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Colorful Fishing Barges Popularized Ocean Fishing on the West Coast, Leaving Legacy of Anglers

Imagine a cross between a fishing pier and a cruise ship, and you might envision something like a fishing barge. A motley fleet of these enterprising vessels helped popularize recreational ocean fishing along the West Coast starting about the early 1920s. It’s an often-forgotten chapter in California’s rich fishing history.

Fishing barges such as the GeorgiaIke Walton, and Point Loma gave many California anglers their first chance to catch marine fish in prime waters. These fish were otherwise accessible only to commercial fishing boats. Though collectively called barges, they included former ferries, freighters, and fishing vessels.

Barge fishing lasted until about the 1970s. Bill Jacobson recalls his parents dropping him and his teenage friends off to fish from a barge in Seal Beach for the day. The barge “was one step above pier or jetty fishing,” he recalled. The former NOAA Fisheries staffer recalled coming home with catches of bonito, barracuda, and other species.

He remembered another regular angler known as Rosie, who had a favorite spot on the barge that remained clear for her. She always announced her arrival: “Wake up fish! Rosie’s here!”

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