Pier Fishing for Beginners, Fishing Pier How To's
Pier fishing is an excellent way to introduce novice anglers to saltwater fishing. Piers allow you to get to deeper water that you otherwise wouldn't be able to access without a boat. Besides, fish are naturally attracted to piers - for several reasons. One is that they provide hiding places for baitfish, and the baitfish draw the larger fish. Another reason is that barnacles usually grow on pier pilings, and several fish species eat barnacles. Also, since many anglers clean their catch on the pier and throw the remains overboard, there's a constant supply of blood, fish heads, and entrails being deposited into the surrounding water, which attracts a large number of fish.
Fishing Piers in America
Pier Fishing Equipment
Unless you're fishing for sharks or other very large fish, you don't necessarily have to have special equipment. A medium-action rod and real will work fine. The size line you'll need depends on what type of fish you're targeting. For smaller fish like croaker, mangrove snapper, whiting, and spots, use 10-pound test. For fish that are a little bigger, like flounder, reds, trout, and blues, 15-pound line is usually sufficient.
It's a good idea to include about 18-24 inches of wire leader to the end of your line. This will keep fish with sharp teeth from biting through your line. It might also allow you to land a fish that wraps you around a piling in its effort to escape. Since most pier pilings are encrusted with sharp barnacles, fishing line can easily get broken when this happens.
You'll also need weight on your line. The amount you need depends on how you're fishing and on how strong the current is. If you're bottom fishing, you'll need just enough weight to keep your bait in place.
Pier Fishing Bait
The bait you use depends on what kind of fish you're trying to catch. Many saltwater fishes consume shrimp, so live or dead shrimp is a good choice. If you use dead shrimp, make sure they're fresh when you buy them, and keep them on ice while fishing. Live shrimp need an insulated bait bucket with an aerator to keep them alive.
Another excellent bait for saltwater fishing is finger mullet, along with different types of minnows. These can be kept alive in floating bait buckets without an aerator, although they will survive longer in insulated buckets equipped with an aerator.
Cut bait is also a good choice, especially if the cut-up fish is oily. Oily fish often used for saltwater bait include mullet, menhaden, and ladyfish.
If you're fishing for redfish, pompano, black drum, or sheepshead, try using fiddler crabs or sand fleas. You can purchase these at most bait shops, or you can catch your own for free. Artificial baits that are productive when cast from a pier include ledhead jigs, spoons, and lures that mimic baitfish, crabs, or shrimp.
For hooks, your best choice is a circle hook. These help the fish "hook" themselves, and the hook-up will almost always be in the jaw - where you want it to be. Also, released fish that have been caught with a circle hook have a better survival rate.
Something else you might need while pier fishing is a pier net. This is a large round net that can be dropped from the pier to retrieve large fish that might be difficult to pull up with your line. Many piers keep a net on the pier for anglers to use.
Where To Fish From The Pier
Some beginning fishermen think they have to go all the way to the end of the pier to fish, but this isn't necessarily true. Some fish can be found in very shallow water - like flounder, for example. Even if you want to find the deep water, it might not be at the end of the pier. There might be sloughs anywhere underneath the pier or beside the pier, along with deep holes or channels.
Fishing directly underneath the pier or right beside a piling is often effective, too. Species like sheepshead, spadefish, and drum can sometimes be seen feeding around the pilings if the water is clear enough.
When To Go Pier Fishing
Water temperature has a huge impact on fishing, so plan your fishing trip accordingly. While some fish, like sheepshead, might be caught all year, other species are more affected by cold weather. Flounder are usually caught only in the warmer months, while trout and redfish can be landed from spring through fall. In hot months, you might try fishing early in the morning or at sundown. Night fishing can be very productive for sharks, redfish, trout, and whiting.
The tide is also important when saltwater fishing. Generally speaking, fish bite more during the last hour before high tide and during the first hour of the outgoing tide.
Methods of pier fishing
Pier fishing can incorporate numerous strategies. One of the most popular is bottom fishing. For this, you simply bait your hook with live or dead bait and drop it or cast it. Keep the line tight and watch for your rod tip to twitch, indicating a fish is nibbling your bait. Don't let the motion of the waves fool you into thinking you have a bite. The waves will cause your rod to bend in a smooth, rhythmical motion, while a bite will be more erratic, like a tap-tap-tap. With some practice, you'll learn the difference.
Many pier anglers choose to use a float instead of fishing on the bottom. To do this, you'll need a large saltwater float with a natural bait. Finger mullet, minnows, and live shrimp are excellent choices. Make sure your bait is off the bottom, and watch for the float to be pulled under by a fish.
Casting can also be done from a pier. Good baits for casting are minnows, small fish, jigs, spoons, and lures. Try casting all along the pier, with both perpendicular casts and diagonal casts. If you have good aim, try casting alongside the pier pilings. Try a variety of retrieves, too, including fast retrieves, slow retrieves, and erratic retrieves.
Another popular method for pier fishing is called "walking the dog." To do this, drop you bait next to the pier pilings, right on the bottom, and slowly walk up and down the pier, dragging your bait on or near the bottom with a series of short jerks.
Landing fish while pier fishing
Once you've hooked a fish, you'll obviously have to get it up onto the pier in order to retrieve the hook. Most small fish can be pulled up with your line, but for larger fish, you'll need a pier net. A pier net is also the best way to haul up fish with fragile mouths, like spotted seatrout.
Unless you're an experienced pier angler, you'll need help with a pier net. If you don't have a fishing buddy with you, just about any angler on the pier will be glad to lend a hand. While he tries to slip the net underneath your fish, you need to focus on your catch. Keep its head under the water for as long as you can to prevent the fish from panicking.
If you've hooked a really large fish while pier fishing, you can often walk it up to the beach, where someone else can drag it out of the water and unhook it. Just be sure to keep the fish away from the pilings as you do so.