The number of different types of fish here is not as high as some piers, however, the concentration of some species is very high. Fish found near the tideline include corbina, barred surfperch, spotfin and yellowfin croaker, stingrays, guitarfish and thornback rays. Halfway out you'll find all of these but also more walleye surfperch, queenfish, white croaker, halibut and smoothhound sharks. The end of the pier will see these plus bonito, Pacific mackerel, jack mackerel, jacksmelt, bat rays and sometimes small to medium size white sea bass (usually called sea trout). Increasingly (or at least it seems this way to me), in the last few years, more and more bass -- kelp bass, barred sand bass, and spotted sand bass -- have been caught. Although fish are caught year-round, summer is by far the best time for halibut, spotfin croaker, corbina, mackerel, bonito, and the bigger sharks and rays. Winter often yields fewer but larger halibut; early spring yields the largest barred surfperch.
Summertime, unfortunately, is also a prime time to catch illegal (because of the season) spiny lobster. Often more than a dozen of the feisty creatures will be caught in a day's time but remember to throw them back -- failure to do so could result in a very stiff fine.
The human environment here is also generally pleasant, with a nice mix of resident species (San Diegans) and seasonal visitors (tourista Americanus). For years' two of the resident regulars were nurturing ladies who believed in giving "God's creatures" a helping hand. They would be found most mornings out toward the end of the pier filling small buckets with their fish. Inevitably some of the visitors would stop and look into the buckets of fish and occasionally someone would question why they needed so many fish. One or two may even have questioned if the ladies were exceeding the limits set for various species (but they didn't). The ladies were catching the fish for a reason. They took their fish home and pressure cooked them to soften the bones. They then took the fish down to the Mission Bay Jetty where they fed the feral cats that had been dumped off by less-caring members of our society. Today one lady is gone, but her angling companion continues to visit the pier most mornings. Her tackle is simple, a light pole with a multi-hook rigging -- and she still catches fish most of the days. If you see her, stop and say hello. Offer her a word of thanks for her good deeds these many years. If you're fishing, you might even give her a fish or two.
20-pound test line and good strong hooks, size 4 or 2. Use the live bait, or frozen anchovies or squid, for nice sized halibut and guitarfish. On the second and smaller pole, use a high-low leader, size 6 hooks, and a sinker just heavy enough to hold bottom. Anglers desiring yellowfin croaker or barred surfperch should use bloodworms, ghost shrimp or fresh mussels. For queenfish, walleye surfperch, or white croaker, use small strips of anchovy; cast out, be prepared for a strike as soon as the bait settles, and then reel in slowly for best results. For many of the fish, a Lucky Lura type multi-hook leader can be deadly! Use size 6 or 4 hooks for the mackerel, size 6 or 8 hooks for the queenfish, walleye surfperch or jacksmelt -- and sometimes you may want to sweeten the hooks with a small strip of anchovy. Inshore, the quantity will be less, but you can often catch some very nice corbina, spotfin croaker, and barred surfperch; use live sand crabs if available, then ghost shrimp, mussels or bloodworms. Watch for depressions that may hold the fish and don't be afraid to fish in even the shallowest of water; I've seen corbina whose backs were practically out of the water.
As mentioned, the far end of the pier will yield some pelagic species, but less than at bigger piers that go out into deeper water, or piers that have live anchovies available for bait. Use Lucky Lura leaders for the mackerel; jigs or feathers behind a cast-a-bubble for the bonito. Try anchovies, bloodworms or scampi-type lures for the bass. Use live bait (small queenfish, shinerperch or walleye surfperch) for the halibut; anchovies, mackerel strips or squid for the larger sharks and rays. Smaller thornback rays, round stingrays and gray smoothhound sharks, all very common, will hit on almost any bottom bait. Be sure to bring a net or a treble-gaff with you, and be sure you know how to use it or have someone with you who can use it. Some truly large guitarfish, bat rays (to 105 pounds), leopard sharks (to about 30 pounds), and halibut can be hooked -- and it feels terrible if you lose one of these after a spirited fight.
Unusual catches in the 90s have included a 10-pound striped bass and a 55-pound broomtail grouper.
In September of 1925, the local Pacific Beach Banner reported that Pickering and an associate, Neil Nettleship, were in town discussing the construction of the pier. The Pickering Pleasure Pier appeared to be on its way, construction started, and additional headlines soon proclaimed, "Pacific Beach: Home of the Million Dollar Pier." The headlines were a little premature because Pickering soon experienced money troubles of his own and had to back out of the project. Construction stopped!
At this point Nettleship stepped in and, together with the Tye Construction Company, gained ownership of the pier. The pier now became the "Crystal Pier" and Nettleship began to issue stock in the Crystal Pier Amusement Company. A dedication took place a few months later, on April 18, 1926. Festivities included airplane stunt flying, a surfboard riding exhibition, and nail-driving competitions for men and women. The crushing of a huge bottle by one of the pier's pile drivers marked the official christening.
Although dedicated, the pier and its amusements would not be finished until the following summer. On the July 4 weekend of 1927, the 950-foot-long pier opened as the "Crystal Pleasure Pier Ballroom and Joy Zone," an opening heralded in both the San Diego and Los Angeles areas. The main attraction was the towered ballroom that sat out at the end of the pier. The ballroom was built in a sort of 1920s Aztec architecture and featured a cork-cushioned dance floor and a crystal ball, high up above the dance floor, which gave the pier its name. Other attractions included an amusement midway with the ever present arcade.
The attractions were short lived. From day one the pier rocked in an unsettling manner and visitors to the ballroom complained of queasiness from the rocking and the swaying lights (which prompted Nettleship to run piano wire through lights and wall fixtures). The initial problem was insufficient bracing that caused the pier to sway in all but the mildest surf. Of greater importance was the condition of the piles. The non-creosote pilings were rapidly being destroyed by marine borers. The pier and ballroom were soon condemned.
After extensive suits between the different parties, the U.S. National Bank foreclosed on the pier and Nettleship was out of the picture. Eventually the bank spent $10,000 replacing pilings, built a 500-foot extension and remodeled the pier. On April 19, 1936, almost exactly ten years after the initial dedication, a new and remodeled pier, complete with ten motel cottages and a soda fountain, opened for vacationers. Souvenir postcards from the day mentioned free pier fishing and tackle for rent -- for the princely sum of 25 cents. The cards also mentioned a daily and monthly prize for the big fish. The new pier and motel quickly became a favorite for those coming to the beach to escape the heat of the inland areas.
The pier was sold in
1948 and then again in 1949. For much of the fifties the pier seemed to
be in a slow decline. Then, in 1961, the pier was refurbished and given
its now familiar blue and white colors. Cottages were also restored and
Open 7 to 7 (or sunset) for visitors, 24 hours a day for those staying in the pier motel.
Restrooms, one cleaning station, some benches, and limited night lighting. Some bait and tackle is available at the pier office. Parking can be a problem! Metered parking is available on the side street at the foot of the pier if you can find it. This is a popular area for beach go'ers and surfers and they just don't seem to realize they should leave the parking spaces for the fishermen. Arriving any time after the early morning hours simply means you must look around for a space. Do not park in the nearby parking lots that have posted warnings -- they mean it and will not hesitate to have your car towed away.
None. The surface is wood planking and the railing is approximately 40 inches high.
How To Get There:
Take I-5 to Garnet Ave. then take Garnet to the foot of the pier.
Management: City of San Diego and Crystal Pier Motel.