Last modified: September 12, 2019

Fishing Piers San Francisco Bay Area

Ferry Point Pier — Richmond

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

3 Responses

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

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