Like fishing but dislike boats? Pier fishing is a great way for anglers to get their hooks into deep water without the hassle and upkeep of a boat or the inconveniences of a beach. While many maintain fishing from a boat is the best way to catch “the big one,” most agree that pier fishing is the next best thing.
What You Need
If you’re interested in pier fishing, chances are you’ve already been boat or beach fishing and you already have your necessary equipment.
Other than lines and hooks appropriate to the species of fish you’re going after, people fishing off piers ought to bring gaffs and nets to yard the caught fish up to the top of the pier without losing it back to the drink. You’ll need something to keep your catch in, too, like a game bag or a cooler. Most anglers bring two coolers — one for the fish and one for cold drinks and snacks.
As far as bait goes, that’s going to depend on the fish you want to catch. So, for both live and artificial bait, chat with locals and see what they recommend. When fishing in new waters, have an assortment of jigs so you have lots to try if you don’t get any luck with your first choice.
For rigs, a lot of people recommend beach-fishing rigs because of the long reach, but others find those to be hard to manoeuver on a pier with pedestrians around. Be aware some piers prohibit casting. Whatever rig you choose, have a clamp or some rope to secure the rod when you need my hands free for something else.
Don’t forget the peripherals, either. You’ll need sunscreen, a hat and polarized sun glasses, which cut glare so you can see the fish underwater and reduce eye strain.
Finally, if you’re going out of state, don’t forget you might need to buy a new fishing license.
What You Do
The first thing you should do, once you’ve assembled some gear together, is find the best times to fish at your nearest pier. Many species of fish are seasonal and that plays into your decisions for rigging your line.
Using your polarized lenses to check the water for evidence of fish movement, walk down the pier and see what the other people fishing are up to. You might notice most anglers are on one side or another. There’s a reason for that and that reason is most likely the current.
Follow their lead and set up your gear. You want your bait to be taken right, usually under you, where the fish are living in the artificial reef created by the pier’s support system.
Where to Go
Anywhere with a pier without local regulations preventing fishing is suitable. To get some first-class catches, try Virginia Beach, Va. or St. Petersburg, Fla. These two cities, and the smaller surrounding towns, boast long piers with lots of marine life under them. Virginia Beach has easy access from the boardwalk and a diversity of fish to catch. It helps that there are plenty of cheap hotels in Virginia Beach including some near the pier so you won’t miss out on any good fishing action. Spanish mackerel and pompano are best to fish for in Virginia.
If you head south to Florida, head over to St. Petersburg. This is where you can catch grouper, mackerel, tarpon and jacks, and even shark off piers.
About the Author: Sandra Goden is a fourth-generation fisherwoman whose family get in regular disputes about what pier is the best fishing spot in the country.