Last modified: August 29, 2018

Fishing Piers Southern California

Green Pleasure Pier — Avalon, Catalina Island

Largemouth blenny were not recorded in California until 2015. Ive caught them at both the Green Pleasure Pier and the Mole.

Shinerperch were a fish almost always seen in the mix over the years. However, I haven’t seen a shinerperch at the pier since 2007.

Sand bass are an uncommon catch

Most trips to the pier will also see an occasional ocean whitefish. That changed dramatically during a trip in June of 2017 that saw a large school of whitefish hanging around the pier’s waters. Roughly twenty hours of fishing over three days saw me catch 60 of the young 10-15-inch fish (the number only surpassed by the number of kelp bass). Hundreds more were caught by other anglers. You just never know.

Ken Jones and an ocean whitefish

     • Cephalopods —  Although squid are rare to the Green Pleasure Pier, octopus are fairly common.

Two-spot Octopus

 [For detailed information on riggings and bait see the article on the Cabrillo Mole]

Mike Granat with a small sheephead

 Potpourri — Perhaps more than you may want to know about the Green Pleasure Pier

<*}}}}}}}}}><  —  My first trip to Catalina, and the Green Pleasure Pier, took place during September of 1966 during my honeymoon. The journey over from the mainland was on the S.S. Catalina a.k.a. the Big White Steamer (though it was trimmed in pink and blue) and it only cost $7.50 for a round-trip ticket. Upon arrival, the large ship docked at the Steamer Pier that used to sit just up the shoreline from the Green Pleasure Pier.

The pleasure pier itself was pretty similar to that seen today although there was far more open space from which a person could catch a fish or two (or twenty). In addition, there was a very long dock out at the end of the pier that apparently was utilized by the island’s various airlines and seaplanes over the years: Catalina Seaplanes/Catalina Golden West Airlines/Catalina Airlines N13CS Grumman G-21 Goose (that usually launched at Pebbly Beach).

On the morning after our arrival, I awoke early and found the newly crowned Mrs. Jones still asleep. What to do? Well, why not go fishing? After all, this was Avalon, one of the most famous fishing spots in California (if not the world). I slipped on some shorts and headed down to the Pleasure Pier where I fished for a half hour or so until the boat rental stand opened up. Soon after I was rowing out to deeper waters in the small skiff from which I proceeded to catch some kelp bass, mackerel, halfmoon, and ocean whitefish.

Prices were a little less in those days

When Mrs. Jones (Pat) woke up, she was not particularly amused albeit she was somewhat used to it (my fishing) by that time. It did however emphasize from an early point that the significant other in our marriage would be my fishing.

It would be eleven long years before we would return to Avalon. This time we would have our six- and seven-year-old children, Kim and Mike,  and they would be my fishing buddies on several trips to the pier. We caught lots of fish, and pretty much the same species as today, but the fish per hour and points per hour were roughly a third of what I see today. Either the fishing has improved or I have learned a little about fishing over the years.

The last night of our stay saw a beautiful sunset

<*}}}}}}}}}><  — The golden garibaldi may be Avalon’s favorite fish but I think giant sea bass aka black sea bass would be a pretty close second. Both are protected species and illegal to take and though the garibaldi was never considered an endangered species, the giant bass certainly was before being given protection in 1981.

Story after story in the newspapers of the late 1800s and early 1900s reported on the catch of huge jewfish (giant sea bass) at Catalina and those with the time and money made sure to catch one of the huge fish before heading home. The fish would be weighed on the pleasure pier and a photograph would be taken. Afterwards, some fish were eaten while some were simply left on the beach to rot.

But, the large fish, some as old as 50-75 years, could not multiply fast enough to replenish the earlier numbers. By the 1920s the numbers at Catalina had decreased dramatically and by the ‘80s they were endangered.

Luckily they seem to be making a comeback and the pleasure pier is one of the places where you will sometimes see the fish. The water is crystal clear and when a giant fish comes swimming along, a fish 5-6 feet long and weighing several hundred pounds, it will gain your attention.

But leave them alone. They are illegal to take (or even target) and are best simply viewed as one more treasure of Avalon.

<*}}}}}}}}}><  — What are the odds? In 1999, friends pushed a Matthew Keer into the water from one of the Green Pleasure Pier’s docks as a prank. Turned out to be a sad dunk because he lost his Texas A&M class ring (and I assume he wasn’t too thrilled by the prank). A year later, at the 2000 Avalon Underwater Cleanup Day, California Diving News publisher Dale Sheckler found the ring in the pier’s waters. However, he had trouble reading the inscribed name on the ring and was forced to submit a partial name, as well as year, to the college’s alumni association. A few months later he was contacted by Mr. Keer who gratefully accepted his ring back from Davey Jones’ Locker.

Mahigeer and a sheephead at the pier

<*}}}}}}}}}>< —   One of my favorite Catalina excursions was a night in the mid-70s when my wife and I decided to take the kids on the flying fish boat. The boat was the BlancheW, a 64-foot-long, 35-passenger boat built in 1924. Once loaded with jacketed visitors, it would head out from the Green Pleasure Pier as soon as it was dark and begin a cruise along Catalina’s eastern coast.

It would maintain a distance not far from the island’s shoreline and soon the large spotlight would be turned on, a 40-million candlepower, carbon-arc searchlight that came from a World War I battleship.

The light would be directed toward the shore and soon you would see flying fish taking off and paralleling in flight the direction and speed of the boat. Some would soar for a hundred feet or more, some made short flights before splashing back into the water, and occasionally a flying fish would startle a visitor by landing in the boat.

It was pretty interesting seeing their flight and the trips were, along with the glass bottom boats, one of the “must see” attractions for visitors to Catalina. Over the years the flying fish became one of the symbols of the island.

Then, in 2015, it was announced that the BlanchW, a boat that had carried over a million passengers over the years, would sail no more. The trips were at an end and one more vestige of Avalon’s earlier age was at an end. Too bad!

<*}}}}}}}}}><  —  Out toward the end of the pier sits the official scale for Avalon, the place where for over a century huge fish—marlin, swordfish, tuna—have been given an official weight. The Sportfishing boats head into the harbor flying the flags of their fish, they dock at the pier, and then a cannon is shot to alert Avalon of the capture of a big fish. Finally, the fish is hoisted up and weighed amidst the admiring view of locals and tourists alike. Soon the questions begin: what was the weight? Where was it caught? How long was the fight? What was the bait? Etc.

Tuna Club Weigh Station

<*}}}}}}}}}><  —  A fairly rare shark to Avalon (good thing) is the great white shark. Two were seen swimming around the pleasure pier in September of 2017, one estimated at 8-feet in length, one at 7-feet, and neither juvenile bothered the bathers in the water just a few hundred feet away. No adult fish, as far as I know, have been reported in Avalon waters.

Not so for Catalina Island itself. At Two Harbors, near the other end of the island, a 15-18-foot-long white shark was spotted by divers in August of 2015 in the “Blue Caverns” diving site. Apparently it was the latest of four adults that have been seen at that site since 2011. So, it’s not unreasonable to expect an adult great white to possibly show up in Avalon Bay. Do remember though that it’s illegal to fish for or catch a great white —so don’t even think about it.

Mahigeer means “Fisherman” in Farsi

<*}}}}}}}}}><  —  There are few things that bother me at Avalon with the exception of the crowds—and yellow jackets. The nasty, stinging creatures can show up at both the GPP and the Mole and when they do is seems a non-stop job trying to swat them away from the rods and reels without getting stung. They’re meat-eaters and attracted by food in the trashcans as well as bait siting on the bait cutting stations. They also are evidently attracted by the simple smells of fish on a rod and reel. The city has worked hard to control the bugs including hiring bug exterminators and emptying trashcans on a more regular basis but neither provides 100%, guaranteed relief. Today, some of my friends bring along the small yellow jacket traps when they come to Avalon. You can sit up a trap by the bait cutting stations and they will capture four score and more bugs during your stay.

One day I was fighting the yellow jackets at the GPP and muttering under my breath when a local said, “don’t let them bother you, when the yellow jackets show up the marlin will show up.” I’m not too familiar with that assumedly island-saying, but I assume it referenced the seasons since it is true that the yellow jackets are most common during the warmer, summer months, the same time the marlin typically show up. Of course it’s also the time for more tourists and more food to attract the yellow jackets. But, it didn’t provide any solace to the situation, I wasn’t too worried about the marlin catch, I was worried about getting stung by a yellow jacket.

<*}}}}}}}}}><  — The buffalo on Catalina Island are somewhat famous. But, there are other critters, some wild and some tame. One morning, a very early morning, I headed down to the Green Pleasure Pier and there, greeting me at the entrance were two deer. Apparently the deer come into town after the action dies off and wander around looking for water and food. They were tame but it was still a little surprising.

Another morning I had made it out to the end of the pier and was sitting on the bench rigging up my line. All of a sudden a large bird landed on the back of the bench next to me. To say I was a little started is an understatement. It was an owl and didn’t look too friendly. However, a young lady named Laura Doudard, soon appeared and it turned out the owl was part of the “Catalina Falcon Experience” (although an owl and not a falcon). The bird was named Tiger (or Tigger) and out for a little flight. I’ve not experienced the “Experience” but reviews are pretty good and it might be worth a visit.

The Green Submarine takes up space next to the pier

<*}}}}}}}}}><  —  Every angler has his or her favorite fishing hole. This one’s a real doozy!

Real VIP at that old Fishing Hole

Some persons think that newspaper writers are VIPs who are wined and dined and who receive red-carpet treatment everywhere they go. I will admit that there are occasions where I might be called a VIP, but mostly, I, like other reporters and columnists, am just a poor working newspaper man who has been cussed, kicked around and called a liar…        There is one place on Catalina Island where I always am a VIP because the people who run it are my friends. They don’t care whether they get any publicity; in fact, they don’t need it.

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