The Oakland Long Wharf & Fishing (History)

Ken Jones

Staff member
A hundred years ago the Oakland Long Wharf was located approximately where today's Port View Park is located. The Long Wharf and adjacent Oakland Mole were commercial facilities built by the railroads to haul passengers and cargo. They were not built for fishing but, as at most wharves, allowed fishing if it did not interfere with the work and fishermen became a regular sight on most of the wharves. Here's a couple of the Oakland stories.

West Oakland—The murky mornings of the past few days, while disagreeable to humanity in general, have been hailed with delight by the anglers on the Long Wharf, and big catches of fish, such as smelt, rock-cod, tom-cod, etc., are reported by local fishermen. The waters about the bay in the neighborhood of the Wharf and Mole still swarm with small sharks, and to a great extent interfere with anglers. These young monsters of the deep bite at anything from a carpet tack to a railroad spike, and the fishermen’s angle and grub worm bait have no chance whatever. The young sharks, in several instances, are reported to have swallowed the hooks and then bit the line in two.

Oakland Evening Tribune, August 12, 1885

The Old Long Wharf — The Oakland Long Wharf as it was called, was an early institution on the western waterfront. It started from about where the Albers dock is now located at the foot of Seventh Street and ran out into the Bay until deep water was reached on a line with the present Key Route slips. To the old Long Wharf came all kinds of ships, but mainly sail driven craft. The wharf was a shipping point for sugar as well as other types of general cargo. The tall-masted ships, in or outbound to the ports of the South Seas would line in alongside the bulkheads and with whips rigged to their yardarms would sling the various shipments aboard or onto the dock.

The wharf was supposed to be forbidden territory to small boys and fishermen but many were the times when the youth of Oakland sneaked out there and dropped their lines overboard. The watchmen were tolerant as long as the fishermen did not get in the way of the dockworkers.

In those days sturgeon were plentiful in the Bay but they were hard for the average youngster to catch or land. Then one bright genius conceived the idea of attaching a stout cord, with hooks and bait, to a Standard Oil coal oil can. With this as a float the largest sturgeon found it impossible to sound and break the tackle after being hooked.

But amusing experiences sometimes took place when one of the big fish became so hooked. The Dogwatch remembers once how he and a couple of friends had gone after sturgeons and managed to hook a big one. This fish was a fighter and instead of being in after tiring itself out by battling the oilcan, it seemed to grow stronger. Then it took off down the face of the wharf towing the buoy with it. At the time the wharf was lined with a large number of grownup fishermen not at all interested in sturgeon. As the big fish and its can came tearing along there was a general tangling of lines many of which were whipped into the Bay and lost. During the ensuing snarl-up the Dogwatch and his companions laid down their lines and made a fast sneak away from the Long Wharf. If they hadn’t they would have been tossed into the Bay with their sturgeon by the irate fishermen on the dock.

—Frank Kester, Oakland Tribune, March 17, 1940
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Red Fish

Senior Member
Ken, this story makes enough sense. March 17 is a day after the now imposed sturgeon closure in the SF Bay is lifted. On a good year of rain and a bounty year of herring, there tends to be a few monsters around that vicinity as the herring spawn comes to a close.