Last modified: September 4, 2019

Fishing Piers San Francisco Bay Area

Red Rock Marina Pier — Richmond — Gone But Not Forgotten

The marina and pier were located just left of the bridge in this picture. Piers can be seen poking out from the shoreline.

One of the most interesting components of the pier building process in California has been the utilization of previously built structures. This started with the first Wildlife Conservation Board pier at Berkeley and continued for many years (although it now seems to have stopped). This was especially true in the San Francisco Bay Area where several piers were built or refurbished when new bridges were built. Although the Red Rock Marina Pier was not a state project, it resulted as a consequence of a new bridge, in this case, the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge, the world’s longest continuous steel bridge (5.45 miles, 29,045 feet—including four miles over the bay’s waters).

Prior to the bridge’s construction in the mid-1950s, the San Rafael-Richmond Ferry Terminal was located at this Point Castro site. With the opening of the bridge in September of 1956, the ferry landing was no longer needed. Instead, the area was turned into the Red Rock Marina and Fishing Resort (named for Red Rock Island which rises up just south of the bridge).     

A fishing resort seemed logical since the Brother Islands sit nearby along with some of the best striped bass fishing areas in this part of the bay. But not everyone owned a boat! One part of the ferry wharf was opened to fishing for a small fee (50 cents in the 1970s) and in its new life as fishing pier became a favorite spot for a dedicated coterie of local anglers.

That group included myself. I lived in the nearby community of Pinole and after my initial visit in July of 1970 it became a favorite spot to go fishing. It would remain a favored spot until I moved north in 1979. 

When open this was, in my opinion, one of the better fishing piers in the Bay Area. Facilities were limited, restrooms and a small tackle store (for a while), but the fishing was good and that’s what counted. The numerous pilings (and old barges which were sunk close to the wharf) seemed to provide an empyreal environment for local species.

In fact, it may have been one of the best piers in the state for pileperch, at least for a few months each year. Since pileperch are one of the hardest types of perch to catch, and since they are among the largest in average size, this pier became one of my must fish spots during mid-to-late winter when the perch would school around the pilings.

Luckily, the rest of the year wasn’t too bad either and would see a nice mix of fish. Nearly all of the perch species showed up, especially blackperch and a few rubberlip perch (along with many dwarfperch). Surprisingly I never saw a shinerperch at the pier.

Added to the mix would be the small brown rockfish, a few kingfish (white croaker), flatfish—primarily starry flounder during the winter, striped bass (which were much more numerous in those days), and miscellaneous species such as grass and bocaccio rockfish, small lingcod, and a variety of  sculpins including cabezon. Sharks and bat rays were always a possibility. 

Unfortunately, by the late 1970s most of the wharf was being used for commercial fishing boats (especially herring boats in the winter) and by the mid-‘80s the pier was declared off limits to fishermen. Today the entire wharf area is restricted and a screened gate makes sure that no one has serious thoughts of violating those rules.  

Nevertheless, the Castro Point area, together with Point Molate and Point San Pablo, both just up the road from Castro Point, are areas rich in history and are the settings for visits by anglers and non-anglers alike.

Point Molate Beach Park sits on the location of a former Chinese fishing village and contains flatbed trains on which the children can play. The Victorian lighthouse on East Brother Island (circa. 1874) has been turned into the “East Brother Light Station Dinner, Bed & Breakfast” with interesting albeit expensive (around $400) rooms. The lighthouse or light station remains in use.  (And, by the way, the narrow channel and reef, which runs between the islands, used to be considered one of the best striped bass spots in San Pablo Bay).

Further up the road are the Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor and its fleet of private and Sportfishing boats. The last whaling station in the United States was located just west of the harbor until 1971 when commercial whaling was banned in the United States. Today the station is a burned out hulk of a building.

As for Red Rock Island itself—it’s the only privately owned island in San Francisco Bay and a site that serves as a convergent site for three counties (San Francisco, Marin and Contra Costa), two cities (San Francisco and Richmond), and two bays (San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay). Last time we looked it was for sale but buyer beware, there’s not much on the nearly six-acre island excepting a few trees, some naked ladies (actually Amaryllis belladonna plants), some bats, and some sea birds (mainly sea gulls). But, you do get a great view of the bay. Perhaps if you have an extra $5 million dollars lying around you can have your own island—and build your own pier. The reddish color of the rocky island comes from manganese, an oxidizing metal (and mining for manganese took place in the early 1900s).

SOME EARLY PLANS

Marinites To Open Marina In Richmond

A 20-acre, half-million dollar marina will be opened Saturday at the site of the eastern terminal of the old Richmond-San Rafael Ferry. The new boating and yachting center will be called the Red Rock Marina, and is designed to provide the newest and most modern marine facility in the Bay Area.

Directing the operations of Red Rock will be E. N. Kettenhofen, operator of historic Chambers Lodge at Lake Tahoe, Marin County investor and former merchant marine captain; Hector Rubini, well-known Marin County restaurateur and currently owner of San Rafael Joe’s and Angelo Carmilleri, Marin County fishing expert and sporting goods dealer. When the marina opens two boat launching ramps and approximately 50 boat births will be available to sailors and power boat enthusiasts. A coffee shop will also be opened.

Future plans call for two additional boat launching ramps, more than 300 boat births, a deluxe $250,000 restaurant and bar, and extensive facilities for sport fishing. In addition the marina will also offer a boat and tackle store, boat service, repair and supplies, and a yacht brokerage.

Kettenhofen will be president of the new corporation, Rubini will be vice president and treasurer, and Carmilleri will be vice president and secretary. The Red Rock Marina is located on land obtained from the state on a long-term lease and is considered by fishermen to be located in the venter of the best striped bass fishing in the Bay Area.

“We are also planning to build a protective breakwater to provide a sheltered boat harbor before this coming winter,” Kettenhofen said. “Because of Red Rock Marina’s proximity to the bay and to deep water, we believe it is ideal for water skiing, sail boating and power cruising,” he added. “The northeast section of the bay has needed a complete marine facility for a long time,” Kettenhofen said. “I’ve owned boats all my life, and I guess our interest in boating was one of the major reasons why Hector, Angelo and I started to develop the Red Rock Marina.” Entrance to the marina will be immediately east of the approach to the toll plaza of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Daily Independent Journal, San Rafael, August 18, 1960

Big Plans For Bay Marina

Preliminary dredging operations are underway to change the little Red Rock Marina, on the site of the old ferry terminal at Point Richmond, into a swank new boating center with berthing facilities for 255 sail and power boats of various sizes.

         The existing 55-birth harbor, adjoining the old Richmond-San Rafael ferry pier, will be engulfed by the addition of 300 yacht slips in the protected cove immediately north. Developer for the project is Dick Naylor of Greenbrae, Naylor acquired the property early last year.

After  dredging to a minimum depth of six feet at low water, establishment of an anchored barge breakwater and pile driving for finger piers are slated for early February. Work will also begin next month on ten covered berths in the present harbor for power boats in the 35-40 foot range. They will be the first roofed-over slips for rent on the San Francisco Bay.

Marina Complex — Remodernization of the existing facilities and construction of a complete marina complex is planned for late 1965 by Naylor. He will install the new berthing in two phases. The first 100 slips are scheduled for mid-April, with the work then starting on the second 100.

Naylor, a native of Sacramento, planned the expansion project soon after he opened the initial 55-birth installation last October. For the previous   five years he had operated another harbor in the inner Richmond Channel. Existing facilities at Red Rock Marina, which will be either replaced or improved, include a two-lane launching ramp, fuel dock with both gasoline and diesel oil, snack bar and bait and tackle shop. —Daily Independent Journal, San Rafael, January 19, 1965

Hector [Rubini) is all wrapped up in promoting his Red Rock Marina project in Richmond on the old ferry pier. Fishing is good, he says, and plans are being drawn for 1,000 berths, ready sometime next year.—Daily Independent Journal, San Rafael, December 16, 1960

An interesting story concerned two aircraft carriers moored at the marina and to be honest I do not remember them.

Mothballed carriers break lose, aground on sand bar

Richmond (UPI) — Two World War II vintage aircraft carriers mothballed at a marina broke from their moorings Sunday and ran aground on a sand bar 200 feet from the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. It had been feared for a time that the drifting carriers might damage the foundation towers of the bridge spanning the northern section of San Francisco Bay. Four tugboats managed to get lines aboard the carriers and were awaiting a favorable high tide to try to pull the ships back to the Red Rock Marina located about one mile north of the bridge. “Everything is under control and there is no danger of the carriers hitting the bridge,” said a spokesman for the marina. The spokesman said mooring lines from the carriers to a dock apparently were severed during turbulent high seas caused by heavy winds that buffeted the area. The carriers ran aground just short of the bridge. The carriers were mothballed at the Red Rock Marina and were being dismantled. —Long Beach Independent, January 1, 1973 

The two carriers by the way were the Rabaul and the USS Badoeng and they were seen toward the end of the Dirty Harry movie when Clint Eastwood took on two vigilante motorcycle cops aboard the ships.

FISH REPORTS

There’s a bit of action at Red Rock Marina Pier. “The regulars have been landing a few small bass, perch, rockfish and flounder. They’re getting them at the top of the tide and the first part of the run-out,” says Dan Owyang. —Andy Morgensen, Oakland Tribune, San Rafael, March 17, 1970

Dan Owyang gives us word on action at Red Rock Pier. “Perch fishing ia good. My dad and brother have been bringing in 25 to 30 pounds on nearly every outing. The bite is best here at the top and turn of the tide,” he says. —Andy Morgensen, Oakland Tribune, San Rafael, December 29, 1970

Dan Owyang gives us the word on action at Red Rock Marina. “Perch fishing is picking up after the storm. The few fishermen out are bringing in some nice fish in the 1 ½ to two-pound class. A few flounder are also showing,” he said. —Andy Morgensen, Oakland Tribune, San Rafael, December 29, 1971

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