Reporter’s Notebook: Fishing on Seal Beach Pier is legal until at least 2033

Charles M. Kelly. File photo

In the recent Sun social media poll on how the end of the pier should be used, a few people said they wanted to get rid of fishing on the pier.

Legally, that can’t happen. Here’s the background:

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife website says you don’t need a fishing license to fish from a public pier.

The Seal Beach Pier is a public pier.

An agreement between our city and the state wildlife agency will keep fishing on the pier until at least 2033.

According to a Jan. 28, 2013 Seal Beach staff report, Seal Beach has limited authority to regulate fishing on the pier. I covered the issue at the time, but a wise reporter doesn’t trust everything to memory. So, the Sun recently requested a copy of the 2013 staff report on the subject. (The agenda item was originally requested by then-District One Councilwoman Ellery Deaton. She has since termed out of office and has been replaced by Councilman Joe Kalmick.) On Tuesday, Aug. 6, Mayor Tom Moore provided the Sun with a copy of the report without having been advised of our request. The Sun submitted a request to cancel our original Public Record Act request.

“At the November 13, 2012 City Council meeting, Councilmember Deaton requested that staff formalize a report to consider fishing limits on the pier, including the possibility of specific fishing times, specific areas for fishing as well as the prospect of issuing citations for fishermen who are not in compliance with the rules,” according to a staff report by then-Administrative Manager Patrick Gallegos. (Sean Crumby, the assistant city manager/Public Works director, submitted the report.)

“On March 2, 1983, the center section of the Seal Beach pier was destroyed by a storm. In order to fund the reconstruction of the pier, the City entered into an agreement with the Department of Fish and Game on December 12, 1983 (Attachment A). As part of the terms and conditions, the City agreed to not establish fishing restrictions on the pier at any time except when necessary for maintenance, repair, public safety, and security or for protection of the structure or facilities. In return for meeting the terms and conditions of the agreement, the Department of Fish and Game provided funding to rebuild the pier. The term of this agreement was for 25 years and was set to expire on December 12, 2008,” said the staff report.

“However, the City amended the agreement (Attachment B) with the Department of Fish and Game on February 15, 2007 to help fund the replacement and rehabilitation of the worn surface decking over most of the 1,640 foot length of the pier. As such, the terms and conditions of the original agreement were extended to December 12, 2033,” the report said.

The date in the report is identical to the date provided in the 2007 amendment to the pier agreement, which current Seal Beach Mayor Moore also provided to the Sun.

“Hence, staff has determined that the City does not have the ability to restrict fishing times and locations on the pier as a result of the agreement with the Department of Fish and Game except when pier fishing imposes a safety threat to persons on the beach or in the water per Seal Beach Municipal Code, section 9.05.065 (A),” the report said.

At the time of the 2013 report to the council, staff recommended increased code enforcement and the use of senior volunteers.

Signage on the pier prohibits overhead casting.

The effectiveness of that signage is unclear. In my recent article about the Sun’s pier use survey, Tysha Michel said that a man cast a line as he was walking by on the pier “and I had to dodge the hook.”

The Sun reviewed the original agreement between Seal Beach and what was then called the California Department of Fish and Game, which was also provided by Mayor Moore.

The agreement said the name of the project will be either “the Seal Beach Fishing Pier or the Seal Beach Pier.”

The original agreement said no alterations or additions near the project area (the pier) will encroach upon the fishing space from the project area.

All that said, it should be noted that some members of the public have raised legitimate concerns about the mess created by fishers who leave unused bait behind as well as violations of safety rules such as the prohibition on overhead casting.

I’m afraid I have no answers to these issues. I only know that Seal Beach has made an agreement to allow fishing on the pier for the duration of its agreement with Fish and Wildlife. That agreement expires in 2033. If I’m still around when the expiration date approaches, I’ll write an article reminding the public about it and you can tell the council how you feel about it. Don’t laugh. I’ve been covering this town since July 2005. I don’t plan on leaving any time soon.

I’d like to thank Mayor Moore for passing along the documents on which I based this column. It’s much appreciated.

In related news, the annual Rotary Club Kid’s Fishing Derby is scheduled to be held on the pier on Aug. 17.


Charles M. Kelly is associate editor of the Sun News.