The Golden Age of California Pier Fishing — Redondo Wharves, 1880s-1890s

Ken Jones

Staff member
Redondo Wharf Fishing 1880s-1890s

Redondo Beach—Recent Events in that Busy Little City​

Master A. Currier last Wednesday captured a Jew-fish weighing four hundred pounds, which he brought to this city and sold to one of the markets, and only a day or two ago a stingaree was captured off the wharf which was a monster. It weighed two hundred pounds and was three feet across the back when laid on the ground. His stinger was four inches long.—Los Angeles Herald, June 27, 1888

At Redondo—A School of mackerel and Numbers of Other Fish

A great day for fishing was yesterday at Redondo. The big pier was crowded with men and women fishers, to say nothing of the small boy whose name is Legion. A very forest of bamboo rods bristled over the sides of the pier and there was an entanglement of lines, varying in size from the lithe and slender sea grass to the thickness of a cable.

The cause of this unusual throng of disciples of Isaac Walton, was the presence of a great school of mackerel in the bay. The water fairly glistened with the silvery sides of the finny denizens of the deep, and those a-fishing did not have to wait long for a bite.

The take of mackerel was exceedingly large, and smelt, sole, rock bass and bonito were also taken in abundance. Several fine yellowtail were caught, and the usual complement of shovel-nosed shark were hauled forth from their lair in the briny, much to the fright and discomfort of the more timid anglers…

The Santa Fe wisely runs sufficient cars to accommodate the Sunday travel to Redondo, comfortably, and this is why many persons now prefer going to Redondo Beach for a Sunday’s jaunt, than to the more popular seaside resorts, the trains to which are always so uncomfortably crowded.—Los Angeles Herald, August 20, 1888.

Never was the fishing better than it has been this week. Barracuda are hauled in by the hundred weight, and the anglers on the wharf meet with gratifying luck, and many persons are served daily with fish dinners.—Los Angeles Times, July 27, 1890

Mr. N. Row caught the largest sea trout [white sea bass] ever seen upon this coast this afternoon from the pier; it weighed forty-two pounds.—Los Angeles Times, August 31, 1890

Redondo Beach—The smoothest seas of the year are now prevailing at Redondo. Rock cod, halibut and yellowtails are being caught from the pier. Early in the morning long strings of mackerel are pulled out. The balance of the day nothing but larger fish are caught.—Los Angeles Herald, September 4, 1890

The largest yellowtail caught from the wharf this season weighed 32 ½ pounds. A clerk with Coulter & Co., of Los Angeles, now bears the title of “boss fisherman.”—Los Angeles Herald, August 24, 1891

Redondo Beach, Nov. 15.—The deep sea fish are coming to the front in good numbers lately. We noted some splendid specimens of surf fish, yellowtail, sold and albacore landed today. The sole is somewhat rare to be found in these waters, but the large string shown by Judge Harrison this morning would indicate their arrival in considerable abundance. The many anglers on the Redondo wharf continue to secure good returns for their outlay of time and patience.—Los Angeles Herald, November 16, 1892

The record of deep sea fish landed today at 3 o’clock p.m. was 1532 pounds of rock cod, sea bass, barracuda, pompano and yellowtail. The pompano are being caught in large quantities from Redondo wharf today.—Los Angeles Herald—January 20, 1893

The usual Sunday crowd, numbering up among the thousands, invaded the beach today, enjoying the surf, listening to the Douglas military band in the hotel park or taking out a fine basket of mackerel and yellowtail from the Redondo wharf.—Los Angeles Herald, June 26, 1893

Fine Fishing From The Pier—Redondo, Aug. 16—Fishing from the pier was never better than at present. Some very remarkable catches have recently been reported, consisting principally of Spanish mackerel. Yellowtail are beginning to bite and barracuda are plentiful.—Los Angeles Herald, August 17, 1894

Fishing on the wharf has been extremely good during the last couple of days. Many mackerel have been caught, besides bass, smelt, sculpin, halibut and sardines. John Edwards caught over 500 pounds of halibut yesterday and went out for more today. Less Worley also caught 475 pounds of halibut yesterday.—Los Angeles Herald, February 18, 1895

Probably no point on the California Coast has had such a marvelous fishing record during the last summer as Redondo, and any one who is not a personal witness to the catches of game fish to be had up and down the ocean shore in Southern California, would be very apt to put no more belief in them than in the average fisherman’s tale. Literally, hundreds of tons of fish have been caught with simple handlines from the Redondo wharves, and its row-boats there since last March. For weeks last August and September several tons of the finest fattest and gamest yellowtails and barracuda were landed at Redondo every day the week. The record smashing day was on September 7, when a careful count showed that 538 yellowtail, having an average weight of seventeen pounds, were landed by hand-lines and hooks, besides about 1200 tons of barracuda, smelt and mackerel that were taken in boats. Catches of ten and twelve tons of sardines at Redondo in seines are common. Girls and boys who have never before caught fish have often landed there twenty yellowtail in a day.—Los Angeles Times, January 1, 1896

A large specimen of the blue shark, common in the waters of the southern coast, was landed from the end of the north wharf shortly after noon today.—Los Angeles Herald, July 28, 1896

Mrs. A. F. Falce was one of the luckiest anglers on the wharf today. She captured a seven-foot shark and two fine specimens of yellowtail.—Los Angeles Herald, September 11, 1896

Fred Hutton, E. O. Smith and Walter Porter of Los Angeles have arrived at the beach to spend a few days fishing and bathing. Mr. Porter is an enthusiastic fisherman. His specialty is fishing for sharks, and he will sit on the wharf all night long to catch a shark or two. Late Tuesday night he hooked an eight-foot shark, while fishing from the old wharf, but for the timely arrival of some friends, he would have had to cut his line, as he was unable to land him alone.—Los Angeles Times, July 16, 1897

There was a great deal of excitement of wharf No. 1 this morning caused by the catching of several large “cornfed” mackerel by one of the wharf fishermen. In a remarkably short time all the available space was taken up by fishermen, for the big mackerel and some of the largest fish ever caught here were carried off the wharf in the baskets of anglers.

Of all the different kinds of fishing, large mackerel fishing is probably the most exciting. The large ones are very game and strong, and it taxes the strength of the best poles to land two of the corn-fed beauties at a time. Many of the fishermen have their rods broken when they attempt to land three at once. It is advisable when fishing for corn-fed mackerel to fish with but one or two hooks, as, when they are running good, they usually take all the hooks, and very few bamboo rods will stand the strain of landing more than two at a time… A young lady from Los Angeles, who spent today at Redondo, rented a fishing pole from one of the stands on the wharf, and started in to establish a record for the mackerel fishing. Luck was against her, for the first bite she got was a small yellow-tail and the fish started seaward, and took line and hooks with him, leaving the young lady with the lineless pole in her hands. She procured another line, stronger than the first, and caught two corn-fed mackerel, breaking the pole in attempting to land them. She again repaired to the fish-pole stand and procured a yellowtail line and at this writing is fishing for yellowtail from the new wharf, mackerel fishing being altogether too exciting to suit her… Seth Owens, head clerk at the Redondo hotel, landed a forty-pound yellowtail from off the old wharf this morning.—Los Angeles Herald, August 22, 1897

Redondo Beach, Aug. 27.—Yesterday a large school of yellowtail visited the wharves, and quite a number were landed by the wharf fishermen on both wharves. During the afternoon three large thrasher sharks approached the old wharf and the yellowtail, mackerel and sardines took a hurried departure. Fishing was poor from the edge of the wharf the rest of the afternoon.—Los Angeles Times, August 28, 1897

Two blue sharks about six feet long and a small octopus were caught from the old wharf this morning. The latter are frequently captured here this time of the year, but are generally small in size, although they attract great attention.—Los Angeles Times, September 13, 1898

Redondo, Oct. 13.—No better fishing was ever had at Redondo than now. Numerous anglers on the wharves are catching hundreds of yellowtail, barracuda, halibut, flounder and mackerel. The fisherman today in drawing in the net for mackerel drew in about 150 large yellowtail.—Los Angels Herald, October 14, 1898

Fisherman Francis — He Catches a Ton of Assorted Fish at Redondo—Redondo, Oct.15—Mr. John F. Francis, who has been a guest at Hotel Redondo for the past week, says that fishing has never been so heavy as it is now. Mr. Francis has been on the wharves from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day this week and has brought to the dock something over a ton of fish, including halibut, flounder, speckled blue perch, yellowtail, barracuda, sculpin, bonita, mackerel, small fish of all varieties found here, and several sharks. It seems that the cloudy, murky weather is the best for fishing, and we have had plenty of it this week.—Los Angeles Herald, October 16, 1898

Redondo — Good Sport at Fishing

Redondo, June 22.—There have at numerous times been greater catches of fish than these of the past few days here, but it is seldom that their taking is accompanied by so much b genuine sport. The water during the past day or two has been as clear as crystal, and the breeze, although fresh, has not been sufficient to ripple the surface so as to prevent gazing into the depths. Myriads of sardines have hovered about the pilings and attracted the bigger denizens of the sea. Like jackrabbits, the sardines have no armor or weapons with which to protect themselves. Their only safety is in speed and in getting under cover.

The piling of the wharf, with its barnacled surfaces, offers a certain amount of safety if they hug it closely when seeking to escape the assaults of the large fish. The sardine schools present a constantly changing appearance, and the little fellows are ever apprehensive of danger. If an innocent-looking jellyfish happens to drift in among them they will keep at least twenty feet away from it.

Among the larger fish that have been running, plentifully are the gamey mackerel. The catches of this variety on Thursday broke the record. Many of them closely approached the four-pound mark. The hook-and-line people differ as to the “best” bait for mackerel, but some of the most successful advocate small fish cut in halves.

J.A. Woodley made some interesting hauls today with the spear, a kind of tackle that cannot usually be operated from the wharf with much success. Woodley caught two halibut by well-directed thrusts, driving his spear way to the bottom where the fish were lying in twenty feet of water, not far from shore. Later in the afternoon he saw a big sea bass. It was swimming at a great pace, but Woodley made a lucky throw and drove the point into the fish’s neck killing it instantly. It was a forty pounder, and was so heavy that it couldn’t be hauled up onto the wharf with the small line attached to the spear. It was towed ashore with some difficulty.—Los Angeles Times, June 24, 1899
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