Pier Fishing Success

It’s no secret that piers aren’t the most glamorous of fishing venues, however, there’s no denying the fact they’re a great option when it comes to bending a rod and procuring a solid catch. For those of you who think that pier fishing is boring and uneventful, think again. How do you feel about battling a 50-pound cobia from the planks during the Panhandle’s epic ling migration? What about targeting bull redfish off an East Coast pier? Anglers fishing Tampa Bay along the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Piers routinely nab keeper grouper and hoards of tasty mangrove snapper. With the passing of Hurricane Ike the Deerfield Pier was a hot spot for prized demersals like mutton and yellowtail snapper. Other South Florida piers routinely post catches of kingfish, Spanish mackerel, sharks and even highly prized pelagics like dolphin and sailfish. Now don’t get the wrong impression, not every pier will produce quality catches day in and day out. To be a successful shore-bound angler you not only need to know what’s biting and what seasonal migrations/patterns are occurring; you need to have the right tackle and know the most effective rigging techniques.


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Photo: Steve Dougherty

Rig It Right!
You don’t need a vast arsenal of outfits to be a successful pier angler. During a hot-bite when the conditions are just right, chances are you’ll be rubbing elbows and sharing the rail with a handful of anglers and the only rod you’ll be able to attend is the one that’s in your hands. Having the correct tackle and rigging your rods appropriately will make or break you when it comes to landing that trophy fish. With only three rod and reel combos you can be well prepared for whatever crosses your pier path.

When it comes to pier fishing the simple truth is that if you come well prepared, you’ll go home a winner!

As a rule, avoid bulky rigs with unnecessary hardware. Heavy black wire leaders and 12oz. pyramid sinkers have no place when fishing piers. Keep your approaches subtle and stealthy for maximum success. The water around piers is often clear and with all of the commotion going on, nearby fish are usually spooky. Anything out of the ordinary will simply go ignored.

Sabiki Slayer
Unless you’ve purchased a supply of bait or put in your dues collecting live sand fleas from the shoreline, you’re going to need a way to catch bait. A light-action 6 to 10lb. test spinning outfit rigged with a #8 Sabiki will work well for small baits like pilchard, pinfish and threadfins, while a larger #15 Sabiki will be better suited for targets like goggle-eye and blue runner. A tiny piece of squid impaled on the hooks may be the trick needed to attract the attention you are looking for, especially when ballyhoo are present. No matter what species you plan on targeting be sure to keep your live bait rod rigged and ready at all times. When a bait school moves within casting distance you need to be able to quickly deploy your rig and load up on frisky offerings.

While an aerated pail will suffice as a makeshift livewell, pier pros know a better way. They drill a bunch of one-inch holes in a five-gallon bucket and sealed shut with a lid, they tether it off the pier. It’s an excellent alternative; just make sure there are numerous holes drilled near the bottom of the bucket.

Dance The Jig
There are many options when it comes to artificial baits and depending on your targeted species, the way you work jigs and lures will also vary greatly. Whether you’re after pompano with a Doc Goofey jig or Spanish mackerel and bluefish with a Got-Cha, which are two of the most effective and widely used pier offerings, you’ll need a medium-action 12 to 15lb. class spinning outfit with a fast tip. Banana jigs and goggle-eye bugs are two more killers also designed to be fished with a light or heavy exaggerated flip of the rod tip. The fast tip will also assist in detecting subtle strikes which often occur as the jig flutters toward the bottom. Bucktails are, of course, another proven option and are usually fished with a steady retrieve throughout the water column. Add a curly tail, and you’ve got yourself a serious cobia crusher. Fresh line and an 8-foot rod will help achieve maximum casting distance.

Live Bait Rig
For fishing live baits, which often attract the largest quarry, you should be armed with a 7 to 8-foot, 20 to 30lb. class conventional outfit. This sort of gear will hold enough line and be beefy enough to handle just about anything you will encounter. A basic pier bait rig consists of a triple swivel rigged with a pyramid sinker. Select the length of your leader based on your targeted species, however, it’s important that your leader isn’t too long or it will greatly hinder you casting abilities. Another option is a two-hook chicken rig or dropper loop rig – an effective option when targeting smaller quarry like snapper and pompano. For catching larger targets patrolling the surf many anglers employ a sliding egg-sinker fish-finder rig. Another alternative is the trolley rig and a quick Google search will provide you with many variations to this very unique rigging technique.

When it comes to pier fishing the simple truth is that if you come well prepared, you’ll go home a winner!

East Coast

Dania Beach
Dania Fishing Pier

Ft. Lauderdale
Anglin’s Pier

Pompano Beach
Pompano Fishing Pier

Deerfield Beach
Deerfield Beach Pier

Juno Beach
Juno Fishing Pier

Cocoa Beach
Cocoa Beach Pier

Ponce Inlet
Inlet Harbor Fishing Pier

Daytona Beach
Sunglow Fishing Pier

Flagler Beach
Flagler Beach Ocean Pier

St. Augustine
St. Johns County Fishing Pier

Fernandina Beach
George Crady Bridge Pier

West Coast

Venice Fishing Pier

Tampa Bay
South Skyway Pier

Tampa Bay
North Skyway Pier

St. Petersburg
Gulf Pier Ft. Desoto Park

Big Pier 60

Fort Walton Beach
Okaloosa Island Pier

Panama City Beach
Half Hitch Tackle Pier

Gulf Breeze
Ft. Pickens Fishing Pier

Pensacola Pier