Imagine that you’re trying to fish from the 14th Street Fishing Pier.
It’s a warm summer day. You have your cans of Coke dug deep into ice and your bags of snacks all ready for an afternoon of fishing.
You look down below before you cast out, and you see that you have a problem.
There are people down there throwing a frisbee.
Well, no big deal. You’ll move to the end of the fishing pier and fish from there.
You walk out and look down. There are people walking there.
This was the problem the Ocean City Fishing Club has been running into the last few years. They decided that they needed to do something about it. A 113-foot expansion to be exact. “Over the last number of years since beach replenishment began, the pier has been sort of land locked at times during low tide. It’s been frequent that you can go to the end of the pier, look down, and see people strolling in front of it. It became unfishable,” said Greg Borak, Ocean City Fishing Pier publicity chair.
So they started to make plans to extend it back over the water.
“Around 2013 or 2014 if not a little bit earlier we started talking about the extension,” said Joe Hughes, current president.
It took some years before it went from talk to action.
“Five years ago, we talked about starting a committee to begin looking into an extension of the pier. That stalled for about two years. I became president about three years ago. I put together a program to get it funded through borrowing, through money that we had on hand,” said Frank Pizzutilla, past president.
The recent expansion was able to be done due to their original deed.
“It’s out 113 feet. It’s from a deed that we got back in the 1800s,” said
There’s now three Ts on the fishing pier – the middle T, the outer T, and the recently constructed new T. These Ts are 29×50 feet platforms separated by walkways to fish from.
The deed determines how far the pier can be extended out. If they wanted to go further, or go further in the future, they’ll have to ask for it from the state.
“It’s about 790 feet [which was] from the original grant. It was in 1898. Everything we build has to be built on that grant unless we go to the state and request further out. To do that, it would take years. We didn’t have any problems other than applying for permits. Permits took two years. We have to go through the Army Corp of Engineers and the state. We needed state, federal, and local approvals,” said Frank. “We [now] have 11 feet of water at dead low tide.”
It isn’t the first time there’s been work done to the fishing pier. Built originally in 1915, the pier has seen its share of mishaps.
“In 1917 a second fishing platform was added. This platform was destroyed in 1919 by a storm and never rebuilt. The reason for the platform was to create more fishing space for the members,” said Joe.
The entire pier and clubhouse were destroyed in the storm of 1962. The new pier and clubhouse were built in 1968. In 1980, two barges hit the middle of the pier. After a few years, the pier was rebuilt. Then, the outer T was destroyed by a storm in 1992.
“This rebuild gave the pier a total length of 635 feet from the Boardwalk,” said Joe. “I’m looking forward to getting this open so our members can get back full time. We had to put restrictions in that we could only have six members out there at a time. It’s going to make everybody happy.”
The Ocean City Fishing Club opened up the new extension to the pier on April 11 with little fanfare due to the pandemic. Also canceled for the year are their two yearly open houses. During these, the general public is invited onto the pier – and for some, it’s their only chance to get out there because of it being membersonly.
“Because of COVID, we don’t know what we’re going to do. We keep a lot of restrictions on the pier because a lot of our members are older. We’re not going to open it to open houses. We attract 700-800 people. We can’t do it this year because of COVID. We’re canceling the kid’s tournament and the parties because of COVID,” said Frank.
For now, membership will not increase because of the expansion.
“We’ve been increasing membership. We’re up to 210 and we’re going to freeze it at this point because of parking. Because of events there, we’ve been getting maximum crowds. We’re monitoring to see it if we have room. We’re not taking any new applicants because we have a waiting list of 40-50 people,” said Frank.