Last modified: September 12, 2019

Fishing Piers San Francisco Bay Area

Ferry Point Pier — Richmond

Public Pier — No Fishing License Required

One day on the PFIC message board we received a note from an angler who had visited the Ferry Point Pier: “The pier was OK. But the thing that is right next to it makes it too depressing to fish. So I left.”  Another angler then asked: “What is next to the pier?” The answer: “I think it’s the old ferry dock that’s been burned down. It’s right next to the pier. So you could only fish from one side of the pier.” Finally a long time regular chirped in: “That is an old ferry loading pier. Originally the plans for that area included using that old structure as part of the whole pier, but the idea was scrapped because of budget constraints. Sorry you find it depressing… I rather enjoyed it when I fished that pier. Granted it’s not much of a pier, but I liked it… caught the biggest leopard I’ve caught off a pier there.”

I too find it an interesting pier and in part because of those old ruins. As a former history teacher, I think it gives a reflection back into a bygone era, an era that was exciting at the time but seems to be of little interest to the modern generation.

Of course the subject here is a fishing pier and the rotting pilings, the remains of a rusting ferry landing, and a decrepit old building near the front of the pier may simply seem an ugly eyesore to many. Then again, when I spotted the mass of old pilings on my first visit to the pier my immediate thought was — what great attractants for perch. We all see things differently and interpret what we see in different fashion. 

What cannot be argued is that an initial lack of funds, and consequent inability to extend the pier out to the edge of the old landing as originally envisioned, has undoubtedly hurt the fishing to some extent. A longer pier would have meant access to deeper water — and more fish. To what extent the fishing would be better is impossible to say.

Certainly the initial expectations were high — “This will be the crown jewel of fishing piers,” said Jean Siri, a director for the park district. “There is deep-water access, that’s the beauty of it. It’s really good fishing. Families and kids will love it.” —Tom Stienstra, Outdoors, San Francisco Chronicle, February 28, 2001

But the deep-water access is largely missing and the crown jewel turns out to be a faux jewel. The pier still produces some excellent action at times but you just wonder how good the fishing might have been?  

Ferry Point

Environment. The pier sits in Ferry Point Park, which is part of the larger Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline. A short distance to the north sees Keller Beach Park and beyond that the residential Point Richmond district. Just past Point Richmond are the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and the dividing line between San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay.

The pier itself sits at the tip of Point Richmond, the terminus end for the one time very important Santa Fe Railroad. The railroad carried passengers from throughout the U.S. to the point and from there a ferry was needed to carry them to San Francisco. The ruins of that ferry landing hug the left or south side of the pier.

The pier extends 550 feet into the bay into waters that are moderately deep, the bottom is primarily mud, and water currents can be strong when there is a large incoming or outgoing tide.

Low tide

The shoreline is rock-lined and heavily covered with vegetation. In addition, there are quite a few rocks (and other unseen debris) on the bottom by the pier to attract fish. Last but not least are many, many old pilings in the water which also act as attractants for fish. The pilings do not seem to contain many mussels but are mainly covered by barnacles.

Anglers are presented two quite different and distinct areas to fish. The “backside” of the pier, next to the old ferry landing, has fairly shallow water that is heavily clogged by those old rotting pilings and miscellaneous pieces of indefinable   machinery. This is primarily perch territory and a plethora of perch species can show up, everything from small shinerperch and dwarf perch to the larger blackperch, pileperch and rubberlip perch.

Backside

The “frontside” of the pier faces directly into the bay and is home to the deeper waters and a variety of fish. It’s still home to perch but added into the mix are a number of other species — jacksmelt, kingfish (white croaker), brown rockfish, starry flounder (less and less each year), halibut, sharks and rays.

Frontside

In addition, these waters are in the migratory paths of three large gamefish — striped bass, sturgeon and salmon. All are anadromous species that spend part of the year in saltwater before heading inland into fresher waters to spawn. Typically, the stripers and salmon migrate down into the bay and ocean during the spring months. Some stripers stay in the bay while some move into the ocean, all of the salmon move into the ocean. Later, in the fall, they reverse course and migrate back up through the bay, into the Carquinez Strait, and finally reach the waters of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and inland rivers. 

The sturgeon too migrate back and forth but often they are found in the largest numbers in San Francisco Bay during the winter months when the herring come into the bay to spawn.

Frontside

Fishing Tips. As said, anglers are faced with two distinct fisheries, the “backside fishery” facing the old landing and the “frontside” fishery” facing the bay.

Backside — almost every species of perch taken in central and northern California has been taken at the pier. Nevertheless, local, resident bay species predominate. Small shinerperch are found year round as are small dwarf perch. Ditto the larger blackperch (aka buttermouth or pogie). Both whiteperch and pileperch can show up throughout the year but traditionally the winter and early spring months have been the times when big schools of big pileperch flooded into local waters. Rubberlips, striped perch, and rainbow perch can make an appearance throughout the year and surprisingly even some of the large surfperch—redtail and calico surfperch. Smaller walleye and silver surfperch are more common in the summer and fall months. 

Striped seaperch

The perch fishery isn’t complicated; the key is the right bait and fairly small hooks. Pile worms have traditionally been the primo bait for all of the perch. However, grass shrimp (if you can find it), ghost shrimp, and small shore-crabs (look under the rocks) often work better for the large pileperch and rubberlip seaperch. Small pieces of market shrimp can work if the aforementioned baits are unavailable and, surprisingly, sometimes will out fish the more expensive live bait.

Blackperch

Do remember to keep your hooks small—size 6 or 4—and your line fairly light (although when the perch are in a feeding frenzy it sometimes doesn’t seem to make much difference). All are caught on the bottom although the pileperch will at times be at a mid-depth level.

The smaller walleye and silver surfperch can be taken in the same manner but size 8 or 6 hooks are preferred and the schools containing these smaller perch are several feet up from the bottom. Sabiki-type bait rigs will also work for these perch along with the shinerperch but remember if using a Sabiki that you must remove three of the hooks since the maximum amount of hooks on a line is three.

Dwarf perch

In regard to the shinerperch, they are one of the pier’s standby fish and though small, make excellent bait for halibut. Before the Berkeley Pier was closed, anglers would travel to this pier to catch some shiners, then move back over to Berkeley for the halibut. Since the closure of the Berkeley Pier, locals simply catch and then use the shinerperch as bait for halibut at this pier.

It must be noted though that there is a special perch closure in San Francisco Bay. No perch may be taken from April 1 to the end of July excepting for shinerperch (so live halibut bait is still available).

The “backside” may also produce a number of other small fish on the bottom but most will be “throw-‘em-backs’ — incidental species too small to keep or use. Included are several varieties of small sculpin including bonehead sculpin, smoothhead sculpin, and small cabezon. Often found under the rocks and occasionally caught by hook are midshipmen, blennies and a variety of gobies including yellowfin gobies and chameleon gobies.

One final fish reported by the backside anglers are monkeyface eels (pricklebacks). People fishing down around the inshore rocks have reported a number of the gnarly creatures.

Frontside angler fishing for halibut

Frontside — More species are available. Jacksmelt are a common catch and when one shows up there will generally be more, in fact usually many, many more. Use two or three size 8 or 6 hooks baited with pile worms or small pieces of market shrimp and fish the rig under a float of some type. Be prepared to strike as soon as the float disappears under the water’s surface. As often as not you’ll have two or three fish on your line at a time and sometimes the smelt will be the big horse smelt approaching 12-15 inches in length.

White croaker, locally called kingfish, are a common catch (although the numbers seem to be showing a slow decrease). They are most commonly caught on a high/low rigging using a size 4 or 2 hook baited with cut pieces of anchovy although they also like pile worms, pieces of shrimp, and other cut baits; they’re non-discriminatory in what they eat.  They aren’t too big and aren’t much of a fighter but people still pursue them. Unfortunately, none should be eaten from the local waters. Their main food is the bottom inhabiting creatures living in and on the toxic mud on the bottom of local waters. The kingfish ingest the toxin-filled worms, clams, etc., the toxins then lodge in the kingfish, and then the kingfish that are now full of toxins themselves are eaten by bigger creatures, i.e., bigger fish, seals, sea lions, birds — and humans. All have now been exposed to those toxins. It’s best just to throw ‘em back.

Flatfish are also a possibility with halibut being the hoped for prize. Surprising to me was the number of halibut taken from the pier once the “halibut regulars” moved over to Richmond once the Berkeley Pier was closed. The regulars at the pier who fish for halibut seem to prefer the last three railing sections on the left end of the pier for the halibut. The majority will use live bait if they can get it.  Some will try to net some shiners or small smelt at the pier, some will try to Sabiki-up some baitfish, and some will head over to the Berkeley Marina and visit the K-Dock for some live anchovies.

Live anchovies

Of course you need to keep the live bait lively so regulars use 5-gallon buckets or coolers together with an aerator to keep the bait alive. The bait is then used with a sliding sinker rig or with a Carolina-type rig that allows the bait to swim in a natural fashion. It’s amazing how much the chances for halibut are increased using live bait! However, there’s also a fraternity of regulars who prefer to toss out a lure for the halibut, usually a soft plastic lure, and they pull in a fair number of the flatfish. 

Less common but a possibility are sand sole (spring through fall) and starry flounder (primarily in the winter and spring months). Most of these flatfish will be caught on pile worms, ghost shrimp, grass shrimp or cut anchovies. Both high/low rigs and sliding sinker rigs will work for these fish. Some years a few Pacific sanddab may also show up. Small, size 6 or 4 hooks are used for the sanddab and if present they may be caught 2-3 at a time.

Most any month may produce small brown rockfish although summer months are peak. They are really too small to keep but give great fun for the youngsters in the group. Use size 8 hooks on a high/low rig and bait up with pile worms or small pieces of shrimp. 

          

Striped bass are, of course, one of the most popular species. Best times will be the spring and fall months with a variety of baits and lures producing the fish. Favorite baits include cut anchovies and sardines, pile worms, ghost shrimp, bullheads (staghorn sculpins) and mudsuckers (longjaw gobies). High/low rigs with hooks size 2 to 2/0 as well as sliding sinker rigs can be used for the bass. Popular lures include Fish Traps, Hair Raisers, Rapalas and Kastmasters.

Another prized fish is white sturgeon. Winter and spring, especially when there is a good run-off from inland waters, will sometimes produce a few fish (and two sturgeon were reported during the first month the pier was open).

In addition, most years see Pacific herring spawn by the pier, generally January-February, and the pier may be lined with fisherman casting out their nets, filling buckets with herring, and (generally) leaving an almost solid mass of herring scales covering the pier. It can be somewhat of a madhouse but the herring runs attract those in hopes of filling cooler after cooler with the small fish for food and bait.

Sturgeon too are attracted during the herring runs. Sturgeon, with their syphon-like mouths (sort of like vacuum cleaners), cruise along the bottom sucking up whatever food they happen to find. When the herring enter the bay to spawn they carpet some of the shallow areas with their sticky masses of eggs. When that happens, the carpet slurpin’ sturgeon are in 7th heaven and it’s one reason why the herring roe is sometimes used for bait.  Of course some anglers also swear by herring fillets and will add a little Pro-Cure herring oil to the bait. Then again, some locals tell me that they rarely catch sturgeon during the herring runs, perhaps the big fish are already too stuffed with food?

Most of the year the prime baits for the sturgeon are ghost shrimp, blue mud shrimp, grass shrimp, and eel and all work — at times. Unfortunately, less and less bait shops seem to have live bait; it’s a risky business. If you decide to seek out the big bruisers be sure to have stout tackle, a net, and perhaps a friend or two to help you net the elusive diamondbacks. Also remember (1) that only fish between 40 and 60 inches can be kept (smaller and larger fish must be returned to the water), and (2) you need a sturgeon card if you’re fishing for the sturgeon.

Perhaps the most common fish, especially during the summer months are the sharays — sharks and rays. In fact, bat rays are one of the most reliable fish at the pier. Guaranteed fish? I was told by a regular that a diagonal cast out from the far left corner of the pier will almost always guarantee a bat ray (and the regulars are usually the ones who know).  Whatever the case they are one of the most common fish and often they are huge with some of the old mama bat rays approaching 100 pounds or more. You need appropriate, strong tackle, a good saltwater rod and reel, at least 50-pound test line and a net to bring the bat rays (aka mud marlin) up onto the pier.

Bat ray — Totally wrong way to hold it

Some are caught on high/low rigs but more will be caught with sliding sinker type rigs, strong 2/0 to 4/0 hooks, and squid for bait. They will hit any hour of the day but are really on the prowl during the nocturnal nighttime hours.

Leopard sharks and brown smoothhound sharks are also common. Most of the smoothhounds are small, less than 30 inches in length, while some of the leopards can reach nearly five feet in length. The smoothounds will hit on most bait but oily baits like anchovies and sardines and/or bloody baits like mackerel are generally the best bait. Squid is also commonly used for the smoothhounds. Leopard sharks will take all of these baits but often prefer live bait such a midshipmen or mudsuckers. Hooks size 2 to 4/0 are used with both high/low and sliding sinker rigs working.

By the way, in talking to a local one day he told how he had once overturned some inshore rocks looking for pile worms but instead found a number of midshipmen, fifteen in all, in a small space under the rocks. He now checks the rocks on a regular basis. So, live bait may be available.

Since the pier is near moderately deep water, a number of 7-gill sharks will also be landed and some may approach pretty good size. As with all sharks and rays, have a medium to heavy size rod and reel, an appropriate rig (in this case a wire leader) and a way to bring them up onto the pier.

Finally, there is the possibility of seeing king salmon passing through the area, generally in the fall months as they head inland toward their birth streams. Although common in the area, very few will be hooked or landed. Salmon generally have stopped eating by the time they reach these waters and (wisdom has it) can only be hooked by lure. Since few anglers seek out the salmon at the pier, it stands to reason that few of the trophy fish will be hooked.

Although fairly uncommon for the area, both lingcod and kelp greenling have been reported from the pier.

The most unusual catch, by a long shot, was the reported catch of a triggerfish in September 2016. Although no photo has surfaced, numerous people reported seeing the fish being caught by a little old lady who, soon after, asked PFIC for help in identifying the fish. She reported that it had “weird, human-like teeth, a strange little tab near the top of the head [a fin with a spike?], and a tail with one long point at the top and one at the bottom. “After seeing a picture of a finescale triggerfish she reported that yes, that was the fish. Although its range is recorded north to Alaska, finescale triggerfish are considered uncommon north of Baja California and rare north of Southern California. It’s hard to say what it was doing on the east side of San Francisco Bay. 

The Pier Rats Speak

Date:  January 19, 2016; To: Pier Fishing In California Message Board; From: Kilgore Trout; Subject: Re: Herring in the bay?

Yeah, I only caught the tail end of it on Sunday morning at Richmond. People fishing there were so pleasant considering that it was a little crowded — gave me a little faith in humanity. Lots of curious spectators and kids as well. Anyway, I think you can probably catch up to them if you put a little scouting time in around the North Bay… Btw, the Sabiki fishermen were doing pretty well, and some monster smelt were in the mix if you’re into some sport on light tackle.

Posted by: I am Brandon

Herring were in Ferry Point in Richmond over the weekend and yesterday morning. I was there mid-day to evening and none were seen. I keep arriving a day late!

Date: January 28, 2017; To: PFIC Message Board; ;From: Red Fish; Subject: Ferry Point Pier

Herring at the Ferry Point Pier two weeks ago.

Date: June 18, 2017; To: Ken Jones; From: Red Fish; Subject: Ferry Point Pier

Ken, I landed 5 California halibut all at 19″ or above today on Ferry Point Pier. The one that was low 30’s came unbuttoned at the net. Frozen anchovies and live smelt.

To: Redfish; From: Ken Jones;

To Redfish, Wish I was there today instead of in Fresno where the temperature is predicted to reach 110 degrees.  Ken

Date: February 3, 2018; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Red Fish; Subject: Ferry Point Pier

I showed up at Ferry Point Pier about 4:25pm and it was NOT crowded. There were no herring also, as the previous day’s run was over with people with an average (12) herring for a couple hours of net throwing. I gave out a bucket-and-half because I always keep some for friends but they could not come out and get them, so I dispensed them to a few fishermen (three of which knew) that only had a handful. I fished using Pacific herring and a hi/lo surf-leader and only hooked into a single bat ray. A lot of crabs, thus fished an extra-long leader of about 6 feet. That was it. A very peaceful evening of solitude.

Date: August 7, 2018; To: Ken Jones; From: A friend; Subject: Ferry Point Pier

Forgot to mention that the Ferry Point “fishing allowed without a license” sign has been painted over.  As the paint color matches the classic brown of the EBRP folks—and not the nearby graffiti creeps’ work—there is room for speculation. The parks people there are lackluster and do a terrible job cleaning up. They are equipped with those pickers rather than push brooms, and they barely pick up anything. I witnessed two crew members throw a 12-foot galvanized pipe into the water rather than haul it away.  Others saw this too.  Can’t fish that spot now. But no one cared when I visited HQ. Small wonder the local constabulary are issuing tickets around the Bay that the DFW would not. Municipalities in these parts are, bluntly, anti-fishing at best.

Date: June 6, 2019; To: Ken Jones; From: A friend; Subject: Ferry Point Pier

I think you are the only one who could appreciate this.  I learned about this fish years ago from the “orange edition” of Pier Fishing In California.  Still have that book; albeit held together with packing tape.  A few days ago I caught a diamond turbot in my cast net at Ferry Point. Naturally everyone told me it was a short halibut, but I knew better. Couldn’t keep it: the rules are in place for a reason (and if I had caught it on hook and line, I would indeed have dined on it). It was huge. Close to the upper end described in your book. But I did not measure it. Just enough time to admire it, show one guy the blindside lateral line and lack of teeth, and then return it to the water. Beautiful specimen! Dark. It has been a score of years since I’ve seen one in the Bay. Next cast was a striper, possibly legal, who also got splashed. If I hadn’t been pretty successful at halibut angling lately, I’d have been irked. Still a lot of shorties on that pier, and, sadly, more than a few going home. The people who do it know the rules, but that’s the same old same old.

Date: June 18, 2019; To: Ken Jones; From: A friend; Subject: Ferry Point Pier

Pier pressure (pun intended) does help with cheating. The other day on Ferry Point, three halibut came in, two for me and one for another guy. Mine measured 21.5” (ouch!) and 20.” The other guy was 21.75.” We encouraged him to measure several times and thwarted his attempt to go to the end of the tail fin with the tape (which is illegal). Grudgingly he released a fish he would have kept if we were not present. But no rancor. It is difficult to know when to step in and when to step back. If you fish a place often, you don’t want to burn bridges and piss off those you will see again. When the wardens show up, they are conspicuous and the cheaters cover their butts (literally!) by the time the officers get to the pier. But it is kind of futile. I am the only one who uses a three-hook Sabiki. I’ve been laughed at, but it stops when my bucket is populated and theirs are not. People work way too hard to cut corners and seek shortcuts. I know I did the right thing, but I still wish I’d kept that turbot

Potpourri

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — This is the only pier that I fished before its official grand opening. I had been eagerly awaiting its opening when I received an e-mail early in 2002 announcing that yes indeed, the pier was finally open. Soon after, I headed down to the pier to try it out. What I found was unexpected: a smallish pier devoid of fish cleaning stations, adequate trash cans, bait cutting stations or even well designed railings. The pier was a major disappointment even though I was glad it was finally open. Overall it gave the appearance of an ill-conceived, hastily constructed, Mickey Mouse job. It surprised me because the East Bay Regional Park District normally does a good job with its piers.

What was expected was a group of anglers fishing and they already had a few perch to show for their efforts. However, upon leaving I noticed a sign laying face down near the entrance stating that the pier was not yet open. And upon arrival back home I received another e-mail message, this one stating that there was some confusion about opening dates and that anglers might possibly receive tickets if they fished from the pier.

A little confusing and it didn’t get any better during the next couple of months as anglers continued to use the pier and authorities kept saying it wasn’t officially open. A plethora of reasons were given but to this day I’ve never heard a conclusive explanation as to the cause of the delay (although a shutoff of promised funds may have been the reason).

By the way, my first visit, on February 27, 2002, a short hour and a half trip, produced a less than impressive 7 fish: 5 blackperch, 1 bonehead sculpin and a shinerperch. However, subsequent trips later in the spring proved to be much more productive.

The pier is built on the site and remains of the old Santa Fe Ferry Landing, residue that still dominates the scene at the end of the point. It became a popular site for local fishermen as the railroad activities decreased in the ’70s but was partially burned down in 1984. After that, the inshore section of the pier was removed and the pier’s use by anglers ceased. 

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — Fish surveys done by the Department of Fish and Wildlife show jacksmelt as being the number one caught fish at the pier as far as sheer numbers but they also show that jacksmelt were not counted every year (undoubtedly simply missed). White seaperch and black seaperch were counted every year of the survey and they led the list of perch followed by (in numerical order) walleye surfperch, shinerperch, pileperch, striped seaperch, and rubberlip seaperch. White croaker were surprisingly not that high in the counts and while cabezon, kelp greenling and bat rays were counted at the pier no sharks were counted. Again, they were undoubtedly missed.

Unbelievable was that no herring were reported from the pier — one of the top Bay Area piers for those netting herring during their winter runs. And when the run is on, thousands of herring are captured.

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — Herring

The herring “dippers” are on their toes. They are getting ready for barrels, buckets, tubs, nets and the strange equipment used when the annual run of herring hits the Contra Costa shores.

These darting, silver fish are in the Bay at this time buy the millions. They are most concentrated around Marin County shores and in the Raccoon Straits. They have not appeared at Richmond and other nearby spots for spawning in numbers making it worthwhile to use dip nets to get them.

Lee Anderson, “king of the herring dippers,” is making a trip from his San Pablo Avenue bait store to the Richmond ferry piers every four hours these days so that he will be able to spot the big run as soon as it hits.

What a sight when the millions of fish do move in close to shore for their annual spawning. In times past they have literally covered the water from Richmond to Port Costa with floating rafts of eggs that calm the surface, giving it the appearance of a great meadow covered with discolored snow that has started to melt.

 Run Late This Year. The first big showing in 1939 was on January 15. It lasted three days and then as if by magic the herring disappeared and did not return until the latter part of February. There is actually nothing to worry about on this score, however, as the best runs in the past have always been around March 1.

The Richmond point near the ferry slips and the Santa Fe wharf have been the most popular spots for landing herring as here the fish seem to be most prolific and it is possible to slip a net under the school and not have it fall on them.

There is no way to tell when the big run will take place. At times the fish will be close for three or four days. At other times they will come in by the millions on one tide and drift out with the outgoing tide.

Colorful Spectacle. Last year the best runs were at night and what a colorful sight was presented as the netters using anything and everything to catch the fish and store them when caught worked beneath the torches and flashlights.

There is no limit on herring and no game laws touch on the methods of taking them. Ordinary sacks on hoops have done the work and even pans and buckets with holes in the bottom have been used to make catches.

The real herring fisherman uses a large dip net and brings in great quantities of the fish at one scoop. It is not a sport for the man or woman with a weal back for lifting one of the larger nets full of fish is a good job for muscles.

Anderson and his crew of “dippers” have always been the leading producers of these fish. At one time, it was either last year or the year before, they brought back their barrels on the truck with more than 300 pounds of herring.

None Was Wasted. Not a fish was wasted for they put some of the barrels out in front of the bait shop with a sign so that passerby could help themselves to a mess of the delectable fish.

Some fish are salted down and some are preserved in other ways. Fried while still fresh they are one of the most tasty of sea foods for breakfast.

Anderson has a “herring list” posted on a prominent place next to his telephone. They are the names of men and women who want to be called the minute the first run starts. Many of them are fishermen who would rather take part in the excitement of a big run than make a trip for striped bass. Others on the list are men and women who drive to Richmond when the run is on to watch the colorful sight and it is a spectacle well worth seeing.

As stated before, Anderson is making trips to Richmond every four hours to watch for the first sign of quantities of spawn on the water. When the news is flashed every effort will be made to get it on the air and into the first edition of the paper printed.

Watch for the news and take a trip to Richmond either to watch the fishermen or grab a bucket and go out for a mess of fish for there is usually plenty to go around and they are a big hearted bunch out there. You won’t have any trouble getting a fine mess of fish to take home. —Line on the Sportsman, Mike Dwyer, Oakland Tribune, February 13, 1940

Herring Stage First Run Of Year On Richmond

Small Army Fills Sacks

Armed with old cooking pots and pans, nets of all sizes and descriptions, steel powder barrels, barley sacks, or homemade sacks of every imaginable materials, the “herring chokers” descended upon Richmond yesterday for the first run of the 1940 season.

While a portable radio blared world news events — events of very secondary importance to the little group of busy fishermen — nets were dropped between the pilings, allowed to rest for a short time, were pulled up again, each with its flipping quantity of silver fish.

The netter’s assistant steps into the picture here, armed with a six to eight-foot length of wood on the end of which has been nailed a pot or pan, fugitive from some unsuspecting wife’s kitchen. He dips the pot down into the net and transfers load after load of fish to the box, barrel, or other container that he has brought with him.

MORE SPECTATORS. The actual number of fishermen are few compared to the groups of interested spectators, the majority of whom watch for a short time and then scurry off in search of an old sack, cloth, anything to carry home a load of fish.

“I have never eaten them” you hear from time to time, but as the excitement grows the man or woman who has spoken will be seen in a frantic search for a container to carry home a mess of fish.

To the crews doing the netting and scooping, there is little difference as to who is passing along a container for a mess of fish. To them the sport is in catching and the quantity seems unlimited. Anyone who produces something to hold fish is gladly given whatever amount they may desire. A generous tribe, these herring netters, and then the quantity seems unlimited.

FISH AWAIT URGE. These fish have been in the Bay waters for some time. They have darted back and forth, night and day, in great schools, aimlessly swimming awaiting the spawning urge that they know will soon come.

When the spawn becomes heavy—and it is surprising how many thousands of eggs these five-to-the pound fish contain—male and female alike head for the sheltered waters where there are pilings and rough rocks to catch and hold the spawn as it is dropped, so that it can be fertilized by the males.

Like a may-pole or perhaps it is a merry-go-round, they concentrate on a certain piling by the hundreds and so close together they seem at times more like a great silvery snake than a line of fish, they circle. Round and round and round they go, from the very surface of the water down to the bottom and as they circle the eggs are dropped, some of them to sink slowly to the bottom, others to cling to the rough surface of pilings and rock.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT. It is food for thought watching this production of the millions of herring for the supply of the coming years. Seasoned fishermen who have assembled to watch the fun, glance from time to time out past the rocks to the smoother waters where from experience they know the big striped bass are lying where they can feed upon the herring as they pass to and fro from these spawning grounds.

What makes the fish choose this particular spot each year, no one can know. They are always there when it is time to spawn and never have they been seen around the thousands of piles that make up the Berkeley pier just a few short miles away.

Smaller schools of anchovies dart back and forth near the far end of the pier keeping clear of this major spawning operation. They prove that the bigger bass are waiting somewhere nearby for they have been herded to this spot by the following bass as the exodus of the herring started.

FURTHER PROOF. Also proof that Mr. Bass and his family have followed this great movement is the fact that when the herring move out again and but a few are left, smart striped bass fishermen will churn through the nearby waters with their rowboats, waters so shallow that big bass may often be seen rooting on the bottom. These smart fishermen will pick up limits almost every day they fare forth and the fact that a smart fisherman is made only by experience, means that this particular group of men will fish almost daily.

The run lasted all day yesterday and late into the night.

The run slacked off on the first tide from daylight to 10 a.m. today, but the hope is that the fishing will improve for Thursday, a holiday, when everyone will get a chance at them. Groups of Oakland firemen joined with the others during the night last night, the flares and lights making one of the most colorful scenes to be imagined.

For spectators and fishermen alike, latest information on the run will be compiled from time to time during the next few days by Lee Anderson, “king of the herring chokers,” and myself. Ring him at Piedmont 9262 or ring me at Olympic 4668 today or tomorrow and learn the status of the ruin. It may save a trip. —Bob Dwyer, Oakland Tribune, February 21, 1940

The herring are proving even more unstable this year than last year if such a thing is possible. Tuesday there was a fine run of fish off the Parr Terminal pier No. 1. It lasted from the early morning to far into the night and all who dipped a net took home all the fish they could use. There were very few fishermen.

WIND HALTS RUN. The wind in the early morning hours of Wednesday “blew” the run out from the shallows. There were a few fish, very few taken at this point Wednesday, while yesterday produced a few fish although crowds of netters stood almost elbow to elbow and spectators anxious to see the run, crowded them from one end of the long terminal to the other.

There were no herring taken in the morning but after one o’clock a few began to appear and at three most of the netters were getting from one to a dozen each time they dropped their gear.

This was in no way a run, but it did fill pans and sacks for the fishermen themselves and gave the spectators a glimpse of what it might be like with good loads of fish coming up with each net.

MANY CAME IN HOPES. Despite the fact hundreds of telephone calls made Wednesday night and all day yesterday, gave Lee Anderson and myself a chance to tell readers the run had stopped, many made the Richmond trip just on the chance of seeing action. And many had their sacks and boxes and pans with them in hopes the netters would get going good and would pass out a few.

This run is being closely watched. It will come again two or three times in the next few weeks and at least one of the runs should last fro several days. The news will be carried in this column the next edition after the fish begin to close in on the pier. —Bob Dwyer’s Line on Sportsman, Oakland Tribune, February 23, 1940

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — Audrey Payne of San Lorenzo Bait and Tackle reported Alice Fernandez of Hayward landed limits of bass to 13 ½ pounds while fishing from the Richmond Pier. Alice used frozen anchovies. —The Fishin’ Fool, Ralph Stevens, San Rafael Daily Independent Journal, November 29, 1962

<*}}}}}}}}}>< — An old shark tale:

Girls Battle With Savage Shark — Man-Eating Monster, After Hour’s Battle, Captured by Two Fair Heroines.

RICHMOND, Aug. 15. — Battling for almost an hour with a seven-foot shark of the man-eating variety two Richmond girls yesterday afternoon captured their prize off the wharf of the Richmond Navigation Company. The girls were Miss Marguerite  Lauritzen daughter of Captain H. P. Lauritzen, head of the navigation company and Miss Gladys Pratt, who is visiting at the Lauritzen house. The fish, after being exhibited for several hours on Washington Avenue, was later tethered by a line to the wharf, where it may be viewed by curious visitors.

Miss Lauritzen and Miss Pratt watched the huge fish for several hours before they made up their minds to capture it. They then secured two large hooks, which they spliced to long poles. The torment then commenced. Finally one of the young women managed to hook the shark in the gill, and they almost landed it when the splicing broke and the hook was released

The fish then dived out of sight, but soon reappeared. With a quick and steady jab one of the hooks was thrust into the side of the shark, about a foot below its side fin. The combined strength of the two young women was required for its freedom. Without enlisting the aid of anyone, however, they finally brought the monster to the wharf.

Captain Lauritzen was then informed of the catch. When he viewed the fish he almost collapsed. Loading it onto a large auto truck, he carried it into the city, where he had it weighed. The fish, which is apparently about ten years old, tipped the scale at 149 pounds. It measured seven feet and three inches in length.

Both Miss Lauritzen and Miss Pratt are justly proud of the feat, for real man-eating sharks are very seldom seen in this section of the bay and are but seldom captured. —Oakland Tribune, August 15, 1914

Sunset at the pier

History Note.            

The area today known as Point Richmond was long the home of native Americans before coming under control of the Spanish in the early 1800s. The area became known as The Potrero (pastureland) of Don Francisco Castro’s huge Rancho San Pablo; later the point was called Point Stevens, appearing on charts of the Bay in 1850. Finally, a U.S. Government survey party designated the point of land jutting into the Bay as “Point Richmond.” 

This pier is built on the remains of the old Santa Fe Ferry Terminal that was the western terminus of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. As the story goes, Augustin S. MacDonald had the vision of the site as a port and railroad terminal. It was he who broached the idea to the movers and shakers at Santa Fe. They apparently liked the idea when they found out it was 12 miles closer by rail than the Peralta Street Terminal for ferries in Oakland.

On July 4, 1900, after construction of ferry slips and tracks to the site, the Santa Fe inaugurated service by delivering 200 passengers from San Francisco to Point Richmond on the Santa Fe’s first ferry, the Ocean Wave. After arrival, many of the people boarded the railroad’s first through train to Chicago. To handle freight connections, terminals were built at the foot of Channel Street in China Basin, a “car float” slip was built adjacent to Pier 54 in San Francisco, and further landing facilities were constructed in Oakland and Alameda. Connections were made to the Northwest Pacific Railroad facilities in Tiburon.

For three decades these various terminals (passenger, car and freight) were busy with traffic—but that would change with the opening of the Bay Bridge in 1936. Nevertheless, even though the Santa Fe discontinued its own passenger ferries in 1933, ferries and other boats transported rail cars, cargo and people from the terminal to San Francisco until 1980 (and nearby sat the Southern Pacific Golden Gate Ferry Terminal which operated during the 1920s and 1930s).

During much of the pier’s history, local anglers with the know-how, and connections, were able to go out and catch fish at the pier. Later, after the demise of the ferry operations, it became an even more important home for local fisherman—until a fire in 1984. Since that time local fishermen repeatedly spoke of a need for a local pier and apparently the East Bay Regional Park District listened.

In February of 2001, the Wildlife Conservation Board announced the final grant ($500,270) needed to complete the pier project that had been in the works for nearly ten years. The cost of more than $2,000,000 includes rehabilitation of nearly 3,000 square feet of structure area—replacement of wooden piers and steel piles—and repainting of the historic gallows structure and machinery house (as well as interpretive signs showing the history of the pier and how the machinery worked).  Money for the project came from the Wildlife Conservation Fund, the California Coastal Conservancy ($492,000), Caltrans ($376,000) and funds raised by the East Bay Regional Park District itself ($713, 000).

Most of the old landings have been torn down and are now history. The Point Richmond Landing, even if in decrepit shape, gives evidence of those times when there were no bridges, no hundreds of thousands of cars crossing them daily, and much less crowding that seems to clog our daily life today. 

Looking toward the parking lot and restrooms

Ferry Point Pier Facts

Hours:  Signs say open from 7 AM to dusk but if you are inside the parking lot you can stay as long as you want. 

Facilities: The pier itself includes lights and one trash can, nothing else. The park contains restrooms near the parking lot and a nice fish cleaning station. To the left of the park entry area is a path built down to the water for kayakers AND a shower that can be used to rinse off the saltwater by returning kayakers. The park, by the way, appears a favorite place for people to bring their dog for a romp as well as people who like to fly kites.

Restrooms and cleaning station for fish

Handicapped Facilities:  Railings are 42 inches high.

How To Get There:  From I-580, there are two main Point Richmond exits, Canal Boulevard and Castro Street (also the south terminus of the Richmond Parkway). Take either into the center of town where you should see Dornan Drive and a tunnel that says Ferry Point. Go through the tunnel and continue out to the end of Dornan Drive. The park is intersected by Dornan Drive and Brick Cove Road.   

Management: East Bay Regional Park District

6 Responses

  1. Good fishing tips!  I like that included local history as well.

  2. Ken, the extension of the pier would undoubtedly provide more room to accommodate additional anglers. I can’t really say the extra footage would improve angling based on the kayakers and boaters I see fishing that area. I don’t see them doing any better. I know the  unreachable area off the back of the pier holds more perch that cannot be reached from the pier.

    1. Agreed! Initially it was supposed to be longer.

  3. I fished the area almost every weekend when I was a young teenager.  We would ride our bicycles down at 5am and fish until noonish.  Catch enough for family dinner and get down in time to cut the lawn.  Grass Shrimp cost $1 a pound so that tells you how long ago.  After reading this I can’t wait to drive down from Fairfield
     just to give it a try on this new pier.

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