Kenny “K.J.”Crawford Jr. has a whale of story to tell when he returns to school in a few weeks. Actually, he’s got two big fish stories to share.
That’s because this 12-year-old angler hooked into a monster king mackerel while pin-rig fishing on Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head early on Wednesday, July 30. The 47-inch long, 26.5-pound fish grabbed his live bluefish bait at the surface and ran. When it was finally on the deck, Crawford was grinning from ear to ear.
“It felt good,” he said.
“He was on cloud nine,” said Crawford’s fishing companion, Chris Reed of Gaithersburg, Md., who had given the young man a ride to the pier before sunrise. The two met on the pier last year. K.J.’s dad, Kenny Crawford Sr., was also flying high.
“This week, he’s been on fire. He decked a cobia and king. He’s excited, he’s tore up,” he said.
“It’s all his own equipment he bought and paid for himself.”
Pier regular Spike Stevenson of South River Rods gave K.J. a good deal on his fighting rod, and the Shimano TLD 15 reel came from an unlikely place, the senior Crawford said.
“A guy on a boat found the reel in the bilge of a charter boat. We cleaned it up and that’s what he caught it on,” Crawford said.
As for all the additional equipment required for serious pier fishing such as pin-rigging, K.J. has his own money-making enterprise to pay for it – cutting grass.
The rising seventh grader at First Flight Middle School decked the 32.5-inch cobia on Saturday, July 26. The fish didn’t meet the required legal measurement of 33 inches and was released. Cobia is considered a prize catch by most anglers. Having to release the cobia didn’t seem to matter much to K.J., who was still excited about the catch four days later. “It came up on the north corner, just a little dink,” he said about the fish’s size. The king definitely fought better.”
The king mackerel represents the third species of this pier angler’s grand slam: He also caught and released a 45-inch bull red drum last fall. The 47- inch king mackerel represents his biggest fish to date.
The senior Crawford got the call that K.J., which stands for Kenny Junior, was hooked up while he was at work Wednesday morning. He dropped everything and headed to Jennette’s Pier.
“He started the serious pier fishing last year,” Crawford Sr. said. “But he’s been fishing since he was two years old. Since he was big enough to hold a rod and walk.
“I gotta’ go back to work,” he told his son. “Bye, I love ya!”
K.J. went straight back to his set up to wait for the next big fish to come along.
With its alluring oceanfront location and world-class fishing, it’s only natural that millions of people have visited Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head since it reopened in May 2011 as part of the N.C. Aquariums.
During those past three years, an estimated 2.8 million visitors have visited the facility’s 1,000-foot long fishing pier, pier house, gift shop and pristine public beaches, complete with bathhouse, outdoor showers and parking. And, for the first time, the pier brought in more than $1 million this fiscal year ending June 30.
Attendance records show 958,298 people visited Jennette’s in the last 36 months, with 90,785 paying to fish from this longest public pier in the state. Another 14,560 took part in one or more of the 872 fishing programs taught by the pier’s education staff.
The state’s public schools are also fans of the new, family-friendly educational facility. Some 10,700 students on field trips have participated in classes such as basic fishing, hands-on solar and wind energy experiments, and beach explorations. Students arrive by the bus load, primarily in spring and fall. Many students have never seen the ocean, much less caught a dogfish or skate.
While the Outer Banks have become a destination wedding Mecca, Jennette’s Pier has emerged as a premier wedding venue. Couples exchange vows on the wide open beach alongside the pier and host their reception in the pier’s elegant, second-story Oceanview Hall, with its open deck and panoramic view.
According to Pier Director Mike Remige, the facility’s popularity is perhaps a reflection of the excellent customer experience people enjoy at the pier while fishing, attending a class or program, holding their wedding reception, or just hanging out at the beach.
“The pier offers a unique place for people to socialize in an open environment,” said Remige. “It’s also become a magnet for special events on the beaches. There have been pro surf and volleyball contests, amateur surfing and kayaking events and running races.”
Just in time for a busy, fun-filled summer, the N.C. Aquarium is offering a new Business Membership program that’s great for small business owners, their employees and customers. Starting at $300 per year, Business Members receive premium membership benefits, free admission tickets, discounts for their employees, recognition at the Aquarium and more.
This program is just one part of the Aquarium’s new Living Treasures campaign, designed to expand community partnerships and grow private support. In addition to Business Memberships, the campaign offers donors a variety of options—including a new annual fund, sponsorship opportunities and planned giving. Proceeds from the campaign will help the Aquarium prosper by funding new animals, exhibits, programs and conservation priorities.
For almost thirty years, the private, nonprofit N.C. Aquarium Society has worked alongside the N.C. Aquariums to help fund major renovations and new exhibits at all four Aquarium locations—Roanoke Island, Jennette’s Pier, Fort Fisher and Pine Knoll Shores. Today, they’re highly-rated and popular attractions, with a combined annual visitation of 1.5 million.
Memberships are now available online at www.ncaquariums.com/membership. There you can also read about the Aquarium Society’s top ranking by Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest evaluator of nonprofits. In 2013, the Society was rated the #1 zoo and aquarium nonprofit in the nation.
Join online at www.ncaquariums.com/membership.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.