Private Pier — Fishing License Required
There was a time, and it seems more and more like an ancient time, when hunting and fishing was practiced by a majority of the population. Every family seemed to have a fishing rod sitting in the closet or garage, and rural families probably had a rifle somewhere in the house (or behind the seat of their pickup).
It was also a time when virtually every newspaper had an “outdoors” writer who supplied weekly if not daily updates on local results.
Many if not most cities, big and small, also had “Rod and Gun” clubs. Many of these dated back to the 1920s and the Bay Area alone had several dozen “Rod and Gun” and “Sportsmen’s” clubs (not counting the “Striped Bass” and “Surf Fishing clubs”). Most of these are now history.
One of the largest remaining “Rod and Gun” clubs in California, with over 1200 members, is the Marin Rod and Gun Club, which was founded in 1926 (and called the Marvelous Marin Rod and Gun Club from 1927 until the mid ‘30s).
The stated goal at inception was the conservation, preservation and propagation of fish and game. It has remained true to its original purpose and is as active today in conservation and environmental projects as it was over 90 years ago.
Luckily for anglers, the club has maintained and even improved at times what is now a real rarity—a private pier from which club members (and their guests) can fish. Good thing!
Environment. The pier is 2,300-foot long, sits on Point San Quentin, is close to the western end of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, and pokes out into the water of San Francisco Bay. Heading west on the bridge toward San Rafael, the first exit right takes you directly to the club. If you turn left, you’ll be headed toward San Quentin Prison (but do not stop for a friendly visit).
Given that the bridge sees nearly 80,000 cars a day traversing its expensive lanes, the club’s pier is probably one of the most viewed piers in the Bay Area. Most of the people sitting in their cars probably have little knowledge of the pier’s usage or its interesting history. On the other hand, drivers who are “pier rats” may see the pier and simply think—“how can I fish that pier?” That’s certainly what I thought for years.
The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge sits a short distance away from the pier
As for the pier’s waters, it is mostly shallow although the pier’s length allows those at the end to fish in somewhat deeper channels.
Inshore, a short distance north of the pier, sees eelgrass beds. At three points out from the pier, also on the north side, sit a series of submerged reefs containing oyster shells, part of a plan to reestablish native oysters to the area. Both projects are cooperative projects between the club and various agencies and are designed to help the health of the bay. If they also help the fishing in the area, that’s a plus for the project.
Being a private pier means members take a certain pride of ownership and they’re expected to keep the pier clean—and it shows since the pier is cleaner and better maintained than most public piers.
Club members have also thought of several useful amenities. One is the hoop nets located every hundred feet or so along the pier. When you hook a big fish, especially a big bat ray, you need a net to bring it up onto the pier.
Near the pier’s entrance sit several old shopping carts. Given the length of the pier, they are a godsend for those who do not have their own personal pier carts to use for the rods, reels, tackle boxes, coolers, and assorted goodies that “pier rats” bring to a pier.
The end section
The Fish and Fishing Tips.
Striped Bass—Striped bass have been the most sought after fish at the pier since its inception. In fact, the pier was often referred to as the “striped bass pier” back before most of us were born.
The Marin Rod and Gun Club is the proud owner of the largest striped bass pier in the world. —Petaluma Argus-Courier. January 12, 1940
Those days saw a different world. Stripers were seen as the “common man’s fish” and HUGE striped bass derbies were held throughout the San Francisco Bay-San Joaquin Delta region.
Picture on the clubhouse wall
In fact, the club itself sponsored a “Striped Bass Carnival” that was held at McNear’s Beach in 1934 and 1935 (since the Pt. San Quentin property and pier was not acquired by the club until June 1936). It attracted thousands of anglers to the event and was wildly heralded throughout the region
Pretty Girls Will Assist Bass Carnival In Marin
Who wouldn’t be a striped bass and get acquainted with all the Marin county aquatic queens?
The most pulchritudinous maids of Marvelous Marin are to be participants in the first annual Striped Bass Carnival, to be held at McNear’s Beach, near San Rafael, Sunday, April 15, and even the “stripers,” generally chary of human companionship at the end of a fishing line, must be looking forward to the event.
And such an event as it will be! Devotees of the rod and reel from all parts of northern California are joining to make the carnival an outstanding success.
The event originally conceived by members of the Marin Rod and Gun Club, has the sponsorship of every sportsman’s club of the San Francisco bat area and will be replete with interesting features.
There will be casting and trolling contests, a spectacular motorboat and yacht parade, a bathing beauty contest featuring the most beautiful girls of the baty area, comedy features galore, marksmanship contests and scores of other features to make the day a memorable one. — The Petaluma Argus-Courier. April 7, 1934
Over 10,000 people attended the event, members of the state fish and game commission were the guests of honor, and afterward it was declared a “Great Success.”
The striped bass was king and at the time there seemed to be an inexhaustible supply of the fish.
Newspaper accounts regarding the pier talked of 40 bass in one day (August 1, 1949), 120 stripers in three days (May 1951), fishermen averaging 40 fish a day and catching over 600 fish in a few weeks (May 1951), nearly 1,000 stripers taken in 30 days and 40 fish in one hour (October 1957).
As for size, literally thousands of 10-20 pound striped bass have been taken over the years. Two of the largest stripers were a 34-pound, 48-inch fish taken in May of 1959 and another 34-pound fish taken in September of 1975.
Fewer bass are caught today from the pier, especially the bigger 10+ pound fish that once were fairly common. The overall numbers of striped bass in the bay and delta are down and they will probably stay that way given the lack of support from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The basic position of the department is that stripers are an invasive, non-native, immigrant species that are a threat to salmon and the sooner the stripers disappear the better. Money is no longer allocated for hatchery production or various other needs of the stripers. Unfortunately, the position is mainly derived from politics (the water issue) and ignores the reality that the stripers and salmon lived in harmony (in fact both were world class fisheries) for more than a century,
The stripers, ignoring the wishes of the DF&W, refuse to go away. However, the news is often contradictory: 2013 saw newspapers claiming that the stripers were headed for extinction, 2015 saw the same newspapers reporting record catches. And the beat goes on…
At Marin, the striped bass continue to be caught and the stripers remain a favored fish.
Striped bass are anadromous meaning they typically stay in fresh water to spawn and then move down the rivers into saltwater or brackish areas for much of the year.
Striped Bass — 2015
In California, striped bass traditionally wintered in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (today more winter up the Sacramento River), and then move down through the Carquinez Strait into San Pablo Bay and San Francisco Bay. Eventually some continue on their migratory path out through the Golden Gate into the ocean. Some stay in the bay.
In Marin that usually means the stripers usually start showing up around March and April when there’s sometimes a good “Eastertime Bite.”
Stripers will continue to be caught through the summer. Then, as the ocean fish move back into the bay and begin their migration upstream, the numbers swell and the late September through November fishing sees improvement (including the “World Series bite”).
Methods to take the fish vary! Most of the bass caught at the pier are caught on bait with anchovies and sardines being the typical bait. Other baits such as grass shrimp, ghost shrimp and pile worms and bloodworms catch their share but most are caught on the oily anchovies and sardines.
Striped Bass caught by Preston — 2013
If available, live bait such as shinerperch, mudsuckers (longjaw goby) and bullheads (staghorn sculpin) can be excellent with a Carolina-rig although some anglers say the bullheads will at times bury themselves in mud). When that happens the live bullheads are replaced with dead bullheads (hopefully still covered in bullhead slime).
The rigs used are mainly either a Carolina-type live bait rig or a high/low rig. Rods and reels need only be moderate in size and line doesn’t need to be over 20 pound test. Hook size can be anywhere from size 2 to 2/0 depending upon the bait being used. Most anglers simply use the old “cast and wait” approach when they are fishing.
The second main technique for stripers is the use of artificial lures. A variety of lures are used you don’t have to worry about acquiring bait. Instead of cast-and–wait it’s cast-and–retrieve and those who use lures feel there’s nothing like the hit on a lure that you are retrieving.
New lures seem to emerge each year and preferences change but some traditional favorites also stay in the mix. Among the most popular: bucktail jigs (usually white or yellow), Kastmasters, soft plastic swim baits such as Big Hammer and Fish Trap, and artificial minnows like Yo-Zuri. Best bet: ask the local bait and tackle guys what’s been working.
Striped Bass caught by Preston — 2013
A third technique, called “walking the pier” or “trolling the pier,” was developed by the “bass brigade” at the pier nearly 70 years ago and can be used with live bait or lures
The method has been used for halibut at SoCal piers for at least 25 years but I feel relatively safe in saying the
technique was first used at the Marin Rod & Gun Club Pier. Reference to the technique is first seen in an August 1952 Independent Journal article that said eight stripers had been taken on the pier on bait and trolling. The next reference was in July of 1957 when an article said “a few nice fish were taken Saturday, including an 8-1/2-pounder trolling by walking the pier, which, incidentally, is a uniquely Marin way of taking stripers.” Many references to the technique and its success show up over the years.
Although the trolling method can be used with dead anchovies it works best with live bait and here that usually means a small perch or small smelt.
Simply set up a Carolina-type live bait rig with the bait and then walk along the pier, rod in hand, making sure the bait is either bouncing off the bottom or two-three feet from the bottom. Prime areas are the depressions that can be found between the pilings, It’s a simple technique but beats cast-and-wait if the stripers are around.
Small striped bass caught by Adam Peltola (my grandson) in 2019
The exact same rig can be used with artificial lures. Set up a Carolina rig but attach the swim bait (or other lure) to the leader. Hook the swim bait through its nose and then walk it along the pier (typically 2-3 feet above the bottom). Typical lures include Big Hammer and Berkeley Gulp Minnows.
Flatfish— Several flatfish can be caught from the pier and luckily it is pretty much a year round sport. One favored species is most prevalent during the winter and spring months and a second most common during the summer to fall months.
Starry Flounder—Starry flounder were once one of the most common fish at the pier and when the striped bass were missing anglers concentrated on the flounder.
Newspaper account in the San Rafael Independent Journal chronicled many of the catches including thousands of flounder up to six pounds being taken from the pier (April 1952), flounder being taken in good numbers (March 1953), good-sized flounder being taken at the pier (March 1954), many fine catches of flounder to three and four pounds; best run of flounders in the past five years (January 1956), flounders up to three and four pounds, and plenty of smaller ones caught close to shore (January 1958), exceptional flounder fishing with hundreds being caught each day up to five pounds (April 1958)—and these are just a few of the reports.
As for size, the largest recorded was a 9-pound flounder taken in April of 1949.
However, just as the entire Bay Area has seen a steep decline in the number of starry flounder during the past few decades, so too has this pier. They are still caught, primarily from late November to April, but rarely in the big numbers once seen.
Most starry flounder are caught with live bait—pile worms, ghost shrimp or grass shrimp although pieces of anchovy or sardine will also work (just not as well). Hook size is usually 4 or 2.
For years the standard rigging used in the Bay Area for flounder has been a plastic “fish-finder” rigging (same as used for sturgeon) through which the line was run. The line is attached to a barrel swivel and then a leader is attached to the swivel. The sinker is attached via a snap-swivel that is attached to the plastic.
Once baited, the rigging is cast out and the reel is set on a very light drag, or no drag with the clicker on. If a fish picks up the bait, the line can be pulled out without the fish feeling any pressure. Thus the flounder has time to play with and mouth the bait, an important trait when fishing for fish that give a light bite. Flounder prefer to mouth the bait before striking. Give ’em some line, wait a couple of seconds, then strike.
These plastic rigs are easily purchased at most local tackle shops. The alternative is usually a Carolina-like rigging. The difference is that the plastic rigging works better with a variety of bottom hugging sinkers while the Carolina rigging is usually used with an egg sinker that will drift along the bottom with the current.
Generally these sliding bait rigging work better than a high/low leader although they too are used. Flounder are very picky and if they feel any resistance will often drop the bait.
California Halibut—A second flatfish, favored by all, is California halibut. Surprisingly, this is a species rarely caught at the pier until the past twenty years.
19-pound halibut caught by Mr. Lazarini in August 2019 (Picture courtesy of the club)
Halibut are not considered a “resident” Bay Area species by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Instead they are seen as a more southerly species that traveled north during warm-water El Nino years and have managed to live and populate during those years. Just as halibut have become a favored species for the Sportfishing boats so too has it shown up at Bay Area piers including this pier.
Halibut, both smaller illegal-size fish and larger fish, seem to show up from about May until September and when caught (if large enough) are considered a prize catch. Fish exceeding 15 pounds have been caught from the pier and most seem to be caught in the shallower waters—from the pier house out to the mid-pier area.
Small halibut caught by DeJong — 2018
Halibut are ambush predators that like to lie on the bottom and watch for a reasonable-size baitfish to come swimming along. As soon as that happens the halibut darts off the bottom and grabs the bait. Dead bait simply thrown out and sitting motionless on the bottom (cast-and-wait) rarely interests Mr. and Mrs. Halibut. Thus live bait or lures that simulate live bait are almost a must.
With live bait the most common rigging is Carolina-type rigging. Run your line through an egg sinker (with a hole in the middle) and a small plastic bead before attaching the line to a barrel swivel. To the swivel attach a 36-40 inch leader with a live bait hook.
The key is to find some live bait. Some anglers may drive to San Francisco to pick up live anchovies and then keep it alive in buckets using an aerator. Another approach is to catch live bait at the pier and generally that means small perch like walleyes, silvers or shinerperch’ or a small smelt.
Small halibut caught at the “Kids Day on the Pier”— 2015
If the current is strong you may prefer one of the plastic fish-finder rigs mentioned above. It’s rarely needed at the pier but sinkers up to six ounces or more can be used with the plastic rigs.
With either rigging the live bait swimming above the bottom should attract a halibut if they are around.
Artificial lures also attract the halibut and again a variety are used. Big Hammer are popular (if you can find them), Fish Traps, Berkeley Gulp Minnows and Berkeley Sand Worms are all popular. The latest favorite lures used for halibut in SoCal, albeit expensive lures, are Lucky Craft lures, especially the Flash Minnow design in MS Anchovy or Metallic Sardine color. Not sure if they’ve been tried here but well worth a try.
As discussed with the striped bass, “walking/trolling the pier” is a specialty at the pier and it works great with halibut.
The rigging is the same as discussed above for live bait and/or artificial lures although the Carolina-rig is used instead of the plastic fish-finder rig.
Small halibut caught by Mikayla Molero — 2016
With bait or lures simply walk along the pier keeping the live fish or lure a couple of feet above the bottom. Typically the halibut are on the bottom, they spy the bait, and they made a quick upward swim to intercept the bait. Using this approach you always have the rod in your hand, will know when the halibut hits, and hopefully you will respond accordingly.
Diamond Turbot—The third flatfish occasionally seen is diamond turbot, a pretty little fish rarely exceeding 12 inches in length that will often nibble on a small hooks baited with worms (and intended for perch
A small diamond turbot caught by illcatchanything (Brian Linebarger)
Jacksmelt—Jacksmelt are almost undoubtedly the number one fish taken from the pier, at least as far as sheer numbers. They’re not that big but put up a spirited fight (especially on light tackle) and often provide some sport when the other fish seem to have deserted the pier’s waters.
Jacksmelt are great fun for the kids
They are usually found three to six feet under the surface of the water so that is the area where you want to place your bait. The most common rigging is a torpedo sinker placed on the bottom of your line (1/2 ounce or one-ounce depending on your float), with three size 8 or 6 hooks placed about every 12-18 inches above the sinker.
Jacksmelt caught by Adam Peltola (my grandson) in 2019
A float of some type (a piece of Styrofoam, a balloon, or a bobber) is attached a few feet above the top hook. The float should keep the bait and hooks near the surface. Baits are usually pile worm, small pieces of shrimp, or pieces of baitfish and you simply need to keep an eye on when the float is pulled under the water.
The jacksmelt will range from about 12 to 15 inches or so and for their size put up a spirited fight.
Jacksmelt — 2017
Perch—Perch are generally an incidental catch at the pier albeit a couple of club members specialize in perch, fish for them most weeks, and generally catch a few when they are fishing. It’s a little strange though since there was a time when big numbers of perch were caught at the pier. One newspaper account reported that thousands of flounder and redtail perch were being taken from the pier (April 1952), another report just a month later said hundreds of redtail perch had been landed (May 1952). Flounder and redtail perch fishing was good with redatils to two pounds in weight (February 1953) while March and May saw similar reports.
November 1954 saw a report saying that “the perch and pogies are in,” seemingly overlooking the fact that the “pogies” being reported were perch. January 1956 saw reports of fine catches while “plenty of perch” were being caught (April 1956). January 1958 also saw “fine catches” of perch. In December 1970 one article reported the catch of 32 perch averaging 1 ½ pound in a single day. Such were the reports.
As for large perch, a rubberlip perch weighing 3 pounds was reported caught in March 1977 while a slightly smaller fish weighing 2 pound 13 ½ ounce was caught in March 1976.
However, as with the bass and flounder, the numbers of perch, especially surfperch like the redtail surfperch, have decreased since those days. Nevertheless, perch are fun to catch and you only need a light rod and reel rigged with 6-8 pound test line.
Most of the perch you will see at the pier will be either the larger seaperch—blackperch, pileperch, rubberlip perch, white perch, and striped perch (a few), or the smaller surfperch—walleye and silver along with a few of the larger redtail and calico surfperch. Most common of all perch, and a good fish to catch for live bait are the small shinerperch.
What must be remembered when discussing perch is that San Francisco Bay sees a perch closure from April 1 to July 31, a time when only shinerperch may be taken. But, as said, the winter and spring months (through March) are the prime time for many of the species. In addition, while years ago people would fill buckets and sacks with perch, today the limit is five perch in San Francisco and San Pablo Bay. For shinerperch the limit is 20.
To catch the perch, keep it simple. The seaperch—blackperch (called pogies by most), whiteperch, rubberlip perch, and striped perch typically are found on the bottom and a simple hi/lo rigging works best.
Put a one-two ounce torpedo sinker on the bottom and using dropper loops tie on two size 6 or 4 hooks above the sinker, one about a foot from the bottom and the second a foot or so further up.
Prime bait will be live ghost shrimp, pile worms, bloodworms, or grass shrimp but you may have a hard time finding live bait. Next up is small pieces of market shrimp or mussels (and fresh mussels are best). Strips of squid, pieces of clam, or even small pieces of anchovies may bring in a few perch but they are far inferior baits. The larger perch also will hit on small crabs (1/2-inch or so), which you may find by looking under shoreline rocks.
The surfperch—walleyes and silvers, are usually at mid-depth and the same hi/lo rigging but with size 8 or 6 hooks will work. Best bait for these is pile worms and bloodworms but they will hit almost any bait; the key is small hooks and finding the school because usually if you find one walleye or silver you will find more.
Shinerperch take similar bait and riggings with some people dropping the hook size down to 10 or 8. The shiners are too small to eat but do make good bait for striped bass.
All of the perch like to hang around the pilings and a good technique is to drop the line on the side of the pier from which the tide is running and let it drift under the pier near a piling.
The larger perch, especially rubberlip perch will also often hit small artificial lures. Small Kastmaster spoons (1/12 or 1/8 oz. size in chrome or chrome with blue or green) will work while many people like rubber grubs or Berkeley “Gulp Sand Worms” in camo, root beer or oil colors.
Best technique with the spoons is generally jigging them up and down just off the bottom. For the grubs and fake worms, cast out and retrieve the lure slowly back to the pier. give the lure a slow retrieve.
As a general rule the blackperch will be found in the innermost section of the pier just past the entrance building, as will most of the seaperch. Given the blackperch affinity for eelgrass a cast out toward the inshore eelgrass beds should prove productive. The surfperch, pileperch, whiteperch and shinerperch will venture farther out to deeper waters and may be found almost anywhere on the pier.
Winter months sometimes sees large schools of pileperch move into the area while spring is often the best time for the other seaperch. Summer months seem most productive for the surfperch.
Sharays—The Elasmobranchi species, sharks and rays, are probably the second most common fish caught from the pier, especially during the spring to fall months. Included in the mix will be a few skate, including big skate, and a fish rarely seen in the bay until a few years ago—shovelnose sharks (guitarfish).
Shovelnose Guitarfish — 2015
Shark species vary with leopard sharks and brown smoothhound sharks leading the shark parade although they can be joined by soupfin sharks and spiny dogfish. Bat rays (mud marlin) lead the parade for rays. All can be caught but usually the “leppies” and “mud marlin” are the fish most often providing the “big fish” fights on the pier.
His first leopard Shark
Sharks—Most sharks are taken incidentally since few people seem to actually target them. Most are not that big and can be caught on moderate tackle. Leopard sharks nearly six-foot-long have been reported from the pier whereas brown smoothhounda on the other hand rarely exceed three feet in length.
In the “Kids Day On The Pier” derby in 2018, David Shigematsu’s 52-inch leopard shark (above) was the largest fish caught that day. But then, just a few days later, he returned and caught the 54.5 inch leopard shark seen below.
Tackle can be a high/low rigging or a Carolina-type rigging with size 2 to 4/0 hooks depending upon the bait.
Sharks prefer an oily and/or bloody piece of bait and anchovies, sardine and mackerel have all proven to be effective. Some will be taken on other baits, i.e., ghost shrimp, grass shrimp, pile worms , etc., although squid is probably the next best option. A good live bait for the leopard sharks is midshipman that inhabit inshore areas of the bay.
Brown Smoothhound — 2015
Rays—The bat rays also known as “mud marlin” to their followers are another story. Probably more rods have been lost over the railing to bat rays than any other species. They hit hard and are very strong. Although the small ones can be landed in a few minutes some of the old mama bat rays (the big ones are always females) may weigh upward of a hundred pounds and can take an angler up and down the pier before they and the angler are worn out. Even then the tricky job of netting them without letting them get into the pilings can be a hard task.
Bat ray caught by Leo Jukov
If fishing for the bat rays have a strong saltwater rod and reel and at least 50-pound test line. Rigging can be a high low or a Carolina –type rig but more and more anglers seeking out the big rays use the Carolina rigging. Hook size should be 2/0 to 6/0 depending upon bait.
Bat Ray — 2017
The rays like the sharks can be taken on almost any bait—fish, ghost shrimp, grass shrimp and even worms but squid, usually a whole squid, is the pièce de résistance for the rays.
Hans Jones Jr,. and a bat ray
Another good idea with both the sharks and rays is to have a friend to help with the netting of the fish.
Shovelnose shark (guitarfish) taken by Thomas Orosco — 2016
Sturgeon—Two species of sturgeon are found in the bay, white sturgeon and the smaller green sturgeon with white sturgeon being, by far, the most common to be seen (although there are local reports of a slight uptick in the number of green sturgeon in 2018). The nearby McNears Beach Pier is one of the top piers in the state for sturgeon and many large fish are taken every winter. Nevertheless, I haven’t seen too many reports of sturgeon at the pier. That does not mean they aren’t available.
Fishing remains slow, so don’t expect to run into lake luminary Two Rod Ray… He’s been hanging out at the Marin Rod and Gun Club, trading fish stories while dunking shrimp baits at the club pier. Club regulars have been nailing sturgeon at the pier, with five or six hookups reported during an intense herring spawn two weeks ago. Chris Carpiniello of Novato hooked a 7-footer, judging from the way it looked in the water. Two Rod tried for a sturgeon as well, saying the big fish were swirling in the water, apparently trying to suck herring roe from pier pilings. But he had no luck in getting a bite. Instead, he broke out a Sabiki rig and brought home a bucket of herring — which he promptly pickled and handed out to pals.
—San Rafael Independent Journal, March 3, 2008
There were few early newspaper reports of sturgeon being caught at the pier. One report did indicate a 63-pound, 65-inch long sturgeon being caught in January 1963 and another reported a 32-pound sturgeon in December 1964. But, the paucity of reports on the fish is a little perplexing.
If you’re seeking out the sturgeon come prepared and follow a few simple rules. In regards to equipment, make sure you are using a medium to heavy saltwater rod and reel loaded with at least 300 yards of line of at least 40-pound test. Use a plastic-coated wire leader equipped with one or two 5/0 to 7/0 hooks, a sliding sinker rigging, and a sinker heavy enough to hold your line on the bottom. In an extremely fast moving tide, attach one or more rubber core sinkers to your leader to keep it on the bottom.
Come prepared with a net and remember that with the sturgeon regulations you (1) cannot gaff a sturgeon and (2) you must release any sturgeon under 46 inches or over 72 inches. Obviously you must be careful before you net any sturgeon; you may want to walk large sturgeon to the shoreline. Unfortunately these regulations are particularly hard on pier anglers who already are at a disadvantage in landing large fish.
Also remember that tides can be super critical in sturgeon fishing. Try to fish the last few hours of a strong outgoing tide, especially a tide that ends on the minus side. However, here either incoming or outgoing tides can produce; just remember that results will be poor when the water stops moving (slack water). In addition, the period after a few inches of rain is often super productive.
Finally, remember to use the right bait. LIVE ghost shrimp, blue mud shrimp, or grass shrimp will produce best results. Ghost shrimp and mud shrimp seem to produce the biggest fish but during the summer months grass shrimp often seem a better bait overall. In addition, herring roe, which can be collected during the winter spawn, can be good bait (or even a slab of herring) . If the crabs are a problem, you might try a combination-bait, such as cut eel and grass shrimp. Even if the crabs tear up the shrimp you’ve still got the tough eel left on the hook; some locals will also add anise oil to give the bait additional scent.
Weather does play an important part at this pier. The rainy season typically sees increased fresh water flows, a decrease in salinity levels, some fish moving down the bay into the saltier waters, and sturgeon entering the local waters.
The surprising thing for most newby sturgeon anglers is the slight pull on the rod typically shown by a sturgeon. It’s something that takes getting used to and many peole spend hundreds of hours in pursuit of their first sturgeon. But, the rewards can be very satisfying—a fish five, six or more in length and one that is good eating. However, today there is a lot limit and only fish between 40 and 60 inches can be kept so the true giants are returned to the water to hopefully make many more sturgeon.
Kids Day on The Pier Derby — 2017 — a crowded pier
Miscellaneous Fish—Although the pier will rarely see the number of species encountered at oceanfront piers, or even see the number caught at Bay Area piers sitting closer to the Golden Gate, it does see a few different species caught each year.
Some are saltwater fish that may journey further up the bay when salinity levels increase during summer and fall months; some may be anadromus fish that can travel between freshwater and saltwater.
Saltwater fish have included such fish as lingcod, various sculpin, small rockfish and herring.
Anadromus species include salmon and steelhead. Salmon, most often smaller salmon, have been caught in the early spring months when traveling along the Marin shoreline on their way to saltwater. In the fall, larger salmon take the underwater Marin highway on their way back up through San Francisco Bay, San Pablo Bay, the Carquinez Strait, and then into the Sacramento or San Joaquin river systems.
Salmon were reported from the pier in March of 1949 and 1954; September reports took place in 1941 and 1949; and a lone December report was made in 1964. The largest fish was a 21-pound salmon taken in September 1941 and an 18-pound salmon taken in December 1964. Undoubtedly more have been caught that didn’t make the news.
Steelhead too make an occasional though less frequent appearance and all were winter-time fish. Steelhead weighing three pounds each were reported in February 1953, January 1956 and January 1958, while a steelhead (weight unknown) was reported in February 1974. Again, there were probably many more fish taken but unreported over the years.
Kyle Magdamo trying for halibut
Likely caught, but never reported, are shad that also pass through local waters on their way up to the Sacramento River.
For all of these species artificial lures will work best. However, steelhead are taken at other Bay Area piers by anglers using worms under a bobber while salmon are taken on live bait, primarily anchovies. In the fall, many salmon are taken at piers in the Carquinez Strait by anglers casting lures. The lack of recent catches of steelhead and salmon at the pier may be as much due to a lack of pursuit or incorrect technique.
The bridge can look somewhat surreal at times when the fog move in
The Pier Rats Speak
Date: December 6, 1997; To: Ken Jones; From: Keith Korsgal; Subject: S.F. Bay Fishing
Fished Friday, Dec 5 at the Marin Rod and Gun Club Pier. Lots of bullheads, a few stripers and the perch and flounder are starting to pick up. Anchovies are the bait for the stripers, with pile worms and grass shrimp are doing well for the perch and flounders. Make sure to dress warm and be prepared for wet weather.
Date: March 9, 1998; To: Ken Jones;From: Keith; Subject: Marin Rod and Gun Club
Ken, The Rod and Gun club pier has been pretty good lately. Lots of stripers up to 30 lbs., quite a few sanddabs, and even an occasional sturgeon.
Date: Mar 31, 1998; To: Ken Jones; From: Keith &Jackie; Subject: SF Bay area Piers
Ken, Here’s a short report. Marin Rod and Gun Club: Lots of small stripers, a few large ones and lots of flounders and sanddabs. Most fishing is best two hours before the high tide to two hours after. Bait used is anchovies and sardines for stripers, pile worms and grass shrimp (if you can get them) for the flounders and sanddabs.
Date: October 5, 1998; To: Ken Jones; From: Keith & Jackie ; Subject: New Pier
Ken, The fishing at the Rod and Gun club has been busy. A lot of small stripers on up to 27″, lots of smelt, and a few rays.
Shovelnose Guitarfish — 2016
Date: January 14, 1999; To: Keith Korsgal; From: Ken Jones; Subject: Marin Rod and Gun Club Pier
Keith, Hope you’re enjoying the new year and catching some fish. About this time of the year used to be the time when the big piling perch would be hanging around the Red Rock Pier. Do you find the same holds true at the Marin Rod and Gun Club Pier? Seems like it would although they’re on the opposite ends of the bridge. Of course, there used to be a lot of sunken boats and other perch-attracting objects by the Red Rock Pier. Best wishes and hoping you’re catching a lot of fish, Ken
Ken, The perch fishing at the Rod and Gun club is pretty good. The pilings all have a heavy growth of barnacles and other things, and the perch bite really well on grass shrimp, pile worms, and small strips of anchovies. I like to fish with an ultra light pole with 6# line and use crappie jigs.
The fishing is best right under the pier. There used to be some of the pier boards with hinges so you could open them and fish straight down, but some people weren’t closing them when they were finished, and the club closed them.
Members with small boats go to the pilings just 30 yards off the end of the pier, and catch lots of big perch, especially when the tide is moving well, usually right after the top of the tide. Hope this helps. Keith
Measuring a leopard shark
Date: June 15, 2008; To: PFIC Message Board: From: Ken Jones; Subject: Marin Rod and Gun Club Pier
Yesterday I got an early Father’s Day present, the chance to fish on a new pier, or at least a new one for me, the Marin Rod and Gun Club Pier. I arrived late, the tides had changed, and action had slowed by my arrival, but I managed several nice-sized jacksmelt. But that’s all. Still, I saw a good-sized leopard shark landed along with several more jacksmelt and was told some under-sized halibut had been landed during the morning tide.
It’s a long pier and one of the nice things about it is that it is rarely crowded which allows the regulars the chance to troll their bait (or lure) along the pier without tangling other lines. Apparently that’s been the success recipe for most of the recent halibut and though I tried some trollin’ of my own the fish gave me a big snub. As usual live bait is preferred but it was unavailable and uncatchable yesterday.
But now I’ve fished from 128 California piers. However, since the specie list from those piers is 127, I need to go out and catch a new ‘un. Still looking for a green sturgeon or a moray eel from a pier.
Potpourri — More Than You May Want To Know About The Pier
<*}}}}}}}}}>< — Special Bay Area Regulations:
- A perch closure exits in San Francisco and San Pablo Bay from April 1 to July 31. No perch may be kept other than shinerperch (20).
- In San Francisco and San Pablo Bay a fishing line may not contain more than three hooks.
- A sturgeon report card and tags are required for anyone fishing for or taking sturgeon. (a) The card must be in the angler’s possession; (b) a tag must be used for any sturgeon retained by the angler; (c) the angler must record information on the Sturgeon Report Card immediately after catching and keeping or releasing the sturgeon.
- White sturgeon can only be kept from 40-60 inches; larger and smaller sturgeon must be released.
- Green sturgeon may not be taken or possessed.
<*}}}}}}}}}>< — Unfortunately I’ve only had the pleasure of visiting the club and its pier for a little over ten years. My first visit took place in June of 2008 when I was invited to the club to receive a “Randy Fry Award” from the Recreational Fish Alliance (RFA).
The award was for volunteer work I had done while serving on (1) the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) North Coast Project (as a member of the Regional Stakeholder Group); (2) my service as a member of the California Bay-Delta Sport Fishing Enhancement Stamp Committee (BDSFESC); and (3) my service as president of United Pier and Shore Anglers of California (UPSAC).
The award ceremony was held at the club where I met up with two friends: Jim Martin, the Regional Director for RFA, and Jim Edgar a fellow member of the Bay-Delta Stamp Committee.
Jim Edgar was also a long-time club member and owner of the large Western Sports Shop in San Rafael. Jim invited me to visit the pier the next day and do a little fishing and I took him up on the offer. I didn’t catch much—three large jacksmelt, but was very impressed by both the pier and the friendly members in the clubhouse.
Several years later, in 2012, UPSAC as part of its “Kids Fishing Derby” program asked and was granted permission to hold a derby at the pier. However, the club already had its own successful “Kids Day on the Pier” event. Why have two events? Thus UPSAC became a partner with the club on its annual derby and has done so since 2013. The club is the main sponsor and event organizer but UPSAC, as well as Pier Fishing In California and the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), has been fully involved both with organization, loaner rods and tackle, prizes, and people to help at the event. It’s turned out to be a great alliance.
<*}}}}}}}}}>< — From its beginning years the club has been at the forefront of conservation efforts in many areas. One of the most recent examples has been its efforts to help oysters to once again be a viable species in the area.
San Francisco Bay Shell Game For Oysters — Scientists building reefs to allow the return of the natives
Biologists dumped a dozen boatloads of oyster shells into the shallow waters off Point San Quentin over the weekend, hoping the castoffs will seed the comeback of native oysters that once flourished in San Francisco Bay.
Twenty volunteers did much of the heavy lifting near the wooden pier of the Marin Rod and Gun Club, which provided a convenient jumping-off point for what sponsors say is the largest native-oyster restoration effort in California.
Oysters that once blanketed the bay largely disappeared after the Gold Rush and urban settlement brought overharvesting, pollution and habitat loss. Now that bay restoration has helped restore water quality, ecologists want to expand the few oyster populations that managed to hold on.
Drake’s Bay Oyster Co. donated 24 pallet-loads, about 55 cubic yards, of oyster shells for the project. About 30 cubic yards were dumped Saturday and Sunday, the rest being saved for next spring.
Forming 2-foot piles on the bay floor, the shells make just enough of a solid, calcium-rich foundation to anchor living shellfish reefs in the bay’s otherwise unholy muck.
Oyster larvae typically die in a couple of weeks if they can’t find suitable bottom substrate, or cultch, upon which to attach and form their own shell. Other oyster shells are an ideal surface — even though the donated shells in the restoration project are from a different variety, the Pacific oyster, or Crassostrea gigas, not the West Coast’s native Olympia variety, Ostrea conchaphila. There aren’t enough native shells available for the project.
Even if the restoration plan works, the tiny bay oysters will be too few to harvest. And because of copper and other heavy-metal contaminants in the estuary, the oysters that grow will be metallic-tasting and potentially unhealthy for humans.
Still, biologists financed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which contributed a $50,000 grant for the current phase of the work, say oysters are vital for the health of the bay.
“The goal is to build up these remaining populations to the point where they can sustain themselves,” said Summer Morlock, a marine specialist with the agency. “It would be wonderful to imagine the day when we can have an oyster harvest. But that isn’t really the goal.”
The project is still very much in the small-scale, experimental phase. Biologists at the conservation group Save the Bay are also working on oyster-restoration projects at different sites around the bay. Restoration spots were picked based on where native oysters can still be found — and where landowners are willing to allow access from shore.
On Sunday, Bill Craig, a Marin Rod and Gun Club volunteer, used his small motorboat to ferry out the last few sacks of oyster shells, along with scientists Rena Obernolte and Larry Floyd, both employees of MACTEC Engineering and Consulting Inc., a Petaluma company under contract to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The donated shells had undergone a long drying-out period at the Point Reyes oyster farm to keep any oceangoing invasive species from being imported into the bay. Volunteers bagged the shells in black mesh and stacked them like hay bales on wood pallets. They were loaded by hand into the boat and hauled out under the pier. Wearing wetsuits, the scientists jumped into the chest-deep water to guide the shells to their resting place.
A few early-morning anglers watched from the pier, along with project manager Robert “Bud” Abbott, a MACTEC senior principal biologist. Abbott said he hopes to eventually build oyster beds over wide expanses of the bay floor. “What we want to do is acres,” he said. “But we need to be sure we are doing it right. Before we can do acres, we have to do the research. There’s no textbook for how to go about this kind of thing.”
Each 2- or 3-inch oyster can filter several liters of water an hour. As their shells pile up, the growing reefs become habitat for other bay creatures, such as fish seeking shelter from predators or a spot to lay eggs. The oysters’ filtration helps keep the water clear of phytoplankton and sediments, which may help sunlight make it through for the benefit of vegetation — such as native eelgrass, the focus of a separate restoration project under way nearby the half-mile-long Marin fishing pier.
Over time, the featureless mudflats could become thriving oyster meadows, the reefs forming a series of water breaks that retard sediment buildup and support a complex ecosystem — lunch stops, perhaps, for migrating juvenile salmon on their way to the sea. “Oysters really can help build the food chain,” Morlock said.
The project faces many unknowns, including such threats as water pollution and invasive water snails, which have a rasplike tongue that can bore through oyster shells. Scientists plan to return to the experiment monthly to check how many oysters are taking up residence.
—Carl T. Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, August 14, 2006
Marin Rod and Gun Club Pier
Hours: the pier is open for club members and their guests sunrise to sunset.
Facilities: Small windbreaks, big enough for 2-3 people are scattered along the pier and can be turned around as needed. A fleet of several old grocery carts are stationed near the front of the pier to help carry equipment out onto the pier.
How To Get There: From San Rafael, take I-580 east toward the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge. Take the last exit before getting on the bridge, turn left and you’ll be near the entrance to the club. From Richmond, take I-580 west toward and over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Take the first exit after leaving the bridge and follow the side road to the club.
Management: Marin Rod & Gun Club