April 17, 2006
Pier Fishing with My Dad
…. The Triple S pier on Atlantic Beach was torn down several weeks ago. The Sportsman’s Pier may suffer a similar fate soon. Pretty soon they will all be gone … victims of escalating real estate prices. If you grew up within 3-4 hours drive of “da beach” in the 60s, chances are you spent part of your youth “pier fishing”. Daddy BobLee and Little BobLee did and those memories came rushing back as I read this latest story of “progress”.
We lived about two hours from Morehead. Straight down Highway 70 past Dover and Cove City, the Tuscarora Fire Tower and the straightest stretch of road I believe I’ve ever seen. Fifteen miles straight as a string. There was no bypass around New Bern back then. The New Bern Fire Station had a bear over its door. To Havelock pass “the kicking machine” and Dick Parker Motors at Cherry Point … that WWII jet outside the entrance to Cherry Point Marine Air Station was “cool”. Around Cherry Point you started to smell the salt air.
NOTE: Duke Laxers and their Dads probably fly in to remote Manitoba lakes for “muskies”. Me and Dad went to “da beach” in a ’61 Buick Special w/ an AM radio.
There was a dog track on the outskirts of Morehead. Yes, it’s name is Morehead City, but we just called it “Morehead”. Rex Restaurant and The DoNut House on the right. You knew you were “da beach” when you passed the marinas with their yachts.
My Grandmother had a beach house at 2709 Evans Street in Morehead right on the Sound about three blocks from the bridge. She would move down on Memorial Day and stay thru Labor Day. No air conditioning in the house but the breeze off the sound made for the best sleeping ever. If Grandmother was in the house, sometimes we would go down on Friday night, otherwise we would leave home real early Saturday morning to catch the tides right. High tide is the best fishing of course.
The Triple S was “our pier”. I’m not sure why but everybody just had “their favorite pier”. One of my pals had a beach house about 100 yards from The Sportsman Pier. Next to Courie’s Villa. That was “his pier”. We tried the Oceana a few times (between the Triple S and Sportsman). The Triple S was the closest to Fort Macon.
I don’t recall what a day pass costs back then. Dad took care of all that. I suspect it was around $5.00. The pier house had a little restaurant that served a good hearty breakfast and burgers and such throughout the day.
We weren’t real serious fishermen. We started out with regular spool reels but graduated to “spinning reels” as technology advanced. My Dad and I shared a tackle box. We had a few lures but mainly we used shrimp on double hook rigs. We bought the fresh shrimp from the man in the pier house. It came in a plastic bag.
When we planned a trip I would practice casting in our back yard a few days prior. I would pick out one of Mom’s azalea bushes and try to drop the plug in front of it.
When I was a very little BobLee I was always afraid I would let go of the rod and it would fly off into the ocean. It never did.
Mainly we caught “spots” … about the size of your hand. They gave a good pull especially if you caught two at a time. Sometimes we caught croakers. In the Fall you caught “skates” which were small sting rays and were basically trash fish. Flounders put up a good fight because of their shape in the water.
When we were using spool reels we always casted overhead and you had to make sure no one was walking behind you. Spool reels would backlash if you weren’t a good caster. Later with “spinning reels” you could flip the bait out by leaning out over the railing and tossing the bait from underneath.
The big excitement came when “the blues were running”. Everyone got out seahawks and mirrolures and bombarded where they thought the school of blues were. Catching “a blue” was a big thrill as even a small blue put up a big fight.
I recall that nobody got mad with each other. Once you established your bench or place along the rail everyone respected “your space”. I wonder if that is still the case? Probably not. Pier civility probably went to hell along with civility in everything else … sigh, sob, sniff.
Way out on the end of the pier was where “the king mackrel guys” hung out. We never tried that. I was never comfortable “way out on the end of the pier”.
As my Dad and I sat on our bench waiting for a bite I’m not sure what we talked about. I think we “just talked”. No great life lessons exchanged … just Dad and Little BobLee “pier fishing”. When the tide was going out there wasn’t much action so we just sorta sat and watched the tip of our rods.
For years I thought Europe was “out there”. One day I looked at a map and realized that Bogue Banks ran east and west and not north and south. That is still confusing.
We would leave in the late afternoon after the last high tide. Dad drove. I would be tired from being out in the sun all day and would usually fall asleep around New Bern.
Other piers were built down towards Emerald Isle. Thompson Steel Pier and Iron Steamer were two I remember. Every new pier was supposedly over “the best fishing hole” in the area.
Hurricanes hit fishing piers like tornados look for trailer parks. Hazel “The Hurricane to end all hurricanes” wiped out a few of them. They would be rebuilt until recently.
Dad and I also did some fresh water fishing in ponds around our town. Mainly drowning worms but an occasional bream or catfish. Once we went to the stocked pond at Barrus Const Co and caught a big string of crappies and bream. I have a picture of it. Once I caught a 3.5 lb bass. We had it “stuffed”. I still have it. Mizzus thinks its gross. It hangs over the door in my inner sanctum. It reminds of a special time with me and my dad.
Dad died during my Junior year at Chapel Hill while I was at Super Bowl II. I left the area and chased corporate rainbows for twenty years. When Grandmother died in the mid 70s “the family” decided to sell the beach house and divide the $$$ rather than squabble over who got it. Being a quite dysfunctional bunch, squabbling was a likelihood. Chuck Sledge told me last week that house would probably bring $1.5 million in today’s market … Yikes!
When Kid was old enough we took her to “da beach” and we walked out on the piers. She has absolutely no interest in fishing. “Yucky” was her description. Dad and Little BobLee bonded thru “pier fishing” at “da beach”. Kid and Mizzus bond by shopping at “da Mall”.
Memo To Dad: I kinda figure you are “up there” reading these silly musings. Did you think I’d forget “pier fishing”? No way. Thanks, Dad!