If you’ve never fished off a pier, I suppose you don’t really know what you’re missing, so I’m here to tell you. Whether you choose to pier fish during the day under the hot Florida sun, or take advantage of a warm night on a pier in the north Atlantic, you never know what you may catch, which is part of the attraction. Unlike surf fishing, or casting your rod from the deck of a chartered boat, pier fishing allows you and possibly your family (kids love it) to spend time at your ‘camp’, dropping your lines (you’ll want to drop them, rather than cast when out on a pier since the fish prefer to stick close by), having some lunch, reading a book, enjoying your iPod, and reveling in what the other anglers around you are reeling in.
Most piers, or rather those intended/expected for fishing, have a small ledge for you to cut your bait on, the piers are usually equipped with a few benches scattered here and there (depending on the region you are in) and there is typically a wash station nearby as well. Because not all piers have benches, or if they do, chances are they will be full, plan on bringing a chair in addition to a cooler for your catch. Be prepared with plenty to drink; the last thing you want is to ruin a nice day of pier fishing with dehydration and you certainly don’t want to lose your spot along the rail to go off in search of a cold bottle of water or a snack. Chances are you’re going to be there a while, so plan for it. Even with the best intentions of only stepping out on the pier for a ‘few casts’ , once you start to see someone nearby bring up a snapper or a skate, you’re going to want to stick around to see what else is down there waiting to
Its always a good idea to call ahead to see what has been caught recently as pier fishing like other types of angling will produce a variety of species depending on the time of year and where along our coastlines you happen to be. Most fishing piers have a bait shop on them and you can give them a call to see what has been biting and the best baits. In addition to the cut bait you can purchase from any local bait shop you may want to bring along a rod for catching some live bait. A light rod with a sabiki rig is great for catching small baitfish such as pilchard and sardines, but remember you must have bait bucket capable of keeping them alive once caught.
Most fishing piers have a limit on the number of rods that can be brought out on to the pier; usually this limit is about 3 fishing rods. A good rule of thumb is to have one bait rod, one rod that is used for casting and another rod that can be used for straight bottom fishing. Since you will already have a good idea of what species of fish have been caught recently you can outfit your tackle box to include a variety of hooks and lures commonly used to catch that species. If you are fishing the piers in South Florida you can expect to catch many of the more popular species of fish such as Snook, Jacks, Cobia, Tarpon, Mackerel and many kinds of bottom fish including snappers. Have a good assortment of hook sizes and sinkers along with various swivels in your box so you can see what others who are fishing on the pier are using and adjust if you notice one rig is more successful than another.
The number one tip to being successful while pier fishing is to locate any structure or reefs near the pier. Remember that it is the structure that will become the haven for the baitfish and that in turn will attract the larger fish you are targeting. Many times fishing piers are built over the remains of previous piers that have been destroyed by storms, or they could be built around reefs or rock structures. Try and learn where these structures are located as fishing the very end of the pier may not put you in the best position to catch fish.
Although pier fishing may draw a very “unique” crowd, most people you encounter will be very helpful if approached courteously, but remember not to crowd others who may be having more luck than you. Just make note of what type of rig they are using and the kind of bait that is catching the fish, so the next time you come you can try to follow their success and enjoy the fine art of pier fishing.