Pier Fishing in California

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A day (and night) at the Pier - Pierhead

Posted by Ken Jones
on May-22-08 4:17pm

It's just too bad that these ideas are so impractical—and impossible (KJ).

Chp. 1 - A day (and night) at the Pier - Pierhead

Local News Story

July 1, 2012

A day (and night) at the Pier

It was one of those late spring/early summer evenings when the water was warmer than the air itself. Walking back from the end of the pier after a successful day's fishing he could feel the rising warmth and wondered what the temperature difference was. 'One of the things to check when I get there', he thought to himself.

He was looking forward to posting his catch at the pier's ATM. He had been using this feature at the information kiosk for the past year and had already submitted over 70 entries.

He wore an T-shirt that identified him as a Pier Regular ... one of approximately 25 anglers at the pier who contribute semi-weekly reports to an ongoing angling survey. In exchange for participation their reported catches are stored in the pier's online database and are retrievable as their own personal fishing log.

In addition to the information they provide, the database also appends date, time, tide, moon phase and selected weather information to each report. Using the software provided online they and others are able to search the reports to produce charts and graphs of the effect of the selected variables ... which are the best tides to fish; which baits work best. Questions they had been debating among themselves for years.

He entered his personal code and a welcome screen appeared with a drop down list of commonly caught species. He chose the text rather than illustrated version as he had been able to identify his catch and didn't need the additional graphical assistance.

He had noticed, though, that the locals were making far fewer errors in identifying their catches since those pictures and help screens had been available. Everybody was encouraged to report their catches so the non-text version was helpful given the number of languages spoken on the pier. Like the T-shirts it was a way of helping people become involved in the pier community. Those who don't fish often enough to be selected as reporters are entered into a monthly lottery to encourage their participation. Prizes are donated by various tackle manufactures and the winners were featured on the pier's website along with donor credits.

Scrolling down the list he stopped and selected the entry for barred sand bass. He was asked to indicate the approximate fish size from a group of three size ranges. Other drop-down menu selections allowed him to indicate the bait used, location caught and if the fish was kept or released.

He made his choices for each of the three bass caught and touched enter. Since he was one of the selected angler/reporters other optional screens asked about water condition, swell, baitfish available and other bits of information of interest to the advanced angler.

Instantly the overhead signboard reflected his entry and updated it's display under barred sand bass showing the new daily, weekly, monthly and yearly totals. Since the display was captured on one of the pier's several webcams as well as on the pier's own website the information is widely available.

The accumulated statistics had already confirmed the importance of the adjacent reef in increasing both the fish count and the number of species available as well as being used by the regulars to plan their trips to the pier.

This information center and kiosk was the heart of an educational outreach campaign conducted by a conservation oriented non-profit fishing organization. Originally founded to promote the interests of shore-bound marine anglers the organization had been the beneficiary of several grants resulting from the settlement of federal lawsuits against major polluters along the coast of California.

The agencies providing the grants were tasked with the responsibility of developing ways to encourage anglers to modify their fishing habits and locations in response to the remaining local pollution. Some areas were so contaminated they would have to be closed. Other areas could still be fished but the anglers needed to be encouraged to fish off the bottom.

One solution explored was the construction of artificial reefs well within casting distance from a pier. The reefs were thought to attract higher quantities and a larger variety of species than non-reefed piers and so affected anglers would be attracted by the better quality fishing experience. And since artificial reefs are, by definition, structures built over the bottom, the pollution would be 'capped' under the reef thus providing a safer fishing experience higher up the water column.

Doing web research the agencies became aware of one west coast pier that had already discovered the reef effect on its own and documented it on a dedicated website. That pier had also been chosen by the non-profit organization as it's Model Pier ... an effort to show that former fishing-only piers could become a prime educational resource in helping the community become more ecologically informed and aware ... much like the conversion of commercial fishing boats to whale-watching tour boats.

With the additional funds the non-profit organization was able to convince the city to allow it to convert an existing, rarely used pier building into an information center. Working with various donors the kiosk was outfitted with a complete set of oceanographic sensors and underwater cameras. Their output is displayed on a big screen monitor and also on the pier's website. Additional educational information is displayed as wall posters both inside and outside the center.

The center is staffed daily by volunteers and is used on a weekly basis by local school outings in their marine science classes. It has become a gathering area for some of the oldsters in the area as well, encouraged by center's ongoing Oral History project, and it's growing collection of historical pier photographs and other memorabilia will soon necessitate additional display space.


This coming weekend will be the Annual Cioppino & Seafoodl Festival in the east parking lot. This year's event will feature the usual mix of gourmet food and local musical talent donated to raise funds for the support of the pier and provide an opportunity for local environmental groups to promote their various concerns.

Back again also are the guided Slough Walks that have proved so popular in years past ... and while you are observing and learning about the local flora and fauna don't miss the new Coastal Chumash exhibit on the stub pier in the west lot.

It looks out directly on the remnants of Mescatitlan Island which was the largest if not the most important of local Chumash communities and the only one surrounded completely by water. It's helpful to remember that the resources in this area were once rich enough to support over 800 members of that community.

Support UPSAC! Help preserve pier and shore fishing in California.

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A day (and night) at the Pier - Pierhead   Ken Jones - May-22-08 4:17pm

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