Pompano Fishermen: Replace the Pier, but Don't Make Us Pay to Fish UPDATED

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Updated, Friday, July 15 at 2 p.m.: Pompano Beach city commissioner Barry Dockswell called to say that he expects fishermen will have to pay to fish the new Pompano Pier. He said the commission hasn’t decided these details, but said that “for my constituents, my priority is making sure that it’s free to take a walk down the pier. I’d imagine you’d have to pay a fee to fish like at most other piers.”

As Hurricane Sandy bore down on South Florida in 2012, Mike Kurdek and seven buddies fished for sharks at the end of Pompano Pier. Suddenly, the boards under their feet shook loose. A section of wooden railing snapped and fell into the water. Then another.

“When the rail came down, we said, ‘It’s time to leave. That fish isn’t worth my life,’” Kurdek remembered, grinning as he reeled in his line this week. After pausing to readjust his lure, he added, “I wish they would have fixed it, though.”

Four years later, the farthest end of Pompano Pier is still closed to visitors, locked up behind a chainlink fence. Fishermen complain that wily fish run out past the fence where the anglers can’t follow and get away.

But finally, the City of Pompano Beach is hammering out plans to demolish and replace the 53-year-old pier for $11.3 million. The new Pompano Pier will be wider, stand taller, and have an end shaped like a giant fish head.

The regulars at the pier don’t harbor much sentimental attachment to the old structure. “Get rid of it. Start from scratch,” said Burt DuBois, age 72, who introduced himself as “probably one of the first people to ever fish this pier.”
“It’s just concrete and wood,” agreed Patrick Daley, 33 years old, who has been fishing at Pompano Pier for 11 years. He tugged on some of the green plastic chainlinkfencing under the pier’s wooden railing, which  seems to catch his shirt every time he casts a line. “Maybe don’t put this shitty stuff on here next time.”

Jamal Peterson, a Broward College student who says he spends eight to 12 hours a day fishing, is passionate about the place. “This is the best pier in America,” Peterson said. “I’m here every day and every night. It’s like my home now, and I’m a little bit hurt that it’s going to be torn down.” But he, like most others, said he is excited to see a revamped Pompano Pier — as long as he won’t have to start paying to fish.

“I think this new pier’s going to be awesome,” said Matthew Glad, who recently moved to Pompano Beach after a workplace accident forced him to take time off to recover. “I just hope they don’t charge like they do at the pier on Commercial [Boulevard]. I like coming here every day, but I can’t pay $7 every day plus parking.”

Although Glad has only been fishing the old pier for a few months, he already has one memory of it that will survive its imminent demolition. About a month ago, he rose to instant celebrity when he reeled in a nurse shark.

“I turned around and there were all these girls standing around who wanted a picture with the shark,” he said. “They took some selfies with me, and then I let it go. I felt like a Kardashian.”

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