Nonprofit wants more oversight on fishing at Naples Pier, safety for pelicans

Published: August 10, 2021 11:04 PM EDT
Updated: August 11, 2021 12:57 PM EDT

New restrictions are proposed for a popular pier in Southwest Florida.

You can find people fishing on Naples Pier pretty much any time of the day. It’s one of the few piers open 24/7 in the region.

But that’s part of the problem, says Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and it’s trying to find a way to monitor fishing at the pier. Ultimately, it wants to take care of the pelicans that keep getting hurt.

“I came here specifically, and I live here because of fishing, because of this pier,” said fisherman Joe Wolak.

For Wolak and many others, Naples Pier is much more than a walkway out to the water.

“My mother and father started coming here years ago, and we started coming here, so this pier is important,” Wolak said.

Fishermen at the pier want to make sure it is taken care of.

“There’s some things could use some fixing to make the pier a better place for everybody,” said fisherman Luciano Bianco.

They don’t know how much they are willing to give up, such as the times they are allowed to fish.

“Closing the pier at night, I mean that’s personally my favorite time to come out and fish because there is barely anybody here,” Bianco said. “It’s very peaceful out here.”

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida said 193 pelicans were hospitalized last year, most of them coming in because of fishing hook incidents.

“This season was one of the highest,” said Joanna Fitzgerald, director of von Arx Wildlife Hospital.

That’s why they want to work with the City of Naples to remove the rule that allows anyone to fish without a license, increase pelican control coverage, limit fishing hours and update the city code of conduct on the pier.

“Something’s gotta change,” Fitzgerald said. “You just can’t witness it and think that this is sustainable or that it’s acceptable.”

Fishermen hope they can continue to call this place their home.

“My whole life revolves around it,” Bianco said. “I got pictures being in a stroller fishing out here. I hope one day my kids will be able to fish out here, but the way it’s going, I don’t think that’s gonna happen.”

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida will present its ideas in a public meeting at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 17 in Naples.