Last modified: September 11, 2018

Fishing Piers Southern California

Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier — Long Beach

Mel Mclntyre, veteran fish tackle man at the pier, says there had not been a yellowtail caught at the pier for several years and that he doesn’t remember one that large ever having been caught there before.

—Long Beach Press-Telegram, June 13, 1948

<*}}}}}}}}}><   Some reports have too much information, some reports too little. In my humble opinion this story falls into the latter category.

A BATTLE with a monster jewfish off Belmont Pier occupied Lester Bobb, jeweler, for more than an hour. The fish, which weighed 415 pounds, was caught with a cane rod, reel and silk-linen line

—Long Beach Press-Telegram, June 15, 1929

<*}}}}}}}}}>< Bonito are one of the hardest fighting pier fish and a favorite on many pier rats. And sometimes they show up at the pier…

Bonito Greatest News for Piers

Schools are out and there is something worthwhile to cheer about in the fishing world: Pier fishing has never been better as a starter for the kids’ summer. Belmont Pier, the only one which Long Beach can claim for its own, has had a run of bonito that is nothing short of fantastic.

I got mixed into the Belmont Pier run this week while visiting Art and June Ascolesi, holders of the master lease on the pier. Business was so brisk at the bait and tackle shop that I found myself helping sell jigs, bait, tickets, etc., for a few minutes while June worked the bait tank and Art took care of some mechanical problem in the pumping system.

The pay? Just the joy of seeing happy fishermen running around from one spot to another, tossing jigs and live bait. Some caught bonito every few minutes while others, as always, found the going slow, simply because they did not have the right outfits and the knack of knowing what to do.

One angler, certainly a neophyte at most any kind of fishing, returned to the stand for his seventh jig; he said that he already had lost six. The answer was simple: He was not using the right kind of a knot to tie his monofilament to the hook.

Monofilament is a strange material and one of the first things you should do when using it is to get a booklet, available at most sporting goods stores, that shows how to tie knots. Such pictures usually included with packaged monofilament.

The bonito run is occurring elsewhere too, with offshore fishing boats loading up with larger fish than those being caught on the piers. Mrs. Geraldine Poitz, of Seal Beach Sportfishing Pier, also reported that the run was continuing at that pier and on the barge. Belmont Pier’s barge had similar reports.

Parents of youngsters who like the outdoors should be especially happy about pier fishing this year. There is absolutely nothing like a few flopping fish on the deck of a pier or of a barge to encourage more and more young fishermen to get into the act.

However, there is one factor in this month’s fishing that disturbs me, and it’s likely to annoy the Department of Fish and Game to the point of clamping down on anglers who are catching and sacking up dozens of pencil-size barracuda.

And when I say “pencil-size,” I mean just that. The fish are plentiful around the piers, along with the legal size bonito, but if the fish are not fatally hooked, they should be returned to the ocean.

There is a definite size limit on barracuda and I don’t care whether they are caught by anglers 5 years old or 95 years old, two undersized barracuda comprise the only small ones that can be taken in a full limit of 10 fish of that species.

—Donnell Culpepper, Long Beach Independent, June 21, 1968

Special Recommendation. Because of elevated levels of DDT and PCB, the Cal OEHHA recommends that no more than one meal of locally caught surfperch be consumed every two weeks.

History Note. Belmont Pier was built in 1968 alongside the older Grand Avenue Pier, a pier that was also called the Belmont Heights Pier by some, and the Devil’s Gate Pier by others (in reference to the geologic formation—a natural bridge, which in those days extended seaward from the low bluffs at 39th Place).

The Grand Avenue/Belmont Heights/Devil’s Gate Pier opened on Christmas Eve 1915 and was seen as a payback gift from the Long Beach municipality to the residents of the Belmont Heights section of town (an area that was mainly tidal flat and far from the center of action). Locals had earlier asked the city to fund a pier but been refused. In response, the residents formed a new city—the City of Belmont Heights—which meant Long Beach would lose the local taxes from the area. Long Beach leaders had a change of heart, agreed to build the pier, and the area rejoined Ling Beach.

The pier was 975-foot-long and had a maximum width of 112 feet in the middle and a minimum width of twenty-five feet. Ornamental lights illuminated the pier and in the middle were two pergolas. Newspapers reported that 3,000 to 4,000 people visited the pier the first two days it was open and that 500 to 600 automobiles drove out to the end on the smooth concrete surface.

Barge fishing was available by the mid-‘20s with the introduction of the James McKenna (1925 to postwar). The barge Rainbow (AKA Makaweli) joined the mix in 1935, and the Point Loma was operating from the pier in 1940. Several different sportfishing boats and barges operated from the pier over the years, although their use would be curtailed during World War II. Nevertheless, fishing barges returned soon after the war and by 1947 five operated from the pier: the Kilroy, New Rainbow, Fox, Hemlock and Bounty (AKA Martha Buehner). In 1951 the pier was renovated and given a 300-foot extension.

Long Beach…Barges, $1 per day, reached by boat from Belmont Pier at S. end of 39th Pl.; departures at 2-1/2 hr. intervals, 8-a.m.-3 p.m.; prices include bait and tackle. Surf and pier fishing.

—California, A Guide To the Golden State, Federal Writers Project, Works Progress Administration, 1939

1947 Newspaper Ads

DEEP SEA FISHING

Day Or Nite

On The Live Bait Barge

“FOX”

A 145 Footer with a 35 foot beam

A Good Spot To Spend An Enjoyable Day’s Outing,

Plus Good Fishing

Staterooms       •         Comfortable Lounge

Good Galley Service       *       Tackle Store

Rental Tackle Available

Shore Boats Leave Daily From

BELMONT PIER

Foot of 39th Pl., Long Beach, Caif.

For Schedule Tune in “Fishing Facts” Over KFOX Each Mon. at 8 P.M.

And Thurs at 9 P.M. or Call Long Beach 860-21

Largest Fishing Barge On The Coast

Deep Sea Fishing Barge

“HEMLOCK”

BELMONT PIER       *       LONG BEACH

Foot of 39th Pl.

Excellent Accommodations     *     Galley     *     Day and Night Fishing

Regular Boat Service Daily Between Barge and Pier

Call Long Beach 875-95 for Information

The “BOUNTY”

One of the Outstanding Fishing Barges

Located in Ideal Fishing Grounds a short run from

Belmont Pier, Long Beach, Calif.

Excellent Accommodations     •     Capacity 200 Passengers     •         Good

Galley     •     Lounge Room     •     Sun Deck     •     6 Staterooms         •     Tackle Store        •     Rental Tackle     •     Flood Lights for Night Fishing

 

Live Bait Boats also on Daily Schedule

BELMONT SPORT FISHING CO.

Belmont Pier, Foot Of 39th. Pl. Long Beach

Hdq. Belmont Tackle Store

Free Parking               Ph. Long Beach 876-17 or 864-61

Fish and Game Bulletin i#96 dated 1953 makes note of the fact that “The city has had, throughout the years, several pleasure piers for anglers. At Belmont Shore there is now a modern pier. In 1952 there were 22 party boats and 64 charter boats out of Long Beach. Five fishing barges were anchored offshore.”

By the 1960s the older pier was in poor condition and the decision was made to build a new pier. One week after the new pier opened, the demolition of the old pier began (and plans included placing part of the rubble from the older pier around the new pilings, thus acting as an artificial reef).

On Sunday, February 19, 1967, the new 1,450-foot-long Belmont Pier opened and the local newspaper’s headline read “Throngs Hail Opening of New Pier.” The story reported that free live bait was given out all day long and recorded the initial catches at the new pier. The first fish officially caught was by an eleven-year-old girl, Rosemary Rodriguez, who caught a sand bass. Brian Williams, a four-year-old angler was the youngest to catch a fish—a bullhead. The oldest was 82-year-old Albert Parbst who caught a perch. The largest fish of the day was a 2-pound, 8-ounce bonito caught by 16-year-old Maureen Younger.

Among the pier’s amenities in those days was a Sportfishing fleet that operated from the 336-foot, Y-crossing at the seaward end. The Queen of the Sea operated as a half-day boat and the Hurricane operated as a three-quarter day boat. For many years it was possible to catch The Islander which served as a water taxi to take anglers out to the 150-foot-long barge Annie B.

Many of the old-timers feel that the fishing has gone down since those days, a fact which they contribute to pollution of the bay’s water and to the change in the mix of the pier’s anglers. Many of the pier’s regulars today are Latino and Asian and many are subsistence fishermen fishing for food (even though the food may not be particularly safe to eat). Since most of the fish, regardless of size, are kept, the population of larger fish probably has decreased. However, those who have the know-how still catch fish, including some that are pretty decent size. Today’s mix of anglers also represents, I believe, a change in the focus of the pier. The pier has become a family pier where regulars and their families will be found most days, especially non-school days. Some may protest this mix but activity at the pier is actually mellower and certainly less destructive than that in the late ’70s and ’80s and a change, I believe, for the better.

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