The Coast News Group

Pier fishing used to be low-budget fun for kids

DEL MAR — After making a modest investment for hooks, lines and sinkers, Depression-era kids could spend hours fishing off the pier for perch and the more combative Corvina. The pier stretched out 1,000 feet into the blue Pacific between l5th and 17th streets.
Normally the fish line would be wrapped around a small board. Luckier kids owned a rod and reel that were considered luxury items.
Bait was plentiful and free simply by digging in the wet sand for crabs. Mussels could be scrapped off pier pilings.
There was a bait house at the pier entrance and a high fence with a sign that read that the pier was for Caucasians only. Kids felt they qualified and so ignored the rule, whatever it meant.
The water was crystal clear so it was possible to watch fish swarm around a baited hook. Eventually one of them, the leader no doubt, would grab the bait. It became a delicious meal after it was scaled, gutted and fried. There were no plastic bags or trash inside their stomachs in those days.
The first pier was built circa 1914 when there was a campaign to bring visitors as well as residents to the village.
It withstood winter storms and some marginal destruction occurred through the years until a storm that was a real doozy in 1932 left only parts of it standing. It became a liability because kids were using it for a springboard and the decision was made to remove it. This became a problem because no one would claim ownership. Finally, the county of San Diego commissioned its parks and rec dept to destroy it.
It leaned on Navy Seals to do that as a training exercise on Feb. 17, 1959, when the Seals blew the remains of the pier to smithereens before a cheering crowd.
All that was left were memories of kids fishing off of it.