Last night at dusk, we walked out along the fishing pier at OB. That’s Ocean Beach. The pier has been here since 1966, and ambles concretely 1,971 feet out into the ocean; some think it may be the longest concrete pier in the world. It also “T”s at its end, which adds 360 feet to the south, and 193 feet to the north. There’s even a cafe and a bait shop (not my favorite combo) about half way out.
Edmund G. Brown was California’s governor at the time the pier was dedicated, and he was allowed to made the first cast off the new pier. As he started to fish under the watchful eyes of nearly six thousand San Diegoans, a large cabin cruiser with a banner reading, “Reagan for Governor” circled the pier, just out of lethal rock-throwing distance. Edmund fished for five whole minutes. He didn’t even catch a cold. But failure to fish has consequences; in November, it was Ronnie and Nancy who moved into the governor’s mansion.
But last night, things were different. The port-side passengers peering out of the constant stream of passenger jets leaving San Diego International were most likely oblivious to the scene below. The air was perfect, the moonlight enchanting, and the waves languid; it was not a night to fly, it was a night to fish.
Not counting the burned-out son who angrily thrashed an out-of-tune Strat with a battery-powered amp, there were hundreds of people on the pier, and almost all of them were fishing. Rods and reels poked up at the gathering dark every several feet; some were manned by serious looking “professionals” with expensive looking t-shirts advertising rock bands and athletes; others were held tentatively, with the small hands and tiny fingers of little people with less than a few minutes’ experience.
A majority of the fishers were Hispanic, but there were also many Vietnamese, and a sprinkling of Anglos. Some fished from beach chairs, bundled up in their hoodies. Most stood silently with heads bowed, peering over— sorry— the salt-air sticky railing, tracking their glow-in-the-dark bobbers, waiting for their sudden disappearance.
Styrofoam coolers held occasional flopping sounds, as little mackerels or kelp bass tried in vain to swim their way out of a terminal dilemma. Here and there children huddled four or five together, all peering— damn— into the soft blue glow of a cell phone. I’m sure they were learning how to tie the awesome new saltwater uni-knot, online; so to speak.
And so it goes; men, women, and children fish for food, fun, and freedom. In the haphazard beams of flashlights, baits are cut and cast; reels are spun and cranked; fish are caught and cleaned; freedom is lived and enjoyed. And the sickest part about this pier-ful abomination of socialist largess? Not one person needs a license. Anyone, and everyone— foreign and domestic— rich and poor— male and female— good and bad— learned and unlearned— all may fish for free.