Category Archives: Fishing Topsail

Fall Fishin’ on Topsail Island. It’s GREAT!



by Donna Byrd


I learned something new yesterday. Did you know that fish migrate like birds? Who knew? Well, apparently a lot of people!


Someone told me that autumn was the best time of the year for fishing in coastal North Carolina, so I drove over to the SeaView Fishing Pier on North Topsail Beach yesterday to see if it was true and boy oh boy, did I get an education! There are poles and there are polls. But I’ll get to that later!


Pulling into the parking lot at the pier and its adjoining motel, I was surprised to find that it was full of cars and trucks. I had been to the pier in the summer months and it was never this crowded! Luckily for me, a car was pulling out and I slipped into its space before someone else beat me to it.


Contemplating what I was about to do, I sat a few minutes in my car. I wanted to write a blog on fall fishing on Topsail Island but to do that, I was going to have to talk to fishermen and women about one of their greatest passions: fishing. I knew so very little about fishing, I felt nervous. Talking about something I knew so little about, put me in the “learner’s seat.” My game plan was this: I’d just be myself, ask a simple question like, “Are you catching anything today?” and let their passion speak for itself! There was nothing to be nervous about!


I entered the gift, bait, and tackle shop and the place was bustling! I waited for Earl, the guy behind the counter to finish his phone call so that I could speak with him and pay him the $1.00 required to just walk on the pier. “Earl, is it always this busy in October?” “Yeah,” he said. “From about September through November it’s real busy.”


I had to keep him talking, just to learn a bit more. “Is it because there are more fish this time of year? I mean, are there times when there aren’t fish out there to catch?” All of a sudden, I felt as if I’d asked a silly question and added, “Of course there are fish out there all the time! It’s the ocean!”

“Oh no,” Earl answered.  “They’re not always out there! Fish are like birds! They migrate in the spring and fall. In the autumn, they swim down to warmer waters to avoid winter’s cold and in the spring, they migrate to cooler northern waters to get away from the warm, bath water like temperatures of the summer ocean currents.”


“So, now the fish are migrating down south and the guys on the pier are using that opportunity to reel them in?”  “Sure,” Earl agreed. “When it’s hot outside the fish stay offshore where it’s cooler. Now that the hot weather has broken, they’re swimming closer to shore and the fish from up north are passing through, headed south. That’s why it’s the best time for fishin’.”


“Are they biting today?” I wondered.  “Are there better days even when they’re migrating?” I asked. I thought that sounded like a reasonable question. “Not so good today,” Earl shook his head. “It was good here last week after the storm, all the way up to Sunday. The hurricane was good for the fish. Brought them in to us. Stayed like ’til the wind changed on Sunday night. It’s been slow since.”  The phone rang and Earl picked it up. I put my dollar down on the counter and pointed to the back door. I was going on the pier to see what all those people who came in the trucks and cars out in the parking lot were doing.


The SeaView Fishing Pier, North Carolina’s longest pier, was crowded. All of the folks were standing on the left (or northeast) side of the planks. The fish were traveling south so I assumed they were positioning themselves to catch the fish as they swam by.  I stopped at the first couple I saw and asked if were they having any luck. The two were from Lenoir, North Carolina, Jimmy and Sharon Bryant. He was retired from the Marines and they had been making October fishing trips to Topsail for four years. They’d been out fishing all morning and had a few mullets, spots, black drums and pompanos. Jimmy said, “A few got away. I think some dolphins took them.”  Wow! Talk about a big fish tale! The story of the big fish was not about the one that got away, but the one that ate the others!


I strolled on down the pier and met Willis Griffin, from Topsail. He fishes the pier almost every day. Now that’s passion for you! I asked him if the wind’s direction made a difference in how many fish he caught. He said, “Yeah, I guess. But I fish every day, no matter what. Doesn’t really matter.” I liked his attitude. The laid-back fisherman!


May West Cain and her husband Tommy, from Sampson County, were practically newlyweds. They had been married since July but come to Topsail two or three times a month for fishing. They said they were still on a honeymoon. They had a few mullets.


Ronnie Hargrove from Hendersonville, NC comes every fall but that day had caught only one pompano. Nhiem Garcia and Bobby Hagwood, from Raleigh, had been out on the pier since 5:00 a.m. She proudly showed me her large bluefish, a hefty albacore and a few Spanish mackerel. She was cleaning the fish as she caught them. I was impressed!


I met several folks from Rose Hill, NC that come every fall and a group of ladies from Salisbury, NC who rent a house on the beach every October. They looked like they knew how to handle a rod and reel!


I was almost at the end of the pier talking to a few fishing aficionados from Jacksonville and Norwood, NC. One of them came every August and stayed through November, just to fish. I was laughing and talking with them, when the three guys at the very end of the pier started looking back at me shouting, “Trump! Trump!” I walked over to them and said, you’re catching fish called “trump?” “No,” one of them said. “I’m voting for Trump! Aren’t you taking a poll?”


I looked down at my notebook that I’d been taking notes in and starting shaking my head. “No. I’m doing a blog on fall fishing on Topsail Island and I’m asking a few folks some questions. The guy looked disappointed and said, “I thought you were taking a poll about who I was voting for…for president! I’ve never been asked to be in a poll before!” It was then that I realized he was speaking of another passion: politics. I looked around to see if anyone else was listening. I smiled, but said quietly, “This afternoon I was trying to get away from politics. I thought nobody on the pier would be talking politics right now! This pretty blue sky, the nice, warm weather, a fishing rod in your hand. Who wants to think about politics? If we start talking politics now, as hot as that topic is, we’re likely to start a brawl right here on this pier!”

The guys just started laughing again. I could tell they were old friends who knew how to have a good time. “Anyway,” I said, “Is it good fishing etiquette to talk politics while you’re waiting for fish to bite? I thought most people were fed up with politics right now.”  “Well,” he considered. “I would gladly talk politics if it meant I was taking part in a poll.”


“Ok, I’ll pretend this is a political poll, so as not to disappoint you.” I went to each of them and asked, “If you were voting for the president of the United States today, who would you vote for?” Each one of them told me, “Trump.”


If I would have done a political poll on the pier that day with the all of the fishermen, I don’t know who would’ve won, Clinton or Trump. I guess fall fishing on Topsail Island, this close to a presidential election would bring out more passions than I had bargained for. However, the fish were the true winners of the poles that day. Most of them managed to stay away from the pier, the poles, and the politics!


Have I Got a Scoop for You: Thomas Tackle and Seafood in Surf City

IMG_2720 (Large)by Donna Byrd


I was walking around a popular local grocery store in the Surf City area the other day, trying to think of a seafood dish I could fix for dinner. While in the produce department, I saw the display of oranges and remembered a fantastic grilled grouper recipe I had IMG_2733 (Large)prepared the month before. It was filleted grouper, bathed in a spicy marinade, grilled to perfection and served over a bed of arugula, spinach and orange segments with a tangy, orangey dressing, drizzled all over it. All of a sudden, I had to have that meal again! That night!

Immediately, I began to grab the ingredients I needed to create this restaurant quality masterpiece. I was hungry and couldn’t wait to get home to get my meal underway, so I hurried over to the checkout line. In all of my hurrying, I realized I had forgotten the star of the meal: the grouper. Excusing myself from the line, I thought I’d try my luck in finding some beautiful grouper in the meat department. I’d seen some behind the seafood counter before.IMG_2664 (Large)

I scanned behind the glass counter and to my disappointment, didn’t see any grouper. I asked the attendant if they happened to have any in the back and he shook his head and said, “No.” I started to turn away but he leaned over the counter a bit, lowered his voice and said,  “Have you tried Thomas Tackle and Seafood? I just got some grouper there yesterday. It had just come off the boat.”

“I bet it was wonderful, wasn’t it,” I asked. “‘Sure was,” he said smiling. “That’s the only place I get my seafood,” my new friend told me. “Go by there if you’re headed back toward the island.”

Thanking him for the tip, I decided to take his advice. If he worked in a meat department at a big grocery store but bought his seafood from another merchant, it had to be good and fresh. The man had to know what he was talking about. I pointed my car in the direction of the island.IMG_2727 (Large)

I had driven by Thomas Tackle and Seafood many times but had never gone in. Since Bill and I don’t fish, we never paid attention to bait and tackle shops and I never really noticed the “seafood” part of the sign. Who knew the grocery store man could give me such a valuable tip?

I pulled into the parking lot. There were several cars out front and the place looked pretty busy. I walked up to the front porch and noticed that there were baskets of red tomatoes sitting by the door. A rocking chair and some colorful crab pots were nestled up to the other side of the door. IMG_2707 (Large)I looked back at the roadside sign and noticed that it had the word “Produce” on it too. I had no idea that this business was so versatile! I couldn’t wait to go inside!IMG_2698 (Large)


I walked in and passed by some shelving loaded with seafood batters and spices plus seasoning packets for gumbos and Low Country dishes.
There were also bags of locally milled seasoned grits. On the floor, sat more baskets of beautiful, home grown ‘maters and on some shelving against the front windows there were shelves of locally grown potatoes, squash, okra, onions, cucumbers and peppers. Who knew this treasure trove of earthly goodies existed? IMG_2694 (Large)

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I walked toward the back of the store and saw a long row of iced down, shrimp (three sizes,) scallops, flounder, grouper, clams, and the largest striped bass I’d ever seen. (The manager brought him out for me to take a picture!)

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I chatted with the guys behind the counter. They told me that Mr. George Thomas opened his store up in 1949 in the exact location that Sears Landing Restaurant is today. His old buildings by the dock were torn down about fifteen years ago to make way for the restaurant and Thomas Tackle and Seafood got the home it’s in now.


Today, Mr. Thomas’ son, Doug manages the business. Keeping the seafood and produce as local and as fresh as possible is the key to the business’ longevity and success. Plus, he has anything a fisherman would need in the bait and tackle category.IMG_2705 (Large)

Thomas Tackle and Seafood is on Hwy 50 before you get to the swing bridge that crosses over to the Topsail Island. I’m sure it’s the first store that many vacationers stop at on their way to “beach heaven.”  I was talking to a long time employee, Sammy, and he told me that a customer had just left  that had been shopping there for forty-five years. This neat produce, seafood, bait and tackle shop has become a beach tradition for Surf City vacationers and locals!IMG_2712 (Large)

Mr. Thomas’ grandson Josh, was working right by his grandfather’s side. It seems as if this iconic Surf City business will be around for another generation of “the best seafood around!”

Oh, and P.S… I did take home a lovely grouper fillet and some “purty” tomatoes! Here’s a link to my grilled grouper recipe! Try it! You’ll like it!

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Thomas Tackle and Seafood is located at:


1520 NC-50, Surf City,

NC  910-328-4361

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Surf City’s Soundside Park – Happy Fourth!

IMG_0409 (Large)by Donna Byrd

I was in Surf City yesterday and happened to go back onto the mainland by way of the swing bridge. As we crossed over, I looked over to my left side and saw Soundside Park,
totally dressed up for it’s July Fourth CelebrationIMG_0413 (Large). Red, white and blue bunting lined the railing of the wooden boardwalk that ran throughout the park, looking so festive that I had Bill turn the car around and go back. I wanted to take a walk by the Intracoastal Waterway when the park looked its best.

As many times as I have driven by the Soundside Park, I have never been there. We parked the car and got out, standing there trying to decide which way to go first. It was huge and beautiful! There are playgrounds, grassy areas, picnic tables, old gnarled oaks, fishing piers, viewing decks, and the boardwalk that surrounds the sound’s edge.IMG_0401 (Large)
It has a public boat access too.  While we were there we saw a few boats head out into the
intracoastal waters and even a few kayakers, lazily paddling around the edges near the boardwalk. There’s a large amphitheater which I read was available for weddings and events. As a matter of fact, you can also rent out the picnic shelters, too.

Bill and I began our walk by going to where the boardwalk started – out in the marshes near Crabby Mikes and the Surf City water tower. IMG_2471 (Large)We couldn’t believe how expansive it was. I came home and looked it up on the at Surf City town website. IMG_0416 (1) (Large)The town of Surf City gave the footage for each segment of the walkway and it totals 5,280 feet: one mile! What an awesome natural walkway for exercise or meditation!

Soundside Park has been around as long as the swing bridge, which was built in 1955 to connect Topsail Island with the mainland. Through the years, the park has grown and become the gorgeous gem of Surf City.

Actually, there is something always happening at Soundside Park. This summer they have free concerts and movie nights (drive-in style) on the weekends for the family. Check out the website here for more information.

This weekend, promises to be the best yet because a big celebration is planned for the Fourth of July. It starts with Snake Malone and the Black Cat Bone on Friday night, July 1st from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. IMG_0412 (Large)The Independence Day Celebration begins on Sunday, July 3rd at 6:00 p.m. with the Mark Roberts Band. Fireworks will follow afterward at dark-thirty – around 9:00 p.m. They ask that you walk or carpool because there’s not enough parking space to accommodate the crowds that seem to grow each year. Also, it would be best, if coming from the mainland, that you come from the direction of the high rise bridge in North Topsail so that the traffic will not be as congested.IMG_0403 (Large)

Bring your blankets and lawn chairs early, to mark your spot. Some folks even anchor their boats out in the water to watch the show.

There’s going to be a lot of people celebrating our nation’s independence and freedom and I plan to be there watching the magical fireworks, with the awe of a little child! Come and join me for the fun!


The “Shrimp Lady” – a Real Sneads Ferry Tradition

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by Donna Byrd

When Edith Millis began selling shrimp out of the the back of her Chevy Silverado in 1985, she probably had no idea that she was creating a business that would become a tradition for locals and vacationers that would carry on into the next millennium. Yet, thirty-one years later, her thriving business, The Shrimp Lady Seafood Market, has continued to supply fresh seafood to the Topsail Island and Sneads Ferry area.IMG_1590 (Large)

For twenty-five years, Edith sold shrimp on the Topsail Island side of the high rise bridge. The first road on the left after crossing the bridge was her spot, where she’d open for business each morning and take it all down by sunset. Anyone who had a hankering for fresh shrimp knew where to find her and soon, the little road was given the name, Shrimp Lady Lane. There was even an official green sign put up by the state to mark the road.

The sign’s no longer there. When people would “put in” their boats at the end of the road into the IntraCoastal Waterway, it was knocked down so many times that the state quit putting it back up. Edith sold the shrimp her family caught (they are all local fishermen by trade,) at that spot until the year she passed away from cancer in 1997. IMG_1605 (Large)Her grandson, Michael, said she was open for business even when she was undergoing chemo. His grandmother would wear a “do rag” on her head and greet her faithful customers with a smile every day.

That work ethic and attitude has carried over into the generation of her grandsons, Randy and Michael, who now run the family business.  Six years ago, The Shrimp Lady moved its location to the corner of Hwy. 210 and Old Folkstone Road. It’s at one of the busiest intersections in ‘the Ferry,’ near the Tsunami Surf Shop and the BP gas station. The Chevy Silverado is gone, but a large, covered trailer stands in its place. The side has a large, cut-out open window with a white board that announces what seafood is available and the prices.IMG_1595 (Large)

Michael Millis, who just happened to be running the shop when I saw him Saturday, told me that The Shrimp Lady is open most of the year, seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. until about 6:00 p.m. During the winter months, it is usually only open for weekends and he and Randy get to spend more time on the fishing boat and with their families. During the spring, summer and fall months, they are busy serving fresh seafood everyday to the community.

“I could do more to make money,” Michael told me, “but I love my job.  I see the same people coming to buy seafood from us over and over again, year after year.  Some of my regular customers remember buying shrimp years ago from my grandmother, Edith. For a lot of the vacationers, it’s a family tradition to come and get seafood from The Shrimp Lady. We’re a part of their beach traditions.”IMG_1604 (Large)

Of course, now, The Shrimp Lady carries more than just shrimp. I asked Michael to open the coolers set out on long tables by the trailer and show me what he had available that day.  There were nicely laid out grouper, mahi mahi, salmon, snapper, sea scallops and of course, shrimp, all presented on a thick bed of ice. I overheard him tell a customer that with each passing week in the spring, there would be more varieties of fish coming in.

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I couldn’t resist the beautiful, fresh grouper and had him slice me off a pound from the large fillet in the cooler. As I drove away, I wondered if Edith was looking down from heaven, smiling as her grandsons continued in the Millis family tradition of providing the best seafood available in this little corner of Onslow County.

I, for one, was grateful. I knew that because of her, Bill and I would be eating that night like a queen and king. Nothing but the best for this Shrimp Lady customer!

The Shrimp Lady Seafood Market is located at the corner of Hwy 210 and Old Folkstone Road

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Open 7 days a week from 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. during the spring, summer and fall months and on the weekends during the winter

Find them on FaceBook at


Groundhog Day Revenge – Topsail Fights Back!

IMG_1090by Donna Byrd

When the groundhog didn’t see his shadow on February 2 in that little town in Pennsylvania, It was broadcast throughout the rest of America that winter would pack its bags early and tiptoe out of here, going out, “as gently as a lamb.” Although I know there’s nothing scientific or logical about the groundhog predicting how long the grip of winter will hold, I secretly rejoiced and believed that old wive’s tale, thinking we had gotten off easily and had enjoyed a mild winter. Afterall, I’d already seen some daffodils shooting up through the ground in my front yard.IMG_9008

How could I have been so wrong? Almost since then, winter’s been laughing its hoary head off, throwing one coldfront after another toward us, all  coming from the west and joining up with moisture from the south. With them all, I miserably must report, cold, torrential rains have stormed in along with fierce winds that together, have taken their toll on the poor souls of the Topsail Island/Sneads Ferry area.  Winter’s new stronghold has dashed my hopes for an early spring and I fear we’re all at its cold hearted mercy.

So, what do I do when winter is relentless and I feel as if I live in Alaska instead of a rather mild, southern coastal beach town?  I’ll tell you what I do. I wear clothes that feel like pajamas, read spy novels while drinking my Christmas tea from Teavana and I cook hot, steaming meals to chase away the winter blues.IMG_1129

I know I’ve never written a cooking blog, but just so you know, I can come up with some amazing dishes when I’m stuck in the house. The heat from the stove, the  tat-a-tat of driving rain on the kitchen window and the howling gale blowing in from the ocean make me conjure up strange notions and concoctions.

Today I’m a fisherman’s wife from the turn of last century, putting together a chowder in the black kettle over the hot flames in the cottage fireplace. I throw chopped onions, carrots and potatoes into a rich broth saved from some leftover fishbones I saved from breakfast. When they are all tender, I throw in the littleneck clams and put the heavy lid on the pot. After about five minutes, when the clams have had a chance to steam and open, I take off the top and smell the briny goodness. I add a bit of milk to give it a creamy touch and lift the iron pot off the fire, making room for the skillet I use to fry corn cakes. Mmmm…warm chowder and corn cakes. I know Bill will love this supper tonight! I look out the window at the darkening skies, wondering when my husband will get back from the fishing trip. He’s been gone for three days and said he’d be back by sundown today. He didn’t know he would be out on the sea in this storm. I try and calm my worst fear.IMG_1113

Ok. Wait a minute. Why am I so dramatic? I’ve let my mind go off on a tangent again!  It’s 2016 and I’m no fisherman’s wife. My husband Bill, works at Treasure Realty and I comb the beaches and little towns up and down this southeastern coastline searching for things to write about on the company blog site. Sometimes I wonder what it was really like to eke out a living fishing the brackish New River, the rather shallow Stump Sound and the majestic Atlantic Ocean. The women back in that time had to be physically strong, patient beyond belief and magicians- always creating something glorious from very little!IMG_1093

I check my kitchen cabinet. I stocked up for a rainy day last October. I pull out my cans of clams, the bottles of clam juice and check the refrigerator for a carton of Half and Half. As I pull it out I see three fresh ears of corn I bought at Food Lion a few days ago.  That settles it! Clam AND corn chowder! The ladies a hundred years ago could have only clam chowder this time of year. Poor dears!

I gather a few more items and sit down with my computer to find the best clam and corn chowder recipe I can find. There are so many choices but I finally find one that looks yummy. I don’t care what people say about Paula Deen…the woman can cook! I love everything she makes. I find a recipe by her sons, Bobby and Jamie. They learned everything from their mom and often try to put a “healthier spin” on her recipes.

IMG_1099Deciding to go by their recipe, I make a few adjustments also. (I’m never afraid to add my own ideas. My cooking motto is: How can it be bad if everything in it’s good?) I get out my cutting board and begin the process of chopping and dicing the vegetables. Feeling like Chef Donna, I use the new knives Bill gave me for Christmas. I only cut myself once!

The wind blows the rain up against my window and I can hardly see outside. It howls like a wild animal but my furnace sends out its heat with a steady hum. The house fill up with the smell of onion, celery and carrots sweating it out in the bottom of my soup pot. I turn on my Pandora and Frank Sinatra belts out, “You Make Me Feel So Young.” The smell of the mirepoix blends with the music and my heart does a happy dance. I pour the clam juice into the vegetables and add the potatoes and a few spices. It begins to boil and the steam rises.IMG_1102

When the potatoes are tender, I add the clams and fresh corn. I have cut the corn off the cob and I know that the yellow/white kernels will stand out as a burst of crispness to offset the tenderness of the potatoes. The clams will be soft, only a bit chewy and the base of the soup will be creamy with the half and half that’s added at the last. I decide that a little hunk of butter in the pot just to smooth things out a bit would be ever so nice.  Who cares about the extra calories when it’s so horrible outside?


All the recipes I read say to serve with a loaf of crusty bread but I think back to my vision of the fisherman’s wife. She would have had the corn cakes fried to a crisp. I go to my pantry and get out the cornmeal and remember that buttermilk’s in the refrigerator. Mixing those ingredients together, I whisk in an egg, pouring the mixture into a baking pan that’s been heating up in the oven as a stick of butter melts and fills its bottom. I pour the cornbread mixture in and it sizzles as it hits the pan. This is going to be so good!

The cornbread turns a golden brown and I rub the crusty top with more butter. IMG_1126The house smells homey and I hear Bill coming in through the garage. “Boy, can you believe this weather?” he asks as he comes into the kitchen, lifting the lid off the corn and clam chowder.  He picks up a spoon to taste and says, “You should see the next street over. It looks like it’s flooding. I had to go down a different road just to get home. I could have used a boat!”  I pull some bowls down and begin to set the table. I listen to him chatter about some downed limbs in the yard and I think to myself: “I’m really not so different from the fisherman’s wife. I’m just glad he’s home and we’re safe and warm, about to chow down on some awesome eats!”  No wonder they call it “chow”der!IMG_1127

If you have some wonderful comfort dishes you’d like to dish up during the cold weather, share your warm up recipes with us! From our house in the ‘Ferry’ to yours, Bon Appetit!  

Christmas Shopping on Topsail Island: There’s Something for Everyone – Part 1

by Donna Byrd

Whether you are visiting our fair, little island of Topsail during the Christmas holidays or are lucky enough to call it your home, I have wonderful news! I’ve done a bit of snooping around and found that Topsail Island has plenty of top-notch retail establishments to visit for your Christmas holiday shopping pleasure! IMG_2993 Who wants to get in their car and travel more than thirty or fifty minutes away to Jacksonville or Wilmington when you can just ride down the island road and find a diversity of fine, quality gifts right under your nose? Not me! I’ve decided to do all my holiday shopping right on the island! I’m already imagining my adult children and granddaughters opening their gifts on Christmas morning. Their eyes will light up when they see their “island” treasures!

I’d like to present to you a list of places I visited this week that offer a little something for everyone. I’ve written this blog in two parts because there were more shops than I thought there’d be and there was so much to say about each of them. Please consider shopping on our fair island! I’m sure you can complete your Christmas shopping list right here at home! Thanks for keeping it local and shopping on Topsail!


Herring’s Outdoor Sports

701 N. New River Drive, Surf City, NC 28445IMG_2889


I have driven by this store for five years and always admired its curbside appeal but I actually stopped in Saturday. I knew that it was a kayak outfitters store and that it offered guided tours and rentals but it had so much more to offer! Not only was there kayak supplies but there was also fishing gear, bait and tackle, outdoors apparel for men, women and children, sandals and shoes, hats, kites, wallets, handbags and various and sundry gifts that anyone would love. I also noticed Yeti coolers and products. My son Cody has been eyeing anything “Yeti!”


Surfside Sportswear and Gifts

314 N. New River Drive, Surf City, NC  28445IMG_2896


I love this island shop and frequent it often.  Last year, I purchased a few spiffy outfits to wear to some of my son’s wedding events. Not only did I get some beautiful clothes but I also chose some nice pieces of jewelry to complement my attire from their abundant jewelry selection. Surfside Sportswear and Gifts also offers shoes, swimwear, hats, souvenir tee shirts and sweatshirts, quilts and decorative pillows, lamps, rugs, Christmas cards and ornaments and other gifts. The staff is friendly and so helpful. The store is large and you’ll love the lovely sound of windchimes that greet you when you open the door!


Topsail Island Trading CompanyIMG_2900

201 N. New River Drive, Surf City, NC 28445


10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Monday – Saturday

One of my favorite shops on the island, Topsail Island Trading Company is a feast for the eyes and taste buds! The minute you walk into the store, the colorful displays of gifts, fine jewelry, resort wear, books, kitchen ware, nautical weather and tide instruments delight you. You’re not sure what to look at first and then you notice the fudge counter on the right side of the shop. You gravitate towards it and the friendly staff offers you a taste of any of the varieties you wish to try and there are dozens of luscious flavors! It’s hard not to walk out with a little treasure box filled with sweet goodness! The best thing, is you can order it online and mail it anywhere! It’s the perfect gift for the person who has everything. Who doesn’t like fudge?


Southern EmporiumIMG_2913

208 N. River Dr. Ste. J, Surf City, NC 28445


I have a friend whose parting words to me are always, “Stay Classy.”  That’s not very hard to do if I shop regularly and fill my home with the southern-styled, upscale,  beautiful things from The Southern Emporium. This charming shop is worth a visit and is dripping with little treasures! The owner, Susan M. Smith, made me feel right at home the minute I entered her door. IMG_2910I was pleasantly surprised at the abundance of all her beautiful things: silver, glassware, recycled aluminum diningware and many types of home decor, baby items, jewelry, and even a bit of women’s clothing. All of those things are hard to say in one breath and in one sentence, but it’s true! It contains each and everyone of these goodies! The merchandise was displayed beautifully and the prices were great. To any of my friends who may be wondering what to get me for Christmas, just get me a little something from the classy, Southern Emporium. I’m sure I will love it!


Part II of this special list of shops is coming up next! Ladies and Gentlemen rev up your engines…It’s time to shop!




Surf City Fishing Pier – It’s that time of year!

by Donna Byrd

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that is not fish they are after.” Henry David  Thoreau

“There ain’t but one time to go fishin’, and that’s whenever you can.”     Diron Talbert

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Fall is the season for fishing here in Sneads Ferry and Topsail Island. And with that in mind, on a warm and sunny Thursday afternoon in November, I decided to visit the Surf City Ocean Pier. With all the rain we’ve had recently, I couldn’t resist the urge to get out in the beautiful weather before it turned cold. What better way was there to spend an afternoon than on a pier with the sun bearing down on your back, the wind in your face and the sea whipping up white caps underneath your feet? I headed down the island to find the pier.

FullSizeRender (1)I’ve never been much of a fisherman but my granddaddy was. He had a small boat he’d take out into the coastal waters of North Carolina. Spending the evening going through his fishing gear and tackle box, he’d go to bed really early and get up at three o’clock in the morning to head “down to the coast.” He’d come home about “dark thirty” with his cooler loaded down with ice and fish and then proceed to clean them on a special “cleaning table” he had built on the back of his property. My grandmother wouldn’t clean them but she sure could cook them!  I loved it when she would call our house and say, “We’re cooking up a mess of fish that Luther caught yesterday.  Y’all come over, we’re having a fish fry.” Those are some of the best memories of my childhood.

Upon arriving at the pier, I realized that I had to park down the street. The parking lots around the pier area were full and cars lined both sides of the street. If all of those people were fishing I wouldn’t be disappointed. I was going to find me a fishing story!

FullSizeRender (3)Hungry, I remembered that I had read that the grill at the pier was known for its hamburgers. I ordered one and chatted with the friendly clerk behind the counter. She gave me a bit of the pier’s history.

Surf City Ocean Pier was the first pier built on Topsail Island in 1948. In 1973, a resident from Smithfield, NC, Edwin Lore, bought the landmark pier and it’s been in his family since then. Over the years it had weathered many storms and hurricanes but in 1996 it was destroyed by Hurricane Fran. The Lore family rebuilt it and in August of 1997 it reopened to the relief and joy of local and vacationing fishermen.

FullSizeRender (9)The pier is nine hundred and thirty-seven feet long with a forty foot octagon shaped deck at the end. It has two large fish cleaning stations with fresh, running water on it and there is lots of lighting for night fishing.  Looking around me, I noticed that the place was a fisherman’s paradise, chock full of fishing equipment, tackle and had a good selection of bait. You could buy souvenirs in the gift area. There was even a record board mounted on the back wall, showing the largest fish ever caught off the pier. The records were impressive!

FullSizeRender (10)My cheeseburger was ready and I headed out to the dining area outside. It was a nice, shady area that overlooked a little garden filled with whimsical signs, fountains and flowers. What a lovely surprise! I sat at an umbrellaed table and just for a moment, had a sensory overload: ocean, sea breeze, gulls laughing, waves crashing and the smell of a good burger wafting up to tantalize me. Wait a minute. Was this heaven?

An old fellow shuffled down from the pier and sat down heavily in a chair near me. He had a blue cooler with a fishing pole attached to it. Looking tired he settled back in his seat and I could see that he was resting. I couldn’t help but start a conversation with him.

“Did you catch anything,” I asked. “Well,” he said. “I got me two blue fish but somebody gave those to me.  The most thing I caught was some fresh air.” He laughed when he said that and shook his head. “Yeah, got me some fresh air and two fish. That’s about it for me today. My sciatic nerve is bothering me. Pain all down my leg. Done all I can do for today.” I thought that for someone in pain, he still looked content and happy.

I asked if I could see his fish and he opened the cooler and seemed just as proud of them as if he had caught them himself. I wanted to know more about this “old timer.”

“Do you mind if I ask you your name?”FullSizeRender (11)

“No, my name is Clarence.”

“Clarence, my name is Donna and I write blogs for Treasure Realty. Today, I’m writing about this pier. Is it OK if I mention you in it?”

“No. I don’t mind,” he smiled. “A blog, huh?”

“Yes. You can be famous to somebody reading my blog,” I laughed.

“Are you a local, Clarence?  You live around here?”

“Well, I live in Wilmington but this is where I like to come to fish.”

“How long have you been coming here?”

“About fifteen years.”

“Wow.  That’s a long time. What is it about this pier that makes you want to come all the way from Wilmington just to fish here?”

“I like it because it’s clean. The one I used to go to in Wilmington has a bar above it and after a while, people get too foul-mouthed. When they drink, they end up saying what’s in their hearts. I don’t like that. This place is clean, no alcohol.  It’s a good place.”

I shook Clarence’s hand and told him I’m glad he liked coming to Surf City Pier. I wished him a good day and told him I hoped his leg would stop hurting. He sat there, grinning. I could see that just being there made him happy.

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I decided it was time to “walk the planks” and headed on up to the pier. It was loaded with people! They were mainly standing on the left, the northeast side. I asked someone why everyone was standing on that side. “The fish up north are headed down south to the warmer waters. We’re trying to catch them as they migrate.” That made sense to me. I supposed that in the springtime, they would fish from the right side of the pier as the fish headed back up north.

As I walked toward the end of the pier, I saw one fisherman after another, pull fish from the ocean; blues, spot, black drum, trout and flounder. There was such a happy spirit on the planks. At the octagon shaped deck on the end, I noticed that most of the fishermen there were seated with their buddies, talking and laughing, while their poles were stationed by the edge, waiting for a nibble or bite. These folks knew how to enjoy a beautiful day!FullSizeRender

Coming back towards the tackle and bait shop, I realized I had never seen so many blue coolers in one place. They almost formed a line down the nine hundred and thirty-seven feet of wooden planks. I stopped and asked one of the men if I could look inside his cooler. He proudly showed me his catch of the day: a cooler full of some flat, brownish flounder. I could imagine a fish fry for his family in the near future.

The day was gorgeous and the fish were biting. The breeze was stiff and the American flag hoisted up over the pier was unfurled and stiff in the wind. I realized I had let my worries fly away with the breeze just as these happy folks had and that I had picked up another thing that was in abundance on the pier: hope. There was so much hope and expectancy in the people fishing that it was contagious.  No wonder Clarence liked to fish here.FullSizeRender (2)

If you want to experience some good fishing and clear your head of worries, I’d recommend a visit to the Surf City Ocean Pier. Oh yeah. Bring your hope with you and if you’re running short of that, you’ll just catch some there along with a lot of fresh air!

 The Surf City Ocean Pier is located at:

112 South Shore Drive Surf City, NC 28445

Telephone number: 910-328-3521

Even a Rainy Day on Topsail Island is Magical

by Donna Byrd


I love Wednesdays because that’s my husband’s day off. Usually, in the warmer months, Bill golfs for half of the day at one our beautiful, local golf courses and then spends the rest of his day with me, maintaining the yard, fixing things around the house, visiting places we haven’t been before, walking the beach or (my favorite) shopping.

This past Wednesday, we awakened to a rainy, gray day.  It was obvious that golf was not in the forecast and neither was working in the yard. What could we do on a warm, rainy Wednesday to make it feel special? We took a ride down the beach road and searched for a cozy lunch at a place we’d never been before.

I’ve always loved a rainy day at the beach and when I was growing up and we’d go to the beach on vacation, the week would usually have at least one rainy day. That was the day we doctored our sunburns, read books and magazines, ate at one of our favorite seafood restaurants from the cheaper lunch menu and then explored the local shopping scene.

This Wednesday with Bill felt like one of those days. As soon as the car left the high bridge and began making its way down the beach road, it began to rain in earnest. The windshield wipers were having trouble keeping up with the big drops, but I didn’t care. I loved the sound of the rain hitting the glass and the rhythm of the wipers slapping against the sheet of water. It seemed as if we were in our own world on that deserted beach road, safe and dry while all nature outside was fending for itself in the pouring rain. I know it makes me seem like an odd sort of person, but that feeling makes me feel satisfied and content.


We decided to go to “Daddy Macs” for lunch.  It’s in a wonderful location; right on the ocean looking out over the Surf City Ocean Pier, Topsail Island’s first pier, built in 1948.   I was hoping to get a few good pictures of the pier from the restaurant’s back porch/deck.

The restaurant was casually beautiful! The dining area was surrounded by windows that gave majestic views of ocean waves tipped in foamy white, gray sky, seagulls and nautical birds trying to fly with the wind currents. We saw rain darkened, faded gray planks that made up the pier next door and the fishermen on it, covered in yellow, red and blue rain slickers.

IMG_2444 Although it was gray and misty, it was one of the most beautiful scenes I had witnessed at the beach. There was even a huge, bright, American flag that proudly flew from the pier, brightening up the dreary landscape.  I stepped outside in the rain to take some pictures.

We were seated in a booth by the windows. I had fried flounder, fries and slaw while Bill had one of Daddy Mac’s classic hamburgers. We took our time at the cozy table and watched the ocean swells through the rain splashing down the windows. The staff had some great music playing on a Pandora station. Our food was delicious and so was that “rainy day at the beach” lazy feeling. Ahhh…did I tell you I love the beach in the rain?

We couldn’t sit at the lunch table all afternoon and eventually we paid our bill and left. We met a sweet couple with a few kids outside on the front porch.  They were from Burnsville, North Carolina in Yancey County.  That little town is far away from here, right by the Tennessee border. They love to come to Topsail Beach in October when things aren’t quite as busy. Even they didn’t mind the rain.

We said our goodbyes and ran to our cars, sorry for our Daddy Mac experience to end. I wished the nice couple lived near Topsail. I knew if they did, we might become good friends.

We rode over the swing bridge, leaving the island to go home by way of Highway 17. Stopping at the new Dunkin Donuts on the mainland side, we got a coffee to share and began to make our way back to “The Ferry.” We took a few detours and discovered some roads we had not yet travelled. On a whim, we took a “dead end” that surprised us with its quaint homes and pretty twists and turns. The trees along the road were in full fall color and were swirling in the air with the rain. There was a little white chapel with a steeple and suddenly, the road ended. We could have driven straight off into the Intracoastal Waterway!

Stopping the car, we sat there drinking our coffee,  in our own little dry world, while the rain fell from the gray sky and we watched the dark gray water lap at the grassy shore. Even a rainy day at the beach is magical.  See you soon?

Coming to Topsail Island This Summer? Don’t Miss the Surf City Pier!

With several prime fishing spots, two large cleaning stations with fresh running water, and a grill and ice cream shop with plenty of screened-in outdoor seating, the Surf City pier is the place to be this summer!

Continue reading Coming to Topsail Island This Summer? Don’t Miss the Surf City Pier!

Find Some Of Topsail Islands Freshest Local Catch At Surf City Crab Seafood Market

surfcitycrabseafoodtopsailislandSurf City Crab Seafood Market

If you’re looking for the freshest seafood Topsail Island has to offer, it’s hard to beat Surf City Crab Seafood Market without catching it yourself. This fresh seafood marketplace has been in business for more than 20 years and during that time, they’ve served the local community and visitors to Surf City and all of Topsail Island with the freshest seafood available. They take great pride in their ability to bring out the best selection and freshest seafood day after day.

Surf City Crab is open daily from 8:00 am until 8:00 pm and they do offer plenty of onsite parking. The market itself is owned by the Kugatow family and is currently under the management of Adrian Kugatow and J. M. Moseley.

Not only do they provide excellent quality in a wide variety of fresh seafood, we believe you’ll find the prices at Surf City Crab  to be outstanding. A trip to Surf City Crab might not seem like the top of your priority list but it’s quickly becoming a Topsail Island topsail-island-seafood-markettradition. You can even purchase really cool tee-shirts to commemorate the event. This tradition always ends in folks sitting around their own table, enjoying delicious fresh seafood dishes in the company of their closest friends and families. Now what could be better than that?

The market operates year round offering a fine selection of fresh seasonal seafood. Whether you’re celebrating Mardi Gras with a crawfish boil or shrimp etouffee or you’re looking for oysters for your holiday dressing — or maybe a romantic evening in, they’ve got you covered.

If you’re a little lost for what to do with the bountiful selection of seafood, or perhaps you’re not the greatest cook in the world… don’t worry. Just ask some questions on what to buy and how to best prepare and you’ll be amazed at the helpful hints, tips, and suggestions you can get form the friendly staff at Surf City Crab. These people know seafood!. Most importantly, you’ll surprise your family and friends by preparing a culinary masterpiece they had no idea you could create. Find The Surf City Crab Seafood market on Facebook or check out this short video about Surf City Crab

Here are some additional articles you may find interesting:

Topsail Island Crab Pot
Sears Landing

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