Sometimes things seem so simple that you wonder why no one else thought of the same idea. That was my thought when I visited the new Venice Fishing Pier in the summer of ‘98. Among the “neat” little touches which the designers had given the pier were two that every pier should copy. The first was a double railing out at the end of the pier. Evidently the bottom railing can be utilized for cutting bait which means the top railing, the railing usually used by fishermen and other visitors to rest their arms, doesn’t become coated with slime and dried blood. A nice touch! Another great idea was the cut out sections at various points on the pier, sections which have a lower 28” railing than the other 41” areas. It took me a minute to understand the purpose but then I noticed the handicapped signs and realized that these lower sections were designed for people in wheelchairs. Most piers have railings which range from 38-42 inches, a height difficult to use for some people in wheelchairs. The 12 inches or so that these sections are lower help compensate and make the fishing more accessible to all anglers. Now, how about some more piers copying the ideas!
The new Venice Pier is a duplicate for the most part of a pier built in 1965 but which was damaged by the El Nino storms of 1983 and whose structural damage necessitated the building of an entire new pier. It is heavily utilized by the citizens of Los Angeles and its predecessor was in fact called the Los Angeles Pier for a time (although rarely by the locals). The pier itself is concrete and has a good growth of mussels on the pilings. The bottom is primarily sand but a 4,000 ton artificial quarry rock reef was placed around the outer 750 feet of the old pier in 1966 and should still be present. The sandy areas produce fairly consistent sandy-shore species while the reef helps attract fish which prefer a rock-dwelling environment. To the south sits the rocky-jetty entrance to Marina Del Rey and small finger jetties jut out to the north of the pier. The pier has a 120-foot diameter circular end which provides lots of angler space and the length, at 1,310 feet, assures access to a little deeper water and the pelagic species.
Inshore, anglers catch barred surfperch, corbina, yellowfin croaker, stingrays, thornbacks (pinback sharks), guitarfish (sand sharks) and round stingrays. In the mid-pier area, anglers catch white croaker (tom cod), queenfish (herring), walleye surfperch, shinerperch, California halibut, guitarfish, Pacific mackerel, jack mackerel and jacksmelt. At the far end of the pier, anglers encounter the same species as in the mid-pier area but see more bonito, kelp bass, sand bass, barracuda, and sharks. Included in the shark catch are a few of the larger species including blue sharks and thresher sharks.
Although one of the busiest piers in the southland, and sometimes darn right crowded, the pier seems to have sort of a “laid back” disposition, In part, this may be due to the beach-side crowds and activities which seem to go on during most hours of the day (and night). It is located in the Venice (Muscle Beach)-Playa Del Rey area and there always seems to be something happening. Although most of the action takes place a short distance north of the pier, a fisherman at times looks just a little bit out of place. Imagine our fearless angler, loaded down with rod and reel, tackle box, bait buckets, etc., as he winds his way onto the pier between Sony Walkman-attired line-skaters, bikini-clad goddesses, Schwarzenegger imitators and, perhaps, a little flotsam and jetsam. What a sight !
During warm-water years this was one of the better piers for yellowtail and white sea bass and yielded exotics such as triggerfish and needlefish. I even have a picture of a small, 6-pound albacore caught off the far end of the pier in April of 1981.
Most common, however, are the normal L.A. species. In the surf area, anglers can fish with a high/low leader, and number 6 or 4 hooks, using sand crabs, bloodworms, mussels or ghost shrimp for barred surfperch, corbina and yellowfin croaker. Using a heavier rigging baited with squid or anchovy can produce sharks and rays. Mid-pier, fishing on the bottom with live anchovies or live smelt yields California halibut and shovelnose guitarfish. Fish mid-depth to the top for barracuda, and toward the top for bonito and mackerel. For all of these species, the best rigging is a live bait leader. Fishing on the bottom while using a high/low leader, and size 4 hooks baited with cut anchovy, can be good for white croaker. Fishing mid-depth with snag lines (Lucky Lura, size 8 hooks) can result in queenfish and walleye surfperch. If action slows, bait the snag lines with small strips of anchovy.
At the end, anglers similar techniques are used. However, with the reef only 65 feet from the pier, anglers often try for larger fish. Fishermen should use one of the bonito riggings when schools of bonito showed up and heavy tackle, at least 40-pound test, when trying for larger sharks and bat rays. Fishing with a live bait leader baited with a small jack mackerel (Spanish mackerel), queenfish, or shinerperch sometimes yields yellowtail or white sea bass. Most all of these species can be caught year-round, but the best action by far is found from June to October.
This is yet another of the piers which were damaged by the storms of the early 1980s. Unfortunately, the pier remained closed for more than a decade. Los Angeles officials originally predicted that it could be reopened by 1993. They were wrong! Money was funded to repair damage from the early storms, but then it was found that the structure itself was unsafe. When a jogger who ran under the pier was struck and paralyzed by a piece of concrete (and the county paid a $3.2 million damage award), the pier was closed and the underside wrapped in chain link to prevent chunks of concrete from falling on any more unsuspecting strollers. Engineers declared the pier unsafe and money was set aside for demolition. But further studies compared the cost of demolition and rebuilding versus the cost of repairing the still fairly new (1965) pier, a pier initially built at a cost of $900,000. When the studies were finished it appeared that repairs were more logical than a rebuild but funding was still lacking. However, in 1993, voters passed a $10,000,000 bond issue to renovate both the Ocean Front Walk and the pier was completed. Today the local citizens are once again able to stroll the pier, enjoy the ocean breeze, and even fish if that is their pleasure.
Open from 6 a.m. to midnight.
The pier includes lights, benches, fish-cleaning stations and restrooms at the end of the pier. Parking is available at the foot of the pier for $6 but arrive early if you expect a spot. Weekend days, especially summer and fall, are very, very busy. Some (actually fairly limited) metered parking is available on nearby streets and the city itself heavily promotes taking a shuttle to the beach. Some frozen bait is available just up the street at Nick’s Liquor store.
Handicapped parking and restrooms. The pier’s surface is cement and the rail height is 41 inches although several handicapped sections have a 28” railing. Posted for handicapped.
City of Los Angeles, Parks and Recreation Department.