Last modified: November 15, 2018

Fishing Piers Southern California

Ventura 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

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.

3 Responses

  1. Is there a fish count off of pier? Is its always open?

  2. Handicap access off the main road. Where delivery’ are made. But what about free handicap parking at, to, and for the public pier? I’m bound to a wheelchair. Can i still roll out to the end of the pier comfortably, and without the risk of my wheels becoming stuck risking my chair and me injury buy tipping over? No, because the once present planking that simulated a smooth side walk was removed. The only available FREE HANDICAP PARKING, measures in distance 600+ feet thats equivalent to the length of 2 football fields. And yet look at all that space on the main road to the pier entrance fenced off. True be told, the pier and a wheelchair bounded fishing lover are a very dangerous combonation.

  3. Sorry to hear that Michael. Sounds like things have gone from bad to worse.

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