Belmont Shores Pier -- Long Beach
My first visit to this pier took place on a sultry summer night in the mid-1970s. I was visiting southern California with my family, shepherding my wife and kids to the "must see" tourist spots during the day, and making short excursions to the local piers during the morning and evening hours. Much to my surprise, anglers at this pier were using drop-lights to fish. These lights consisted of a heavy electrical cord with a plug at one end and a light with a reflector at the other end. Fishermen would plug their lights into the electrical outlets located on the pier's overhead lights. They would then lower their cords and lights down so that the drop-lights were just above the surface of the water. Inevitably, small fish such as anchovies and smelt were attracted to the lights and would swarm near the top of the water. Every so often a larger fish would approach, the small fish would scatter and disappear, and then, a few moments later, fish would reappear. Anglers, using light lines and small baits, were catching their share of the larger fish.
One couple allowed me to share their light and I quickly caught a small sand bass followed by several tom cod (white croaker) and mid-sized queenfish. I didn't have a drop-light but vowed that when I returned, I would bring one with me. Unfortunately, I waited too long, the electrical outlets were removed in the '80s (due, the authorities said, to the fact that the outlets encouraged all-night camping and fires which the campers set to keep warm).
Even without drop-lights, I've generally caught some type of fish whenever I've visited the pier. The pier receives heavy use from anglers and, with the exception or "red tide" occurrences, almost always yields some fish.
Fish the mid-pier area using a Lucky Lura/Lucky Joe outfit for jacksmelt, topsmelt, walleye surfperch or queenfish. If you catch a small queenfish, or even a smelt or small mackerel, remember that they make excellent halibut baits. Put the small fish on a live bait leader, sit back, and watch your pole for the light mouthings of the toothy halibut. Pay attention and be ready. The top spot for the halibut seems to be around the black asphalt section near the middle of the pier.
Out near the end, close to the bait shop, is sometimes a good area for bass (both sand bass and kelp bass) as well as perch. Most of the bass seem to hit on anchovies, squid or lures. Anglers fishing down around the mussel-covered pilings with mussels (surprise) are sometimes rewarded with good sized buttermouth perch (blackperch), rubberlip perch or pileperch. Some years also see good runs of sargo (generally May to July). The scrappy grunts, up to about three pounds in weight, love fresh mussels, get positively giddy over live ghost shrimp, and seem to hit best on the bottom near the pilings in the early evening or night hours.
Fish the outer wings of the pier for pelagics such as bonito and mackerel, as well as barracuda and sharks. Use live anchovies when they're available (generally in the summer months) for the macs, the boneheads and the pencils. Unfortunately, most months see a lack of live anchovies. Plan #2! For the mackerel, fish with strips of squid or pieces of mackerel under a splitshot sinker. Bonito splashers will work for the bonito, as will feathers trailing behind a cast-a-bubble. Spoons, generally gold colored, when cast at night, may yield a few barracuda during the summer to fall months. For the sharks, jig up some live bait (especially Pacific mackerel or jack mackerel) and then fish them on a live bait, sliding leader. Most of the sharks will be gray sharks (gray smoothhounds), shovelnose sharks (shovelnose guitarfish), leopards (leopard sharks), or pinback sharks (spiny dogfish) but occasionally there will be a large thresher mixed into the action. Less common will be blue sharks and sometimes even a bonito shark (mako shark). Once every thirty years you'll also hear of someone latching onto a hammerhead shark and once every thousand years an intrepid angler may hook a white "maneater" shark (why do they only eat men?); most of the latter are still missing in action. If you're satisfied with the smaller sharks, cut mackerel and squid fished on the bottom will yield small smoothies (gray and brown smoothhounds), thornback rays, and bat rays. If seeking out the monsters, be sure to bring a treble-hook gaff, strong line, and a couple of strong friends to hoist your prize up to the pier.
Some itsy bitsy fish are also found out at the end. Most common are herring (queenfish), topsmelt, small perch and pompano (Pacific butterfish). All can be caught on Lucky Lura-type leaders fished at mid-depth range, although the pompano are true Epicureans and prefer to have their hooks sweetened by a delicious but small piece of fresh mussel. I've also seen a few salema here but not in the numbers found at other county piers.
Special Recommendation: Because of elevated levels of DDT and PCB, the Cal OEHHA recommends that no more than one meal of locally caught surfperch be consumed every two weeks.
On Sunday, February 19, 1967, the new 1,450-foot-long Belmont Pier opened and the local newspaper's headline read "Throngs Hail Opening of New Pier." The story reported that free live bait was given out all day long and recorded the initial catches at the new pier. The first fish officially caught was by an eleven-year-old girl, Rosemary Rodriguez, who caught a sand bass. Brian Williams, a four-year-old angler was the youngest to catch a fish -- a bullhead. The oldest was 82-year-old Albert Parbst who caught a perch. The largest fish of the day was a 2-pound, 8-ounce bonito caught by 16-year-old Maureen Younger.
Among the piers amenities in those days were a sportfishing fleet which operated from the 336-foot, y-crossing at the seaward end. The Islander operated as a water taxi out to a fishing barge, the Queen of the Sea operated as a half-day boat, and the Hurricane operated as a three-quarter day boat.
Belmont Shores Pier Facts