Just 85 feet below the incline of the Dumbarton bridge, where 60,000 commuters’ cars persistently fill the atmosphere per day with racket from their tires meeting the pavement, as their engines push them up and over the grade, a slightly quieter crowd of folks can be found casting their fishing lines into the murky waters of the peninsula.
Stationed at the end of the narrow, uneven and worn structure known as the Dumbarton pier, which served as the original Dumbarton bridge until 1982, residents of the East Bay and Peninsula regularly spend free time baiting hooks and checking their poles for nibbles, Gabriel Gutierrez, a Newark resident originally from a small town outside Guadalajara, Mexico, says he comes to the pier to fish as a way to unwind.
“Give myself a relaxing break, break from the stress and everything else,” he said simply.
Having only been fishing regularly for three years, Gutierrez, a carpenter, is a relative newcomer. He says he was inspired to try his hand at fishing after riding his bike down the pier and saw a group of fishermen reeling in sharks. That’s when he went to pick up some of his own equipment and can now proudly state that when he feels like it, he can prepare a tasty ceviche with the meat from a shark that he wrangles in.
Gutierrez says despite the ceviche, he’ll throw most of the fish back, because of high mercury levels in the waters.
Due to the presence of the New Almaden mercury mines in the South Bay, which were closed in the 1970’s, the amount of the chemical has reached dangerous levels in the waters of the Bay, according to Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge (DESFBNWR) manager, Eric Mruz.
Mruz says during this part of the yar, some of the most common fish to be hooked include leopard and sevengill sharks, or striper, a common lake fish.
Fishing enthusiasts can access the pier via roads that run parallel to the Dumbarton and a fishing license is not required to fish from the pier, because it is on the DESFBNWR, which is federal property.
Mruz said the environmental concerns of consistent fishing from the pier are limited to the basics, such as trash and fishing lines or gear that can be blown or thrown into the Bay.
The popularity of pier fishing in the waters underneath the Dumbarton was echoed on the western end at Ravenswood pier until 1994, when it was closed to the public indefinitely. Mruz attributed this closure to a high volume of incidents such as the drug sales and prostitution.
“Oh, that’s another one!” yelled out Antonio Padilla, of Denair, California after hearing a rod bell jingle, signifying the successful hooking of a shark on the line of his fishing pole. Antonio and his brother, Miguel, were recently visiting from the Turlock area for a family gathering and decided to fish at the pier.
“Its totally different,” Antonio says about fishing from the pier, due to the amount of people and a lower concentration of fish.
“You go fishing for trout and if you know what you’re doing, pretty much every time, you’ll reel a fish,” he said, drawing a contrast to the less consistent catches at the pier.
Andrew Azevedo, 26, of Hayward, says he has been fishing since he was a kid, and enjoys coming out to the pier because it gives him a “break from work.” Azevedo, who works two jobs during the week, says the pier isn’t his only spot for the sport he loves.
“Anywhere I can fish, I’ll fish,” he said.
Steve Herbst, 53, of Fremont, says work keeps him from fishing more often. A groundskeeper for the Newark school district, Herbst says he has been fishing since he was six years old.
Herbst, who describes fishing as a unique mix between socializing and relaxing, says he comes to the pier at least once per month and simply said he loves “the enjoyment of being around other fishermen, my son-in-law, and my grandson,” who were with Herbst at the pier recently.
While fishing from the pier seems to be a family affair for many fishermen and fisherwomen, finding a respite from a multitude of stressors in daily life is what keeps the anglers of all ages and backgrounds coming back.
Herbst’s grandson, Ray Alves, 16, of Fremont, says “It’s just relaxing. I get away from a lot of stuff, like school, mostly.”
The young student-athlete, who plays football, basketball and runs track at Kennedy high school, finds enjoyment in the tranquil nature of fishing.
“You don’t have to do much, you can just talk to people, just relax and just look at the view most of the time.”
Herbst conveyed the sentiment of a host of fishers at the pier.
“I love fishing. It gets me away from the regular grind of everyday life and I enjoy it.”
This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, September 27th, 2012 at 5:30 pm.