Oak Island Pier is Open for Business
Fishing pier is rebuilt after Hurricane Matthew and ready for summerBy Mike Zlotnicki By | Photos by The Star News
A couple of decades ago there were over 30 fishing piers on the coast of North Carolina offering ocean access to hordes of Tar Heel anglers. But human development and Mother Nature — in the form of devastating hurricanes — have reduced the number of piers to 17.
Thanks to some forward thinking by the Town of Oak Island, one storm-ravaged pier is being brought back to life. Originally built in 1955, the pier was rebuilt in 1972, again in 1992. The town purchased the pier in 2009 and had to rebuild it yet again when Hurricane Matthew severely damaged it in 2016.
The former Yaupon Pier is being rebuilt by Oak Island thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation and a grant of $300,000 from the NC Department of Environmental Quality. Fishing from the new structure will begin July 2 (see Carolina Compass, page 35, for information on Oak Island’s Beach Day event). The pier is already open for walking and will continue to allow walking visitors in for no charge. The Pier House is open with snacks and beverages, as is the Koko Cabana restaurant. An ice cream and coffee café is also on site.
Work to complete the pier will resume after the summer season. The pier will have a new look, at 880 long and 27 feet above the waves below, with a T structure at the end—scheduled to be complete by July—for king mackerel anglers. There is special fiberglass grating to allow waves to pass through and reduce pressure on the structure, as well as sections of rail that are lower, offering accessible fishing and spots to better see the ocean. Popular local angler Capt. Jerry Dilsaver has been hired to oversee day-to-day operations. He emphasizes that the property is more than just a fishing pier.
“While the pier is the centerpiece for me as an angler, the pier complex has a restaurant, a coffee shop and an event center, called The 801 Center, available for rent,” Jerry says. “All of that, along with the beach itself, should offer something for everyone.”
Fishing the Pier
The pier should serve anglers well. Typical species to expect close to the beach are speckled trout, flounder, red drum, black drum, bluefish and sea mullet (whiting) using cut bait or live bait, according to Jerry. Farther down the pier, bluefish and Spanish mackerel can be targeted with spoons and jigs. At the very end, anglers with specialized rigs will target king mackerel, cobia and the accidental tarpon. Being the closest pier to the Cape Fear River Inlet means that schools of baitfish will pull out on the falling tide, attracting predators like the blues, Spanish and kings.
Piers give everyone a chance to catch saltwater fish, and you can do it with freshwater tackle — with a caveat: Make sure you wash down your rods and reels thoroughly with fresh water after each use, or the saltwater will corrode the metal in short fashion. Bass and catfish tackle is fine for the smaller species, just rinse it well and make sure water doesn’t pool inside the reel when storing. As for tackle, the pier house will be stocked with all of the pier-fishing essentials, and frozen bait will be available.
Try to use fresh shrimp, mullet or squid if you can, and don’t let it sit on the pier drying out. Keep it on ice. The pier will have a blanket fishing license covering all anglers fishing on it.
Fish—and other seabound critters—on the Carolina Coast