We all know that fishing piers are good for fishing. They provide structure around which fish can congregate, and allow anglers access to deeper waters without a boat. I have discovered that they are also great places to view local marine life, and the Okaloosa Island Pier is no exception.
I began to walk along the pier in mid-morning, the sun already high and highlighting the iconic emerald color of the Gulf waters. In the shallow surf I noticed the long shape of a needlefish, swimming directly beneath the surface. As the water depth deepened, the color also deepened to a beautiful shade of cobalt blue. Bait fish swirled, creating different shapes as they schooled around the pilings; every so often they would hit the light just right, flashing silver.
Continuing down the pier, I began to pass anglers. Locals and tourists alike fished over the side, casting live bait as well as artificial lures. Parents taught their kids how to reel up, and I couldn’t help but smile at the squeals of delight whenever they pulled up a fish, however small.
However, nothing compared to the excitement all visitors had when spotting a sea turtle. I had just missed a loggerhead feeding next to the pilings, but everyone on the pier was still buzzing about its appearance. Sea turtles are beautiful, gentle creatures, so I was not surprised at the enthusiasm such a sighting left in its wake. The same kids who were fishing and exploring the pier continually exclaimed, “I saw a sea turtle. A sea turtle!”
The end of the pier proved a great place to watch birds and see larger fish. The outline of a remora was clear beneath the surface, and other species circled in the more shadowy depths. Terns and gulls fed from the surface, while large pelicans alternatively soared overhead or rested, floating along the waves. Dolphins are very common at the end of the pier as well, attracted to the fish of the anglers as well as those naturally occurring near the pier. (Remember, don’t feed them!)
Though the pier is only a little over 1/5 of a mile, I strode back and forth for over an hour, taking in all the activity and soaking in sightings of marine life. For only $2, I plan to walk the pier as often as possible, even trying my hand at fishing!