Herring — The Point Richmond Chronicles

Ken Jones

Staff member
Surprisingly, not a single herring is recorded in the five years of fish counts that I have from the CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.

The herring “dippers” are on their toes. They are getting ready for barrels, buckets, tubs, nets and the strange equipment used when the annual run of herring hits the Contra Costa shores.
These darting, silver fish are in the Bay at this time buy the millions. They are most concentrated around Marin County shores and in the Raccoon Straits. They have not appeared at Richmond and other nearby spots for spawning in numbers making it worthwhile to use dip nets to get them.
Lee Anderson, “king of the herring dippers,” is making a trip from his San Pablo Avenue bait store to the Richmond ferry piers every four hours these days so that he will be able to spot the big run as soon as it hits.
What a sight when the millions of fish do move in close to shore for their annual spawning. In times past they have literally covered the water from Richmond to Port Costa with floating rafts of eggs that calm the surface, giving it the appearance of a great meadow covered with discolored snow that has started to melt.
Run Late This Year. The first big showing in 1939 was on January 15. It lasted three days and then as if by magic the herring disappeared and did not return until the latter part of February. There is actually nothing to worry about on this score, however, as the best runs in the past have always been around March 1.
The Richmond point near the ferry slips and the Santa Fe wharf have been the most popular spots for landing herring as here the fish seem to be most prolific and it is possible to slip a net under the school and not have it fall on them.
There is no way to tell when the big run will take place. At times the fish will be close for three or four days. At other times they will come in by the millions on one tide and drift out with the outgoing tide.
Colorful Spectacle. Last year the best runs were at night and what a colorful sight was presented as the netters using anything and everything to catch the fish and store them when caught worked beneath the torches and flashlights.
There is no limit on herring and no game laws touch on the methods of taking them. Ordinary sacks on hoops have done the work and even pans and buckets with holes in the bottom have been used to make catches.
The real herring fisherman uses a large dip net and brings in great quantities of the fish at one scoop. It is not a sport for the man or woman with a weal back for lifting one of the larger nets full of fish is a good job for muscles.
Anderson and his crew of “dippers” have always been the leading producers of these fish. At one time, it was either last year or the year before, they brought back their barrels on the truck with more than 300 pounds of herring.
None Was Wasted. Not a fish was wasted for they put some of the barrels out in front of the bait shop with a sign so that passerby could help themselves to a mess of the delectable fish.
Some fish are salted down and some are preserved in other ways. Fried while still fresh they are one of the most tasty of sea foods for breakfast.
Anderson has a “herring list” posted on a prominent place next to his telephone. They are the names of men and women who want to be called the minute the first run starts. Many of them are fishermen who would rather take part in the excitement of a big run than make a trip for striped bass. Others on the list are men and women who drive to Richmond when the run is on to watch the colorful sight and it is a spectacle well worth seeing.
As stated before, Anderson is making trips to Richmond every four hours to watch for the first sign of quantities of spawn on the water. When the news is flashed every effort will be made to get it on the air and into the first edition of the paper printed.
Watch for the news and take a trip to Richmond either to watch the fishermen or grab a bucket and go out for a mess of fish for there is usually plenty to go around and they are a big hearted bunch out there. You won’t have any trouble getting a fine mess of fish to take home. —Line on the Sportsman, Mike Dwyer, Oakland Tribune, February 13, 1940

Herring Stage First Run Of Year On Richmond
Small Army Fills Sacks

Armed with old cooking pots and pans, nets of all sizes and descriptions, steel powder barrels, barley sacks, or homemade sacks of every imaginable materials, the “herring chokers” descended upon Richmond yesterday for the first run of the 1940 season.
While a portable radio blared world news events — events of very secondary importance to the little group of busy fishermen — nets were dropped between the pilings, allowed to rest for a short time, were pulled up again, each with its flipping quantity of silver fish.
The netter’s assistant steps into the picture here, armed with a six to eight-foot length of wood on the end of which has been nailed a pot or pan, fugitive from some unsuspecting wife’s kitchen. He dips the pot down into the net and transfers load after load of fish to the box, barrel, or other container that he has brought with him.
MORE SPECTATORS. The actual number of fishermen are few compared to the groups of interested spectators, the majority of whom watch for a short time and then scurry off in search of an old sack, cloth, anything to carry home a load of fish.
“I have never eaten them” you hear from time to time, but as the excitement grows the man or woman who has spoken will be seen in a frantic search for a container to carry home a mess of fish.
To the crews doing the netting and scooping, there is little difference as to who is passing along a container for a mess of fish. To them the sport is in catching and the quantity seems unlimited. Anyone who produces something to hold fish is gladly given whatever amount they may desire. A generous tribe, these herring netters, and then the quantity seems unlimited.
FISH AWAIT URGE. These fish have been in the Bay waters for some time. They have darted back and forth, night and day, in great schools, aimlessly swimming awaiting the spawning urge that they know will soon come.
When the spawn becomes heavy—and it is surprising how many thousands of eggs these five-to-the pound fish contain—male and female alike head for the sheltered waters where there are pilings and rough rocks to catch and hold the spawn as it is dropped, so that it can be fertilized by the males.
Like a may-pole or perhaps it is a merry-go-round, they concentrate on a certain piling by the hundreds and so close together they seem at times more like a great silvery snake than a line of fish, they circle. Round and round and round they go, from the very surface of the water down to the bottom and as they circle the eggs are dropped, some of them to sink slowly to the bottom, others to cling to the rough surface of pilings and rock.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT. It is food for thought watching this production of the millions of herring for the supply of the coming years. Seasoned fishermen who have assembled to watch the fun, glance from time to time out past the rocks to the smoother waters where from experience they know the big striped bass are lying where they can feed upon the herring as they pass to and fro from these spawning grounds.
What makes the fish choose this particular spot each year, no one can know. They are always there when it is time to spawn and never have they been seen around the thousands of piles that make up the Berkeley pier just a few short miles away.
Smaller schools of anchovies dart back and forth near the far end of the pier keeping clear of this major spawning operation. They prove that the bigger bass are waiting somewhere nearby for they have been herded to this spot by the following bass as the exodus of the herring started.
FURTHER PROOF. Also proof that Mr. Bass and his family have followed this great movement is the fact that when the herring move out again and but a few are left, smart striped bass fishermen will churn through the nearby waters with their rowboats, waters so shallow that big bass may often be seen rooting on the bottom. These smart fishermen will pick up limits almost every day they fare forth and the fact that a smart fisherman is made only by experience, means that this particular group of men will fish almost daily.
The run lasted all day yesterday and late into the night.
The run slacked off on the first tide from daylight to 10 a.m. today, but the hope is that the fishing will improve for Thursday, a holiday, when everyone will get a chance at them. Groups of Oakland firemen joined with the others during the night last night, the flares and lights making one of the most colorful scenes to be imagined.
For spectators and fishermen alike, latest information on the run will be compiled from time to time during the next few days by Lee Anderson, “king of the herring chokers,” and myself. Ring him at Piedmont 9262 or ring me at Olympic 4668 today or tomorrow and learn the status of the ruin. It may save a trip. —Bob Dwyer, Oakland Tribune, February 21, 1940

The herring are proving even more unstable this year than last year if such a thing is possible. Tuesday there was a fine run of fish off the Parr Terminal pier No. 1. It lasted from the early morning to far into the night and all who dipped a net took home all the fish they could use. There were very few fishermen,
WIND HALTS RUN. The wind in the early morning hours of Wednesday “blew” the run out from the shallows. There were a few fish, very few taken at this point Wednesday, while yesterday produced a few fish although crowds of netters stood almost elbow to elbow and spectators anxious to see the run, crowded them from one end of the long terminal to the other.
There were no herring taken in the morning but after one o’clock a few began to appear and at three most of the netters were getting from one to a dozen each time they dropped their gear.
This was in no way a run, but it did fill pans and sacks for the fishermen themselves and gave the spectators a glimpse of what it might be like with good loads of fish coming up with each net.
MANY CAME IN HOPES. Despite the fact hundreds of telephone calls made Wednesday night and all day yesterday, gave Lee Anderson and myself a chance to tell readers the run had stopped, many made the Richmond trip just on the chance of seeing action. And many had their sacks and boxes and pans with them in hopes the netters would get going good and would pass out a few.
This run is being closely watched. It will come again two or three times in the next few weeks and at least one of the runs should last fro several days. The news will be carried in this column the next edition after the fish begin to close in on the pier. —Bob Dwyer’s Line on Sportsman, Oakland Tribune, February 23, 1940

The Modern Era — <*}}}}}}}}}><

Date: January 19, 2016; To: Pier Fishing In California Message Board; From: Kilgore Trout; Subject: Re: Herring in the bay?

Yeah, I only caught the tail end of it on Sunday morning at Richmond. People fishing there were so pleasant considering that it was a little crowded — gave me a little faith in humanity. Lots of curious spectators and kids as well. Anyway, I think you can probably catch up to them if you put a little scouting time in around the North Bay… Btw, the Sabiki fishermen were doing pretty well, and some monster smelt were in the mix if you're into some sport on light tackle.

Posted by: I am Brandon

Herring were in Ferry Point in Richmond over the weekend and yesterday morning. I was there mid-day to evening and none were seen. I keep arriving a day late!

Date: January 28, 2017; To: PFIC Message Board; From: red fish; Subject: Ferry Point Pier

Herring at the Ferry Point Pier two weeks ago.

Date: February 3, 2018; To: PFIC Message Board; From: red fish; Subject: Ferry Point Pier

I showed up at Ferry Point Pier about 4:25pm and it was NOT crowded. There were no herring also, as the previous day's run was over with people with an average (12) herring for a couple hours of net throwing. I gave out a bucket-and-half because I always keep some for friends but they could not come out and get them, so I dispensed them to a few fishermen (three of which knew) that only had a handful. I fished using Pacific herring and a hi/lo surf-leader and only hooked into a single bat ray. A lot of crabs, thus fished an extra-long leader of about 6 feet. That was it. A very peaceful evening of solitude.

And this past winter <*}}}}}}}}}><

Date: December 5, 2018; To PFIC Message Board; Foom: Phil Hill: Subject: Herring

Hi, I've noticed there have been no posts about herring this year. if you subscribe to this: https://cdfwherring.wordpress.com/2018/12/03/herring-season-is-here
It shows activity at ARW. In the past Pier Fishing was one of the best resources.

Date: December 5, 2018; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Ken Jones; Subject: Herring

People do not share as much information as they once did.

Date: December 6, 2018; To: PFIC Message Board; From: DSRTEGL; Subject: Herring

I need to hit a couple of spawns this year BADLY......Damn near out of bait and I want an excuse to get a smoker. I have 2 big coolers, a cast net, and a vacuum sealer and I am not afraid to use them

Date: December 14, 2018; To: PFIC Message Board; From: zeal; Subject: Herring

Are they in? Looks like it is going to rain, so the chance is increasing.

Date: December 14, 2018; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Kilawin; Subject: Herring

…. My log book indicates that there should be a spawn in about a week.

Date: December 15, 2018; To: PFIC Message Board; From: zeal; Subject: Herring

They usually spawn on under a neap tide and a low pressure weather. Today and tomorrow could be.

Date: December 15, 2018; To: PFIC Message Board; From: zeal; Subject: Herring

If anyone see them please report ASAP.

Date: December 17, 2018; To: PFIC Message Board; From: DSRTEGL; Subject: Herring

OK.......Broad Spectrum Info Here......If you know your stuff you can Connect the Dots.......Recent rains + King Tides = Spawns........Most likely starting Wed......I really need to get a new cast net.......The last time I hit a spawn well it kept me in bait for 5 years........LOVE MY VACUUM SEALER.......Saved the roe from the big females and gave many to friends with smokers that know how to use them and all the males got vacuum sealed and frozen.......

Date: December 20, 2018; To: PFIC Message Board; From: eekamouse; Subject: Herring

Hi guys, first post here. I spoke with a crusty old guy at my local bait shop and he said that the area around SFO almost always has a big spawn around now, though I don't know exactly where to look. If someone here can give me an approximate location, I can check it out when I stop by the airport tomorrow.

Date: December 20, 2018; To: PFIC Message Board; From: zeal; Subject: Herring

Last year, It was huge spawn at around Agua Vista Park and then around ATT Park. Thanks for checking them up. Let us know...

Date: December 22, 2018; To: PFIC Message Board; From: xpostman; Subject: Herring

Point Richmond pier this Saturday morning. Day 3 of the spawn.

Date: December 22, 2018; To: PFIC Message Board; From: DSRTEGL; Subject: Herring

Went out today.......With Binoculars.....Sausalito...NOPE.....Richardson Bay.....NOPE.......Fort Baker.......NOPE.....Fort Point......NOPE......called Paradise and.....NOPE. SIGH......I REALLY NEED BAIT

Date: December 22, 2018; To: PFIC Message Board; From: zeal; Subject: Herring

I left Point Richmond Pier with about 150 herrings and two ruined cast net each with about5 or 6 holes in them. Darn Sea Lions! Go get them. Watch out the sea lions. Bring extra nets.

Date: December 23, 2018; To: PFIC Message Board; From: DSRTEGL; Subject: Herring

And THAT is why I choose not to go to Point Richmond.......Nets are not cheap

Date: December 23, 2018; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Phil Hill; Subject: Herring

Bring line to quick patch your nets and something with wheels so you don't have to carry.

Date: January 4, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Phil Hill; Subject: Herring

Spawning in the New Year

Date: January 5, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Red Fish Subject: Herring

Yeah, looks like there was a spawn that started around Candlestick Point yesterday extending south to Coyote Point. The adverse windy conditions of today seemed to have knocked it down a notch.

Date: January 7, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: xpostman; Subject: Herring

Checked out Coyote point and Fisherman’s park Sunday morning, nothing yet

Date: January 12, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Phil Hill; Subject: Herring

New Report

Date: January 14, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Ken Jones; Subject: Herring

Looks like they were at Paradise over the weekend.

Date: January 15, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: shonuff88; Subject: Herring

Herrings @ Bay Farm Island around 645 pm - 730 pm today.

Date: January 15, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: SofaKing; Subject: Herring

Got a large cooler full at Paradise Sunday morning. Dang furbags started tearing up everybody's nets around 11. The fish moved out around 1230 just as the crowd showed up. Met another PFIC member there. I hear Sausalito is going off right now.

Date: January 18, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: nhatgau; Subject: Herring

Went to Paradise today for a few hours in the morning, none here today wonder where they are at now.

Date: January 19, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Makairaa; Subject: Herring

This should help the population over the next couple of years.

Date: January 25, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Phil Hill; Subject: Herring

Here is the latest guys:

Date: January 27, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Red Fish; Subject: Herring

On and cracking zeal...



Date: January 27, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: mav; Subject: Herring

Great catch! How do you haul that much out of the water? I once netted a bunch of anchovies and couldn't lift the net out of the water. So, I had to let a bunch out.

Date: January 27, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Red Fish; Subject: Herring

Good question! That was a net that got caught up on the bottom and was freed. When the person freed the net, it was fully loaded like that.

Date: January 27, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: DSRTEGL; Subject: Herring

REDFISH TO THE RESCUE.........Thanks to a timely heads up from him I was able to get to the pier this evening and load up with his generous help......I am now going to be up vacuum sealing bait for the rest of the night, and sorting the best of the fresh stuff for eventual SMOKING.......Time to get a smoker I think.

Soooo............Filled My 5CF Freezer to capacity last night.......It had a lot in it already though.........Took what I packaged last night to my mother's huge Upright Freezer today.......It was basically empty.......and then returned home to package and fill my 5CF Freezer AGAIN.......I STILL HAVE HERRING LEFT TO PACKAGE........Luckily I keep my fridge colder than usual.........I will let what is in the 5CF freeze solid while at work and then package some more tonight to fill it the rest of the way and then I will make another run to my mom's freezer on Wednesday........I have Vacuum Sealed Herring, 3 1/2 gallon jars of wet brined natural herring, 1 jar each of brined herring in red, green, and blue, and herring packed in standard ziplock freezer bags for crab and cut baits........I also have several vacuum sealed bags or really BIG herring I plan to SMOKE.......it is no exaggeration whatsoever to say that a good number of these herring were in the 11" range......THAT IS TROUT SIZED........

And to give full credit where credit is due.......Thanks to the Happy Wanderer for teaching me how to throw a cast net.

Date: January 28, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: nhatgau; Subject: Herring

Darn it! looks like i missed them again was out of town this weekend. batting 0/4 so far. Hopefully the next one I can get on it, Thanks for the update Red fish!

Date: January 29, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: billz12oz; Subject: Herring

Herring hit sausalito earlier today. They got their buckets filled.

Date: January 29, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Ken Jones; Subject: Herring

Not to put a damper on the news, but I've also received reports of how BAD the situation can be.

• "Ferry Point is unfishable now."
• "No parking spaces at all, and that includes the street."
• "Garbage everywhere."
• "These herring runs bring out the worst in people (and would turn the Code of Ethics on its head) and inundate the regular anglers."

People should show some respect for the pier environment as well as other anglers. Pick up the trash, don't be rude to others, and make it a fun experience for those involved. When handled correctly there should be enough fish for everyone AND people should be able to leave the pier as clean or cleaner than when they arrived. Let's not be a mob out there.

Date: January 29, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Red Fish; Subject: Herring

No damper Ken.
•No fish to be caught until run dissipates
•Not enough garbage cans there even with regular crowd
•Now, there wasn’t much parking

I wouldn’t say ‘brings out the worst in people.’ You are what you are; don’t blame it on a crowd or a run of herring.

Date: January 29, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Ken Jones; Subject: Herring

I'm just giving a report I received. I do agree that there are never enough garbage cans there AND it's rarely a pristine pier even when the crowds are small. A lot of people just don't seem to care any more.It's true on piers and almost any park or public area you go to.

Date: January 29, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Red Fish; Subject: Herring

‘T weren’t PFIC people... so, they didn’t here about the spawn here... :D
Any regular for the pier would know better than to go anywhere near FP if they actually had any intention of “fishing.” :eek:

Date: January 30, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Phil Hill; Subject: Herring

If EBRPD can't handle the clean-up maybe people could volunteer.

Date: January 30, 2019; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Phil xpostman; Subject: Herring

It was pretty crowded last Sunday and I didn’t encounter any rude behavior. Not your typical East Bay group, probably seeing a different demographic from other parts of the SF Bay Area. Gotta admit it was an awesome run with no competition from the commercial boats.