What can be done with the last remaining section of a 2.7 mile long bridge? If it’s the Bonner Bridge it gets turned into a fishing pier. And not just any fishing pier, this is a pier that extends 1046’ into Oregon Inlet, giving anglers some of the best fishing opportunities on the Outer Banks.
Located on the south end of the Marc Basnight Bridge, the Bonner Fishing Pier is not like any other fishing pier from Kitty Hawk to Hatteras. It’s a little bit longer than Jennette’s Pier; it is not an ocean pier, although there will be plenty of saltwater fish swimming by; and it’s open 24 hours. But located as it is at the confluence of the brackish waters of Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, the action should be pretty amazing.
There is no fee to be out on the pier, although that does come with a caveat. Because the pier is not in the open ocean, it is considered inland water, and an NC Fishing License is required.
Also—it is a pier. No pier house with beverages, food, and accessories, so anglers be sure to plan accordingly. And it is a concrete pier…a former roadbed, really, so there is no shade at all. In the summer especially, it will probably be hot. Sunblock and something to drink will be a good idea.
Yet whatever its drawbacks may be, the Bonner Fishing Pier is spectacular.
And, it’s not just for fishing. Take some time and walk to the end and take in the sights and sounds of Oregon Inlet. Have the cell phone ready for some pictures, or better yet, take a camera to zoom in on someone bringing in a fish or a flight of pelicans gliding gracefully over the water.
The pier is open 24 hours, although it is important to note there are no lights on the pier. The Park Service has a note about that, explaining that lights are a known risk factor for nesting sea turtles.
We haven’t witnessed a busy summer day at the pier yet, but hopefully, parking will be adequate. There is a parking lot at the foot of the pier and, according to the NPS, there are 70 parking spaces available. However, the access road leading into the parking lot does have a fairly wide shoulder, so there should be some room for overflow.
In many ways, the Bonner Bridge Fishing Pier is a triumph of cooperation and planning. It took the combined effort of Cape Hatteras National Seashore—part of the National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and NCDOT to get it built. The pier is managed by the National Park Service.
When the various parties visualized what the pier would be, the vision was far more than simply a used roadbed on the remnants of an outdated bridge. What the parties, have created is an outdoor recreational facility that is fully handicap accessible. The opening date got pushed back just a little bit to allow NCDOT time to take out the guardrails and replace them with something designed for anglers. The original guardrails curved inward and would have made access difficult for anyone fishing. The new guardrails are at an ideal height for fishing and are not weathered and damaged like the old railings were.
The remains of the Bonner Bridge seem to have been destined for fishing. Much of the old bridge as it was dismantled was cleaned, loaded on barges, taken out to sea, and used to enhance and create artificial reefs.
Opening in February of 2019, the Marc Basnight Bridge replaced the aging Bonner Bridge. Completed in 1963, the Bonner Bridge had a planned lifespan of 35 years, but 1998 came and went and it took almost 21 more years for the Basnight Bridge, to open to traffic.
Because the Bonner Fishing Pier is managed by the National Park Service, there are some regulations that are important to note.
The following are prohibited on the Bonner Pier and enforceable:
- Glass containers
- No vehicles are allowed outside of the parking lot, including on the pier. This includes golf carts.
- Canopies, grills, and generators
- Pin-rig or spearfishing
- Bicycles, skateboards, and rollerblades
- Fishing with more than 2 rods per angler