By Casey Turton
Step out onto one of North Carolina’s fishing piers and you’re stepping into a magical place where great memories are made regardless if you take home a price catch or just want to enjoy nature.
Each visit will be different, depending on the time of season. Fishing piers hold communities of families, new and experienced fishermen, photographers, honeymooners, sunbathers and retirees who just like to talk. This community changes by the minute as people come and go.
Nature often puts on a wonderful show as the waves undulate beneath your feet and dolphin play off the end of the pier. Pelicans glide along, skimming the water top and sea gulls beg for food.
That’s just part of what makes a day on a pier interesting. While the people are fun, the real reason you’re there is to catch fish. Piers offer a wide variety of fish and for “first time” tourists or rookie fishermen, checking out what everyone is catching is a great way to pass the time. The Atlantic Ocean will yield spotted sea trout, pompano, mullet, flounder, striped bass, bluefish, drum, sheepshead, spot, croaker, black sea bass, and occasional dogfish shark (thrills the kids) and for the more experienced, cobia and spanish mackerel.
While some very large fish have been caught from piers, be content to see fish in the 1-2 pound range. Crabs and skates lurk in the waters also to annoy the fishermen and steal their bait.
Here are some tips if you are interested in pier fishing:
Fish on the incoming high tide. Piers usually have tidal charts.
Don’t go out during the heat of day unless you like sun stroke.
If you start catching fish, don’t leave your spot. Veteran fishermen will steal it while you turn your back to admire your catch or go grab a snack.
You don’t need expensive tackle. A discount rod and reel combo will do nicely. If you catch something that needs a thousand yards of line, chances are you aren’t going to win that battle anyway.
If you don’t know what it is, ask someone. Most ocean fish are edible and tasty, but not all.
Keep a watchful eye on the kids. It’s a long way down to the water.
There are 19 active piers along the coast. You can see a complete list at http://www.fishing-nc.com/nc-fishing-piers.php. Their fees and hours vary, but most feature a bait store and small restaurant. While you probably won’t order a Chateaubriand for Two and bottle of red wine at the pier restaurant, you will be treated to some home cooking and quick lunches or dinner featuring fresh fish or just old fashioned hot dogs and cheeseburgers.
High maintenance costs, insurance and storms as well as commercial development are all factors threatening the future of many piers. Piers range from 600 to 850 feet long and most close in the winter.
If you are not a boat owner or don’t have the desire to pay high charter boat fees, piers offer a great way to catch fish, meet people, enjoy Nature’s gifts and take some lifelong memories with you.