A long held tradition on our coast is the public fishing pier. Usually the piers are privately owned but available for all to enjoy. The ocean piers on Topsail Island provide easy access to deeper water and a wider variety of fish. And to be honest, they just plain make fishing easier.
Growing up in this area, like many of the local youths, I learned to ocean fish on our piers. It wasn’t till much later that I had the opportunity to fish from a boat. We would show up in early afternoon, plunk down our money for a ticket and some bait and then proceed to fish to our hearts content. Often we fished through the night and into the wee hours of the morning.
A while back, a friend and I were trying to remember all the names of the piers from over the years. We counted at least seven that have made home on Topsail Island at various times. I think I have fished on most of them at one time or another.
The recent boom in beach development has left many of North Carolina’s beach communities without a public fishing pier. The land is often “worth” more developed for residential use than for commercial purposes. We are very fortunate on Topsail Island to still have three ocean piers, one in each of the three townships.
Located in North Topsail Beach, Seaview pier is the newest pier on Topsail Island. With a pier length of 1000 feet, they also have the longest pier on the island. Their fully stocked tackle shop offers fresh bait for sale and rod rental. Their restaurant will cook your catch for you right on the spot for a small charge. They charge $8.00 for a day pass and offer a discount for military personnel.
The Surf City Ocean Pier is located just over the bridge to the right. Originally built in 1948, it was the first pier on Topsail Island. The structure was completely rebuilt after Hurricane Fran destroyed it in 1997. The 937 foot long fishing pier is owned and operated by the Lore family and features a 40 foot octagon with a live well tank at the end for King Mackerel fishing. The pier house is well stocked with tackle and bait. They have a grill with screened in dining and also will cook your catch for you. The fishing fee is $7.00 per rod for a twenty-four period.
Topsail Beach is home to the Jolly Roger Fishing Pier. Built around 1954 and currently owned and operated by the Orr family, this pier is also a landmark amongst fisherman. The pier is about 880 feet long and offers a grill for hot food and plenty of snacks and drinks. The have a well stocked tackle shop and carry a variety of baits. The cost to fish is $11 per person with each angler allowed two poles. Children under fourteen years of age are charged half price.
All three piers have a “blanket” fishing license so individuals do not need a saltwater license to fish from the pier. However this year you will need one to fish from the surf, sound side or in a private boat. They can be purchased at most of the area’s tackle shops.
The best way to describe the fishing this past week is “typical summer mixed bag”. Or as a friend put it, “ a lot of different fish being caught but not a lot of any one fish”.
In the surf, some pompano and drum are being caught with an occasional flounder. The piers report a mix of Spanish mackerel, blues, pompano and flounder being caught with an occasional speck. A few kings have been caught also and that action should be heating up as fall approaches and more bait is along the beaches.
The marsh banks and creeks are producing some nice red drum on the flood tide stage. Try some finger mullet, small menhaden or Berkley gulp jerk baits. Some nice keeper size flounder are being taken but most anglers are throwing back two or three undersize fish for every keeper they catch.
Off shore fisherman are reporting king mackerel being caught from 10 miles out with smaller ones along the beach and near shore ledges. They are also picking up some nice mahi further out. Gag grouper have started their move inshore for the spawn with keeper size fish being caught inside of 20 miles this past week.
I hope you have an enjoyable Labor Day week-end and tight lines to all!
Yesterday was such a beautiful day and I had not been able to get out fishing all week. So after church, I loaded the boat and off I went with my best fishing buddy (Lucy, my dog). First stop was to get a finger mullet or two. I didn’t plan on fishing with live bait, these were for Lucy who loves to eat Sushi!
There was an hour or so left of the incoming tide so I decided to head to one of my favorite high water summer spots for red drum. It’s a marsh creek that cuts between the ICW and banks channel with flats, marsh and deep holes. A perfect recipe for locating reds around high tide this time year.
The creek was full of bait and I could see reds swirling the waters as they picked at fish and crabs in the marsh grass. I threw out a gulp shrimp on a jig head and had a red take it on the first cast. It was non-stop after that with almost every cast producing a fish, all in the 22 - 25” range. What a blast on light tackle. After an hour or so and probably nine or ten fish my arm was tired and it was time to go looking for some flounder.
It has been a while since I had taken my boat up to the north end of the island so I decided to try it today. I also knew my buddy Allen would be out in his boat and I could tag along with him in his home waters. I made a stop at the Surf City Bridge on the way for a few quick casts. Nothing but then again I only stayed for a short 10 or 15 minutes.
I headed up to Salliers Bay just off the waterway north of the inlet channel. I had fished it once a few weeks ago in Allen’s boat and while it didn’t produce that day I thought I’d give it another try. Allen joined me a few minutes after I arrived and we both fished for about 45 minutes. Not even a nibble. So we headed to a creek closer to the inlet and fished there for an hour or two. This was a new spot for me and has some very “pretty water” - flats, deep channels and tucked aways from the boat traffic. We didn’t catch anything there either but I learned a new spot and I definitely will go back there again. Thanks Allen for sharing your spot!
Sure is some pretty water up that end of the island. I need to make the trek up there more often!
Holy mackerel, Jack caught his first king! then another. Jack is only 8 years old. Do you see the smile on his face? I think it will be there for many days to come. The memories will last even longer. When I was a kid there were few things I enjoyed more than fishing. I think it is that way for Jack too.
Last week I wrote a column about fishing with Andrew and his brother Phil. If you remember I mentioned Andrew’s son who really likes to eat fish. Well that is Jack. He not only likes to eat ‘em, he likes to catch ‘em. And he likes to spend time with his dad doing both. Here’s the story as relayed to me from Andrew:
“Jack and I went out the past two mornings from 7-10 am trolling off the beach at Hotel Ledge and the Jolly Roger numbers that you gave us and caught 3 kings. He caught his first yesterday and was so excited. Then today, he caught a bigger one - about 30” - and really had to fight it. He’s walking tall now.”
Congratulations Jack! Way to go! I hope you catch many, many more but I’m sure that first king mackerel will always be special!
The Surf City Ocean Pier held the 4th annual Mike Martin Memorial Fishing Tournament this past week-end. By any measure it was a huge success. The turnout was the largest yet, the weather was perfect and the fish even showed up! Fish were caught in 8 of the 9 categories with only King Mackerel being shut-out. There were a lot of door prizes this year and lots of smiles!
Of course the big news is that a speckled trout was caught ending the drought from the last tournament. The winner received this year’s grand prize of $500 plus the $500 prize carried over from last year when no specks were caught in the tournament. In fact the first speck of this tournament was caught less than 30 minutes from the beginning on Saturday. However that fish was eclipsed by a larger fish on Sunday morning. Following are the complete results:
1st Tim Jenkins 6.39 lb Puppy Drum
2nd Gavin Jones 1.57 lb Spade
3rd Garrett Burgess 1.54 lb Spanish
$1000 Speckled trout Tony Lane (pictured above)
$100 Gene Rivenbark 2.65 lb
$50 Brian Glasnapp 2.59 lb
$100 Virginia Speaks .40 lbs
$50 Shelly Phillips .36 lbs
$100 Augie Hernandez 2.24 lbs
$50 Russ Becker 1.63 lbs
$100 J.M. Dupree .51 lb (released to grow up)
$100 Doug Keicher 1.55 lb
$50 James Tyndall .80 lbs
$100 Todd Andrews 1.23 lbs
$50 Michael Bryant 1.18 lbs
$100 Alex Beasley 1.40 lbs
$50 Virginia Speaks 1.35 lbs
The largest fish caught on a Gotcha Plug was a flounder that weighed 2.26 lbs caught by Tanner Jones. He won a rod and reel combo (valued at $240) donated by Sea Striker
The largest fish caught on a Clark Caster was also a flounder this one weighed .98 lbs caught by Candice Burke. She won a Gift bag full of Clark Casters, spoons and shinners a value of $100 donated by James E. Clark, LLC a division of Sea Striker.
Today I had the pleasure of fishing with a pair of brothers, Andrew and Phil, who connected with me through this website. Andrew and his wife own a place in Topsail Beach on the sound and spend a good deal of time fishing and frolicking in the nearby waters. We took their 21’ Sea Hunt out of the inlet shortly after sunrise, headed for Cripple Rock to do some trolling and then some bottom fishing. The seas were a bit confused in the morning with the swells from the south and the wind from the NE but they were quite manageable in the Sea Hunt with Andrew’s capable hand at the helm. As the day went on, the winds died down and it became very calm.
We made a stop at the first set of box cars to jig up some live bait for bottom fishing. The bait was concentrated near the buoy (which is back but now says AR364 instead of AR362) and was a bit skittish but we did manage to get some decent bait. Once we arrived at Cripple rock we began to put out our lines. We went with a spread of a ballyhoo rigged on a Blue Water Candy skirt on the long line and another ballyhoo on a chugger on the medium-long line. On the two down riggers we deployed cigar minnows on Hank Brown rigs.
the last to go out was the chugger and just as Andrew was getting it into position it got nailed by a sailfish. As typically with sails, he hit it with his bill to stun it so Andrew let out line to make it appear to stay in the same place as the boat moved but no hook up, still a great way to get started. Unfortunately it was pretty slow after that with a couple of short strikes. We did manage a new one for me, a Remora swallowed one of our down rigger baits. At first we we thought we had a small (abnout 24”) cobia on the line and even tried to catch his friend that was following. But when we got it to the boat and saw the flat head and grayish body we we realized it wasn’t a cobia. The size of that Remora made us wonder what size shark might be lurking underneath?!?!
In the afternoon we anchored up for some bottom fishing. We never found the grouper but did manage a nice trigger fish and some white grunts. So at least we caught some fresh fish, Andrew’s son really likes fish and was looking forward to some for dinner (glad we didn’t disappoint him).
The fishing was slow but the company was excellent. Andrew and Phil - I really enjoyed getting to know you and thanks again for the trip! Maybe we can go again next week and get some of those Kings that should finally be arriving near the beach.
Surf City Ocean Pier is hosting the 4th annual Mike Martin Fishing tournament next week-end (August 16th and 17th). The tournament is named in memory of their former manager who died suddenly. Actually Mike had conceived the idea of an August tournament and the first one was in the planning stages when he passed. Vinita Gass the current managed picked up the torch and as they say the rest is history.
The competition begins at 6am on Saturday and runs till noon on Sunday. There are 10 categories of fish ranging from spots to kings. Each category cost $5 to enter or you can enter all 10 for $35. Last year no one weighed in a speckled trout so Edwin Lore, the owner of the pier, decided to carry it forward this year and add it to the prize money. So this year the heaviest speckled trout pays $1,000. Each of the other categories pay $100 for first place and $50 for second place.
They also have a special division for children 12 and under. This is usually the highlight of the tournament for many of us. Just seeing the excitement on the faces of those kids will keep me going for days. If you have children, this tournament is a must for your family!
They have over 40 door prizes including a week-end get-a-way for two, a fishing trip for two on the Vonda Kay, meals from area restaurants, plenty of fishing gear and many other items. They will be giving these away through out the tournament.
You are allowed to fish as many or as few of the available hours as you wish. Of course all fish entered must be caught on the pier, so buy your ticket and come on down and fish! The awards ceremony is at 2PM on Sunday.
The catching has been slow this week with a typical mixed bag of croaker, spots, Spanish, flounder and some specks being caught near shore. Small kings are being caught about everywhere, real small ones. The bigger ones seem to be further off shore. The billfish bite has been decent with marlins and sails being caught.
Tight lines and catch ‘em up!
Gery and I headed out this morning to determine where we want to fish in the tournament tomorrow. We jigged up some live bait and headed to some favorite spots.
The wind settled down around 9am and it turned into a very pleasant day on the water after a bit of a sloppy start. Soon we had our baits in the water and after a while we boated our first king. We caught 5 more for a total of six but all of them where small so we decided that those areas will not be visited tomorrow. We’ll try another direction in hopes of a BIG king.
Oh yeah, Gery did get one good fight today, that was from a 20 plus pound reef donkey (see picture below).