Public Pier — No Fishing License Required
CURRENTLY CLOSED FROM WINTER STORM DAMAGE AND NO OPENING DATE ESTABLISHED.
There is something almost magical about the ocean at night. For myself, that sense of magic is heightened when I’m on a pier at night. Such was the case one evening in Ventura. Just two hours previously I had been at Port Hueneme, the wind was howling, and I was shivering. In fact, I was downright cold. But now the wind had disappeared and it was the kind of night that attracts visitors to southern California. A huge orange ball seemed to sink into the Pacific and, as the lights gained control, schools of fish could be seen slashing their way through the phosphorescent water. It was July of 1994, and it was my first visit to the new, actually reconstructed, 1,958-foot-long Ventura Pier, a pier that had seen off-and-on damage and repair since the terrible El Niño storms of 1983.
I caught a lot of fish that night and saw a lot of fish caught. Mackerel, queenfish, white croaker, bass, perch, thornbacks, gray sharks and bat ray; all were caught that night. But the fishing was almost secondary in importance. More important, at least to me, were the scenes of a young father teaching his young son how to fish, an elderly lady of Asian descent sharing stories of her youth with her granddaughter (or perhaps great granddaughter), and teenagers evidently out on a date at the pier. Nights, and scenes like those, sometimes give me hope that we may still yet find answers to our society’s problems (opportunities).
Environment and Fish. The pier sits on the same spot and beach as the original Ventura Wharf, a pier dating back to 1872. That original wharf was a private wharf sitting on private land but since 1949 the pier has belonged to the state. Today, the sandy-shore beach and pier are part of the San Buenaventura State Beach.
Most of the bottom around the pier is sand, pilings have a good growth of mussels, and at times, usually late summer to fall, there can be considerable kelp and seaweed toward the end of the pier. As expected, sand-frequenting species dominate the action.
Inshore, in the intertidal or littoral zone, barred surfperch are the number one fish followed by lesser numbers of croakers (primarily yellowfins), sharks (primarily leopards) and rays (primarily thornback rays).
Mid-pier sees a larger variety of fish: white croaker (called tomcod in SoCal and kingfish in CenCal but usually called roncador or ronkie in Ventura); queenfish (a small croaker called herring in most of So Cal but here often called seatrout); halibut (that love to much on small croaker); kelp bass (aka calico bass); salema; butterfish; and additional sharays—sharks and rays (more leopard sharks and shovelnose sharks (guitarfish) along with an increasing number of bat rays).
The end area is the main area for big sharks and rays (leopard sharks, spiny dogfish, soupfin sharks, thresher sharks, 7-gill sharks and big bat rays. It’s also usually the best area for the pelagics (mackerel, jack mackerel, bonito and barracuda). Although the pier sometimes sees good action on mackerel, it rarely sees bonito although enough will show up in warm-water years to keep things interesting.
One of the unique features is the large, cutout section of the pier out toward the end. Not just a fish well but a hole probably 20 by 30 feet that allows anglers to fish down among the pilings. AND, it is lit up with strong searchlights at night, lights that attract baitfish and the inevitable larger species attracted by the baitfish. During most months it can be a great place to fish, especially at night. (It reminds me of the now non-existent Aliso Pier although that pier never had strong lights to attract the fish at night.)
Another unique feature is the ability to plug in electrical lines to the light poles. Families can hook up lights to help in the fishing, hook up electrical heaters to keep warm, or simply hook up radios for a little music. (And this was a feature that the Belmont Pier in Long Beach USED to have.) Seems the folks at Ventura took a few good notes and have incorporated these now unique and excellent features in their pier.
Like most piers, Ventura occasionally sees species uncommon to southern California waters. Such was the case in January of ’99 when a pair of baby hammerhead sharks was reported from the pier.
Another unusual (although becoming more usual) catch was the reported capture of a 181-pound black sea bass in 2000. Supposedly the fish wound up in the back end of a pick-up truck after a two-hour fight on the pier. Not too smart since the anglers were risking a hefty (potentially multi-thousand dollar) fine. Another knucklehead caught a baby giant sea bass from the pier in May of ’06. He brought the fish up to the pier, paraded it around while taking selfies of himself holding the fish, and then dumped the fish over the side (at least he knew it was an illegal fish that needed to be returned to the sea). The film was quickly posted on Instagram and almost as quickly incurred the wrath of much of the public. It’s recorded on — https://www.instagram.com/p/BIbEYq6jRgQ/ What you are supposed to do if you hook a great (black) sea bass is to cut your line and leave the fish in the water. The hook should fairly quickly rust away with little harm to the fish.
An even more unusual (and suspect) story concerned the report of a 2-3 foot-long albacore feeding near the end of the pier in the winter of 2000. The time of the year is wrong, and rarely do albies venture close to shore, but strange things do happen. Anglers, by the way, reportedly cast out their lures to attract the longfin, all to no avail.
Due to its long length and 27-56 foot-wide widths, the pier rarely feels crowded. Nevertheless, summertime weekends can see crowds from Friday till Sunday and quite often late into the night. Weekdays are of course far less crowded.
One final ingredient in the environment is a Steinbeck-like group of locals who hang out at the pier most of the day and night and give it a little color and flavor. While liquor is not allowed on the pier, and the Ventura Sheriff’s Department patrols the pier on bicycle, it’s a little hard to enforce such a rule 24 hours a day on a pier this size. Good thing because inebriation is a frequent visitor. But the impecunious gang is a usually friendly bunch and will treat you with respect if you show them the same. But do be prepared to share—if you wish.
A chilly night in April of 2009 saw me catching a few fish just up the pier from the hugger-mugger tent and their rusty carts, aged bicycles, and motley collection of rods and reels that perhaps best represented the group’s weltanschauung. Most members were asleep in the tent.
However, one guy was awake and fishing and soon approached me, “Hey bro, what ya catching? You know there’s a lot of fish out at the hole at the end. Shoot, I even got me a 35-pound lobster there one night. But you know what really works is those Sabikis. Got an extra Sabiki you could spare?” I’d heard it all before but also knew I had more than enough bait rigs in my tackle box. I soon fished a Sabiki out of my box, handed it to him, and watched him head out to the end of the pier. A short time later I joined him and we proceeded to catch a mess of fish while he continued his non-stop discourse about the pier and a hundred and one other sometimes interesting topics. Personally, I like to see a few such characters on a pier, just as long as they’re safe and not too pushy (and yes, perhaps sometimes they can be just a little pushy).
Both the larger Santa Cruz Island and smaller Anacapa Island sit off in the distance from the pier and are readily visible most days.
Fishing Tips. Since bottom here is essentially sand and fishermen should fish accordingly. Inshore, expect to see barred surfperch much of the year with the largest concentrations, and largest fish, in the winter and early spring. Most of the barreds will fall to sand crabs, fresh mussels, bloodworms or clams fished on the bottom. Use a light or medium outfit equipped with number 6 or 4 hooks and just use enough weight to hold bottom. Artificials, including grubs (root beer and motor oil color), Gulp! plastics and swim baits will work. The same surf area will yield yellowfin croaker, corbina, and perhaps a few spotfin croaker, primarily in the late summer and fall months.
Inshore is also typically home to yellowfin croaker and spotfin croaker with high/lows rigs baited with fresh mussels, bloodworms, lug worms or pieces of shrimp accounting for most of the croaker.
A nice spotfin croaker from the pier — 2002
Anglers fishing the surf area, or just past it out to the mid-pier area can also catch rays and sharks. For these, use cut anchovies, mackerel or squid. Species encountered include pinback rays (thornback rays), shovelnose sharks (shovelnose guitarfish), bat rays and some skates. For these guys use a little heavier outfit with hooks up to 4/0 size.
Late spring to late summer is the prime time for California halibut and these good eating fish will hit best just past the surf area to the middle area of the pier. Live bait on the bottom is the key here but you will need to snag some bait—small queenfish, white croakers or smelt. Use a live bait leader and remember to check and change the bait as needed.
California Halibut — 2003
Mid-pier to the end, use one of the various bait rigs (Sabiki/Lucky Lura) with small hooks for jacksmelt, walleye surfperch, and queenfish. Many times these small fish will school around the pilings or in the depressions between the pilings. The same areas may also yield a few kelp bass and sand bass with most of these landed on anchovies. Anglers who try fresh mussels or bloodworms around the pilings may also be rewarded with salema, pompano (butterfish), a few blackperch, and rubberlip seaperch!
Since the bottom is primarily sand few rockfish have been reported from the pier. However, an unusual 8-inch grass rockfish was caught in August of ’08. Cabezon are also a possibility with most of the cabbies being taken right next to the pilings on the bottom.
The summer months, July through September, are generally also the best time for several other species including Pacific mackerel, jack mackerel, and increasingly, Pacific sardines. These can be caught almost anywhere around the pier using multi-hook bait rigs, although the mackerel are often caught with a strip of squid or anchovy under a split shot sinker. If you use one of the Lucky Lura-type bait leaders, use size 6 or 4 hooks and don’t hesitate to put small pieces of mackerel on a couple of the hooks to attract their cannibalistic brethren.
White croaker aka roncador aka tomcod aka kingfish
Casting out, away from the pier with a high/low leader baited with cut anchovy will yield white croaker, the multi-named fish (roncador, ronkie, tomcod, kingfish) most of the year. Late fall is generally the key time for bonito to show up (if they show up) and most years will also see a few toothy barracuda surprising anglers in September or October, especially in the evening hours. Both the boneheads and barries seem to prefer artificial lures; the bonies will hit on a feather trailing a Cast-a-Bubble while the barries like gold or silver spoons. Neither is all that plentiful but both show up just often enough to keep the hopes of anglers high.
Fishing in the cut out section can yield almost any species but at night it can be good for both jigging up some bait and catching the big ‘uns waiting under the bait. Use bait rigs weighted with a one-ounce shiny torpedo sinker or use a lure—a Kastmaster, a Dart, or even a small diamond jig—to snare herring (queenfish), roncador (white croaker), smelt, sardines or mackerel. Then use some of the live bait to fish for larger species. White seabass will sometimes be found in this area, especially early in the morning, while halibut will often be found in the depressions between the various pilings. Do be sure to use line heavy enough to keep the fish from reaching the pilings.
Queenfish aka Herring
Out toward the end is also the traditional sharay area with a variety of sharks and rays providing excitement. Most nights will find parties of anglers pursuing their “big game.” The most common species will be smoothhounds and shovelnose sharks (guitarfish) but mixed in will be a few leopard sharks, horn sharks, spiny dogfish, soupfin sharks, and thresher sharks. An occasional big skate will be landed (and some are quite big) while every few years will see an angel shark landed (2015 saw a 47-inch angel shark) and if you land one of those be sure to watch out for their jaws (even if you think they are dead).
Another visitor, although an infrequent intruder, is Pacific electric rays, a fish that must be handled with care. A report on one such ray in the late ‘90s said that the angler who landed it decided to stick a knife into it and, no big surprise here (duh!), was shocked—literally shocked so bad that he was knocked out for about ten minutes. I later saw pictures of another electric ray taken in ‘02 and once again the angler got the shock of his life. Do be careful! Although an uncommon catch, I think more electric rays are landed at this pier than at any other pier.
Most often than not the largest “shark” will not even be a shark. Instead, it’ll be a big old mama mud marlin—a bat ray—and a 220-pounder was reportedly caught in the early ‘80s.
Sinker (Tim Durham) and a decent-sized bat ray
If pursuing these larger fish, especially the big bat rays and thresher sharks, be sure to use a heavier line and hooks up to 7/0 in size. The bat rays prefer squid or a squid/fish combo pack, the threshers prefer a live mackerel slid down the line on a slider leader. Also have a way to bring them up to the pier (it’s 21 feet from the water to the deck of the pier) and remember to never gaff a fish unless you intend to keep and eat it.
Crustaceans. The pier, with its sandy bottom, has never been seen as a good producer for crabs or lobsters although a few are taken each year (including a reported 27-pound spider crab in October ’09). Better crabbin’ is to be had at Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara and the Port Hueneme Pier.
Spiny Lobster aka “Bugs”
Potpourri — Perhaps more than you want to know about the Ventura Pier
<*}}}}}}}}}>< — One of the largest shovelnose guitarfish I have seen was caught on a fairly warm December night in 2002 at this pier by my friend Boyd Grant (Pierhead), one of the main contributors to the PFIC Message Board. I was visiting the area and arranged a meeting with Pierhead and Sinker (the local guru). Soon after my arrival something struck Pierhead’s live bait (a small white croaker aka roncador) and the fight was on. The fish was determined to escape but not as determined as Boyd. Fifteen minutes or so after the fight began we saw the shape of the fish in the water, a huge “shovel.” I grabbed the net and silently prayed that I’d be able to get the fish in the net. More large fish are lost from a pier at the time of netting than at any other time and I hoped the fish would cooperate. The gods were with us as the fish headed into the net and soon was being lifted up to the pier (with a little help from Braulio—a newly converted pier rat). Soon after, the fish was weighed and measured—29 1/2 pounds and 56 7/8 inches long. A couple of quick pictures and then the fish was returned to the sea to fight another day. Boyd had caught a fish to remember for many years and a PFIC contingent had once again been of help.
Pierhead (Boyd Grant) and a large shovelnose guitarfish
<*}}}}}}}}}>< — Fish surveys done by the Department if Fish and Game between 2004 and 2009 showed the following species at the pier (listed numerically) — white croaker, walleye surfperch, jacksmelt, barred surfperch, yellowfin croaker, shiner perch, calico surfperch, Pacific sardine, Pacific mackerel, topsmelt, queenfish, staghorn sculpin, grass rockfish, black perch, brown rockfish, zebra perch, leopard shark and shovelnose guitarfish. Given the limited number of surveys and the lack of surveys at night, I think a number of regularly caught pier species do not show up, especially several of the sharays — bat ray, spiny dogfish, soupfin shark, etc.
<*}}}}}}}}}>< — If you want to see a “really, really, really big fish” drive over to the nearby Country Inn. On the wall in the lobby are the stuffed remains of a 1,319-pound, 15-foot, 3-inch-long Pacific blue marlin that was caught on September 26, 1980 in Hawaii. The girth by the way was 6-foot, 11-inches.
<*}}}}}}}}}>< — The Ventura Pier has not shown up in as many films as piers closer to Hollywood but it did play a role in Little Miss Sunshine (although in the movie, the area was called “Redondo Beach”). The pier was also used as a setting to film the music video for Julianne Hough’s That Song in My Head, a fact that elicited considerable comment on the PFIC Message Board. Perhaps it had something to do with the pretty young lady’s picture on the pier?
White Seabass — 2003
<*}}}}}}}}}>< — Ventura always seems to have a cast of interesting characters.
Date: January 14, 2009; To: PFIC Messsage Board; From: Ken Jones; Subject: Ventura Pier—Interesting article
At the intersection of land and sea —Passing time and catching food
Michael Wayne “Three Dogs” Moore has the deep tan of many years of living outside. He rides his bike to the Ventura Pier almost every day, with a trailer for his three dogs — Bear, Sugar and Lunar. Fishing helps him pass the time and puts food in his stomach too, he said. He was landing mackerel after mackerel the day I found him. A sign nearby offered the use of his fishing poles in exchange for donations.
—Ventura County Star, July 20, 2008
Posted by bdc
Good guy. He and Packy are two of the more peaceful “residents” there. Last time I saw him he was cleaning a thresher and let some kids pose for pictures with the tail. Anybody know if Darryl is still around?
Posted by Ken Jones
I’ve given Packy a fish or two when I was there. Love his coonskin hat.
Posted by spline9
He sure is. I always ask him how the fishing is on my way up the pier and he always asks me for a cigarette just before he remembers that I don’t smoke!
Spiny Dogfish spine
<*}}}}}}}}}>< — Apparently there was a time when huge basking sharks were fairly common to the pier’s waters. The sharks, harmless sharks that primarily feed on plankton, found themselves no match for “sportsmen” armed with harpoons, gaffs and guns.
Venturans Given Thrill As Sharks Visit Shore
Ventura, Dec. 8.—A school of basker sharks, ranging in size up to eighteen feet and in weight up to 3000 pounds, visited Ventura city shores today, giving hundreds of curious spectators the thrill of their lives.
Pier fishermen, pop-eyes with amazement at the sight of the great fish rubbing fins with pilings beneath the wharf, recklessly reeled in their smelt lines, to return with spike hooks, gaffs and harpoons.
One of the monsters, measuring eighteen feet and tipping the scales at 2500 pounds was successfully speared by fisherman Mark Selby. Churing the water with its mighty tail, the shark, with a mouth large enough to swallow a person whole, resisted efforts to hoist him to the pier for two hours.
As late as 6 p.m. today the black fins of its mate, and a school of others, were sighted bobbing up and down on the fading horizon. Old men of the wharf scratched their heads and then said they believed it had been five or six years since fish of its species had been found in Ventura’s waters—and without a doubt, they said, Selby’s haul was one of the greatest of all times. — Los Angeles Times, December 9, 1935
Ventura Harpoonists Again Battle Sharks
Ventura, Dec. 15.—For the second Sunday in succession, sharks with jaws large enough to swallow a man became the spear targets of veteran Ventura fishermen. Armed with harpoons, great spike hooks, gaffs and guns, sportsmen who gathered by the hundreds today on Ventura’s pier, lost no time in pulling two of the 3,000-pound giants of the sea to the surface.
But Fisherman Mack Selby, who last Sunday brought to gaff one monster—size eighteen feet—was not among those present today, and as far as anyone knows the two big fish are still entwined in pilings somewhere down at the bottom of the sea.
Eyewitnesses know that the two harpoonists struck their mark, but they also know that their prey probably never will be brought to the surface. The fish are described as basker or Cuban bone sharks, a species rarely seen in waters off this coastline.
Nowadays down at the wharf if one hasn’t a harpoon or a gaff he might as well pack up his pole and go home—for the big fellows have eaten up all the little fellows—there just ain’t any more. —Los Angeles Times, December 16, 1935
<*}}}}}}}}}>< —The state’s largest spotfin croaker in 1981 was one caught at Ventura —
California’s Biggest Catches Of The Year—Spotfin Croaker—six pounds, three ounces at Ventura Pier, by Joseph Hoffman of Oxnard. —Fish & Game, Jeff Geyert, Santa Cruz Sentinel, February 25, 1982
<*}}}}}}}}}>< — A catch of a slightly different type was one reported to the Message Board in March 1999 by Mamafats. Apparently “George and Gail” were fishing out at the end of the pier and George had decided to catch a beauty. About 1 p.m. a plane appeared overhead trailing a sign that said — “Gail will you MA MA MA Marry Me?” In front of the other anglers George broke out a ring, along with a bottle of champagne, and Gail accepted his offer. Applause was given by all.
The Pier Rats Speak
Included are “The Trials and Tribulations of Sinker” otherwise known as Tim Durham. Tim would go on to start his own fishing website — “Get Bent Sportfishing” which he ran until he moved to Florida.
Date: February 9, 1999; To: Pier Fishing In California Message Board; From: Papafats and mamafats; Subject: Ventura Pier
Hi, My husband and I try to get to Ventura Pier as often as we can. In fact, this weekend we have plans to camp near Ventura and enjoy a bit of fishing. We just started fishing again after 25 years of getting caught up in the “No time too busy LA life style.” We’re not experts by any means just enjoy the peace and solitude of fishing and meeting fellow anglers on the pier.
We generally use salted anchovies or squid. Sometimes for fun we’ll throw out a lure. Our catch is for fun and all fish are returned whenever possible (providing the fish are not caught in mid air by seagulls). I especially enjoy visiting with the many children who stop by to feel or look at the fish as we land our lines.
We generally catch sand shark, dogfish, bat ray, lobster (once-caught him/her while I was reeling in the line to change bait) and host of others that are still unknown to us. I guess you’d say we enjoy bottom or near bottom fishing. Our favorite spot is near the end of the pier.
Once this summer we were fishing in the evening while there was activity at the Ventura Fair Grounds (which is right on the coast). The lights from the Fair Grounds illuminated the water at the end of the pier and the fish that were swimming close to the top. What a beautiful site! In 1970-74 the pier seemed a lot longer and we would fish all night. Always had a great time.
Date: February 18, 1999; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Mamafats; Subject: Ventura Pier
Saturday the 13th, fishing was great! My Husband and I landed the following: 6 ea. skates, One California halibut (8” long) and a white croaker… We did hear earlier in the morning that 2 baby hammerheads were also landed. The weather was great until the wind kicked up, about 3 PM. The Channel Islands were crystal clear and absolutely breathtaking… While waiting for the ‘big strike’ we witnessed a very dangerous incident involving two teenage girls. Luckily for them their daily diary entry will be one of laughter and excitement and not one of sorrow… The girls decided for kicks to jump off the pier. As they were giggling their way back to shore, they realized they weren’t swimming alone. A large seal decided to join in the fun! As the seal’s head bobbed next to them their screams shattered the silence and startled the seal. Those of us watching laughed until we were breathless… It was evident the seal only wanted their company. As the seal disappeared, the fish took notice and started to nibble once again… Sunday the 14th turned out to be a wash…The wind was far too strong and cold. The pier started to rock. So, we called it a day. Catch y’all next time…Happy Fishing!
Date: February 20, 1999; To: Ken Jones; From: papafats and mamafats; Subject: Question of the Month—What is your favorite pier and why?
Yup! our favorite pier is Ventura! We enjoy the fun, excitement, and on a clear winter day the view of the Channel Islands. Quite spectacular! As you look at the islands you think about what the seas were like during the days of the Chumash Indian Tribes. As you sit on the pier try imagining a Chumash Chief fighting large fishing game with a hand made spear and line in order to feed and warm his family. Now try imagining this same Chumash Chief is fishing from a small canoe!! Amazing!
You never know what you’ll see or experience while fishing or just strolling on a lazy afternoon or evening. During the summer you can be sure to play ‘line tag’ with a few sharks and rays! The dolphins visit regularly in July, August and September. Springtime can guarantee regular visits by the local seal population. I hear the halibut stop by in March to check out the local action. I hope one stops by my line this year!
So Ken for now I must say I love the Ventura Pier! Regards, Mamafats
PS, Many German and British tourists love to stop and talk. I love to see their faces as they talk about the versatility of visiting the California coastline, mountains and especially the National Parks.
Date: July 1, 1999; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Mamafats; Subject: Ventura Pier
Hi all, It’s been awhile. My husband, grandson and myself fished Ventura Pier last Saturday. I caught a good-sized sand shark (guitarfish) but the rest of the family was not as lucky. Other fish caught included good-sized bat rays, stingrays, smoothhounds and a small thresher. It was great to escape from the LA heat. One thing I must add to this report is disappointment and sadness felt for a fellow fisherperson. The individual was fishing the end of the pier and caught several bat rays. Once the ray was landed, this individual cut off the wings and threw the body back. Pretty sad. Either fish to eat or fish and throw the back in one piece, but don’t be sadistic about it. By the way when this individual prepared to leave for the day everything else went back into the ocean. What a jerk! Thank you for letting me get this off my chest. Everyone have a safe and great Holiday Weekend!
Date: November 3, 2001; To: PFIC Message Board; From: BigEd2; Subject: Ventura Pier Report — I was ROBBED!
Got up at 5:00 am on Saturday, and headed to the Ventura Pier. Stopped at the Mc Donalds for a cup of coffee, and arrived at the pier around 5:30 am. Started at the end of the pier, using anchovies, mackerel, and squid. The water was calm, and the sunrise was ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS. No wind. An hour or two goes by, and no bites or nibbles (I was using squid on one rod, and anchovies on the other at this point). I switched to using mackerel, and almost immediately, started getting nibbles.
All morning, the ‘birds’ kept harassing me, and I had to keep ‘shoo’-ing them off…. To protect my baits, I put them UNDER the bench. Then I started getting good SOLID bites on BOTH rods. Both rods going off at the same time! WOW! From the excitement I ran to grab the rods/set the hooks, I noticed something or someone behind me, and turned around and realized that I have been ambushed and am being robbed!
One @#%!@^# bird is taking off with my ENTIRE bag of squid, another one is taking off with ALL of my anchovies, while yet ANOTHER bird is taking my BIG mackerel with an 11-inch fillet knife STILL IN THE FISH!!! I start running after the ‘thieves’ like an enraged wacko, shouting and swearing (kept the language clean though)…. COME BACK HERE YOU SON OF A MUFFIN… to no avail. They were, however, somewhat thoughtful, as they eventually dropped my fillet knife somewhere mid pier.
Now, I have no bait whatsoever…. all of this when the bite appeared to have just turned on… Like a hobo, I started going around and looking in trash cans for some bait (felt VERY embarrassed!), and got a few stares from the ‘couples in love’ that came to watch the romantic sunrise at the pier. I felt as if I was COMPLETELY ruining their ‘moment’…. Desperation I say, desperation! What is a fisherman to do without bait when the bite is on? I packed up and started to leave. I must have looked real ‘down’ when a couple fishing the surf line asked me how I did. They generously offered me some squid and salted chovies! So I took a squid and 4 ‘chovies….
WHOOPIE! The fishing continues! As it was getting late (I had to attend a wedding) I only went to mid pier area, and started getting nibbles immediately, but no hookups. I was using a 1/0 and 2/0 hooks, so I thought “something small.” I switched to smaller hooks, and ended up catching (and releasing) yellowfin croakers. There seemed to be a good number of them around (they do taste gross… maybe I didn’t prepare them right, but they were VERY fishy and foul smelling), so all were released.
Talked to another couple of the pier, and they said that the crabs kept stealing their bait (they were fishing close to the pier). I thought “great! the crabs are back!.” On the back to the car, several people were catching and keeping surf perch (walleye looking), however, they were WAY TOO SMALL to be worth keeping (real small), but I guess some didn’t think so.
Date: March 28, 2002; To: Ken Jones; From: Tim Durham/Sinker; Subject: Ventura Pier
Ken, There is a good perch bite at the front of the pier on mussels and bloodworms, an occasional sargo has been caught as well. Mid pier is not seeing much action other than some croakers, all juveniles. The end of pier is seeing regular spiny dogfish catches on squid most every night along with thornback rays and bat rays. A Pacific electric ray measuring 34 inches was caught the other night. Smoothhound sharks, shovelnose guitarfish and leopards sharks have not been seen this month. Center hole (end of the pier) plenty of small baitfish with herring chasing them. Herring catches have been good out of the center hole although the average size has only been about 8 inches. Most of these have been taken on Sabiki rigs and/or fly lining strips of anchovies. I had one strong night this month as reported on the board (believe it was the 8th) with the 72-pound bat ray, this was caught on 10 lb. P-Line. P-Line is sending out hats, stickers and line for the catch.
Date: April 4, 2002; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Sinker; Subject: Bait Trials & Ventura Pier 4/3/2002
Fished Ventura Pier from 7 PM till 2 AM. Used Anchovies and Squid. Caught 3 Thornback Rays all on Anchovy (that’s a first for me). Nothing else. I usually only catch Rays on Squid but tonight was different. Maybe it’s that secret recipe huh PierHead.
Ok here is the story on the bait. Awhile back someone posted about salting mussel to toughen it up. I have been working with different salts and methods of applying it to see what I could do and what would work best. I have found that fresh dead Anchovies or Sardines are best, I had found Salt Powder at a Chinese (I think) market that was the absolute best stuff so far but I have been unable to find it since. Presently I am using the Salt that you would add to your fish tank, it is already very fine and soft, I put it in a bag and vacuum seal it then beat the hell out of it and also use a rolling pin to try and make salt powder. I then roll the fish around in it as if I were breading them. This has also proved to work well and the fish are not turned away from the bait (that is what I caught the Halibut on). It has toughened up all bait I have applied it to and I think it works great, much better than the salted Anchovies you can buy.
Ok, here is what I am trying now – Giving up a secret for the Mud Marlin Derby so pay attention. Actually I do not know if this will work or not but here goes. I have been hitting the docks getting fresh squid when the bait boats come in. I have also been going out to the power plant and digging up clams (one of the Bat Rays favorite food source). Bat Rays can somehow smell the Clams, so I then take the fresh clams, pry them open, dig out the meat and stuff it up into the Squid and then tie off the Squid around the head area with Ghost Cocoon Thread to keep the clams from falling out. Will this work??? I don’t know but I figure it is worth a try and has only cost me my time as the boat guys give me some free Squid and I dig up the clams myself, ok I guess the thread costs me a little. Now if the winning Ray is caught on this bait I want HALF…
“Get Bent” “Sinker”
Date: June 11, 2002; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Sinker; Subject: Ventura Pier—Loud is the KEY
At Ventura Pier we are fortunate to have electrical outlets on the light poles, great for coffee makers, space heaters and radios. Many times I have been there when I liked the music that was playing but not the volume it was played at. When I can’t hear my clicker go off or talk to my buddies then it is too loud PERIOD.
Lets see, last night it was Bobby Vee, Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids, Bobby Vinton, Carly Simon, Carpenters and the Little River Band, so not even close to music that one would think would be played that loud.
I just went over and asked then to please turn it down but I also was there with about 10 other guys, so they turned it down without complaining. That would definitely make for a lousy night of fishing if they hadn’t though, think I would have to move on out to the sand for some peace.
Date: June 14, 2002; To: PFIC Message Board; From: pierangler 8787; Subject: Ventura Pier, Tuesday 8:30-11:30 AM
Got all my stuff packed, double checked everything and took off to Ventura. Get there, and forget my money!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH! Drive all the way back home, then back again. You know what? Yep, free parking today!!!! I laughed.
Now back to fishing. There’s a few people out there, a little more than I expected for morning. My favorite spot is taken, so I move down one bench from it. First cast, it’s a shaker. Set the hook. Not much of a fight, just a lot of head shakes. Fish in sight. White croaker. I was surprised at the size of it. Usually just dinks around here. Gets to the surface and splashing everywhere. This is the first time I’ve actually seen a croaker JUMP!
I let my dad use the Sabiki, There was a HUGE school of what looked like smelt. Most of them were just babies. The rod doubles and he brings up a well over a foot, croaker. I cast out again, and result in another huge croaker. I’m not real proud, since they are just croaker, but this one was big. I’m sure it wasn’t a WSB, no, I am positive. Anyways, up the pier I see something being brought up. It was a 19 1/2 inch leopard shark.
Cast out both of my lines. Another croaker steals my bait. I’m getting kind of sick of these things. The second my line gets in, they steal the bait from all the good fish. Finally I bring in a leopard shark.
A class of kids just happened to visit today. They still haven’t made it to where I was, taking there time to stop by everybody fishing and looking at the different things. Rod bounces, set the hook and finally get a fight! It’s about time! Some sort of ray or skate, no idea as to what it was. Put a good fight too. That’s when all the kids crowded around. I like to see all those kids happy. The teachers were doing a good job keeping the kids away from my pole. A couple stepped on it. They were petting it and yelling “STINGRAY! STINGRAY! ITS A STINGRAY!” No, not a stingray. Very curious kids as to what exactly it was. Put him back in. They make it to the end and come back to my spot again. Bring in another, bait stealer. They all crown around again, but back he goes. Then the fishing just stopped, dead stopped.
We move to the end after an hour. Wind has picked up now, despite how calm and peaceful it was at the beginning. Another bait stealer from the center hole, palm-size.
We pack up and leave and 11:30. Bait today was anchovies. All fish were released.
Date: July 25, 2002; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Sinker; Subject: Went Out and GOT BENT (long)
Got to the Ventura Pier and figured I would go ahead and bring my stuff just in case things looked promising (I need the exercise anyway). While walking up the pier I asked about 6 anglers who were leaving if they had any luck – same response from all of them – NOTHING. Ok so I didn’t hold out hope and figured I would see if the baitfish were in the center hole this night.
Got out to the end of the pier and not one regular was there (that I remember anyway as it has been awhile since I have fished the Pier). Well my favorite spot was open so I went ahead and set up shop and proceeded to drown some Anchovies and Squid (even though they were already dead). Got a couple of nibbles but nothing fancy and no hookups. I decided I would leave the 4500 out in the deep water and put a Sabiki on the 3500 for some center hole jigging. Yep, started nailing the Herring and Perch, seemed like one right after the other. Started getting a lot of attention as no one else was catching anything, turns out most were here on vacation and had never fished Salt Water before. Gave out a few Sabikis so they could join in the fun as they were nice folks.
Well on the 4500 I hooked up with three nice sized Spiny Dogfish Sharks (Pin Backs) and I believe a California Skate but not sure, maybe you guys can verify that for me (link to pictures is below). Well it was getting late or early as the case may be 4:30 AM and figured I had better get home. About then I some how tail hooked a Herring, it started to bleed pretty bad so I stuck it on a hook and slide it down my line and waited 5:00AM and NOTHING time to go. Start packing up, get my 3500 in hooks off sinker removed, cart loaded, went and washed down the reel and then came back. Only need to bring in the 4500 and I could go home when ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZING my line I going out like no tomorrow. I pick up the rod and crank the handle to disengage the Bait Runner, WOW the pole about got ripped from my hands, did the line stop going out now that the Bait Runner was off NO WAY, this thing was pulling drag big time. I’m thinking I nailed a huge Pin Back, suddenly it turns right for me, I reel as fast as I can to gain the slack, finally got the line tight again and gave it a little pull to see if I could get this guy to go back out away from the pier. It was to close and had to much fight left in it. Well the tight line jerk worked, that thing turned around about 10 feet from the pier and broke the surface – YEAH BABY A THRESHER – Oh my blood is boiling now. This bad boy take another leap out of the water and that was all she wrote. 15# line isn’t gonna take a Thresher even on one of my good days.
Well you guessed it, I will be out there again for my Thresher. I didn’t know they would hit a Herring… Time for some heavy leaders and the big rods and reels.
Sinker went out and Sinker GOT BENT but also got BROKE OFF, damn Sinker loses again. Isn’t it about time I win one of these battles. I need too and to get tons of pics so you guys will know I’m not pulling your leg. Pierangler – buddy it is time to hook up…
Date: September 4, 2002; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Sinker; Subject: Ventura Pier – My Best Trip Ever & I didn’t Fish
OK so I didn’t make it to the pier to fish. I did however get to go out and check the action. Three people fishing the entire pier is all and no luck. Did not see any Red Tide but the water is very dirty I assume from being churned up by the heavy surf from Tropical Storm Hernan. Did not see any Kelp but the current was swift, heavy and high. Things did not look inviting.
Now there were a fair number of visitors to the pier, most likely from the restaurant from the front of the pier; Eric Erickson’s.
Alright now for the GOOD STUFF: There was this young lady sitting on one of the benches at the end of the pier watching the sunset, nothing unusual here as this is a common sight. I see a jogger coming up the pier (nothing unusual here either as many jog to the end of the pier) but I have seen this guy many times and personally think he is a jerk. Sure enough he follows his routine of showing off for the girls, as he makes the turn around the end of the pier he jumps up and jogs a few steps on the railing—guess he thinks this impresses the girls. What it actually does is upset the fisherman as poles start bouncing around; the women just think he is a joke. Tonight an awful or in my case an awfully beautiful thing happened. Mr. Stud comes jogging up the pier, winks at the young lady and jumps up to jog on the rail OOPPPPPS Superman was jumped a bit to high and went right over the edge and into the ocean. I hate to admit it but I was laughing so damn hard I didn’t even check to see if he was alright or offer to help him in any way, well I did go look over the edge at him as he swam to shore (the guy had to be big time embarrassed), what a wonderful sight. I am sure he did not have an easy time as the swells and currents were high and rough but he did make it to shore. I believe both due to the rip tide and his embarrassment he swam south of the pier and then continued walking down the beach—guess he was out of energy to jog anymore.
Ross I think you and I were fishing one night when this bozo did this before except without falling over the edge and into the ocean. Wish you could have seen it tonight. Well I may not have got to fish but I must say it was one of the best trips to the pier I have had – Lots of Fun…
Date: November 13, 2002; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Sinker; Subject: Toothy Critters at Ventura Pier 11/13/2002
Fishing Report—Date: Wednesday, November 13, 2002; Time: 8:45pm till 4:00am; Location: Ventura Pier; Conditions: Light Fog Calm; Tide: Low Tide 0.6’ at 11:51pm; Set Up: Hi/Lo with #2 Circle Hooks and a Sliding Sinker rig with 3/0 Circle Hook; Bait: Anchovies, Sardines, Squid, Mackerel, Shrimp, Clams, Mussel, Herring and Skip Jack (Cleaned out the Frig and dumped all the old bait); Catch: 1 Spiny Dogfish Shark and 20 Thornback Rays
Comments: Well the water is still very dirty and churned up from last weeks storm. Interesting night none the less. Met up with the jerk who had started all trash cans fire a while back. Lets just say I doubt he will be doing that again and leave it at that (he is very aware of my feelings towards his actions and him). On a brighter note I got to see a very illuminated moon cross the sky and set in an awesome red color, also got to see 3 shooting stars, and an offshore oil rig doing a burn off.
Now if Thornback Rays were anything special to catch I would have rocked, but as it is I did just like their nickname and Throw Um Back…. Saw one other Dog Fish Caught and a 7 Gill Shark. The 7 Gill went 10 ponds on my Boga Grip and was about 3 feet long, a nice and rare catch for the pier. In fact the pier has seen unusual catches this past year, not only all the constant baitfish but, Electric Rays, Horn Sharks, Large Leopards, Swell Sharks, a number of Black Sea Bass, unusually high numbers of Thresher Sharks although small, good sized Spot Fins and even a few Salmon. Not sure what in the heck is going on but I am not complaining.
Date: April 7, 2003; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Sinker; Subject: Ventura Pier — Dodged a Bullet — Barely
Headed out to Ventura Pier tonight for another try at my mystery fish. Worked the center hole and got some nice 6 to 9” Mackerel for bait. Put one on the main hook (Carolina Rigged) and put down another on a slide line. Active little suckers but did not bring out any Sharks or Mystery Fish.
After catching the Mackerel I cut a squid in half and put half on each hook of the high/low I was using to get the Mackerel, had #6 Circle hooks on it. Cast out next to the jumping Mackerel pole (don’t know how many passersby told me I was getting a bite, had to let them know it was live bait but I think only about half understood). Poles out and time to talk to the regulars, they had a pretty good day with a 4’ Shovelnose (I saw the head as they were using it for crab bait) and they said they tied into 6 Bat Rays with the biggest going 32 pounds.
Right about them my pole with the high/low screams. It is my Seeker rod with a Shimano BaitRunner 4500B. Darn near got spooled and knew it was a Bat Ray from the get go. Man I sure have missed fighting these wonderful creatures. This bad boy was strong and pretty much had his way with me. Got most of my line back and he figured it was his turn again so I watched helplessly as my line went out nonstop till I could again see spool. My turn again and I got him all the way to the pier when he surfaced.
YEAH – I think he might have been the biggest I have ever caught from a pier (my top two are 92#’s and 107#’s), this thing was a beast and a half – HUGE and Beautiful. Also very strong and not tired out or finished with me yet, we saw him, he saw us and took off straight down bye-bye and broke my leader.
Well I re-rigged with a 30-pound leader this time baited up, leaned over the rail to underhand cast, didn’t have enough line out and my hook caught under the pier and my wonderful Seeker Rod and Shimano BaitRunner reel went in the drink—jumped right out of my hand. I about cried and couldn’t believe I did such a thing. I have never lost a pole like that before. Broke out the pier gaff and started working it to no avail, finally gave up and brought up the gaff; hey, I had caught my line! I pulled and pulled 300 yards of line until I got to the spool. Thank Goodness I tied a good knot onto the spool and pulled my rod and reel up on deck—DODGED A BULLET—got my rod and reel back and was very happy. Washed it off good but had no WD40 to spray on it so will have to tear it down tomorrow and give it a good once over. Crazy night—now I am going to bed…
Date: May 14, 2003; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Sinker; Subject: Ventura Pier – For what its worth
When the sharks start to run at Ventura here is what I like to do. I have a couple of PVC pipes that are caped on one end, the end other screws on and has an eyehook in it for attaching it to a rope. I save whatever bait and stuff I have left over and blend it up (yes I have my own blender for this). I like to go ahead and add some fish paste, oils and scents as well and blend it up pretty well.
The PVC pipes have holes drilled in them so when you pour this stuff in it just comes out the holes, I wrap the pipes in Saran Wrap (you know that clear sticky wrap) and tape over it to keep it from leaking out. I then fill them up, screw the tops on and place them in the freezer (the garage freezer which is for my bait and was more expensive than the blender).
When we go out fishing we bring these PVC pipes along and tie a rope to them (after removing the Saran Wrap) and throw them out, they slowly melt away chumming while they do so (this method gives you extended chum time)…
Now for one last important part, tie the rope off to the pier. We have had sharks grab the PVC pipes and run with them; kind of fun to see. I guess the currents could also wash them away. So when you night is over, pull in the rope and you have your PVC chum pipes ready to be re-filled and used again. Not perfect but it’s what we do and NO I have no idea if it really helps but I will do about anything to increase my odds.
Date: June 14, 2003; To: PFIC Message Board; From: Sinker; Subject: Shark Fest at Ventura Pier — Wild Night
Fishing Report—Date: Friday, June 13, 2003; Time: 7:45pm till 5:30am; Location: Ventura Pier – South East Corner, End of Pier; Conditions: Great night, nice bright moon, large swells but very manageable; Tide: High Tide 6.9’ at 9:04pm, Low Tide -1.7 at 4:31am (6/14/2003)
Set Up: Fenwick Techna AV Rod with Shimano Calcutta 400 TE Reel and Fenwick HMX Rod with Shimano Calcutta 400 CT Reel – Both Rods set up Carolina Rigged with a 3oz egg sinker, Wire leader and 3/0 hooks; Bait: Squid and Mackerel with most every catch on cut Mackerel; Catch: 2 Thorn Back Rays and 23 Pin Back Sharks (Spiny Dogfish) yes 23 of them with the largest going 13 lbs.
Comments: Oh what a night. Didn’t plan on being out all night but when the fishing is this good you have to take it while you can. I caught a couple 4 footers and 2 that went just over 4 ft with the heaviest weighing in at 13 lbs. on the Boga Grips. Also got to use my new temp gauge; top water temp was 62.4˚F. Was just an all round great night as the guys that were out were great and we laughed our asses off from jokes to catching fish, well Sharks.
Only two bummers, (1) a couple of the guys got cited for drinking on the pier and (2) the second to the last shark I caught (which was a double hookup as I had one on both poles at the same time) bites through one of my net ropes so getting the last one up was tough as we tied the rope back together but the net was then lopsided. Hope you guys going tomorrow night have as much luck as we did. We just “GOT BENT” all night long.
Date: June 19, 2003; To: PFC Message Board; From: handryer; Subject: Ventura Pier — 6/18/2003
In the late ’40’s we called those WSB Tom Cod. Fishing was great off the Ventura Pier in those days. An ‘ol fart.
Posted by Sinker
All right then, you probably remember the old Ventura Pier Bait and Tackle Shop. If so I am looking at getting my hands on one of the old shirts. On the front it said Ventura Bait and Tackle on the pocket and on the back it said Home of the “Fighting Ronkie” and had a picture of a White Croaker doing battle with a fisherman. Do you happen to have one of these shirts? If so can we borrow it to get the design and have more made? Hope to meet you sometime.
History Note. The May 20, 1871 edition of Ventura’s newspaper, the Ventura Signal, asked “Is it possible that the most flourishing town and region of country on the whole coast is to go still another year without a wharf?” Given the fact that the local roads had axel-breaking potholes during the winter, throat-choaking dust in the summer, and two rivers, the Ventura and Santa Clara, that essentially isolated the city between them during times of rain and flood, it was a good question. With railroads a still distant dream for the future, coastal shipping had to be used for cargo and passengers. And the system of lighters then in use was both inefficient and sometimes dangerous.
That same day, at a town meeting of interested citizens, Joseph Wolfson, owner of one of the small “lighter” barges that carried passengers and freight to and from the ships anchored offshore, along with his father-in-law Juan Camarillo, presented a proposal for the construction of a privately-owned wharf near California Street.
Citizens supported the idea and by March 1872 a $45,000 contract to build the wharf was awarded to R.G. Salisbury, the man who would build many of the wharves in the area. “A wharf at San Buenaventura, so long talked of and so badly needed, is now a fixed fact,” announced the Ventura Signal in its March 2, 1872 edition. “The schooner ‘Free Trade’ arrived here with the first installments of pilings on Monday!”
On May 18, 1872, Arcadia Camarillo Wolfson broke a bottle of wine against the pilings and proclaimed: “In the name of the people of Ventura County, I dedicate (the construction of) this wharf to the uses of commerce and to the promotion of the agricultural and material interests of this section of the state.” Construction soon began on the 1,200-foot-long wharf, a wharf that reached a water depth of 24 feet, and contained railroad tracks out to the end of the pier. On October 5, 1872 the Ventura Signal proclaimed, “It is a grand improvement upon the old way, and duly appreciated by shippers and travelers.” Soon the local farm products—cattle, hogs, sheep, wheat, barley, corn and citrus had a safe method of transport from the wharf, called the Wolfson Wharf by many. By the 1890s oil from west Ventura, Santa Paula and Fillmore had joined the list of exports from the wharf.
In 1874 the wharf was purchased by Captain Robert Sudden, a former sea captain who had helped organize the Pacific Steamboat Company. Just three years later, another newspaper account, dated March 1877, said, “a large portion of the San Buenaventura Wharf was washed away yesterday afternoon.” A second report recorded that “about 300 feet of the old part was washed out… It was so badly bored by teredo that it would have been necessary to rebuild it in a short time.” This was only the first of many such disasters.
On October 23, 1877, it was reported that 400 feet of wharf had washed away at San Buenaventura; “three unusually large breakers approached the pier… and crushed the wharf in pieces like an egg-shell, the pieces going down like straws before a mower…It seems that if the piles had been of good timber and well driven, the wharf would have withstood the surf. The wharf at Hueneme, although equally exposed, passed through the storm all right.” In December of 1878 new damage was reported.
However, Sudden rebuilt after each storm and even improved the wharf by adding a large warehouse for local farmers. His efforts, and later those of this family ensured the continued use by such ships as the S.S. Santa Rosa and S.S. Kalorama and made the wharf a profitable family adventure until 1917.
However it wasn’t always easy. In the early 1900s many of the local coastal vessels were replaced by larger steam ships that only stopped at the larger ports. In addition, a more efficient railroad service began giving the shipping industry its first competition.
In 1914 the wharf again was damaged (cut in half) when the SS Coos Bay was pushed into the wharf by large swells. That damage was repaired by 1917 and an additional section, 500-foot-long, was added making the total length 1,700 feet.
During the first part of the ’20s the pier flourished (it even had its own Sportfishing barge—the Jane L. Stanford). Then, in 1926 history repeated itself when the pier was attacked by storms and suffered considerable damage.
In 1935 much of the wharf was destroyed by fire. Another storm and accompanying large waves damaged over 1,000 feet of the rebuilt wharf in 1937. This time there would be a different response. The wharf was rebuilt back to its prior length and began a new life as a recreational pier (although WW II saw a submarine station located out on at the end of the pier).
Mother Nature wasn’t finished! Storms ravaged the pier in 1949. 1969 saw the end of the pier damaged and in the winter storms of 1977-78 new damage was suffered and part of the pier was closed. Storms hurt the pier in 1983 and then in January of 1986 there was major damage by winter storms and 10-foot waves. Two thirds of the pier was now closed. After partial repairs, the pier was once again opened in 1988 but the outer 500-foot section was closed to anglers.
Agreement was finally reached that a major reconstruction was necessary. Funding was found to carry out the ambitious $3.5 million plan (City of Ventura, California Department of Parks and Recreation, Coastal Conservancy, and the Wildlife Conservation Board) and the work began. Pilings and decking were replaced, fish cleaning stations were added, a snack bar and bait shop was added, restrooms were added, the entrance was widened, and a 5,000 square foot restaurant was built at the shore end of the pier.
On October 2, 1993, the beautiful new, renovated Ventura Pier opened to cannon fire and a flotilla of boats. Soon after, 100 swimmers dived from the pier to swim around and commemorate the pier. The only complaint was from the fishermen who had to wait until late in the day before the crowds cleared and a little serious fishing could begin.
An interesting feature of the pier was a series of interpretive panels, thirty in all, that described local history and ecology. Another interesting item was the “Wavespout,” an $80,000, 6’x6′ copper kinetic sculpture built at the end of the pier; the copper fountain imitated a blowhole and spurted saltwater up to 10 feet high.
Alas, even that major project would not be the last. Storms in December 1994 and January of 1995 necessitated a $500,000 repair and then on December 13, 1995, pounding surf ripped out 420 feet of the pier, including over 150 pilings and the “Wavespout” sculpture. The sculpture washed ashore in two pieces; the pilings were found scattered along the Ventura County coast.
A minimum of $1.5 million, and perhaps as much as $3.3 million, would be required to fix the pier (including placing the sculpture back on the pier). Mayor Jack Tingstrom vowed that the pier would be rebuilt…“it is such a valuable asset to this city…we will just have to find a stronger way to build it.”
The pier eventually had a $2.2 million upgrade, one that included new steel reinforced pilings and a new square deck at the end in; it was finished in 1998. Such is the history of piers at such locations.
What is most impressive to me is the efforts made by local citizens to raise money to restore and maintain their “beloved” pier. In 1993 the community formed a “Pier into the Future” campaign to establish a $1 million endowment fund for the pier. To raise the money, several different fundraisers have been used. In one, individuals, businesses and civic groups can donate various sums of money—$125 Deck Hand, $1,000 First Mate, $2,500 Commander, $5,000 Captain, $10,000 Admiral. In response, they receive a variety of commemorative plaques, “Grant Deeds,” and get their name engraved on an honor roll at the entrance to the pier. A second, highly successful event has been a “Pier under the Stars” food and wine tasting event (which includes a commemorative Pier wine glass). Another has been selling t-shirts, caps and other products, including salsas and barbecue sauces with labels showing the old pier. Last, but certainly not least, has been the issuance of several calendars showing old-time pictures of the pier ($5). It’s a great approach and one that should be copied by many communities. Pier anglers wanting to help Ventura’s campaign can contact these good folks at: Pier Campaign, P.O. Box 99, Ventura, CA 93002-0099, or call them at (805) 658-4739.
Large waves in 2010
The fundraisers continue and the money is still often needed due to various storms and the damage they inflict. On January 20, 2010, mother nature once again ravaged the coast and inflicted damage on several piers — including Ventura. “Rogue waves” topping 15 feet knocked out a piling and threatened several other resulting in the pier being closed for several days. Sporadic damage continues to be reported over the years.
Today the pier appears to be in good shape and contains an interesting series of displays to help enrich the environment of the pier. One display shows a perpetual tidal movement and describes the forces that affect the tides. Long live this pier and the group that protects and preserves it.
Before the coming of the white man and the wharf, the coastline west of the pier was a site from which the native Chumash Indians launched their tomols or plank canoes in pursuit of trade with other coastal and Channel Island villages. One headquarters was the village of Shisholop (meaning in the mud), located in what would be today’s Ventura. The main trade was shell bead “money,” acorns, and fish. The village, established around 1000 A.D. was the site where Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first encountered California Native Americans in 1542.
Ventura Pier Facts
Hours: Open 24 hours a day.
Facilities: Lights, benches, fish-cleaning tables, restrooms, bait and tackle, and a snack bar are all found on the pier. A large fish restaurant, Eric Ericsson’s Fish Co., is located at the front of the pier. Near the pier is the parking lot for San Buenaventura State Beach; the cost is $1 an hour not to exceed $5 a day. The parking lot is open 6 A.M. until 11 P.M. but you may leave the parking lot after 11 P.M. since they do not lock the gate. There is very limited free side street free parking but you need to arrive early and be prepared for a considerable walk to the pier.
Handicapped Facilities: Handicapped parking and restrooms. The pier surface is wood and cement and the rail height is 36 inches. Access to the pier is from the public parking lot and then up a number of stairs (which are steep) or Handicap Accessible at the pier entrance off the main road.
Location: 34.273743998389165 N. Latitude, 119.29143905639648 W. Longitude.
How To Get There: From Highway 101 take the Seaward Drive exit west to Harbor Drive, turn right and follow it to the pier.
Management: California Department of Parks and Recreation.