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.
Halibut caught by Denny Williams in Sept. 2020 —18 pounds, 11 ounces, 37 inches (Picture courtesy of the club)
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.
Use the nets on the pier 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. 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 fourteen 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 did so starting in 2012. 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), became fully involved with organization, loaner rods and tackle, prizes, and people to help at the event. It turned out to be a great alliance. However, due to changes at UPSAC and the IGFA, Pier Fishing In California is the main link with the derby today.
<*}}}}}}}}}>< — 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
Fishing Through The Years
The largest striper caught at the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier was landed by Jack Albright of Mill Valley, a beauty of 28 pounds. —Petaluma Argus-Courier, March 9, 1937
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
An 8-pound bass caught by a 7-year-old boy, is the report on a morning’s fishing at the Marin Rod & Gun Club pier recently. The lad who had the thrill of pulling out the big striper is Howard Rice, who accompanied his father, Dr. Frank Rice, of San Rafael, on the fishing trip. —Petaluma Argus-Courier, August 12, 1941
Fishermen at the Marin Rod and Gun club’s San Quentin pier reported a field day as salmon struck in full force. Luckiest angler of the week was R. B. Hess of San Rafael who hauled in one tipping the scale at 21 pounds. —San Rafael Independent Journal, September 26, 1941
Fred Helburg, former Sonoma fisherman and who is now residing in Marin county, still likes his fishing. A friend of mine told me recently he saw Fred pull out a nice striped bass from the bay while fishing off the sportsmen’s wharf at San Rafael. —Santa Rosa Press Democrat, April 21, 1944
Plenty of Perch, Flounders Taken At Pt. San Quentin — Plenty of perch and flounders are being taken from the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier at Point San Quentin. Three striped bass and one salmon have been taken on bait, according to pier keeper Eddie Mueller. —San Rafael Independent Journal, March 17, 1949
Andy Pedroli, the San Rafael barber who cuts your hair to suit your personality, got more than $14 worth of fun giving a$14 tent to the Boy Scouts the other day—and it didn’t cost him a cent. While fishing off the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier over at San Quentin, Andy hooked a fine 14-pound striped bass, considerable above average size. He brought it up to the Lions club meeting and raffled it off at 25 cents per ticket. He sold $14 worth of two bit tickets, and donated the money to the Scouts fund for a tent. Dave Sanchez, the March of Dimes man, had purchased two tickets, but was unable to attend the meeting. Wouldn’t you know the fellow who won the fine striper wouldn’t even be on hand to take delivery? “Never eat fish myself; just like to catch them,” remarked Andy. —Marin Musings, Rafael Marin, San Rafael Independent Journal, April 8, 1949
Last Sunday at the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier, over 250 anglers, basked in the sun and enjoyed fishing. The largest striper taken over the weekend weighed in at 14 pounds and the largest flounder ever caught at the pier weighed 9 pounds. And that’s a big fish for a flounder. —San Rafael Independent Journal, April 12, 1949
A record catch of 40 bass was reported taken on bait at the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier in one day. —San Rafael Independent Journal, August 1, 1949
Bass fishing in Marin picked up yesterday. Several striped bass were taken Monday from the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier at Point San Quentin… One salmon has been taken from the pier. —San Rafael Independent Journal, September 13, 1949
Marin Fishermen Take Striped Bass — Marin fishermen hit the jackpot in the last three days at the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier, with 120 striped bass taken in that period. Kenneth Testa, San Rafael high school youth, hauled in the biggest fish as he landed a 19 pound whopper. “Bass fishing is the best it has been in five years,” Frank Collier, pier keeper, stated. He said that the fish are larger, and are appearing in larger numbers than before. The increase in the bass population is a boost for the local angler, and in the near future the fishermen may be able to catch their limit in three hours as they did ten years ago. —San Rafael Independent Journal, May 9, 1951
Fishing Now Good For Striped Bass — Striped bass fishing is now at its best at the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier at Point San Quentin. Fishermen are averaging nearly 40 fish a day. According to Frank Collier, keeper at the pier the fish are getting larger and they average from 2 to 4 pounds. Last week Ken Testa landed a 19 pounder from the pier. Nearly 600 fish have been taken in the past few weeks from the pier. Plenty of striper, flounders and smelt are being taken on bait —San Rafael Independent Journal, May 15, 1951
Striped bass fishing has started off with a bang this month. Over 30 stripers were taken last Saturday from The Marin Rod & Gun Club pier at Point San Quentin and good catches have been taken every day considering the muddy conditions of the water caused by wind the past few days… Thousands of flounders and red tail perch have been taken from the pier. —San Rafael Independent Journal, April 15, 1952
Striped Bass Fishing Good — Striped bass fishing has been exceptionally good this year. At Marin Rod and Gun Club pier at Point San Quentin fishing has been excellent. Large crowds have been in attendance each weekend. Bait fishing has been tops. Thousands of flounders up to six pounds and hundreds of red tail perch have been landed along with the hundreds of stripers. Largest fish taken at the MR&G club pier so far this season is a 14 pounder. —San Rafael Independent Journal, May 13, 1952
Fresh Striper Run At Club Pier — A fresh run of stripers started at the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier yesterday at Point San Quentin. Seven fish were taken to six pounds on bait. Striped bass were seen in great numbers jumping around the pier in the morning. If this is any criterion, fishing should be good if the weather continues calm. —San Rafael Independent Journal, August 12, 1952
Eight Striped Bass Taken At Quentin—While fishing at the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier at Point San Quentin has not been exciting, fish are being taken each day. Fish are being caught on bait and trolling. Eight striped bass were taken yesterday, along with ling cod and perch. —San Rafael Independent Journal, October 14, 1952
First Bass Of Year At Pier — Well the ice is broken—the first bass of the season was caught yesterday from the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier at Point San Quentin. Mrs. Vasali Funari of Santa Venetia landed a two-pounder along with several large red tail perch up to two pounds in weight. Mrs. Funari was accompanied by her husband who managed to draw a blank. Flounder and red tail perch fishing has been good. Pier keeper Eddie Mueller reports that a three-pound steelhead was taken at the pier last week. Fishing for striped bass should start in earnest with the fine spring weather conditions. Sardine bait is being used to catch fish from the pier. —San Rafael Independent Journal, February 17, 1953
Flounders Being Taken At Quentin — Flounders and red tail perch are being taken in good numbers from the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier at Point San Quentin. —San Rafael Independent Journal, March 17, 1953
High Winds Hold Down Some Fishing — High winds the past few days have hampered fishing. Several striped bass were taken yesterday, according to Ed Mueller, keeper at the Marin Rod & Gun Clun pier at Pt. San Quentin. Good catches of flounder and perch are being taken at the pier. —San Rafael Daily Independent, May 12, 1953
Striped Bass Caught Off Marin Pier — The Marin Rod & Gun Club pier attendant, Eddie Mueller, reported yesterday that three striped bass have been caught so far this year, including a two-and-a-half pounder, caught yesterday. Yesterday’s catch was made by R. Gabazzi of San Rafael while the two other bass were caught last week. The first striped of the year was claimed by Mueller himself. Charles Hadley of Kentfield caught a three-and-a-half pound salmon at the pier on bait yesterday. Lots of perch and some good-sized flounder also are being caught at the pier. —San Rafael Daily Independent, March 9 1954
Two Stripers Get Away — If anyone ever had a thrill it was Al Capelli while he was fishing from the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier about two days ago. He managed to hook a 20-pound striper along with a 5-pounder at the same time, on the same line. Well, then the fun began and Al who always thought he was a bronco buster this was his day—at least he thought so. He played both fish like a good fellow until the fish finally won out—they both got away. Well, Al’s still talking about ‘em and perhaps always will. As time goes on the weight will gradually increase—so what. Eddie Mueller, Keeper at the pier, reports the perch and pogies are in and a bass was landed last Friday. Flounders should be showing before long. —San Rafael Independent Journal, November 16, 1954
Flounders, Perch Taken At Pier — Many fine catches of flounders and perch are being taken at the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier at Point San Quentin. Flounders up to three and four pounds, and plenty of smaller ones have been caught close to shore. Also the first striped bass of the season was taken during the last week. Ed Mueller says this is the best run of flounders that we have had for the past five years. A three-pound steelhead was also landed from the pier last week. — San Rafael Independent Journal, January 17, 1956
A couple of Petes—Testa and Lollich—caught 40 flounders Sunday near the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier where flounder business has been brisk. Several nice strings of flounders up to five pounds were reported by Eddie Mueller, the pier caretaker. —San Rafael Independent Journal, February 16, 1956
Striper Fishing Picks Up In Bay — Anglers Flock to Rod ‘N’ Gun Pier — Comes the month of April and with it, records show through the past years, good striped bass fishing off Marin shores. Eddie Mueller, the quipping keeper of the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier, said this morning: ”Do you know where I can get a pier-stretcher? I’ll need one to take care of all the people I expect out here this weekend.” Reason for the popularity of the pier is the report that they’re catching the delicious stripers at a pretty fair rate. Up to noon yesterday 14 stripers have been caught at the pier this week, on bait and trolling. Plenty of perch and flounders, too. On Wednesday Mrs. Harry Lutgena won the women’s championship of the week by landing a 13-pounder. The same day H. A. Hardt of Mill Valley took a six-pounder. On Thursday C. Wenn took a 10-pounder on bait to lead the bass-brigade… Later in the day L. E. Elgin of San Anselmo caught a 10-1/2-pounder on bait. —Marin Sportsmen, San Rafael Independent Journal, April 7, 1956
Striped Bass Fishing Red Hot — With the excellent weather we’re enjoying has come some mighty fine striped bass fishing in the bay, particularly at Pt. San Quentin off the Marin Rod and Gun Club Pier… A record 25 stripers, up to 15 pounds, was taken ay the pier Sunday while daily catches of the tasty bass have numbered between 10 and 15. Most of the fish at the pier have been take on the outgoing tide. —Marin Sportsmen, —San Rafael Independent Journal, June 22, 1956
Pecota Takes Limit — Fishing On Pier Good All Week— A. E. Pecota took a fine limit of bass last Friday off the Marin Rod and Gun Club Pier. Pecoya hooked and landed a 6-pounder, a 12-1/2-pounder, and a 13-1/2-pounder, which is a limit of which to boast. Fishing on the pier has been pretty good all week, albeit by Sunday there was quite a slow down. Records show Hob Fergueson took a 6-pounder and a 3-pounder Sunday, and H. Krueter nailed a 2-pounder. 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. —San Rafael Independent Journal, July 16, 1957
Striped bass fishing has been exceptionally good and still is from the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier at Point San Quentin. Nearly 1,000 stripers have been taken up to 18-1/2 pounds during the past 30 days. The largest fish taken during the summer tipped the scales at 19-1/2 pounds. One evening two weeks ago, between 6 and 7 p.m., over 40 fish were taken from the pier in one hour — how’s that for catching? Men, women and children enjoyed the heyday; in fact it was really entertaining to see so many people catch so many fish. —San Rafael Independent Journal, October 15, 1957
Flounders, Perch Taken At Pier — Many fine catches of flounders and perch are being taken at the Rod and Gun Club pier at Point San Quentin. Flounders up to three and four pounds, and plenty of smaller ones have been caught close to shore. Also the first striped bass of the season was taken during the past week. Ed Mueller says this is the best run of flounders that we have had in the past five years. A three-pound streelhead was also landed from the pier last week. —San Rafael Independent Journal, January 17, 1958
The flounders are running now and running to fairly good size. The Marin Rod and Gun Club Pier has been producing some nice flatties up to 5 pounds we’re told. —Tangled Lines, Sylvanis, San Rafael Independent Journal, February 18, 1958
Flounder fishing has been exceptionally good at the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier. Flounders have been taken up to 5 pounds and each day hundreds have been caught. Many small striped bass have been hooked and released. A few stripers of legal size have also been taken. —San Rafael Independent Journal, April 15, 1958
Biggest Bass of Season — Larry Dearmond of 89 Brookmead Court, San Anselmo, poses with the 34-pound, 48-inch striped bass he caught last week at the Marin Rod and Gun Club Pier, Pt. San Quentin. Dearmund’s catch was the largest of the year at the pier. —San Rafael Independent Journal, June 2, 1958
Hot Bass Run At MRGC Pier — Striped bass fishermen were striking it rich off the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier at Pt. San Quentin this week with a hot run of fish providing plenty of sport. Wednesday 22 stripers were hauled in while yesterday the waters yielded 20 fish to the pier fishermen. They weighed up to 16 pounds. —San Rafael Independent Journal, July 18, 1958
Women Catching Fish Off Pier — Pier fishing has been bringing in good results for the auxiliary members. Last ladies’ Day, which was August 27, Barbara Hettrick brought in an 8-3/4 pounder and Emmabelle Herek took a 5 and 7-1/2 pounder the same day. —San Rafael Independent Journal, September 16, 1958
Bass Aplenty At MRGC Pier — Members of the Marin Rod and Gun Club have struck it rich in striped bass at the club’s pier the past four days with a total of 40 stripers entered in the record book. Eleven were taken Saturday, 12 Sunday, 6 Monday and 11 yesterday. Mr. and Mrs. Fred Hoffman led the bass derby with four fish weighing 12-1/2, 9-3/4, 7 and 2 pounds. Among other successful fishermen were L. Duffy with a 7-1/2 pounder; Captain Jack Wooster 4-1/2 pounds and Pail Ware Sr. 2-1/2 pounds. Most catches were on bait, but there has been some successful trolling. —San Rafael Independent Journal, April 8, 1959
Fishing At Club’s Pier Reported Terrific In May — The fishing at the pier during the month of May was terrific. There were 392 bass caught, and the way June has started it looks like another big run. —San Rafael Independent Journal, June 16, 1959
S.F. Lad Catches 17-Pound Striper — A 17-year-old San Francisco youth, vacationing in Woodacre for the summer, accepted an invitation to go bass fishing yesterday at the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier at Point San Quentin. After stopping off to purchase his first angling license, Dean Muller and his hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Loyal Peacock of Woodacre, then went to the pier where Dean promptly hit the jackpot, reeling in a 17-pound striped bass. Dean is the son of Eddie Muller, boxing writer for the San Francisco Examiner. Dad has a new name for Dean — “Champ.” — San Rafael Daily Independent, July 29, 1961
San Rafael Man Catches Sturgeon — A telephone caller the other day was Joe Whitley of San Rafael who informed me he had caught a nice sturgeon while fishing from the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier at Pt. San Quentin. This one measured 65 inches in length and weighed 63 pounds. Joe maneuvered his catch to the nearby beach and landed him. —The Fishin’ Fool, Ralph Stevens, San Rafael Daily Independent, January 30, 1963
Salmon Show Up At Unexpected Times — Salmon can show up at the most unexpected times. That was the case last week with Dr. F. David De Vincenzi of Corte Madera and Mrs. Joseph W. Fontana of Sausalito. Dr. De Vincenzi was fishing from the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier, all baited up with sardines, trying to land a striped bass. He got a strike and landed the fish. It turned out to be a 16-pound salmon, which is quite unusual, pier fishing in that area. —Trigger And Reel, San Rafael Independent-Journal, December 15, 1964
Happenings at the pier. Well, Morrie Michaels landed a 32-pound sturgeon off the pier this week. (Sturgeon have been jumping all week down there.) Bill Damerow of San Rafael, who Frank says is the undisputed pierfishing champion this year took a 15-1/2 pound bass. About seven other bass were also taken. On Saturday 32 perch with average weights of 1 ½ pounds were also caught. —Fish and Game, Al Giddings, —San Rafael Independent Journal, December 15, 1970
Steelhead fishing has been slow. Things seem to be tough all over with the steelhead, though Frank Spence, the Rod and Gun Club pier keeper took one off the pier about a week ago. —San Rafael Independent Journal, February 1, 1974
Louis Moffdo caught a 34-pound striper from the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier this past week. That must be some kind of a record. —Fish and Game, Al Giddings, —San Rafael Independent Journal, September 12, 1975
“Scooter” Hagburg, 11, called from Novato to check in with a two pound 13-1/2 ounce rubberlip perch which he had taken from the Marin Rod and Gun Club Pier. Now, that’s a fine fish, but it has to be a redtail or yellowtail. —San Rafael Independent Journal, March 2, 1976
Keith said one of his crew caught a three-pound rubberlip perch at the pier this week. —Fish and Game, Al Giddings, —San Rafael Independent Journal, March 15, 1977
Shifting down to the Marin Rod and Gun Club pier (this is a big day there) the members were having a heyday. At the final count 16 stripers had been landed with one fisherman releasing three of the six he had landed (that Mel Columbo is sure a top notch fisherman)… Fishing has been best either trolling or live bait drifting. On the pier where the members walk, just letting their lure drag through the water, a new lure called a “Hair-raiser: has been hot. It’s possible to actually stand still, letting the current work this lure, and catch fish. It has its own good action! I’ve used them at Hunters Point and could hardly believe the action it gave me. I just stood on the pier holding the rod steady. — Fish and Game, Al Giddings, —San Rafael Independent Journal, June 3, 1977
Some spectacular striper catches — There are lots of reports coming in of the spectacular striped bass catches throughout the San Pablo and San Francisco Bay hot spots… One of the real hot spots has been the Marin Rod and Gun Club fishing pier. It’s been estimated that in the last month the club members have taken probably 175 stripers there. Just about all the fish have been taken on lures trolling (by walking the pier and holding the rod over the side) or by drifting live shiners around the pier pilings. Two people in heavy competition there have been Mel Columbo and Leo Maffeo. I believe Columbo has taken nearly 50 fish. Maffeo has 34. You can’t beat that. — Fish and Game, Al Giddings, —San Rafael Independent Journal, June 21, 1977
History of the Marin Rod & Gun Club
Here’s an excellent article on the Marin Rod & Gun Club and its history:
Inside Marin’s Rod & Gun Club
RON RODRIGUES of Novato ends every work day the same way. The 58-year-old, barrel-chested general contractor with the salt-and-pepper beard drives to the tip of Point San Quentin and heads for the old Marin Rod and Gun Club, an antiquated joint filled with lacquered wood walls, dusty moose heads and yellowing photos of big fish from years gone by. The bar serves some of the cheapest drinks in town and offers a spectacular view of the bay. “It’s a place to stop, have a beer and head home,” he said. But the club is much more than a blue-collar drinking hole worthy of a Bruce Springsteen song.
It is one of Marin’s oldest environmental groups and this year celebrates its 80th anniversary. The club’s 40 acres of tideland just west of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge are a considerable asset for researchers studying the bay.
“They have done good things,” said Gordon Bennett, head of the Sierra Club Marin Group. “It’s often good for the issues we’re interested in.” The club is hosting a ground-breaking study of eel grass, which creates natural habitat for fish and other marine life. Until the study in the bay off the clubhouse, scientists had never successfully transplanted eel grass.
Club officials are hosting an extensive oyster restoration project in the waters that front the clubhouse, and are involved in a desalination experiment as well. A Marin Municipal Water District desalination plant has taken over part of the club’s back field, and pipes feeding it run the length of the club’s 2,300-foot fishing pier. “We’re really the centerpiece of the San Pablo Bay restoration,” said board member Todd Meyer.
That doesn’t mean members grill tofu sandwiches while watching the eel grass and oysters grow. Instead, they play poker every afternoon, Bingo every Thursday and enjoy plenty of liquid refreshment. “You have to have a drink when you come here,” Meyer said. “It’d be un-American not to.”
The Rod and Gun Club was founded by 35 men on Jan. 1, 1926, with a mission to conserve and preserve fish and game. Although the club’s first headquarters was at China Camp, it shifted to the foot of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge thanks to C&H Sugar Co. of Crockett.
In the early 1900s, C&H needed vast amounts of water to refine sugar, and the company could purchase all the water it needed from Marin Municipal Water District. In 1920, it built a long pipeline off the Marin shoreline so tanker ships could transport water across the bay.
In the 1930s, the pipeline was no longer needed, but the company couldn’t abandon it without facing major state fines. The company sold the pier and 40 acres of tideland to the Rod and Gun Club in 1936 for a $10 ceremonial gold coin. “You don’t do business like that anymore,” Meyer said.
The company had built a narrow wooden walkway the length of the pipeline, but club members built a proper pier for fishing and purchased 18 acres of surrounding land. The club didn’t officially move to the existing site until finishing the clubhouse in 1956.
In the old days, club members used to shoot skeet behind the clubhouse and never missed the annual stag party. A few duck hunters were known for timing their hunts with the tide so that, after blasting a bird out of the sky, the water would bring the carcass right to them.
Members also were sticklers for upholding regulations established by the state Department of Fish and Game, and they often pushed for stricter rules. The club was instrumental in a 1930s ban on commercial fishing for striped bass in the bay, protecting abalone along the North Coast and creating Samuel P. Taylor Park.
The club was so politically active that a group of members in 1971 tried to persuade the board to change the club’s tax-exempt status so it could endorse political candidates and measures.
The club created scholarships for local students as well as university researchers who focus on environmental issues. And it cast a line into law enforcement.
In 1985, the club donated $2,800 to launch one of the Department of Fish and Game’s largest undercover sting operations. Wardens set up a phony fish market in Oakland and, during a six-month period, snared 27 fishermen in a black market ring selling steelhead, salmon, striped bass and sturgeon illegally caught in the bay and Klamath River.
“The Marin Rod and Gun Club once again has demonstrated it is a commendable, public-spirited group,” the Independent Journal said in an editorial that year.
Bennett said the Rod and Gun Club has done a lot to benefit the environment, particularly with the ongoing eel grass project. The Sierra Club doesn’t support a plan to introduce oysters in Drake’s Bay, though, because it is aimed more for harvesting rather than a conservation purpose, he said. “As their name implies, their projects tend to benefit recreational hunting and fishing activities,” Bennett noted.
The last original member, John “Monty” Marzetta, died last year, and membership is about half of its 2,500-member peak around 1992. But dues remain just $50 per year and the club is publicizing its social functions and conservation efforts to attract new members.
“There’s a real place for social organizations to be there for members and do outreach,” Meyer said. These days, guns are banned from the premises, but members can shoot skeet through a partnership with the Richmond Rod and Gun Club.
They also can fish off the pier and attend a host of annual parties. There’s also an annual summer picnic with old-fashioned games including throwing tennis balls at suspended salamis. Winners who score keep the salami. “You just don’t get that anymore. I guess it’s called É,” Meyer said, pausing to think. “Progress.”
Fielding Greaves of San Rafael, the 83-year-old spokesman for the Marin United Taxpayers Association, harks back to the club’s old days. “It was the first action I took when I moved to Marin in 1976,” he said. “It was before I even joined the taxpayer association.” Greaves said he joined because the pier offered great fishing, but he has yet to cast a line off it. “I’m too busy,” he said. Greaves is a firearms enthusiast and former national board member of the National Rifle Association who writes a monthly column on guns for the club’s newsletter. He presents his reports during the club’s monthly meeting, has a beer and departs. “That’s a standard part of my trip,” he said.
The pier remains a huge draw and, despite meager resources, the club does its best on maintenance. The club spent upwards of $250,000 replacing sections of it in the 1990s.
A full-time pier keeper lives in a small apartment at the foot of the pier to keep trespassers away – and fishermen honest. “I doubt there’s a day of the year where someone isn’t fishing off it,” Meyer said. “There are guys who come every morning, and have for decades.”
On Wednesday afternoon, there were close to a dozen men drinking beer at the bar and eating hot dog chunks dipped in mustard. The sun was shining and the beer was flowing at $2 a drink. “It’s like ‘Cheers,’ where everybody knows your name,” Meyer said. The bar is open from noon to 6:45 p.m., and bartender Bill Irons is always on schedule.
At 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, Irons hollered “last call” and, when no one spoke up, he slammed a curtain across the bar. About 10 minutes later, he told everyone to go home. While Rodrigues finished his drink, he said he joined 15 years ago after hearing about the club from the older contractors with whom he worked. Over the years, he and his wife have made good use of the facility.
They drive south together every morning, taking advantage of the carpool lane, and she drops him off at the club, where he leaves his truck at night. She heads over the bridge to work in Martinez, he goes to his job and, at night, they meet back at the club. “She’ll stop in for a glass of wine and then we head home,” he said.
—Tad Whitaker, Marin Independent Journal
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