Recollections of Sportsfishing at the Pier

As told by Zachary E. Knop

Back in 1974, during my school years attending McKinley Elementary School in Santa Monica, I often fished off the end of the Santa Monica Pier. There were many great Shiner Perch runs feeding on pieces of shrimp sold in the Santa Monica sportfishing bait shop. The Pacific Bonito were known to swing by during the summer months. At the back of the Santa Monica sportfishing landing there was a large private balcony the size of the whole length of the landing – the perfect place to fish for these Bonito. Fishermen would pay $10 for all the live bait they needed, then attach to the end of a line which included a leader with a swivel and a pyramid weight. Sometimes pier fishermen would even get surprised by fishing boat-quality California Halibut and some Calico Bass at this great location.

Santa Monica Pier at that time offered passage on two daily sportfishing boats the Kiaora and the Indiana. The Kiaora ran twice daily, offering half-day boat trips from 8am-12:30pm and from 1:00pm-5:00pm. The landing offered re-run specials at half price for anglers that wanted to go fishing again in the afternoon trip. Every Monday, I would fish the half-day boat in the summer time and also many weekend days while attending school. Deckhand Tom would take great care of the anglers aboard by chumming anchovies to attract the fish, entertaining everyone aboard and building their excitement. The Indiana offered three-quarter day trips that operated daily from 7:30am-3:00pm. Deckhand Jeff accompanied the fisherman aboard with any assistance they need. This boat had no galley but one little bench to sit on in front of a microwave oven for heating up hot dogs. The Santa Monica Pier landing had a specific method of boarding the boats. First you walked down a flight of stairs from pier deck to a float on the surface of the water aligned next to the boat. The fisherman who made the first reservation was given first choice for the spot on the boat that they wanted to fish from. The second chose second, and so on in order. The fishermen then boarded the boats by walking down a long ramp to align with the water surface where the boats would dock sideways.

I recall that every single Monday the same group of retired seniors would be on board, playing poker in the galley on the way out to the fishing spot. And every Monday these fishermen always got the first five spots boarding the boat. They were always first to reserve. Today the Santa Monica Pier has a great fishing platform all around the end, since rebuilding from the damages it suffered during the 1983 storm. The Santa Monica Sportfishing landing disappeared during that storm, along with the Kiaora and the Indiana. Hopefully one day the funds will become available to build a new breakwater and a new sportfishing landing.