Last modified: May 5, 2020

Fishing Piers Southern California

Pine Avenue Pier #1 — Long Beach — Gone But Not Forgotten

With the loss of the Magnolia Avenue Pier, a new pier in Long Beach was needed. In response, Long Beach would build the original Pine Avenue Pier, the first municipally owned pier on the Pacific Coast. The pier was also the first purchase made by the citizens of Long Beach and perhaps prevented citizens from disincorporating the city (since there was a huge argument over taxes and the lack of services which people felt should have been provided by the taxes). The pier seemed to unite the people and provide a reason for the city government to continue. The Long Beach Eye editorial proclaimed, “we are for the people and the people want a wharf,” and the $15,000 bond issue for the pier passed easily.

Long Beach — A Delightful Place Is Rapidly Progressing

There is no other place along the coast that is equal to Long Beach, both as a summer resort and a winter resort… Eight years ago there were but a few shanties where the town of Long Beach now stands… the town is an outgrowth of the boom.

Their latest piece of enterprise is the erection of a $15,000 pleasure pier and wharf. About six months ago the proposition of issuing bonds for this purpose was voted upon and carried. The first bids and specifications were rejected and others advertised for, with the final result that the contract was given to a San Francisco firm, who started the pile driving this week.

The wharf is to be situated at the foot of Pine Street, the principal business street of the city, and when completed will be equal to any other on the coast… the material is Oregon hemlock. The piles were all cut this year and have the bark on them, as per contract.

Over all length of the wharf will be 1650 feet. It is constructed on the L plan. The pier is 20 feet wide and will run from the bluff 1440 feet to the wharf proper, which is to be 210 feet long. The wharf widens to 60 feet, and is built towards the west, where the vessels will be moored. The only unprotected point in the bay is the southeast, from whence all the hard winds come… 

The piles are of as fine material as could be found. There are three piles in each pier bent. The piles are driven into the bottom from 10 to 12 feet. In putting them under the water before they are thoroughly seasoned they gradually become seasoned to the water, and when the sap leaves them they are hardened to the attacks of the water, and are not so susceptible to rot as are the piles that have been seasoned before they are driven. The bents will be about 20 feet apart on the shore, and will be formed of three piles, but beginning at the water line the bents will be 16 feet apart. In the wharf they will be 14 feet apart, with the piles 7 feet apart.

The pier will be surrounded by with a guardrail 4 feet high. The wharf will be surrounded by heavy timbers 10 inches high from the top of the floor. At each of the four corners there will be a heavy cluster of nine fender or mooring piles, and at both ends of each bent there will be three more piles, thus making the affair as strong as can be desired. In its entire length the wharf will drop four feet…

There will be 30 feet of water at the wharf at low tide, and the wharf level will be 24 feet above low water. The pier or approach to the wharf will be 20 feet above low water near the shore. About 100 yards beyond the end of the wharf the water is 35 feet deep at low tide. On the beach there will be about 85 feet of pier at high water.

The affair is to be constructed ostensibly for pleasure, and nothing will be spared to make it attractive to visitors. The fishing will be unsurpassed, and small boats for sailing, etc. will be kept at the wharf. A stairway four feet wide will be built where the wharf widens out from the pier, so that visitors can descend to the water and get into small boats.

Long Beach is situated in San Pedro bay. It is protected from the winds by the Sierra Madre and Whittier foothills on the north, on the south by Catalina Island, on the west by the Palos Verdes hills, and on the east by another chain of hills, and all chances for a Santa Ana wind are thus averted.

The prettiest natural feature of the place is its elegant beach, which runs unbroken from New River on the east to the San Gabriel River on the west, a distance of nearly six miles. The sand is as perfect a driveway as the hardest road. —Los Angeles Herald, November 21, 1892

            The pier in 1893

The 1,700-foot-long pier (distance usually given) opened on May 27, 1893, with a celebration that included a barbecue, speeches, and the running of a special midnight tourist train by the Southern Pacific Railroad. Several thousand people visited that first day including many anglers (whose catch was not recorded). The Los Angeles Times reported the event the next day, “Long Beach Wharf—The Only Wharf Free From Taint of Monopoly” (which reflected the fights and the political dirty deeds common among the railroads and politicians during those days). Evidently the only disappointment was the failure of the steamer Rosalie to provide free hourly excursions (because of an accident).            

The new pier drew a considerable number of tourists as it provided a home for vendors and entertainment such as a merry-go-round. Buildings eventually sprung up around the pier including a beautiful pavilion that was built at the foot of the pier in 1897. The pavilion was designed for concerts and nightly dances (although dances were limited to Tuesday and Saturday nights after local ministers complained that public money was being used for purposes which they considered morally offensive). Another attraction was the “Spit and Argue Club” which took place down near the shore end of the pier. Anyone could express his views on any subject, crowds were almost always present, and educated and uneducated debate ruled the day. People would bring their source books—including encyclopedias and the Bible—and soon the gathering acquired another name—the “University By The Sea.”

As predicted, the fishing from the pier/wharf was generally good:

The new wharf is the popular fishing resort. All sorts of the finny tribe are daily landed on it. Mr. Pickles caught a handsome young jewfish there, which is a novelty in the shore waters. —Los Angeles Times, July 1, 1893

Mackerel continues to constitute the chief catch from the wharf, whose sides fairly bristle with poles “from early morn till dewy eve.” The expert mackerel catcher lines four to six feet of his line with hooks, and practically casts three to six lines at a time. And the utility of this style of fishing has been illustrated within a day or two by a catch of no less than four good-sized fish at one time. When a school of fish are biting freely two at a time are common, three at once occasional, but four or more is rare. On Wednesday W. S. Snell, one of the regulars among line casters, introduced a new order of angling, which suddenly became very popular. He attached a can-buoy to his line and cast it much further out than the poles can reach. A fat basket rewarded the innovation, and now buoy-baiting is entirely the proper thing. An empty beer bottle, well corked, answers the purpose of a float as well as anything yet devised. —Los Angeles Times, July 15, 1893

Long Beach, July 5.—There were great crowds at the beach yesterday, and very happily did they pass the day. The new wharf was a leading attraction and was crowded all day long. —Los Angels Herald, July 6, 1894

Yellowtails are running by the thousands outside the new wharf. All fishing parties come back with immense catches. —Los Angeles Herald, July 8, 1894

Mr. Al Decker caught a 50-pound yellowtail off of the southeastern end of the new [Long Beach] wharf. —Los Angeles Herald, July 9, 1894

Fish and the Fishers

Long Beach, Aug. 15.—The wharf is lined every day with men, women and children fishing, and, as fish are very plentiful, there is much fun and excitement for the fishers. Fine, large yellowtail, halibut, rockcod, mackerel, surf fish, bonita, smelt, herring and an occasional barracuda are among the fish that are caught from the pier, while there is no limit to the variety caught by those who go out a few miles on the bay in boats.            

The water around the pier was alive with sardines Thursday morning, and the California Fishing Company’s boat Alpha made an immense haul when she dropped her net about 800 feet from shore.            

Night fishing has its attractions, also, the long pier being well lighted by electric lights. This long pier is in much demand in the evening as a promenade. —Los Angeles Herald, August 16, 1896

Myriads of the toothsome sardines are being taken close to the wharf, at Long Beach. Big fish are driving them in, and Mr. D. W. Fletcher this week landed a 52 ½-pound yellowtail from the wharf. —Los Angeles Herald, September 19, 1896

Long Beach, Jan.23.—Since the late heavy rains the ocean in the vicinity of the wharf has become roiled, and the larger fish, such as rock bass, bonita, halibut, yellowtail, etc., have gone out from shore a short distance, where at a distance of a half mile they are as plentiful as fleas on the back of a Santa Monica dog. The smaller varieties, such as smelt, sardines, mackerel, croakers and surf fish, are, however, still with us and furnish sufficient sport for our men and women anglers, who taken the keenest delight in the fascination, prompted by the desire to excel in making the biggest catch of these toothsome beauties. —Los Angeles Herald, January 24, 1897

Fish and Fishermen Plenty

Long Beach, Jan. 30.—The water in the vicinity of the wharf is again clear and the large deep water fish have returned and are being caught in great numbers with hook and line, as before the late heavy rains. Shoals and schools of sardines hover around the wharf and the pelicans, sea gulls and other water fowl gobble up all their fill they want to eat by swooping down amongst them as they in terror rise to the surface in their efforts to escape from the big fish—porpoises, yellowtail, bonita and such like which pool their issues by forming a cordon and closing in around them, drive them into shallow water near shore, where the poor little sardines fall victim to either the birds or big fish—just as easily as do the great body of consumers to the monopolies, trusts and protected industries.            

The bay is teeming with fish—large, fat and juicy fish—the sardines in the inner harbor of Wilmington being so large and fat as to be unfit for canning, ranging from a half pound to two or more pounds in weight. The larger ones, while too large to can, are an excellent table fish, and will, some time, when their edible qualities are better known, be rated among the choicest and daintiest of our food fishes.            

A great many strangers who have read in the Herald about the fine fishing and other attractions of the beach come down during the week and enjoyed themselves immensely. Monday a huge yellowtail gulped down a sardine that was on the hook for bait, the pole having been carelessly stuck between the stringer and the floor of the wharf, and got away with the whole outfit, the long pole disappearing under the water like a flash and not being seen again. Live sardines in the bait generally used in fishing for yellowtail, sea bass, rock bass, bonita, and all the larger varieties of fish, and the anglers often have their bait stolen by the pelicans and hell divers which are sometimes hauled up by the anglers on the end of the line.

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