Getting to know the local fishermen along the piers of the South Bay

Camera in hand, a local photographer hits the piers of the South Bay to meet the men who dot the railings of early morning and late afternoon, when the fish below are plentiful and hungry.

Jaime dodges pecks as he struggles to untangle a bird that got caught in his line off the Hermosa Beach Pier. Fishing’s adverse effect on wildlife isn’t trivial—fishermen often catch what they don’t want or what is illegal to take home. A penalty for taking home such a catch can reach upwards of $5,000 depending on the species, plus confiscation of gear and even car impoundment.

Ruben just recently began teaching his nephew, Jonah, how to fish. “You have to get the basics down first,” says the Hermosa Beach resident. “One day I came out here and caught 30 fish in one day. In a city of 10,000 people, look around.” He points around the pier. “There are six people out in this beautiful open space.”

Caesar, a longtime fisherman off the Hermosa Beach Pier, unhooks a freshly caught mackerel. He was born in The Philippines, but when he was 5 years old the Japanese guerrilla forces invaded. He left for Hong Kong in his late 20s, where he met his wife. After seven years in Hong Kong and more bombings, he returned to The Philippines and a decade later applied for U.S. citizenship.

Two young fishermen, Tyler Wilson and his best friend, improvise a filet job outside Polly’s on the pier in Redondo Beach. Other fishermen—maybe more seasoned than these two—call it a “hack job,” as the boys rip the fish’s head off with their bare hands on the filet table above the calm water.

Ramond, originally from Louisiana, recounts when his parents taught him to fish when he was just 3 years old. “Fishing is in my blood,” he says. He hopes to teach his own two young children how to fish and is now teaching them how to bait their hooks and attach their sinkers to their lines. “I caught two bass already today—just using bread!” he says as he chums the water around his net with crumbs crushed between his fingers.

Darren, an engineer from Gardena, has been fishing at this same spot for 40 years. “My father used to take me out here on these piers,” he says while reeling in a relatively small, 7-inch bass. “I caught a 17-incher off this pier last week.”

Gung Tran is part of a group of men who wheel out their tackle boxes and fishing poles at 7 a.m. They exchange Vietnamese banter back and forth, laughing and smoking. Another man named Le says he came here from South Vietnam in 1975 and now saves the fish he catches for the elderly and the poor that he knows here in America. “There was no freedom there, not like here,” he says.