I took a trip to Main Street to get my first look at the newly remodeled fishing pier and was duly impressed. With a fishing rod in one hand and a pad and pencil in the other, I was able to stroll out onto the planks unencumbered. No gates or fees to negotiate. The pier offers free fishing daily from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. in the summer months and from 7 a.m. until 5p.m. in the winter. Hallelujah! Someone finally got it right. I did not see bait being sold on the pier, but I'm pretty sure that will come. When I arrived, it was nearly low tide and the Atlantic was very calm. At 7:30 in the morning there were already 20 fishermen trying their luck, and a quarter of those were kids. Countless strollers supplied a continuous stream of questions for the anglers. "What is that thing? What do you usually catch here? Can you eat that? And do you ever catch sharks?" were the most common queries. I met a nice young couple who was out for a walk before breakfast. Chris and Sandy Ledbetter were down from Crossville, Tenn., to attend the races and had decided to linger in their nearby hotel to enjoy The World's Most Famous Beach. I gave them a little racing history and pointed to places where the land speed records had been set. We spoke of the fishing and I admitted that my own efforts had so far been futile. We watched a few nice whiting come up and I mentioned that they were the most common fish in the surf and pretty good eating, too. We spoke of the pelagic species like mackerel and blue fish that often provide action on the local piers. The Ledbetters were appropriately impressed with our area and told me they would love to move here. Together we watched dolphin playing in the waves and then a nearby angler landed a spadefish. The fisherman snapped a quick picture, showed it to us and then released it. Spadefish are a nice species to show to tourists, for they are as close to a tropical as we have swimming locally. I was hoping on my first visit to the pier to speak with a fisherman who had fished it on opening day. I imagined that after being closed for several years, there must have been some nice fish lingering below. I was not able to find that person, but one fellow told me that the construction workers had done very well before it opened. Each day before and after work they had landed nice reds and black drum. I knew it! I missed out.
The Daytona Beach pier is in nice shape. The floor planks are new and the rails are sturdy. It looks as though it is ready for the tempests that will eventually test it. I enjoyed being out once more in the place where I have caught so many fish and once even saw a concert from the early 1960s group, The Shirelles. The parking there is iffy and you will have to work at it some but the value of a fishing pier to a Florida community is incalculable. It provides entertainment for young and old and inspires tourists like the Ledbetters to dream of living here. As an aid to the Chamber of Commerce, it is invaluable. Oh, by the way, if you go, you may also notice that there is a pretty nice restaurant, there as well.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, "I Swear the Snook Drowned," is available for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793