Des Moines Pier - no fish and no fishermen

Quite honestly, I can’t even remember the last time this happened.  I was unexpectedly back home in Seattle.  My uncle had passed, and I went up to pay my respects and support my cousin Henry.  The funeral was up in British Columbia, Canada.  After the funeral I was back in Seattle and I had a couple days on my hands (Friday & Saturday).  I was looking for fishing options on Friday, but nothing panned out.  Saturday, despite the fact they were out of town, I set the day aside to watch my University of Washington Huskies play their football game (BIG road win).  Along the way, I saw friends from high school and college and generally tried to relax from what had been a very stressful week.

With Rick at Des Moines pier

One of those friends was my buddy Rick.  Rick and I have known each other since 5th grade.  His dad was my first basketball coach, playing Boys Club ball.  We ended up playing basketball together through Junior year in high school, and remained friends throughout.  Besides being teammates, Rick and I were fishing buddies.  His parents’ place was on Woodmont Beach, just a short bike ride from my parents’ house.  Rick’s dad let us use a little aluminum skiff with an outboard motor (occasionally his Dad’s bigger boat too) and when the sports seasons were over, we fished a lot, along the south end of Puget Sound.   Our domain was from Des Moines pier to the north, to Redondo pier to the south.

Back in the day, we could catch big perch, flounder, ling cod, various rockfish and on particularly lucky occasions migrating salmon.  Bullhead and dogfish sharks were mixed in to annoy us.  One of our favorite tactics was to go underneath the pier at Redondo and scrape the mussels off the pilings to the pier.  Underneath and between the mussels were green centipede looking pile worms.  The pile worms were the candy bait and almost guaranteed you would catch something nice.  With the mussels we’d chum a spot by the dock and and then with a smashed mussel attached to a hook, we’d feel the perch nibbling and we’d try to set a hook as they did so.  Almost always we’d catch something.

View of South Puget Sound from Marine Hills

I was lamenting to Rick that the last couple times I had taken Jake up here, we had tried to fish the piers in Des Moines and Redondo and didn’t catch anything.  Rick mentioned to me that the fishing had gone downhill ever since commercial fishing boats started to work the area back in the 80’s.  Along with taking fish, they also blasted the seafloor with large hoses to expose geoduck (gooey-duck) and take them.  Geoducks are large clams with extremely long necks.  They bury themselves pretty deeply and that long neck is only exposed at the tip to suck saltwater and thus feed.  Rick said there would be very dirty tides after these seafloor blastings.  I commented that the practice must totally wreck the ecosystem, and he said yes, there is no longer any kelp beds in the area.  If you’ve been following along, you know we do a lot of fishing along the kelp here in SoCal.  The reason why the kelp is such a productive fishing area is bait fish live and hide in it and the target predator fish hunt for them there.  This information made me very sad.

Southern California had a similar situation around the same time, but because there is such a strong, tourism-revenue generating sportfishing fleet, there was an effective counterbalance to the interests of the commercial fishermen.  No such coalition existed in my old fishing grounds and the fishery has been wrecked as a result.  I’m going to spend some time looking into this situation and try to see what can be done to bring the fish back.  I didn’t fish this weekend, but now I’m back in my adopted home of SoCal and there will be plenty of fishing to do.  My home where I grew up isn’t as lucky and generations of great memories are being lost because of it.


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