Despite heavy rains last week, fishermen were still out on the Juno Beach Fishing Pier — a 990-foot-long attraction where fishing is just one activity.
“The rain doesn’t stop the diehards,” said Jerry Evans, the pier attendant who collects tickets and helps operate the bait shop and snack bar.
Fishermen pay $4. Walk-ons pay $1. Parking is free in Juno Beach Park and along A1A.
Built for about $2.5 million, the T-shaped pier opened in January, 1999. Approval for construction had to overcome predictions the pier would bring traffic and crime.
The fishing pier, now operated by the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, has become lots more than a place to throw in a line and pull in a snook or a jack. There’s lots of other stuff happening on the concrete and wooden pier.
Thousands of Easter worshippers — floating on surfboards, dressed in pajamas and toting their fishing poles — attend the annual Sunday morning services at the annual event.
Many north county youngsters have fond memories of jumping off the pier when they finish the annual Jupiter Lifeguard Summer Camp. The teens, screaming as they leap into the water, are supervised by lifeguards who show them lifesaving techniques.
“I bet 500 kids have jumped off the pier during the program. The kids love it,” said Rob Rogerson, a Palm Beach County ocean lifeguard rescue boat operator and emergency medical technician who taught the lifesaving class for years before he retired last week after 30 years.
When the waves are good, many photographers use the pier to shoot photographs for surfing publications, Rogerson said. Sunrise and sunset photographers use the pier for background.
In 2001, the pier was used to scatter the ashes of Erin Alkema, 26, a Palm Beach County emergency medical technician and a water safety instructor. The Jupiter resident drowned during her morning workout off Jupiter.
But fishing is the main activity.
Ronald Berenson, a construction worker who drives an Uber in his off hours, said he was on the pier on a recent rainy Tuesday morning because he wanted to get some fresh air — and maybe get lucky.
“I got a couple jacks last week. Occasionally, I get a snook. I saw a young kid hook a whiting the other day, that was unusual. I love this place,” said Berenson, 54, from Pompano Beach.
Berenson’s been to other Florida fishing piers. Juno Beach’s may not be the prettiest. It’s not the longest. And other piers offer more activities, said the veteran of fishing on those piers.
For example, the Navarre Beach fishing pier on Florida’s Panhandle is about 1,500 feet long. That’s almost two football fields longer than the Juno Beach Fishing Pier.
The Cocoa Beach Fishing Pier features five restaurants, four bars and live entertainment.
The Daytona Beach Fishing Pier is walking distance to an amusement park.
The old Skyway Bridge in St. Petersburg — with that spectacular view of the new Skyway Bridge — is advertised as the world’s longest fishing pier. The pier was built out of the old Skyway Bridge after it was damaged during a shipping accident in 1980. It’s open 24 hours a day.
But Berenson, and others on the Juno Beach Pier last week, like their pier, despite up to 5 inches of rain that made the wooden surface a little slippery last week.
Sure, there weren’t as many fishermen as there would be on a day of sunshine.
But there were still a few dozen people leaning over the rails, casting, cutting bait and tossing in their lines. When the rain got heavy, they crowded under the covered areas. Elbow to elbow, they crunched together with their coolers, poles and bait buckets. Pelicans perched on the railings.
“I kind of like it when it rains,” said Jeffrey LaMontaigne, a Hobe Sound resident who says he fishes the pier about twice a month. “With less people, you got more room to fish.”