— Tony Peña, The Roving Angler, The Coronado Islands — Legendary Gateway to Baja
Yellowtail bite big; Anglers fill bags
Anglers aboard the City of Imperial Beach excursion boat this week collected 140 yellowtail off the Coronado Islands, the largest one-day catch since last fall. Jan Kahookela, office manager for the sports fishing concession at the Imperial Beach Pier, verified “It was the best catch for us this year.” Chula Vistan Jim Van Cleave Sr., among 35 persons on Monday’s morning trip , caught the biggest fish, a yellowtail estimated at 23 1/4 pounds measuring three-and-a-half-feet. The group caught 85 fish in the morning cruise while 15 persons aboard the afternoon trip collected 55, Kahookela said… “At one time, 15 to 20 people had fish going at the same time,” recalled Dave Croft of Monday’s catch on the Imerial Beach. “We lost quite a few (fish) then, with lines crossed and everything.”
—Chula Vista Star-News, May 28, 1977
Unfortunately, the partyboat trips ended in 1983 after the pier, like many others along the coast, suffered considerable and repeated damage from winter storms. A 1969 storm caused damage, which necessitated the first reconstruction. Then, in 1981 storms destroyed nearly 250 feet of the 1,200 foot-long pier. Before this section could be fixed, the monster El Niño storms of 1983 damaged an additional 180 feet and weakened much of the rest. Finally, new damage in 1985 seemed to portend the possibility of an ending to the pier. Most of the pier was closed to public use in 1986 and one of the favorite resources for local anglers was in danger of being lost.
However, after much planning (and fund acquisition), work to both restore and enlarge the pier was begun. Although the $2.8 million dollar project nearly bankrupted the City of Imperial Beach, the now 1,491-foot-long pier was officially re-dedicated and re-opened in March of 1989.
Although the new pier was lacking the wide T-shaped end, it included a 31-foot height and steel pilings to give added protection. Facing a financial crunch, the city asked the state to help in paying for the costs of repair. As a consequence, the state allowed the San Diego Unified Port District to take control of the city’s tidelands and pier with the Port inheriting the $350,000 annual payments. In addition the Port committed to spend $10.5 million on a variety of projects in Imperial Beach.
In 1997, $100,000 was spent to build a special loading ramp under the pier for the Morning Star Sportfishing fleet. Anglers could board the 105’ Bright and Morning Star or the 65’ Morning Star and in less than 40 minutes be fishing at the Coronado Islands. Unfortunately the operation was short lived, lasting less than a year; rough seas just made it too difficult to load boats
Two years later, in 1999, the port completed the $2.8 million renovation of the pier area, called Portwood Pier Plaza. Included were new shops and the bright, multi-colored, surfboard-like sculpture Surfhenge that graces the entrance to the pier.
The Port has continued improvements and upkeep including replacing several piles in 2006. Today, the pier is in generally excellent shape.
The Tin Fish restaurant sits out at the end of the pier offering up some good food (and limited bait). Unfortunately it also sets up tables and blocks off a fairly large section of the pier.
Imperial Beach Pier Facts
Hours: Open from 5 A.M. to 10 P.M. with a curfew enforced in the area after that time. However, the end section of the pier is controlled by the restaurant and often that area is not opened until after 9 A.M.
Facilities: Restrooms, fish-cleaning stations, benches, and night lighting. Unlike most SoCal oceanfront piers, parking here is usually available and it’s inexpensive. Some free parking is available on adjacent streets. A parking lot is situated near the foot of the pier; cost is $2 for all day except after 5 p.m. when there is a charge of only $1. Bait and tackle is available at the Argus Village Market directly across the street from the pier. If the kids get tired of fishing there are very nice playground facilities near the front of the pier.
Handicapped Facilities: Several handicapped parking spaces are found near the front of the pier as are the restrooms, which offer handicapped facilities. The surface is wood planking and the railings are 41 inches high.
Location: 32.57944 N. Latitude, 117.13417 W. Longutude
How To Get There: From I-5 take the Palm Ave. (Hwy. 75) exit and follow it to where Palm Ave. and Hwy. 75 divide. Follow Palm Ave. to Seacoast Dr., turn left and it will take you right to the pier.
Management: San Diego Unified Port District.