Last modified: October 20, 2021

Fishing Piers Southern California

Balboa Pier

“The Golden Years” It’s always interesting reading how fishing was in the good old days at the pier

The many charms of the seaside resorts of Orange county are attracting widespread attention. One of the greatest of these is the fishing, and yesterday this was especially good at Balboa and Newport. Herrings were caught by the hundred from the Balboa pier, and good catches of yellowtail were made from the Newport wharf.

Santa Ana Register, June 10, 1907

Some good catches have been made off the pier this week both at Newport and Balboa. One little boy got a 26-pound yellowtail from the Balboa pier Thursday.

Santa Ana Register, August 2, 1907

Fishermen from all parts of California are giving glowing accounts of their success at Balboa. Surf fishing and pier fishing for yellowtail and bass are becoming increasingly popular.

Santa Ana Register, July 24, 1908

Several good catches of fish were reported from Balboa yesterday by F. W. Beckwith, among them being two oil sharks, which were caught off the pier by Jack Bergiran. Each of them weighed about seventy-five pounds. G. B. Rennard caught a seven-pound halibut.

Los Angeles Herald, July 29, 1908

Leon A. Atwood of this city took the fishing honors off the pier at Balboa Saturday by landing a yellowtail weighing 16 ½ pounds. It required half an hour’s skillful angling to bring the game fish to the pier. Not expecting a strike from so worthy an antagonist as the yellowtail, Atwood was casting for surf fish and his reel not being equipped with the drag used in game fishing it was impossible to stop the yellowtail until several hundred feet of his line had been taken out. By degrees he was able to bring in his catch which proved quite a sensation on the pier.

San Bernardino County Sun, August 12, 1913

Barracuda and halibut were caught yesterday off both the Newport and Balboa piers. “Shiny” sinkers were used with successful results.

Santa Ana Register, April 24, 1922

Pier fisherman report excellent fishing off the pier and have brought the following catches: Sebastian Sounus, 63 corbina caught from the pier; mackerel: T. J. Hobbs, Charles Plummer, E. C. Condon, C. M. Martin, R. P. Capel, E. Cannon, J. P. Connors, C. Brounback, P. J. Waters and J. C. Johnstone; corbina: Sebastian Sounus, E. C. Condon, T. N. Butterworth, Phil Armstrong, Fred Jackson and C. R. Watson; bass and halibut, A. Burris; albacore, George Baker; yellow-fin croakers, C. Peterson and A. Burns.

Santa Ana Register, August 7, 1922

Sebastian Simonds again caught 30 corbina off the pier. Mackerel fishing is only fair and the yellow fin are biting fairly well.

Santa Ana Register, August 22, 1922

Several yellow-tail hooked from the pier Saturday. The corbina are good in the surf and in the bay spot-fin croaker are very good. A few sea trout and plenty of small halibut are caught.

Santa Ana Register, September 8, 1922

Good fishing, both at the pier and offshore, is attracting anglers from all parts of Southern California, and not a few from as far north as San Francisco, it was learned today… The water around the pier is literally alive with schools of herring, which makes snagging the favored mode of fishing. Creating quite an excitement of the pier was the hooking of a fine specimen of jewfish, weighing ninety-eight pounds, which, after a protracted struggle, was brought to gaff and landed on the pier.

Santa Ana Register, September 11, 1924

Sea bass, barracuda and halibut have been caught off the piers at Balboa, Newport and Huntington Beach. Fishermen have been getting sea bass on barracuda poles by jigging for them… Frank Phillips and Porter Edmunds got their share of sea bass of the Balboa pier last Sunday.

Santa Ana Register, July 22, 1925

R. Russell, who recently opened a bait stand on the end of the pier, also declares the fishing at Balboa is much better. Russell has one of the most unique bait houses on the Pacific coast. Instead of the conventional barrel in which to keep his bait, Russell has built a large zinc lined trough and the fish are placed in this and the water changed every half hour. The constant change of water keeps the bait full of life and, according to Russell, gives the fishermen what is called “hot bait.”

Santa Ana Register, April 24, 1926

Sea trout, or white sea bass, are rising to spoons or to live bait cast from the Balboa pier. Halibut, yellowtail, occasional barracuda, spotfin croakers and jewfish are making the late season angler happy and providing unusually good fishing for this season. With the south wind Friday, came a big school of bonito and, as long as the bait lasted, the pier was well covered with the finny prizes, but only the live sardines will attract these gamey fish. Live bait has been hard to get, but when it is plentiful, fishing is good at all points along the coast,

Santa Ana Register, October 2, 1926

From the piers at Newport Beach and Balboa fishermen are enjoying the greatest run of bonito in five years, according to old timers. Fifty to one hundred fish a day per fisherman is about the average catch. Yellowtail, mackerel and sea trout are also being taken in generous numbers from the piers but they are not nearly so plentiful as the bonito. The big bonito run started three weeks ago and the opinion of the local fishermen is that it will continue through October and November. Live sardines are the best bait.

Santa Ana Register, October 15, 1926

Record Weight Halibut Taken By Balboa Man — The largest halibut ever caught with a light line and tackle from a pier on the Pacific coast was hauled in at Balboa late yesterday by Harry Campbell, Balboa fisherman and a member of the Balboa Angling Club. The fish weighed 45 ¾ pounds.

Large halibut are being brought in regularly along the beach at Balboa and Newport Beach, but the one captured by Campbell is the largest ever caught in the vicinity. H. T. Petty, of Long Beach, landed a 22-pound halibut on the Newport Pier and Fred Gale, of Brea, got a 11 ¾-pound halibut at the same place earlier in the week.

Fishermen are elated over the catches of halibut and are further buoyed up over the report that a large school of barracuda is reported to be coming up the coast from Laguna Beach. Other varieties of fish are also being caught in abundance from the two piers.

Santa Ana Register, May 21, 1927

Record Fish Landed—Newport Beach, May 13.—Carl Sandino, one of the operators of a live bait stand on Balboa pier, hooked and landed the biggest fish of any kind ever caught off that pier yesterday. Sandino’s catch was a giant black sea bass, which tipped the scales at 452 pounds. The head weighed 70 pounds.

Santa Ana Register, May 13, 1930

At the Balboa Pier a five-pound corbina was brought out of the water, a two-pound yellowfin, and a small boy caught a pound-and-a-half jewfish.

Corona Daily Independent, June 26, 1930

Good Fishing Reported For Newport Area—Newport Beach, March 16.—Unusually good fishing for this time of the year off Newport and Balboa indicates that last year’s record-breaking fishing season will be duplicated during the coming summer, according to gossip among the angling fraternity… Many halibut and bonita are being caught by trolling boat fishermen and off the Newport and Balboa piers… Scientists have said the warm Japanese current ran closer to the shore than usual last summer, and that this condition is likely to last for from three to five years.

Santa Ana Register, March 16, 1932

Big Fish Contest At Newport Beach Ended

Newport Beach, July 8.—Lew Williams of Arcadia and Balboa, carried off honors in the big fish contests run by the Newport Harbor Chamber of Commerce ending last night, when he snagged a 310-pound sea bass (Jewfish) on Sunday, June 25, the very first day of the contest, at the Balboa pier. Prizes were offered for the largest fish caught at both the Newport and Balboa ocean piers. Francis N. Edmunds of the Southern California Edison company at Santa Ana won the prize at the Newport pier, catching a 24-pound sea bass.

Santa Ana Daily Register, July 5, 1933

Big Catches Draw Anglers To Beach—Newport Beach, May 31.—Attracted by word of big catches off Newport Beach, fishermen in increasing numbers are flocking here. Several large white sea bass were caught from the Balboa pier recently, among the lucky anglers being Chase Gates, of Balboa, and Valdemar Sorenson, local wharfinger. Large halibut are running now, with several tipping the beams at close to 25 or 30 pounds being pulled in from both piers. Mrs. Maybelle Davis, Balboa, hooked one of the flat fish that weighed 30 pounds.

Santa Ana Register, May 21, 1934

The lobster season opened Oct. 1 and many anglers are out after the hard-shelled redheads. Smelt fishing from the Newport and Balboa piers is beginning to show signs of action while pierists here have done well with mackerel in the morning hours.

Santa Ana Register, October 10, 1937

With the dedication of the Balboa Pier last weekend the city had the roomiest pier fishing facilities on the entire coastline. Two full-size ocean piers a little over a mile apart insured plenty of elbow room for all pier fishing enthusiasts. Both the Newport and Balboa piers are getting good crowds, as Southland enthusiasts tried out the two new structures.

Santa Ana Register, June 26, 1940

History Note. The Balboa subdivision was developed by the Newport Bay Investment Company in 1905 and named by E.J. Louis, Peruvian consul in Los Angeles, in honor of Vasco Nunez de Balboa, discoverer of the Pacific Ocean in 1513. To lure prospective buyers to what was basically a sandspit, the developers in 1906 built the Balboa Pier together with the nearby Balboa Pavilion. When built, the Pacific Electric “Red Cars” of Henry Huntington could bring passengers almost directly to the foot of the pier.

Almost immediately the Balboa area became a tourist destination and fishing was a favorite sport—inside the bay, on the beaches, and at the pier. However, like most early piers, it saw frequent damage from storms and high waves.

In 1908, part of the pier was lost:

Heavy Seas Along the Coast Remove Part of the Balboa Pier—Newport Beach, June 24.—The seas have been quite heavy of late and as a result a portion of the Balboa pier was carried away Sunday, the pilings being broken off at the sand.

Santa Ana Register, July 24, 1908

It was much of the same in 1911:

Balboa Pier Shaky—Newport News: The end of the Balboa pier is barely hanging on and the heavy ground swell running is apt to demolish the rest of it at any time. Friday night the breakers beat against the coast at East and West Newport so hard that the buildings were shaken as by an earthquake.

Santa Ana Register, June 6, 1911

Finally, in 1915, the county grand jury took a look at all the piers in Orange County:

Grand Jury Report Filed — Piers — We investigated and examined all piers in Orange County, and we find them generally in good condition, except the following: At Laguna, found the pier in dangerous condition, and should be torn down and rebuilt. At Balboa, bad condition. Newport should have new piles. Corona Del Mar should be strengthened by placing stringers under the walk.

Santa Ana Register, January 23, 1915

Although repairs were made and the pier reopened, it was eventually decided that a new pier was needed and in October 1921 it was announced that bids had been accepted for a reconstruction and extension of the 1,100-foot-long Balboa Pier. W. M. Ledbetter, a contractor from Los Angeles, won the bidding war with a bid of $17,600 and construction began in the early months of 1922.

In July of 1925 bids were awarded for the construction of a landing platform out at the end of the pier similar to the one on the Newport Pier. It was hoped that boats out to the local fishing barges would be available from the landing.

However, one problem persisted and that was that the pier rarely duplicated the fishing success of the nearby Newport Pier. Water depth was seen as the problem and by August of 1925 some of the local residents were calling for a 500-foot extension out into water of the “channel current” that would be 65-feet deep. Soon, some residents called for a 1,000 foot extension.

4 Responses

  1. I’m coming out with my family in Dec. I wanted to do some fishing. Can I rent gear at the pier and do I need a license to fish from the pier?

  2. No, there is no rental equipment at the pier. I think though you might be able to rent tackle nearby at Davey’s Locker. As for a license, no, one is not required as long as you are fishing from the pier.

  3. […] Piers are one of the most romantic spots on earth! If you don't believe me, tag along on a visit to Balboa Pier on almost any summer night. By 10 P.M., darkness has enveloped the pier. But while most fishermen have returned home, life continues on the pier. via […]

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