Fishing Buddies

by Apr 23, 2024North Brunswick, People

Time spent on the Fishing Pier at Brunswick Riverwalk Park nets more than supper.

Those guys you see out on the Belville Pier are doing a whole lot more than fishing. They are having adventures, sharing life stories and making true friendships.

Bart Dixon and Dr. Curtis (Kurt) Ash are two of the pier regulars who have formed a unique bond. They are decades apart in age, the younger a business owner, the elder a Vietnam Veteran and minister. One is black, one white. One was a soul DJ, one likes ’70s rock. But they have two common loves: fishing and people. That is all it took to form a kinship. Sometimes, it is just that simple.

“We talk about everything, where we’re from. Life. I just enjoy talking to people,” Dixon says.

And they’re not alone. Several other regular fishermen and nature lovers share the pier and the gift of gab.

Dixon makes the little Joseph A. Breault Fishing Pier sound like a scene from a throwback era of black and white television.

“These guys roll down there in their carts with radios and lights on. And we just sit there and have a good time. We drink a Coke and eat popcorn and just chew the fat. We’re a bunch of old timers sitting around yakking. It’s like Mayberry on the Pier,” he says with a laugh.

Belville NC Riverwalk Fishing Buddies

Ash is a disabled Vietnam Veteran and uses a motorized chair. The Belville pier was the first place he fished when he moved to North Carolina eight years ago from Maryland. He likes the easy access to the pier.

“It’s a little pier, but it allows you to get right out on the water,” he says.

“But it’s the people that draw you back (to the park). I met people the first day I was fishing, and I still know those people. And Bart and I, we became brothers, we are just tight.”

The catch of the day is a mixed bag, since the changing of the tide makes the Breault Pier in Belville fresh water at times and salt water at others. There’s croaker, skate, eel, shark, stingray and catfish to name a few. Dixon usually will catch and release, and Ash often gives his fish away to anyone in need.

Dixon tells an adventurous story of helping a fellow fisherman detach a stingray from his line. And out of the corner of his eye, he saw one of the Brunswick River alligators eyeing dinner.

“This guy caught a stingray, and as he was reeling him, from the corner of my eye I saw an alligator flying underneath the pier from the backside,” Dixon recalls. “This alligator shot off like a rocket. I told this guy reel it in! He’s pulling, and the stingray’s flying up in the air. This alligator came up out of the water like you see on TV when they’re feeding them. He’s snapping his jaws at the ray and he missed it. He did this a couple times. We got the stingray on the pier, and I flipped it on its back and unhooked him and threw it back in the water, thinking ‘he’s all good,’ but then I saw that alligator with the stingray in his mouth. That was a funny time down there.”

Ash lives in Navassa and is one of the ministers at Kingdom Impact Ministries in Burgaw. He will tell you that he is “82 and newly engaged.” He has some great stories to tell about serving at Ft. Bragg and his 12 or so years as soul DJ Flash Gordon – Commander of the Starship P Funk. He also has sage advice about the value of fishing.

Ash believes that there would not be so much mental illness in this country if people would take up fishing as a hobby.

“Fishing is a jewel, it’s a treasure,” he says. “ I learned to fish from my grandmother. They tell me about it. I don’t remember it, but my grandmother used to take me fishing in a cardboard box. I wasn’t a year old. And as I grew up, I learned to fish.”

One topic he shares about is the difference in the way children grow up today compared to when he was a boy.

“Half the time, we don’t take the time with our children the way we used to,” he says. “When I was young, every child in the neighborhood belonged to everybody in the neighborhood. He references the “it takes a village to raise a child” sentiment of watching out for people you know.

Taking time for grown kids is also important, Ash says, bragging on his son for driving down from Maryland to fish for the day with his dad.

“It’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” he says. “My son, Carlton, and nephew Lance drove 500 miles to go fishing with me. We also meet up in Norfolk sometimes to fish.”

Ash and Dixon branch out and fish other sites on the coast including Myrtle Beach, Holden Beach, Emerald Isle and Morehead City.

“What I love about Bart, he is ready to go fishing, it doesn’t matter where you want to go,” Ash says.

Belville NC Riverwalk Fisherman Bart Dixon

Photo by Matt McGraw

Dixon and his wife, Cathy, recently sold their fire equipment business in Indiana and will soon retire to Brunswick Forest, where they have had a home for two years.

It is not just the fishing crowd that has won them over. They enjoy the friendly people in the area and the climate.

“Brunswick Forest is just a beautiful neighborhood,” Dixon says. “They’ve got everything you can want, pools, golf courses, you name it, and people are all friendly. We just love being outside, you’ve got the beaches and rivers, and good food. I think it’s better in North Carolina in general.”

Dixon says that you can stay out at the pier fishing all night, as long as you get inside before the gate closes. A lot of fishermen like to fix for catfish at night.

Fishing Buddies Belville NC Riverwalk

Each man talks about the comradery they have with each other and the other regular fishermen. They talk of knowing all the folks they see each time they go fishing. Meeting strangers who become new friends, and hearing town stories from Mayor Mike Allen.

Ash says, “That’s one thing about that particular park, you get to know people and you don’t need to know their name. You see their face and you sit there and talk for hours, and you don’t ask them about their name. I see the mayor pretty much every time I go down there.”

Dixon states, “I fish a lot, but I could just sit and talk all night long to this great group of local guys. They’re just good souls. We just love each other and think the world of each other, we are like brothers, we really are, and that is so cool.”

Join the cast:
Belville Riverwalk Park Fishing Pier
580 River Road SE, Belville NC
(910) 371-2456
riverwalkatbelville