The Golden Age of California Pier Fishing — The Hotel del Coronado Pier, 1890s

Ken Jones

Staff member
Hotel del Coronado Pier Fishing


While some hotel waiters were fishing for mackerel at the Coronado pier their lines became entangled about the tail of a five-foot shark. The fish was pulled ashore.—Santa Cruz Sentinel, December 5, 1891​

California Jewfish — Something About the Sea Bass in San Diego Bay — Huge Monsters Weighing from One Hundred to Six Hundred Pounds—To Land One of These Means Considerable Hard Work

This land-locked bay of San Diego and the kelp bed at the harbor mouth is a favorite home for the black sea bass, or Jewfish, as it is commonly called. Catching these fish is excellent sport. They weigh from 100 to 600 pounds, and in appearance are much like the small-mouthed black bass of eastern lakes...

The accompanying picture shows a jewfish weighing 356 pounds. This fish owed its death to the lack of nerve. The lucky angler was fishing off the Coronado pier for small fish with a line about as heavy as a Fire Island bluefish line. The jewfish was hooked, and if it had persisted in swimming seaward it would have broken the line like a thread. But it didn't. After playing it for an hour or so the angler, who proved himself to be very skillful, landed the monster. It was over six feet long, and a truck was needed to carry it. The fish are edible, and find a ready sale in the local markets.—Lebanon Daily News, June 15, 1894

1905_Hotel.Del.Coronado_BSB_1 copy.jpg

A picture from 1895.
The Hotel del Coronado pier will soon be known as the “fisherman’s heaven.” An unprecedented catch of yellowtail has been in progress throughout the entire week.—San Francisco Call, September 13, 1896

An Exciting Day’s Fishing

Hotel Del Coronado, July 17.—Saturday will be remembered as a very exciting day among the fishermen… Gen. Webb’s big fight with a shark at the pier was the star attraction. Gen. Webb went to the pier to get a shark or a jewfish. He had a line somewhat smaller but fully as strong as a clothesline, and a hook calculated to land a leviathan if he swallowed it. Along came a big shark and swallowed the live bait, hook and all. There was a slight pause, and then a thrashing, tumbling, tearing, ripping and hustling through the water. The old shark was ugly as sin and mad as Satan. He ripped along the surface and dove into the depths. He leaped out once or twice, his wicked eyes flashing fire. Gen. Webb did not pretend to play the big fellow, but tied the line to the wharf and let him fight against fate. Finally Gen. Webb and four other men got in their work with drag hooks, fastened in the shark’s back and belly, and hauled him upon the pier. The ugly fellow weighed 225 pounds and was six feet long. Gen. Webb cut away the backbone, from which to make a cane, and dumped the carcass into the sea. The shark was of the dogfish variety—a harmless fish, but a homely kind.—Los Angeles Times, July 18, 1898

Transplanting of Mussels

Hotel Del Coronado, July 19.—Commodore Frank Greenhall, Capt. Dunne and “Chappie” Betts made a trip to Point of Rocks, Mex., last Sunday and returned yesterday. They went down for pleasure, but found so many mussels, and such huge ones, that the brought back two big sacks full to be transplanted upon the rocks of Coronado Pier. In most instances mussel transplanting is not a dazzling success, but it is believed it will work in this case, as the job was done skillfully and the distance from Point of Rocks to the pier is only fifteen miles.

Though the monster rock dumped into the sea to form a breakwater at the pier has been in place only a short time, seaweed and moss has already accumulated upon it, making the spot an ideal one for fish. With mussels also upon the long line of rocks, it will be a very attractive place for fishermen and those who love a mussel roast...

The catch at the pier is hard to be counted because fishermen are proverbially modest as to their own prowess. Catches of pompano are made hourly, of which no count is kept. Kingfish and perch are caught by the score, even by little children. All the small fish are purchased by the hotel… The hotel uses the fish for the table and for its aquarium.—Los Angeles Times, July 20, 1898

Albacore Beginning To Run

Hotel Del Coronado, July 23.—Fishermen are jubilant over the fact that albacore, the gamiest fish in the ocean, are beginning to run in the waters off the hotel… the biggest catch yesterday was a 35-pound albacore… On the pier, a lot of pompano were caught… Kingfish were caught by the score… One man on the pier hauled up two lobsters on little pompano hooks. Capt. Dunne sets traps for lobsters, and rarely fails to catch forty or fifty pounds daily. The lobsters seem to be swarming on the bottom of the sea off the pier.—Los Angeles Times, July 24, 1898

Big Catch Of Fish

A young man returned to San Diego after a day’s fishing at the Coronado ocean pier. Everybody on the ferry looked at him. He carried over one shoulder a beautiful fish five feet long, weighing sixty-five pounds. It was a silver salmon [probable white seabass] he had caught at the pier and hauled in through the surf. In his other hand he had a string of croakers, numbering about thirty. He carried enough fish to last him a month.

The big silver salmon was lying in wait in the shadow of the rocks of the pier. When the live bait came along he darted out for it like a pike or a pickerel. The hook was none too large, nor the line too strong. The young man, when he discovered what a prize he had, was very much afraid he would break the line, and therefore played the big fish very cautiously. It was seen that it would be impossible to raise him to the gaff without danger of parting the line, so he gradually worked along the pier toward shore. Then, getting off the pier on the beach, he waited for an extra-big wave to come, upon which to land the fish.

When it came he gave an easy, steady pull, which carried the salmon along on the crest of the wave to within twenty feet of shore. Then the young fellow waded in and grabbed the big fish and wrestled with it till he hauled it in. The sight was witnessed by many people, who became greatly excited over the maneuvers of capture.

Twelve small pompano were caught by a man on the pier in fifteen minutes last evening at dusk. Capt. Dunne caught forty small silver salmon in the morning. The growth of seaweed and kelp on the rocks under the pier makes it an ideal place for silver salmon and sea trout. Among a hundred or more fishermen who visited the pier during the day the total results were as follows: Pompano, 40; kingfish, 230; Halibut, 8; silver salmon, 53; flounders, 35; croakers, 90; total 456.—Los Angeles Times, July 26, 1898

Coronado Beach

Hotel Del Coronado, Aug. 1.—Fishermen were out bright and early this morning on the ocean and at the pier… On the pier one man, fishing for smelt with a No. 9 hook, the smallest made, was astounded by hooking an eighteen-pound halibut. What is more, by skillful playing he landed the fish. The crowd was intensely interested in the struggle, and cheered the victor.

The end of the pier is a very comfortable place, with its awning, fresh breeze, good seats and cold drinking water. It is as comfortable as could be found anywhere.—Los Angeles Times, August 2, 1898

Coronado Beach

Hotel Del Coronado, Aug. 24.—Sportsmen never tire of fishing off this hotel, as the conditions are so good that there is a keen zest in the sport. The weather is so cool and fresh that the hot, wilting days of the East are forgotten. Then the fish bite ravenously and fight like demons… When such sport as this is offered it is no wonder that sportsmen who come here to spend a week have lingered for the whole summer… On the pier the catch was but 350, including all varieties. Eastern mackerel and small sea trout, the finest eating, are quite numerous now. Silver salmon are constantly increasing in numbers and size as the kelp and seaweed at the pier grows and furnishes the fish a home.—Los Angeles Times, August 25, 1898

Besides this remarkable deep-sea fishing, there was excitement on the ocean pier, where big yellowtail condescended to be caught. During the day twenty-four of these fish were caught ranging in weight from fifteen to thirty pounds. The catch was photographed later. In addition to this, many Spanish mackerel were caught, and hundreds more could be seen swimming around in the clear water. Small fry to the number of 450 were caught at the pier.—Los Angeles Times, August 31, 1898

Big Yellowtail Caught at the Pier

Hotel Del Coronado, Aug. 31.—Joe Larnel caught a string of yellowtail at the pier yesterday afternoon that filled three gunnysacks and weighed about 250 pounds. The biggest fish in the lot was a yellowtail about four feet long and weighing thirty pounds. Hoe had only a little line, and it was by consummate art that he landed his fish. In his string were yellowtail, Spanish mackerel and bonita, or black mackerel.

All day the pier was crowded with fishermen at the sea end and all of them were rewarded with a t least a few fish. Some of the ladies fishing with little hooks for pompano were surprised when they hooked big bonita or yellowtail, and some of the yellowtail fishermen were objects of good-natured scorn when they wasted their efforts hauling in little kingfish on their big lines. The days catch reached 500 at the pier.—Los Angeles Times, September 1, 1898

Yellowtail Drive Herring Upon the Beach—Great Sport

Hotel Del Coronado, Sep. 1.—A big school of yellowtail made things lively on the beach yesterday. They ran racing and chasing a vast school of herring in the vicinity of the pier, and made things so lively for the herring that the little fellows dashed wildly about and even leaped out of the water upon the sands to escape their pursuers.

The gulls soon got wind of the sport and flocked along the shore, gobbling up herring by the dozen. Nursemaids with their charges became excited and picked up the wiggling little fish before they could slide back into the water.

The big yellowtail, surging here and there, made the water boil and foam about the pier. Several people who were luckily provided with weapons got a number of the big fish. One young man with a gaff stood ten feet from shore and by suddenly drawing the gaff from the water actually caught three yellowtail weighing an average of twenty pounds each.

The yellowtail, after they had scared the herring away, remained to eat the bait offered them by anglers along the pier. Everybody who cared to caught a yellowtail. The prize fisherman was little Warren Hastings, who drew out a twenty pound yellowtail almost as long as himself.

There is a big shark—a shovelnose—that lurks around the outskirts of the fish, licking his chops like a hungry dog waiting for a bone. When there is an opening in the ranks this shark lunges up and grabs the angler’s hook, bait and line, snaps the line like a thread and feasts off the bait. He swallows the hooks with apparent relish. Gen. Webb heard of this big shark and tried to get him yesterday, without success. The shark is not good for anything, but he would make a pretty fight.—Los Angeles Times, September 2, 1898

All Kinds of Fish Caught at the Ocean Pier

Hotel Del Coronado, Sept.2.—The increased number of fishermen at the ocean pier seems to bring about an increase in the variety and number of fish caught. Yesterday several new kinds were caught, including a sixty-pound sea trout [white seabass] and three big sharks, measuring about seven feet in length. Gen. W. E. Webb, who had gone out the day before to catch a marauding shark that had snapped up the lines, was in luck yesterday and hauled in the ugly fellow. A little later, while trying to get another shark, Gen. Webb hooked the big sea trout and had a pretty tussle landing him. The trout reeled out 350 feet of line in the first rush and it was over half an hour before Gen. Webb brought him to gaff.

Palmer Weeks, aged 4, of New York City, was another of the pier’s heroes. He was supplied with a line containing three little hooks. The line had hardly touched the water before two fish were hooked. He caught three more and had them cooked for his breakfast, after which he trudged off to the kindergarten with the air of a Napoleon.

Another lad, son of Mrs. Moore of San Francisco, caught a lot of fish and sent them on ice to his father. The other lucky lad, Warren Hastings, had himself photographed alongside the big yellowtail he caught, which was about his own size.

The total catch on the ocean and at the pier was as follows: Barracuda 320; mackerel; 140; yellowtail 87; halibut 9; rock cod 160; codfish 27; bass 26; sea trout 1; shark 3. The sharks were all of the dogfish variety.—Los Angeles Times, September 3, 1898

Good Luck on the Pier

Hotel Del Coronado. Sept. 12.—There was a number of anglers from San Diego yesterday who had excellent sport on the pier. One man went home on his wheel with a big yellowtail over his shoulder, almost as long as himself. The run of pompano, kingfish and croaker was very good... The yellowtail caught at the pier did not exceed five, but all were good sized, the largest weighing twenty-eight pounds.—Los Angeles Times, September 13, 1898

Three Big Sharks Caught at the Pier

Hotel Del Coronadeo, Sept. 13.—Three sharks, the longest seven feet and the shortest five, were caught at the ocean pier yesterday near the hotel yesterday afternoon by fishermen from San Diego. Chris Richert, the pompano king, caught the first one. Richert was out after pompano, but saw a big sand shark nosing about, and hastily got a big line and went after him. The shark was enticed buy a toothsome piece of croaker. The next moment there was a thrashing and flopping that would have done credit to a whale. Richert took a turn around a post on the pier and played the shark for all he was worth. The big fish fought half an hour and then gave up and was hauled in with a drag hook. He was seven feet in length.

Soon afterward, Gen. Webb, who was fishing for yellowtail, got a bite, and by diplomatic handling of the line got the fish to jump out of the water to see what kind of a varmint it was. Seeing it was a shark, Gen. Webb played it fast and loose, and wore it out in fifteen minutes. It measured six feet and four inches.

Later a stranger caught a five-foot shark on a small hook and thin line. By judicious playing he drew the ugly thing to the platform and dispatched it. The backbones were cut and carried away to make canes.—Los Angeles Times, September 14, 1898

Coronado Beach

Hotel Del Coronado, Sept. 20.—There were all kinds of fish in yesterday’s catch off the hotel. The pier fishermen hauled in eastern mackerel, pompano and kingfish, as well as perch, wall-eyed perch and yellowtail.—Los Angeles Times, September 21, 1898

A Jewfish Weighing One Hundred and Sixty Pounds Caught

Hotel Del Coronado, Nov. 10.—The prize catch off the ocean pier near the hotel was made yesterday by a San Diego fisherman. The line was off the extreme end of the pier. It was attached to a strong post and baited with a live croaker. The line had been in the water about ten minutes, when it snapped tight with a terrific spurt, and zipped down on a tangent toward North Island. The big fish was securely hooked, having gone at the bait and swallowed it hook and all. All the other fishermen stopped fishing and watched the fish’s frantic efforts to escape.

The man owning the line took an extra turn with it on the end of the pier, and thought he would try to handle a little of the slack so as to play the fish, but with the first rush he gave this idea up, for the fish almost jerked him off the pier. Finally, after giving a magnificent exhibition of strength and endurance, the fish was exhausted and hauled to the pier, where, by the aid of two strong hooks he was held until a man could row around in a skiff and get him. He weighed just 160 pounds, and was in prime condition.—Los Angeles Times, November 11, 1898

Coronado Brevities

A yellowtail weighing twenty-three pounds was the biggest catch at the pier yesterday.—Los Angeles Times, November 15, 1898

Fight With a Jewfish

Hotel Del Coronado, Nov. 23.—Jim Middleton was over again yesterday, catching fish off the pier near the hotel. He has caught six jewfish there during the past two weeks, ranging from seventy-five to 160 pounds each. Just after noon yesterday he got a strike on his slim line that threatened to break it. A jewfish weighing 150 pounds had hold of the bait. It was only by the most skillful management of his game that Middleton saved the hook and the line. He paid out 600 feet of line, on the first grand rush. He kept a steady touch on the big fish, but made no attempt to haul him in, for an hour and a half. All the time the fish fought making frequent attempts to get around the pier and break off the line in the piling. This caused Middleton no end of trouble, but he managed to keep the line free. After ninety minutes of work, the fish gave signs of exhaustion, and Middleton brought him to the pier, where he was hooked and hauled up. —Los Angeles Times, November 24, 1898

Monster Skate Caught at the Pier

Hotel Del Coronado, Dec. 18.—Harry de Carli, a young man living in San Diego was the hero of the pier fishermen yesterday this morning. He felt a dull, heavy tug at his line, a twenty-one-thread line baited with a live smelt. Trying the catch he found he could not raise the fish from the bottom, but he played his game with considerable skill, and finally raised it to the surface, when a monster skate, five feet long, and almost as broad, appeared struggling with vicious energy to get away.

It drew out 150 feet of line, and thrashed about for half an hour. But it had swallowed bait and hook, and was too securely fastened to get away. One of the young men got a grapple hook into the skate’s nose and thus it was hauled around to the landing where the combined efforts of three men landed it. The big skate must have weighed over 150 pounds. Its flippers were cut off for bait. It was the ugliest and at the same time most interesting catch mad eon the pier for some time.

Catches of blue smelt, mackerel, perch, flounder and corbina were made at the pier today.—Los Angeles Times, December 19, 1898


Coronado Brevities

On Saturday the [pier] fishermen included Maj. A. B. Taylor, U.S.A., W. M. Vann Anden of New York, C. A. Kidder of Boston and Hon. Charles S. Randall of New Bedford, Mass. They got 137 kingfish and croakers, two yellowtail, a shovelnose shark, a forty-five pound skate and an eleven-pound halibut.—Los Angeles Times, January 3, 1899

Coronado Watch

Hotel Del Coronado, May 12.—A jewfish, such as was caught yesterday, is no small fish, let it be known. One hundred and forty-five pounds is way up, be it fish or fowl. The barracuda, true to the racial pride that seems urging them on, are still leaders in the cake walk. Several hundred were landed yesterday.—Los Angeles Times, May 13, 1899

Coronado Beach

F. B. Rabbeth is one of the anglers who fishes from the pier, and yesterday morning he landed, after a half-hour’s battle, a jewfish weighing seventy-four pounds.—Los Angeles Times, June 9, 1899

Coronado Beach

Hotel Del Coronado, Sept. 19—Fishing off the pier has been excellent for the past day or two and this morning the line of fishers on the pier were kept busy pulling in the kingfish, yellowfin and mackerel which took their bait almost as soon as it was dropped in. Several large halibut were also caught.—Los Angeles Times, September 20, 1899

Coronado Beach

Hotel Del Coronado, Sept. 21.—Yesterday an angler from San Diego caught, besides an unusually good string of small fish, a forty-pound yellowtail. Desirous of keeping his catch fresh he had them suspended from the pier into the water by a line. Just before he started home he happened to look down and saw an immense shark come up, snap the line and make off with the whole catch.—Los Angeles Times, September 22, 1899

Coronado Beach

Hotel Del Coronado, Oct. 11.—Pier fishing yesterday was the finest for several months past. The storm at sea evidently stirred up the finny tribe to action. Those fishing estimate that there were at least two thousand fish landed on the pier Tuesday. Beach residents carried them away in quantities. There were fish for the pet seals and sea birds too, and then a great number remained on the pier. Among the varieties caught were pompano, perch, young mackerel, croaker and smelt.—Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1899