Pier Fishing Guide

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What is Pier Fishing

There are a huge number of different ways that you can go about fishing, but for a lot of people there are few ways that are quite as simple and fun as pier fishing. For one, it is easy to do since all you need to get started in a local pier. Most pier fishing is done in saltwater, so you will need to be near a coastal area, but some people do consider fishing off a pier in the Great Lakes to be a form of pier fishing. At any rate, saltwater pier fishing is usually the most desirable form.

One of the best things about this kind of fishing is that you are not going to need a boat. Still, you may want to invest in a pier fishing guide if you are new to this sport. Polarized glasses are recommended in order to help protect against the sun and aid your vision. Bait is a lot easier to catch since it is normally right beneath the pier and there is no cost in fuel needed to go further out to find it.

With pier fishing, the main thing that has to be mastered is choosing the right location. For some people, this is simply going to involve finding a pier that already has several other anglers fishing from it. This is a good way to make some friends and if you see one person having some success, odds are better that you will have success in that location too. Piers that have a reef structure of some sort is helpful, artificial or otherwise. If there is this kind of formation around, it will provide a nice place for fish to be able to hide and live since they feel secure. Even if it is primarily home to small fish, keep in mind that where there are small fish, big fish are going to come in with the intent of eating them.

There are many great places to do pier fishing from, but one of the best places just might be the Outer Banks for North Carolina. The Outer Banks fishing pier experience is one of the most rewarding due to the fact that the water is teeming with fish. This is one of the more renounced places in the United States due to its scenic beauty and also the fact that it has a great many large fish to reel in. Other areas of interest can include the San Francisco Bay in California, Chesapeake Bay in Massachusetts and many places along the coast of Florida such as the Skyway fishing pier. If you are ever new to any area, be sure to check online for pier fishing reports that cover that area because they could end up being quite useful to you.

Making Pier Fishing A Bit Easier to Do

Some very savvy anglers go so far as to create an artificial structure, sink it beneath the pier and come back a few weeks later to fish there. They will make a habitat using bricks, concrete cinder blocks, metal or even tree branches and sink that into the water. As far as pier fishing techniques go, this is very close to genius. It is always best not to use things that are painted or contain chemicals, though, because releasing poisons into the environment is definitely not something we want to do. Creating a habitat for the fish will encourage them to stick around and thus be a lot easier to catch. However, be sure to check local regulations first to ensure that you are permitted to do this. Also, keep in mind whether the pier is used by swimmers or boats. You will have to place your structure so it doesn’t interfere with others or create a hazard for boats and swimmers.

Things You Need For Pier Fishing

Anchor, Lifevest and fishing tackle with Creel
Image: Suzanne Tucker, Shutterstock

Fishing Rod and Reel

You will need to have a good heavy or medium heavy rod to do pier fishing. It does not have to be a monster, but pier fishing rods need to be solid enough and between 6 to 9 feet long, of the spinning variety. Two examples of good rods would be the 8 foot trophy model from Bimini Bay or TICA’s 9 foot surf rod. If you choose either of these then a weight that is between 2 and 5 ounces should put you in good shape and let you handle nearly any species in a pier fishing situation. Okuma is one brand name reel that could be a good choice, especially the Expior bait feeder version or the cheaper Avenger model – both are excellent for a pier environment. With the bait feeder reel, the advantage is that if a fish gets hooked and you aren’t holding the rod at the time, you have time to get there before he makes off with the bait. This is helpful for stripers and larger rays that may otherwise be tough to work with since they can pull your rod right off the pier and make off with it – costing you money and making their life extremely unpleasant.
Izumi Outdoors

Pier Fishing Rigs

These are perhaps the most important aspects of your pier fishing equipment selection. Those going after flounder such as halibut will want to consider going with a hook that has been pre tied plus bait along the lines of a strip of squid flesh or a mud minnow along with a 2/0 circle hook. This works well for flounder, but rigs will vary according to what you want to catch. If you have a spinner rig then you want it to be rising and falling in the tide so that flounder spots that flashing visual and goes for it because this makes your job a whole lot easier. Bluefish are normally said to prefer a wire leader hook that has been pretied, size 2/0 or even 4/0 can work but this varies depending on what kind of bait you are using at the time. A heavier rig with pre tied hooks like the Sea Strikers 1040HD is a premium choice for a lot of pier fishing fans and can give you a lot of leeway in making the perfect choice for your fishing situation.

Pier Fishing Sinkers

Bank sinkers are preferred in sizes between 2 oz and 4 oz. and are a huge part of well maintained collection of genuine pier fishing gear. That, however is for easier days or nights with less wind, especially around the Outer Banks fishing piers. When wind and waves look to be a problem, it is best to opt for a pyramid sinker of slightly larger size, up to about 5 oz. The reason for heavier sinkers like this is because with multiple people fishing in an area, not getting your line tangled in theirs is a pretty important thing. You want it to hit the water and go straight down. This will make the strike much easier to notice, as well.

Pier Fishing Bait Options

Split shot of the man fishing from the boat on the lake. Underwater view of the lake. Focus on the bait
Image: Dudarev Mikhail, Shutterstock

Of course, the bait for pier fishing you choose needs to match up with the species of fish you are after. The local bait stores are a great resources because if they give you bad advice just to sell something, you aren’t likely to go back any time soon. They will know which types of bait, tackle, etc are working for anglers at any given time. For small species of fish you will want grass shrimp, peeler crabs, bloodworms, squid or something small like that. Cut bait is usually for the larger fish such and could include strips of squid, spot or bunker. Mud minnows are another big favorite for larger species. Also be sure to check with people in fishing in the area to see what works for them. Most anglers tend to be friendly and are proud to offer tips on salt water pier fishing.


Again, polarized sunglasses are a real key to protecting your vision during long hours on a pier and they also help you see better, too. Sunscreen is very important and you will need to decide the strength that works best for you. Extra tackle is a must, too, because having to try and get your spot back because you didn’t plan thoroughly enough is no fun. Don’t forget a 5 gallon bucket for your bait and a cooler with drinks, either. Don’t forget to bring a camera so you can get some great pier fishing pictures to show off to your family and friends. The newer digital cameras (and mobile phones) allow video recording so remember, you might just want to see your pier fishing video end up on a fishing show, but that can’t happen if you forget the camera at home or in the car.


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Jack Bollinger
Born in Massachusetts, Jack is an avid fisherman most of his life. He is currently a fishing guide in the bay of California. He has been fishing for more than 40 years and fly-fishing for more than 30. His favorite fish to catch is the rainbow trout and small-mouth bass. He has earned many top places in different lake fishing competitions.

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