Pleasure Pier - Avalon |
If one were a fine connoisseur of piers (instead of wine), a description of this pier might be as follows: a small, easily overlooked, off-the-beaten-path pier; one that offers distinct pleasures and rare opportunity both in species and environment.
Picture the island of Catalina and the harbor of Avalon. Twenty-two miles from Long Beach, it is a short two-hour boat ride and the destination of hundreds of visitors most summer days. Home of glass-bottom boats, sailing, flying-fish excursions, hotels and restaurants, it is an ideal vacation destination.
Nestled at the foot of Catalina Avenue sits a small, 300-foot-long pier, a pier built back in 1920 -- the "Green Pleasure Pier" of Avalon. Here you can rent boats, tackle, and diving equipment, visit a fish market, or even buy a fishing license. A few people even fish.
Once again, picture a visit. You've gotten up early, slipped on some shorts and sandals, and walked down to the pier. It is early and the streets and bay are undisturbed. The water is clear as glass and you can see every rock, piece of kelp, or emergent fish as it arrives. Around you is every imaginable type of boat and, off to the north, you can see the old casino and the coastline of the island. You walk along the railing and look down into the water. Soon you see some halfmoon, and you decide to bait up. You tie two size 8 hooks onto your six-pound test line, attach a half-ounce sinker, then bait up with a small piece of squid. You drop your line into the water, let it settle near the bottom, then watch the fish check out your bait -- first a halfmoon, then a rock wrasse, then a hoard of undersized kelp bass. The number of fish continues to grow until two large golden garibaldi and several senorita appear. Here the problem isn't catching a fish, it's catching the right fish. By watching your bait and keeping it away from the immature and illegal bass (and the illegal garibaldi), you limit your catch to the halfmoon. After 20 minutes two large opaleye appear, each in the two-to three-pound range. Now, you open your package of frozen peas and bait one of your hooks with the peas. The halfmoon are attracted by the squid, the opaleye by the peas; both seem excited by the presence of the other. Soon you have caught two more halfmoon and one opaleye, but it is getting harder and harder to keep the bass off your hook. You finally switch to peas by themselves, action slows, and it is a wait-and-see game, and you can see the game.
Does it sound interesting? It is! However, most anglers who visit Avalon will never sample the pier action. It is simply too close to excellent boat fishing and scuba diving. Why settle for small game when you are so close to the bigger action? Well, it is ideal for youngsters, you don't have to worry about seasickness, and it has a charm all of its own. You may, of course, catch one of the bigger fish which roam these waters but as a rule small game is the main game.
A tried and true tradition at Catalina is chumming for fish and it also works on the pier. If things are slow, try chumming. Take along a few pieces of bread and break them into small pieces. Next squeeze them into balls and drop a few into the water. Usually it will only be a few moments before smelt will appear. Generally the kinetic excitement of the smelt will act as an attractant for the other species and you will soon have a variety of fish in your spot. Continue to chum with an occasional piece of fish or squid and enjoy the action.
Larger species are of course a possibility. Your best bet in seeking larger fish might be to try a live smelt which you have caught with a small hook. Kelp bass, sheephead and sculpin will take live or fresh-dead smelt, and experts say that early morning and late evening hours can produce some of the larger, keeper-size kelp bass. If you're lucky, a yellowtail, white seabass or halibut might even decide to swim by while your smelt is dancing its sexy little dance. You never know!
In 1892 Shatto sold the island to the Banning brothers of Wilmington who continued to work to make Catalina a prime destination spot for tourists. They established the Santa Catalina Island Company in 1894 and built a larger tent city. By 1913 Avalon had a summer population approaching 10,000 people. More elaborate plans (perhaps designed as competition for the Santa Monica, Ocean Park and Venice Amusement Piers) were hurt by a fire which swept through Avalon in 1915. In 1919, the brothers sold their holdings to William Wrigley jr. Since 1972 much of the island has been maintained by the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy.
A number of piers have graced Avalon's Harbor since the late 1800s. Records talk of piers in the bay as early as 1895 and mention a fishing pier in 1905. The Green Pleasure Pier was basically a gift to the city, being sold to Avalon for the princely sum of $5 in 1909. It had originally been built by the Freeholder's Association, a group of local businessmen, and conceived as an alternative landing spot in opposition to an attempted monopoly by the Banning brothers who had built a pier parallel to the beach in 1905 (and tried to corner most of the tourist business). The other, larger pier, was the Steamer Pier that set near the Hotel Metropole and which eventually was washed out. Although it is still a center of beach front activities, the Green Pleasure Pier may be best remembered as a site where many of the huge marlin, tuna, swordfish and black sea bass were weighed and photographed during the days when Catalina was a Mecca for big game fishermen. Originally boatman's lockers set on the pier as did a weigh station.
Pleasure Pier Facts