A recent report by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries reveals that pier fishing increased by 4 percent in 2010, while party-boat fishing saw a 15-percent decline on the heels of federal regulations that severely restricted offshore bottom fishing.
North Carolina always has been known as a state with plenty of coastal fishing piers, although they were disappearing at a rapid rate until a few years ago. Once a state with 32 public fishing piers (1992), the state still has 19 fishable saltwater piers.
Here's a look at North Carolina's remaining saltwater piers, rated by their yearly fishing success:
Oak Island (Yaupon Beach) Pier
This pier, first constructed in 1965, was rebuilt in 1972 and again in 1992 following hurricane damage.
The town bought the pier at 705 Ocean Drive in October 2008 after the demolition of Long Beach Pier, the state's best fishing pier just down the strand. Long Beach Pier's destruction left Oak Island with only two piers (the other is Ocean Crest).
Yaupon Beach Pier had been scheduled for demolition to create ocean-front space for houses or condominiums, which has been the fate of many Tarheel piers. Local Cooperative Bank had purchased the pier from its owners, but the town reached an agreement to buy the pier from the bank and keep it intact.
The pier, closed in 2007, remained in limbo for two years and wasn't open to anglers while under foreclosure and renovation was completed.
Reopened May 16, 2009, Oak Island Pier now is operated by a private vendor (former Long Beach Pier owner Tommy Thomes). The owners give part of the pier's profits to the town to pay off the $1.5 million cost ($500,000 was paid in part with a state grant).
Located about 5 miles from the mouth of the Cape Fear River, Oak Island Pier features excellent in-season fishing for flounder, speckled trout, king and Spanish mackerel, sheepshead, bluefish and spots.
Walter Maxwell caught the North Carolina state-record tiger shark off Yaupon Pier (1,150 pounds) in June 1964.
Call 910.278.9400 for fishing reports.
Ocean Crest Pier
This 1,000-foot-long structure at 1411 East Beach Drive at Oak Island was voted North Carolina's best fishing pier in 2005 and 2006.
It has a full-line tackle shop, handicapped anglers fish for free and it has a covered 'T' section at the end for use by king mackerel anglers.
A full-service motel and restaurant adjoin the pier.
Its specialty is big king mackerel, although anglers also land flounder, Spanish, specks, spots, sheepshead and bluefish.
Kure Beach Pier
Opened in 1923, this pier is the oldest ocean fishing platform in North Carolina. It's been operated continuously by the Kure and Robertson families, first by original builder L.C. Kure, and then grandson Bill Robertson, followed by Bill's son Mike Robertson, who manages it today.
Open from April 1-Nov. 30, the 711-foot-long pier features a 200-gallon live-bait tank for fishermen.
Hurricanes have hit the pier 10 times, completely destroying it three times.
Kure Beach Pier has a full tackle shop and a no-alcohol policy for anglers and visitors.
It's a terrific fishing platform for flounder, king mackerel, spots in the fall, and blues and Spanish mackerel, along with sheepshead.
For more information call 910.458.5524.
Johnny Mercer's Pier
This Wrightsville Beach pier is the model for modern piers. It was the first North Carolina pier to be rebuilt entirely of reinforced concrete, and is designed to withstand up to 200 mph winds.
Located at 23 E. Salisbury Street, the pier was originally wood-built in the 1930s by Julian Morton (father of Grandfather Mountain entrepreneur Hugh Morton), and was destroyed by the one-two punches of Hurricanes Bertha and Fran in the 1990s. The only visible signs for six years were a few pieces of piling. Rebuilding began in 1999, and the all-concrete pier reopened in June 2002.
At 1,200 feet, it's a prime spot for spring and summer king mackerel anglers. Anglers also land flounder, Spanish mackerel, spots, blues and sheepshead at this pier.
Costs to fish are $8 per rod.
Seaview Fishing Pier
This 1,000-foot pier at Topsail Island features a restaurant, no-alcohol policy, 150 parking spaces, a bait-and-tackle shop and restaurant.
Located at 124 Fishing Pier Lane (910.328.3172), the pier offers good to great king mackerel fishing.
The state-record tarpon of 193 pounds was caught from this pier.
In addition to kings, spring anglers can catch chopper bluefish up to 14 pounds, flounder, mullet, croaker, spots, black drum, pigfish and small cobia.
Surf City Fishing Pier
Located at 112 South Shore Drive in Surf City, this pier was originally built in 1948, and has been owned and operated by the Lore family since 1973.
Hurricane Fran turned it into matchsticks in 1996, but it was rebuilt and opened a year later.
It stretches 937 feet, and features a bait-and-tackle store, an outside dining area, an octagon-shaped end for king mackerel anglers, livewells and fish-cleaning stations.
Spring anglers land cobia, along with chopper bluefish. Summer catches include flounder, pompano, sheepshead, sea mullet, king and Spanish mackerel.
Call 910.328.3521 for fishing information.
Jolly Roger Pier
At 803 Ocean Blvd. at Topsail Island, this pier features a 65-unit oceanfront hotel, a grill and a tackle shop.
At 850-feet long, it's located on the south end of the island.
Fishing opportunities include chopper blues in the spring, along with puppy drum, Spanish mackerel, sea mullet and pompano. King mackerel and Spanish mackerel will be targets until fall.
Call 800.633.3196 for more information.
Bogue Inlet Pier
With the demise of Triple S and Sportsman's piers, Bogue Inlet is Emerald Isle's last remaining pier.
This pier survived the real-estate boom of the mid 1990s, when it was slated for sale by the Stanley family. The family held out long enough for the boom to bust, and still owns and operates the structure.
Spring anglers catch huge Hatteras bluefish, along with speckled and gray trout, black drum, sea mullet, Spanish mackerel and flounder.
A large campground (Camp Ocean Forest) just west of the pier is a popular place for visiting anglers. A small motel, Bogue Inlet Motel, and the larger Oceanview Inn also is nearby.
For more information, call 252.354.2919.
Nags Head Fishing Pier
This pier is probably the most-popular Outer Banks fishing structure. At 750-feet long and located on the main ocean drag at Nags Head, springtime catches include huge old drum and big cobia.
It has a fully-stocked tackle shop, and night fishing is permitted.
Because it's the pier closest to the Gulf Stream along the North Carolina coast, pier anglers are liable to catch just about anything, from spots and croakers during spring to sailfish in the summer. King mackerel, Spanish mackerel and even striped bass also are caught at this pier.
Call 252.441.5141 for more information.
Hatteras Island Pier (Rodanthe Pier)
This 850-foot-long pier is off North Carolina 12 in Rodanthe on the Outer Banks, and the world all-tackle record for red drum (94 pounds, 2 ounces) was caught in 1984 about 200 yards from the pier.
It obviously has great red drum fishing in the fall. Spring fishing is mostly restricted to croakers and sea mullet, while summer and fall features big bluefish, flounder, black drum, cobia, triggerfish and chopper blues.
Fishing hours are 6 a.m. to midnight.
For more information call 252.995.5480.
The state's most-recently completed pier, Jennette's Pier at Avalon, was re-opened May 21, 2011, with help from the North Carolina General Assembly.
The decision to allow government aid upset nearby pier owners, who said they couldn't compete with state funding (the legislature approved the North Carolina Aquarium Society increasing visitor fees by $1 to help pay for the $18 million structure, the most expensive pier ever built in the state).
The 1,000-foot-long pier, made of steel and reinforced concrete and based upon the design of re-built, hurricane-proof Johnny Mercer's Pier, has two aquarium tanks and a two-story pier house (no other pier has such amenities).
The old pier, built in 1939, was destroyed in 2003 by Hurricane Isabel.
Avalon Fishing Pier
Built in the 1950s, Avalon Pier (2111 Beach Drive, Kill Devil Hills) is 705 feet long and features a bait-and-tackle shop and snack bar.
Closed during the winter months, the pier is a prime spring location for large red drum.
Anglers also catch black drum, bluefish, cobia, flounder, croaker, gray trout, Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, spots and striped bass at this pier.
It's located at Milepost 6 on Beach Road.
Call 252.441.7494 for more information.
Sunset Beach Fishing Pier
This 900-foot-long structure, originally constructed in 1960 and rebuilt in 1964 over a sunken blockade runner, is probably the best king mackerel fishing platform on the Brunswick Islands. It's the southernmost North Carolina pier.
Located at 101 W. Main St., the pier features cleaning sinks, bait and rod rentals, a grill, a game room and an ATM. Electric scooters are provided for elderly and disabled anglers.
Top fish species include big sheepshead, king mackerel, large seatrout, whiting, flounder, Spanish mackerel, spots and bluefish.
Call 910.579.6630 for more information.
Holden Beach Fishing Pier
This pier at 441 Ocean Blvd. West has been owned and operated by the Lonnie Small family since 1959, and is the northernmost pier of the Brunswick Islands chain.
Anglers land flounder, pompano, whiting, king and Spanish mackerel and back drum from the pier, which requires no North Carolina saltwater fishing license as long as anglers pay for a pier pass.
Call 910.842.6483 for information.
Ocean Isle Beach Pier
This pier at 1 West First Street was opened in 1957 by the Odell Williamson family, which continues to operate it.
Anglers can catch flounder, Spanish and king mackerel, drum and speckled trout at the pier.
It features an arcade and a grill.
Call 910.579.3095 for more information.
Carolina Beach Fishing Pier
Located at 1810 Canal Drive, the pier is 700-feet long and has a grill, a snack bar and game room plus a fully-stocked bait-and-tackle shop with rod-and-reel rentals.
The pier features mostly flounder, sheepshead, spots (in the fall), blues and Spanish mackerel fishing.
Call 910.458.5518 for information.
Outer Banks Fishing Pier
This pier (8901 Old Oregon Inlet Road, Nags Head) features a tackle shop, an oceanfront grill, rental rods and reels, and daily, weekly and weekend passes.
Spring catches include sea mullet, speckled trout, croakers, spots, bluefish, black drum, flounder
The tackle shop can be reached at 252.441.5028
The Oceana Resort and Pier at 700 E. Fort Macon Road is the only pier at Atlantic Beach. It offers blanket passes (no North Carolina saltwater fishing license required) to anglers.
Oceanana also rents rods and reels, and has a bait-and-tackle shop.
It features great puppy drum angling.
Piers lost to closures in recent years include Kitty Hawk Pier (2003), Iron Steamer (2004, after being rebuilt two years earlier), Long Beach Pier (2005), Sportsman Pier (2006), Triple S Pier (2006) and Frisco Pier (2010).