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North Carolina Pier Fishing
Pier fishing offers anglers the opportunity to catch anything from small bottom feeders such as spot, croakers and sea mullet up to tackle busting giants such as tarpon that might weigh 100 pounds, trophy red drum and king mackerel in the 50-pound range or 80-pound cobia.
Tackle for the small to medium sized fish that might grow to ten pounds is very similar, but it takes specialized gear to handle the heavyweights.
The bottom feeders, such as spot, sea mullet or croakers might be captured with pieces of fresh shrimp, squid, or bloodworms on a two hook bottom rig and a few ounces of lead weight. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, or trout are best fooled with artificial lures such as jiggers or bucktails that might not weigh more than two ounces.
A rod that is versatile enough to work with baited bottom rigs and artificial lures is about 7-feet long, with a stiff tip, matched to a reel filled with 12-pound test line, and it should easily be able to handle weights up to three ounces. Pier nets are usually available to assist anglers in landing large fish, but most often a fish is simply winched up and over the pier railings. A noodle soft rod will not handle this task, and a rod longer than 7 feet will be awkward when fishing along a crowded pier railing.
A lot of big fish are caught from the North Carolina’s piers. Depending on the season and location of the pier, cobia, king mackerel, red drum, amberjack, jack crevalle, tarpon and sharks make regular appearances. These fish may range from 15 pounds upwards to trophies that can top the 100 pound mark.
A majority of these fish are captured on live baits fished in the deep water from the ends of the piers. Two rods are necessary to effectively present these live baits and specialized tackle is necessary. Actually, the first is a very heavy rod that will cast a pyramid sinker, modified with 4 wire "arms" molded into it, and weighing between 8 and 12 ounces. When the anchor weight grabs the bottom and holds, the angler tightens up the line, and sets the rod down, propped up against the pier railing.
Part two is a "fighting rod", such as a typical 6-foot live bait rod and a heavy duty lever drag reel, more often used on boats slow trolling for king mackerel. At the business end of the fighting rod is a wire leader, and two or three small, extra strong treble hooks, baited with live bluefish, menhaden, or spot. The leader runs down the anchor line via a snap swivel trolley, and is attached with a wire pin rig or snap that pops it loose from the anchor rig when a fish strikes. The baits usually swim at or near the surface. Baits are kept alive in five gallon buckets with a tight fitting lid, drilled with several 3/4 inch holes.
Big king mackerel, cobia, and amberjacks will move from one end of the state to the other, but one species of large, migratory fish, the red drum, is usually caught only from the piers north of Hatteras Inlet. Big drum are not caught on live baits, but on fresh dead baits, fished on the bottom. Tough tackle is needed, and most regulars will use "Hatteras Heaver" rods. These are stiff, one piece, ten to eleven foot rods capable of tossing 8 to 14 ounces of weight. Often that much weight is necessary to hold bottom when the ocean conditions are rough, and the drum are feeding. Both the live bait set up and the heavers are specialized tackle for specialized fishing. It's not for everyone, but this kind of fishing offers land bound anglers an opportunity to catch big fish on a relatively small budget.
A terrific variety of fish and an affordable day on the water are two reasons for the popularity of pier fishing. The average cost for a day's fishing from most ocean piers is around ten dollars, with multiple day and seasonal passes available. The hours of operation vary seasonally, but many ocean piers are open 24 hours.
Most piers offer fish cleaning tables with running water. Large landing nets, attached to long ropes make it easy to capture a trophy fish. Benches are usually scattered along the pier rails, and some of the piers on the southern end of the coast have live bait tanks to sell live baits to those anglers who do not catch their own. Many piers provide rod and reel rental for those folks who might want to "try before they buy” and pier staff will gladly offer free advice on exactly how to rig up right to catch the big one.
North Carolina's piers are not only for fishing. Several offer food service for everything from snacks and drinks to full size restaurants serving delicious meals from breakfast through dinner. Some piers may be only a part of a complex consisting of rental cottages and/or motel rooms, and outside amusements. There are gift shops, game rooms, and of course, bait and tackle shops located in the pier houses. The folks at the pier house tackle shops are without a doubt the best source for up to the minute fishing information.
Last Updated (Sunday, 07 November 2010 15:09)