Pier Fishing Tips
Pier fishing can be a fantastic way to catch fish without having to get your feet wet. But where do you find the piers and what do you need to get started?
To give you some tips we’ve put this guide together. We’ll guide you on where and how to fish off a pier, as well as give you some helpful advice on what you might need for a successful pier fishing day.
What Exactly Is Pier Fishing?
Pier fishing is basically just as it sounds; fishing from a pier. Usually, it is a pier that juts out into the ocean. This means you can fish for various saltwater species in waters where you would normally need a boat to access.
However, it is not only saltwater fishing that can be done from a pier. Pier fishing for freshwater species can be done in many lakes, and can be a pretty popular way to catch salmon and trout in the Great Lakes.
One of the best things about pier fishing is that it lets you get closer to the fish and access deeper water than simply fishing from the shore, as the pier provides a platform out over the water.
This means you can cast your line or simply drop it in, to access fish that might otherwise be unreachable from land. The structure of the pier can also make it a good hiding spot for fish (that's what they think, hehe), which can make them easier to locate.
Where Are All These Piers?
Piers can be found all across the United States so you’ll probably discover that you’re not too far from a great pier fishing opportunity. Some states have relaxed pier fishing regulations that can allow you to fish from the pier without needing a valid fishing license.
California is one such state that allows free fishing from public fishing piers. There are numerous piers across the state that can give you fantastic access to the saltwater species in the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay.
Video: Fishing San Francisco Pier 17 - Pier 30
The free fishing, however, does not cover piers on inland waters, so you would need a license for freshwater pier fishing.
Florida also has relaxed rules for pier fishing, with lots of piers and bridges along both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts offering fishing without a license, as the piers are covered by a license, either by a private company or a public body, such as a city, for example, Naples. But it can be a good idea to double check that the pier you plan to head out to has a valid fishing license.
Maryland has several public piers where you can fish without a license.
There are also many other states that have piers where you can access some excellent fishing waters, such as Texas, Louisiana and Illinois. But remember to have a valid fishing license before you head out.
Docks and piers in Canada can provide good spots for fishing. Largemouth and smallmouth bass can be caught from piers, as well as walleye and crappie. You’ll need a fishing license for the province where you plan to fish, and if you plan to fish in tidal waters, you’ll need a national recreational license.
The Discovery Fishing Pier in British Columbia was Canada’s first saltwater fishing pier and can be a good place to catch salmon and halibut.
United Kingdom And Ireland
Being islands, there are numerous piers around the coast of the UK and Ireland, offering plenty of opportunities to catch a range of species of fish. Some of these can include cod, coalfish, whiting, haddock, and mackerel.
In Great Britain, you don’t need a license to fish in the sea but in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland you will require a fishing license if you plan to fish for sea trout and salmon in coastal waters.
Australia And New Zealand
Australia and New Zealand both have a range of piers that can be ideal for fishing for a variety of species, from sharks and rays to bream and mullet, depending on your location.
In Australia, you can fish without a license in Queensland, Northern Territory and South Australia but you will need a license for everywhere else. You don’t need a fishing license to fish in the sea in New Zealand but both Australia and New Zealand have limits on fish sizes and species.
New Zealand has many piers or wharfs where you can fish, especially around Auckland and there’s also the New Brighton Pier in Christchurch, where you can catch a variety of sharks.
Port Phillip Bay near Melbourne in Australia has several fishing piers that can be great for catching snapper and Australian salmon.
When Is The Best Time To Do It?
The best time to pier fish will often depend on your location but if you plan to do some ocean pier fishing then it will usually depend on the tides. You might find that fishing around two hours before and after high tide can result in more opportunities to reel in a catch.
Spring and fall can be great times to fish from Florida piers, with the fall mullet run seeing plenty of game fish chasing down the baitfish.
Similarly, fall can be one of the best times to catch fish from a pier in California, particularly if you want to fish for halibut, perch or croaker.
You can fish from a pier at any time of the year and pretty much any time of the day. But fishing at night can be beneficial, as some fish may head into areas that are lit from pier lights as they attempt to follow the baitfish.
What Gear Do I Need?
Rod And Reel
A medium power, slow action saltwater fishing rod can be a good choice for pier fishing, with a length somewhere around 6 to 9 feet.
Whether you choose a spinning reel or a baitcasting reel for pier fishing, it will probably be down to personal preference. But the most important thing will likely be that it’s corrosion resistant, particularly if you plan to fish off an ocean pier, as saltwater and salt air can be damaging.
Your reel should also be strong enough to handle the more powerful fish you might encounter in the ocean.
It can be a good idea to take a variety of baits and artificial lures with you, especially if you plan to catch a variety of fish. But you might find you catch more if you tailor your bait to the specific species you plan to target.
Local bait shops can often help point you in the right direction for what species are biting what bait.
A well stocked tackle box can help keep you prepared for the variety of fish you might want to target and can also help you keep your gear organized so that you know where everything is.
J hooks can be a good choice for pier fishing, and it can be a good idea to also have some fishing pliers and a fillet knife so you can clean your fish if you plan to take it home.
Some piers may have large fishing nets that you can use for landing your catch but it can be a good idea to have your own.
You may have to lift the fish quite a long way to get it from the water to the top of the pier, so a net can be pretty useful in helping you to avoid losing your fish.
Here's one worth checking out:
Ok, How Do I Catch Fish From A Pier?
Keep An Eye On The Birds
While they might be annoying when you’re trying to land your catch, birds can be useful in helping you locate where the fish are.
You might see some birds diving in to catch fish if they’re in a particular area and they could lead you to some bigger fish that are also after the same prey as the birds.
As well as protecting your eyes from the damaging UV rays, polarized sunglasses can help you to see more clearly.
The polarization process can help to prevent glare from the water, meaning you should be able to see under the water more easily.
Choose Good Bait
What defines good bait will often be location and species specific. Talk to other anglers and see what’s working for them.
A lot of piers have bait shops nearby so they should be able to advise you on the best baits to use for the type of fish you want to target and the time of day and year you plan to fish.
Video: How to Fish From A Pier
Respect Other Anglers
It’s almost inevitable that you’ll come across other anglers when you’re pier fishing. And this can often cause tangled lines. Be courteous and respect others’ space while you’re fishing, and if someone next to you catches a fish, reel in your line and help or get out of the way.
Rather than casting out your line, jig close to the pier. Many fish can often be found close to the structure of the pier, so you could have a greater chance of landing a fish.
The sides of the pier can also be useful for this so don’t worry if there’s no space at the end of the pier.
Cast Over Another Angler
Yes, it can be crowded but it should be common sense not to cast your line over someone else’s.
This can cause your lines to become tangled and/or break and could result in someone losing a their potential catch.
Ignore The Rules
Most piers will have their own rules regarding fishing hours and general safety regulations. Not following the rules could result in fines, or worse. If the local law states that you need a fishing license, make sure you have one before you start fishing.
Jump Into The Water
Stating the obvious here…..Jumping off a pier into the water can be dangerous because of the currents that could slam you into the pier.
Be aware that hanging over the railings to land a fish could also cause you to end up in the water, as well as probably lose your fish.
Pier fishing can be a great day out and a good way to get the whole family involved in fishing.
With some places allowing license-free fishing from piers, it can be an inexpensive activity that can be ideal for both beginners and experienced anglers, with a huge variety of species that can be caught.
Where is your favorite fishing pier and what’s the best fish you’ve caught? Tell us about it. And remember to share this guide to let others know how easy it can be to fish off a pier.