Last modified: August 31, 2019

Fishing Piers Northern California

Miller Park Pier — Marshall — Gone But Not Forgotten

On November 29, 1954 the Wildlife Conservation Board, part of the California Department of Fish and Game, allocated $5,500 for the development of Miller Park at Nick’s Cove on Tomales Bay, a park designed for fishing access. That fund was inadequate and basically nothing happened until April 30, 1958, when the board allocated an additional $33,100. The money was to cover the cost of a paved parking area, launch ramps, boat floats, and a rock jetty to protect the ramps. Construction began but would not be completed until 1959 (after an additional expenditure of $8,137 to meet the low bid).

In addition, in January 1965 an additional $3,300 was budgeted for repairs to fix winter storm damage from the devastating floods of 1964-65. 

At that time of its opening in 1959 there was a boat launch, the small jetty, and an adjacent small pier that was called the Miller Park Pier.

The pier was short; measuring only 130 feet long and 4 feet wide, with much of its length sitting over the shore itself. As a consequence, most anglers huddled near the end trying to cast to deeper water. And, due to its size, angling space could be limited. Nevertheless, it was used by local anglers until destroyed in the late 1980s.

The launch site itself remains one of the favorite sites for launching boats and kayaks in Tomales Bay. In addition, many anglers continue to use the shoreline and rock jetty in the park for fishing. However, pier anglers had no place to fish until 2007 when a new pier was built across the cove at Nick’s Cove Restaurant and Cottages. 

The pier in 1998

Fishing: Given its length, the pier was basically a shallow-water pier that limited to some degree the fish that could be caught. However, being adjacent to the boat launch and rock jetty helped the fishing as well as the pier having wooden pilings (that fish like). In addition eelgrass beds sit out from the pier, vegetation that is attractive to some fish, especially blackperch.

What were the fish? A variety of perch species were common but particularly common were blackperch, shinerperch and dwarf perch. Less consistent but a possibility were walleye surfperch, silver surfperch, barred surfperch, calico surfperch and a few striped seaperch.

Jacksmelt and topsmelt were a common catch while occasionally the smaller “true” smelt, surf smelt and eulachon, might also make an appearance.

Bottom species included flatfish—sand sole, speckled sanddab, diamond turbot and starry flounder (whose numbers have gone down over the years). Small halibut were occasionally caught but most of the bigger “hallies” were caught in deeper water.

Perhaps the best fishing was reserved for the sharays—sharks and rays. The site was good for leopard sharks and brown smoothhounds while bat rays, some in excess of a hundred pounds, provided the “biggest” and most exciting catch. Less common sharks were angel sharks, dogfish sharks, and soupfin sharks. Skates could also show, especially big skates.

And then there were the crabs, both Dungeness and rock crabs, both of which could be abundant at different times of the year.

In summary, the fishing was generally fairly slow with the exception of sharks and rays. Nevertheless, anglers continued to flock to the pier when it was open. You just never knew when a striped bass might be traveling along the shoreline, or a halibut might wander in from the deeper waters.

How To get There: Miller Boat Launch and Nick’s Cove can be found three miles north of the small town of Marshall on the Highway 1 in Marin County.

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