Anglers rejoice! Fishing returns to newly reopened Jacksonville Beach pier

News4JAX spoke with Lawrence Woods who caught first fish from new pier

Anglers lined both sides of the Jacksonville Beach Pier on Wednesday as fishing from the pier resumed after a three-year construction project -- and they reeled in everything from flounder to a stingray to a bull shark.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Anglers lined both sides of the Jacksonville Beach Pier on Wednesday as fishing from the pier resumed after a three-year construction project -- and they reeled in everything from flounder to a stingray to a bull shark.

Bryan Evans caught a bull shark -- and some black drum.

“It’s been forever. I know me and my friends -- and I’m pretty sure everybody else and their friends -- have been waiting for this day,” Evans said.

Anglers haven’t been able to fish from the pier for years because Hurricane Matthew wiped out part of the pier in 2016, then Hurricane Irma damaged it some more in 2017 causing the pier to close.

Building it back was a $10 million project. It’s now 12 feet higher to avoid damage during future storms or storm surges.

Fishing resumed Wednesday on the Jacksonville Beach Pier to the delight of anglers. (WJXT)

After the Fourth of July, a ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Jacksonville Beach Mayor Christine Hoffman welcomed back the new and improved pier, which up until Wednesday had only been open for pedestrians.

Anglers lined up early Wednesday before the pier opened to claim a spot on the once popular fishing spot.

Eric Vergara was first in line Wednesday morning to claim his spot, getting to the pier at 4:15 a.m. to be exact. Fishing at the pier has been a part of most of his life, especially with family and friends.

“It is really exciting because we waited a really long time to fish on the pier,” Vergara said. “I am targeting king mackerel today. I catch them only on the pier here in Jacksonville. You don’t really get them down south anywhere, but this is the longest pier that we have, and I am happy that we don’t have to go anywhere else.”

Some said they expect visiting the pier for fishing will be a regular occurrence.

“Now that they opened up the new pier, I will probably come at least three or four times a week,” Robert Fletcher said. “I love to fish. That is my hobby.”

“We used to have little groups that came out every other weekend and see who can catch the most fish. I guess that’s going to have to start back up pretty soon,” Evans said.

Father and son Lamar and Kaiden Scruggs said it felt like Christmas Day.

“I’ve been waiting on this moment for a long time,” Lamar Scruggs said. “So I definitely came here to get on some fishing and show him how it is for sure.”

The Jacksonville Beach Pier is set to reopen Wednesday at 10 a.m. with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The structure has been under construction since 2019 after Hurricanes Irma and Matthew damaged it.

Austin Vandergriff and Ricki Ambrose also made it a family outing on Wednesday.

“I’ve never fished here before. This is my first time but it’s pretty cool,” Vandergriff said.

“It gets everybody out of the house. With everything and COVID-19 and everything going on, you can kind of get away from it for a little bit,” Ambrose said.

Ricky Carlisle came out to fish with a neighbor.

“This is competition. This is it -- bonding. Seriously though, you are out here with fellow fishermen and all that, so there’s camaraderie and it is right here at home” Carlisle said. “You don’t have to go anywhere else and spend the money anywhere else. You can leave it right here in Jacksonville.”

Lawrence Woods, Carlisle’s neighbor, caught the first fish from the new pier and shared his excitement with News4JAX!

Lawrence Woods caught the first fish off the new Jacksonville Beach Pier!

Anglers can fish on the pier for free daily from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., but what they’re allowed to do is going to look a little different moving forward.

Each angler is only allowed three rods when on the pier and the city said Jacksonville Beach police officers will be on-site to make sure people are following this new restriction. Also, no cast netting is allowed.

The bait shop isn’t open yet, but bathrooms in a nearby parking lot are.

For now, it is still free to fish from and visit the pier. It’s unclear when the daily fees will go back into effect.

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