a plethora of bottom species—thornbacks, shovelnose sharks (guitarfish), leopard sharks and some bat rays. At the end of the pier, anglers have the best chance of encountering the pelagics— Pacific mackerel, jack mackerel, sardines, and sometimes bonito, but the numbers are less than at longer piers that extend further out into deeper waters. Surprisingly, the fairly shallow waters have yielded some pretty good-sized fish including a 3-foot-long black (giant) sea bass taken in July of ’08 and a 37-inch white seabass taken in March of 2009.
As mentioned, the pier sometimes has a heavy growth of seaweed and kelp during the summer to fall months, vegetation that provides excellent cover and attraction for several varieties of fish—including some that are infrequently encountered at the area’s other oceanfront piers. Halfmoon, opaleye, blackperch, sargo, giant kelpfish, striped kelpfish, senorita, rock wrasse, sand bass, kelp bass, and small rockfish—kelp rockfish, grass rockfish, or olive rockfish (Johnny bass)—all are fairly common when the kelp is around. I'd bring along some bloodworms (or lugworms), fresh mussels, and shrimp (especially live ghost shrimp) to try for these species. Bring along some frozen peas or moss if specifically seeking out the opaleye. Fish on the bottom or mid-depth and use only enough bait to cover a size 6 or 8 hook. Regulars (including some of the men who worked on the Rockford Files) told me that the pier used to be a top opaleye pier and good strings of fish were a possibility.
The pier is not noted for sharks and rays primarily because it is only open during daylight hours. Nevertheless, a number of sharays are taken as mentioned above. If fishing for the large leopard sharks or shovelnose guitarfish try live bait or a smelly piece of mackerel. If seeking out the large bat rays try a large piece of squid. The bat rays in particular can be hard to land when the kelp is thick around the pier.
A non-fish species that is frequently encountered is spiny lobster. Do remember that they must be taken by net, they have a legal size and season, and you must have a lobster card to keep them. At most piers you primarily see lobsters at night but this area seems to have enough of the bugs to even see them during the day
Water clarity can be a problem here; it is fairly shallow and on many summer days it is crystal clear. On such days, the lighter the line and less hardware the better are your chances—so use fluorocarbon.
Date: July 6, 1999
To: Pier Fishing in California Message Board
Subject: Paradise Cove Pier
On Monday, the 5th, my boyfriend and I went down at Paradise Cove around 12 PM to do some pier fishing. We had only been there about 2 hours when an officer came strolling down the pier checking fishing licenses. Luckily I had mine in the car from two days before when we were fishing down in Dana Point and San Clemente...I didn't think you needed a license for pier fishing—and you don't, for most piers. But, since Paradise Cove is a private beach and pier, they require a license. Not only did this officer check licenses, she checked every single cooler and bucket and made everyone claim their rods (yep-she was enforcing the 2 rod/person limit. And rightfully so! Between two men, they had 11 rods in the water. Too many for a pier this size! It makes it hard for anyone else to get a good cast in, let alone a good catch.) Additionally, any unclaimed rods she reeled in and tried to take with her; until the owners finally fessed up...a few without licenses, and a few with more than two rods in the water. And guess what? She ticketed every one of them! So remember next time you painfully fork over $20 to park at Paradise Cove for some pier fishing, you take your license and your two favorite rods. OKAY, here's the meat: We were there for 4 hours and got a few nibbles from small mackerel and opaleye. The two with 11 rods caught quite a few perch, sargo and sculpin...and tickets from officer Kathy, of course.
Date: July 3. 2008
To: PFIC Message Board
Subject: Look what came to visit...a Giant (Black) Sea Bass
July 2 was a gorgeous southern California day, light variable winds, afternoon low tide, evening high tide with a grunion run expected (never saw any grunion where I was fishing). What I did see/catch was 4 Calico bass (1 legal, 3 short), 2 leopard sharks (1 legal, 1 baby), a tiny shovelnose, 1 brown smoothhound, and this ... check out the pics! All were caught on half-sardines using circle hooks; ALL fish were released. Later after sunset, the water was full of activity, but every hit severed the line (80lbs test braided leader) so I can only assume they were large toothy sharks! Altogether a fantastic So-Cal day by the water. Sorry I don't have a weight on the Giant Bass, but he was an inch or so over 3 feet, and it took two of us to lift him over the rail for the release ... Truly a magnificent creature! ... The fish was released with the net, and the pics were snapped by a kind tourist while I was working on getting the hook out and releasing it, the fish was never "handled in any way, except for pliers to the hook, so I feel all was done as efficiently as possible to expedite the release. Yes that is
Author's Note No. 1. The state record sheephead, a fish weighing 28 lb 14 oz was taken in Paradise Cove on December 6, 1978.
Author's Note No. 2. Local legend has it that a local angler one day hooked a nearly 600-pound giant (black) sea bass while fishing near the pier in a skiff. Supposedly the huge fish did an imitation of the marlin in The Old Man and the Sea and pulled the skiff nearly fifteen miles to near the Santa Monica Pier. At that point a local lifeguard used scuba gear to tell him what he had hooked (perhaps he thought he had a submarine?) and he decided to cut the line on the illegal fish. Now that is a fish story.
Author’s Note No. 3. Paradise Cove is reputed to be one of the “recurring locations” in California for great white shark sightings and attacks (although the only known fatality at the cove was a kayaker killed in 1989). Offshore from Paradise Cove the Monterey Bay Aquarium has set up a 4 million-gallon mesh, floating pen where captured great whites are held pending their (1) release or (2) shipment to the aquarium. The practice has engendered support and criticism as well as the following joke: (Q) What do you call the paparazzi at Paradise Cove? (A) Chum.
Author’s Note No. 4. California's first artificial reef was constructed in Paradise Cove in 1958. According to the Fish and Game records, “An artificial reef of 20 old car bodies was placed in 50 feet of water at Paradise Cove, near Malibu, on May 26, 1958. Our selection of this site was dictated by several facts. The operators of Paradise Cove landing were willing to purchase the car bodies needed to build this experimental reef. They also provided a motorboat and an old landing float to transport the cars from the pier to the offshore area where they were dropped. The cost of the 20 cars, delivered to the pier, was $200. This was an expense for which the project had no money at that time. The reef site selected was easily accessible by skiff from the pier.”
“Fishes began to aggregate around the Paradise Cove car body reef within hours of construction. Surfperch, sargo, kelp bass, and small California halibut were among the first fishes attracted to the reef, followed closely by sheephead and opaleye. Later, rockfish and sand bass appeared. The fish population on the reef increased, until a high of 24,000 semi-resident fishes was counted in September 1960. During a 30 month survey period, 49 species of fish were noted on Paradise Cove Reef.”
As might be expected, the old automobile bodies were fairly quickly eaten away by the salt water. Today the reef has largely disappeared and reef-builders concentrate on longer lasting materials.
Author’s Note No. 5. Trailer camping? My how times have changed! According to a 1953 publication by the Fish and Game (Fish Bulletin #96), “This is a recently developed resort area catering to trailer camping, ocean fishing and bathing. There is a good sport fishing pier where skiffs are rented. There are hoists for launching and lifting skiffs and in 1952 there was an anchored fishing barge off the cove.”
Author’s Note No. 6. One of my most interesting visits to the pier took place in April of 2009 when I fished the pier with Hashem from the PFIC board. Hashem loves to pursue lobsters while I pretty much stick to fishing. The date was “Good Friday” and it seemed appropriate given the unending number of walleye surfperch that were out toward the end of the pier. Thinking there must be something bigger to be had, I decided to use one of the walleyes as live bait. Pretty soon the rod took a dip and I knew a bigger fish was on than the aforementioned perch. I called for Hashem to grab his net but turned out he already was bringing it up and inside was a legal-size lobster. Soon after I had a halibut to the top of the water and shortly thereafter the net, filled with a halibut and lobster, was pulled up to the pier. Unfortunately the halibut was only 19 ¾ inches long, short by two inches. And, the lobster was illegal since the season had just ended. I’ve never seen a net pulled up that contained the unusual duo—halibut and lobster—but both of the Southland prizes had to be returned to the water. Too bad since halibut and lobster are two of my favorite seafood’s.
Author’s Note No. 7. One of my early visits to Paradise Cove started out a little strange when, as I stopped to pay the entry fee, the attendant asked “Going to the restaurant?” “No, I want to go fishing on the pier.” “Oh, you need to check to see if it is open today, they may be filming on the pier. Go down and ask the guard, he'll know where the action is today.” Filming? Guards? What was going on? Turns out it was just another day in the life of Paradise Cove, its quintessential California beach, and this pier, a frequent setting for television shows, movies, commercials and music videos.
The cove may be best remembered as the home base for Jim Rockford (James Garner) in the The Rockford Files (originally shown in the '70s and resurrected in the '90s). Rockford’s humble trailer, given the fictional address “29 Cove Road, was actually located in the parking lot of the Sandcastle Restaurant. A loyal legion of fans (including myself) will always remember Jim, his dad Rocky, his police contact Sgt. Becker, Jim’s girlfriend Beth, and cowardly sidekick “Angel” Martin.
A less known fact is that the first house to the right of the restaurant served as William Conrad's house on Jake and the Fatman. The list of appearances in television series is long: Sea Hunt, Love American Style, The Mod Squad, Baywatch, Baywatch Nights, Charlie's Angels, Happy Days, The Hardy Boys, Malibu Run and The O.C.
Movies include Belles on Their Toes (as Nantucket), Wonderbug, The Last Tycoon, Indecent Proposal, American Pie 2 (as a Lake Michigan retreat), House of Sand and Fog, Lethal Weapon 4 (the pier is seen in the background), Monster in Law, Alias, Gidget, Gidget Goes to Hawaii, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, Beach Blanket Bingo, Sponge Bob Square Pants: The Movie, and Hannah Montana: The Movie.
Commercials at the pier have included ones for Chrysler, Budweiser and many others. Hummer even did a commercial featuring a brand new Hummer heading full speed down the pier until it sailed off into the salty Pacific. I assume the saltwater must have been just a tad bit hard on the car. Then again, if you’ve got to sail off a pier in a car, what better protection than a great big, heavy Hummer?
Musical videos have also chosen the cove and pier as home. A Paris Hilton music video was filmed here (she can sing?), as was the video for the Britney Spears song Sometimes in 1999. Doesn’t it just give you goose bumps and make you proud that Britney chose the pier as the site for her video? Of course there’s a long connection to music—Paradise Cove was on the album cover of the Beach Boys' Surfin' Safari.
Author’s Note No. 8. Did you know that Bob Dylan played the role of Alfred, the chauffeur, in the 1999 movie Paradise Cove? Based upon the movie’s reviews, sounds like you shouldn’t waste your money renting the “film noir” movie it even if you are a “Bob” fan. It’s that bad. Nor should you mistake it for the equally bad 2008 horror movie Paradise Cove.
History Note. The private cove has been a favorite spot for locals for years. It once was apparently a haven for nude sunbathers, movie stars, picnics and fishermen (what a nice mix!). In the 1940s the Marblehead Land Company subdivided the area creating the Malibu Riviera’s #1-4. The lower area, by the beach, was owned and initially developed by Frank Wilson and Al Camp. They oversaw the construction of a clubhouse (that eventually became the Sandcastle Restaurant) and a laundry/restroom building. However, their plans for additional development was stalled during the World War II years and in 1945 the property was sold to Bill Swanson
With the end of the war that year, Swanson soon began to finish the development of the area, including the trailer park that still sits just up the road from the beach. Most important for our story was the construction of an 820-foot long pier in the cove. The pier, one that has suffered storm damage, repair, and modification over the years, has continued to grace the cove’s waters since 1945.
Later, in the early ‘50s, the cove was purchased by Joe Morris who himself sold it a decade later. Morris developed the pier into one of the main centers for Sportfishing in the area and offered up a variety of fishing opportunities: full day boats, half-day boats, and barge fishing (the Buccaneer, Lady Luck and Paradise). Both a tackle shop and small snack bar were found out toward the end of the pier. Joe Morris’ son Robert spent part of his youth working in his father's sport-fishing business. Years later, after becoming on of LA’s most successful restaurateurs (26 restaurants including his most famous—Gladstone’s), he would return to the cove.
On my first visit to the cove, in the late ‘70s, I was presented a quite different picture from the one a person sees today. The restaurant my wife Pat and I visited, the Sandcastle Restaurant, had a Cape Cod décor with thick red leather booths and a traditional, non hip-LA menu. The food was good and reasonably priced. As for the pier itself, it was fairly long and was home base for the Paradise Cove Sportfishing fleet. Boats included the half day boat Speed Twin and the all day boat Gentleman. Lined up in a neat row on the deck of the pier was a fleet of rental skiffs.
The 600-foot-long length of the pier mentioned in 1983 appears to have been a result of storms prior to that year. However, the El Niño storms of 1983 destroyed much of the remaining pier (roughly two thirds) and brought an end to the deep sea fishing operation as well as the bait barge and the (reported) 87 sea lions that used it as a home.
Little change has taken place at the pier since those storms of ’83. The pier is still short but has been strengthened and spruced up with fresh boards and paint. On shore, the Sandcastle Restaurant has been replaced by the Paradise Cove Beach Café, a creation of Robert Morris who did indeed return to the area where he had spent so much of his youth.
Given the past history of this pier, and the excellent fishing that can take place, it is hoped that sometime in the future this pier can be reconstructed to a longer length. Although open until 2000, it was closed for a period of time between 2001-2006. It is now reopen but, as mentioned, is still a ghost of its former self.
Paradise Cove Pier Facts
Hours: Sunup to Sundown.
Facilities: A paid parking lot ($25) greets visitors to the cove although there is parking validation at the Paradise Cove Beach Café near the beach; buy $20 worth of food and the admission drops to $3. Although somewhat pricey (Fish & Chips approx. $1, the food is good and the portions generous. It is possible to park for free out on PCH, and walk down the mile-long access driveway, but you will stay pay a walk-in fee ($5 per person last time we checked). There are restrooms in the restaurant and near the beach but basically no facilities on the pier itself.
Handicapped Facilities: None.
Location: 34.02020803359893 N. Latitude, 118.78626108169556 W. Longitude.
How To Get There: Take Highway 1 to Paradise Cove Dr., turn west, and follow the road back into the parking lot.
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