How To Fish On Docks And Piers


Both docks and piers are somewhat similar structures. Because of this, they are also fished similarly. They both offer an excellent spot to cast your bait.

One thing about fishing on a dock and piers is that you can locate them easily. They are both going to be built next to the shore which means the fishing here will be in mostly calm water. You may need a fishing backpack to carry some essential gear.

This is how to fish on docks and piers.

The influence of the tide

Tides will be running in and running out throughout the day. It will stop only for a while during the peak of the high tide as well as when it’s time to change direction at the bottom of the low tide.

The tidal flows are going to be important when fishing on piers and docks.

The other thing that you will need to consider is the depth of the water. More depth will often mean more fish. There can be a big difference in the depth depending of course, on the location.

For example, in the Gulf of Mexico, the tidal changes can be just a few feet. Move to the Main coast and this can be up to 12 feet.  You will find that certain docks will be left completely high and dry once the tide is low.

In other cases, there will still be plenty of water under the dock during low tide. This is what you are going to look for as the fish will be concentrated under these docks. When on the dock ensure that you are wearing a good pair of fishing shoes.

The second thing that you will need to consider is the direction. Is the tide running in or is it running out?  Often some great fishing opportunities are going to be had when the tide is running out until it reaches low tide.

Often during low tide, the baitfish are unable to get back to the shallows that a high tide will create along the shore.

Something to keep in mind when pier fishing is you may need to search for older piers or docks. While this may sound strange to some anglers, it’s important to note that new wood often contains a lot of creosote which is meant to preserve the wood. The fish are not big fans of this stuff though.

Concrete piers will not have chemicals and often these will be home to a lot of fish.

You may also want to watch out for barnacles. These are a common feature in old docks. Where there are barnacles, there are other marine life and more fish to catch. A fishing cooler will help keep your catch cool and fresh.

This is not to say that you can’t catch fish on new docks, it simply means that there are more fish on older docks.

Understanding docks

A dock is a place that is built specifically to tie a boat. The water needs to obviously be deeper than the hull of the boat. And this applies even while the tide is low.

When you are fishing at docks that are not usable by boats during the low tide because the water has gone out too far, then such types of docks need to be avoided.

This is because there will be fewer fish here even while the tide is high. Simply put, fish require a reliable home, not one that disappears with the tide.

This is why dock fishing is so popular because anglers stand the best chance of reeling in a good catch with the spinning reel. These are the docks that have water even during low tide because the fish are always feeling safe here.

Methods of fishing on docks and piers

The method of fishing on piers and docks will be centered around remaining still. It is the bait that is going to be moving. There are plenty of boats that will use the anchoring pole system. However, simply make sure that the boat is next to the dock.

Among the useful tools that you might want to bring along are fish finders.

Then you are going to perform free lining. This is where you let the bait simply drift off with the current and get under the dock. One useful tip is to use a double surgeon’s knot to tie the leader to the line. This means that the fish will not be distracted by any swivels.

If you want your bait to maintain a certain depth, you will need to perform float baiting. This is where you make use of a float rig. The benefit of this is that some fish species such as sea trout like to remain at certain depths and this makes it easy for them to get the bait.

Private docks and piers

Often it will be easy to notice a private dock or pier as there is often stuff around them written “private”. Plenty of owners of these docks will put crabs or bait traps. Be careful of these as it is easy to snag the line.

Remember that you need to be quiet when fishing on a dock or piers. This is because the fishes are usually very close. Any noise you will make can reverberate down through the boat and into the water which then scares the fish away. And sound can travel fast through the water.

Some tips for pier fishing


One of the great benefits of pier fishing is that it is easy on your pockets, it is great fun and you can catch plenty of fish. You can pretty much forget about all the other expenses of a boat. If you want to record the experience it’s a good idea to get a GoPro for fishing.

Another advantage of pier fishing is that in many areas you will not need a fishing license. What this means is that if you are trying to learn how to fish, pier fishing is a great place to start.

A lot of people fail to understand just how many fish of different species will be moving up and down the coast along the pier. They are at easy reach of anglers waiting above on the piers.

What you should be aware of is that the piers can be of varying heights. It all depends on the location as well as the tide. You will be casting your bait while on the pier in much the same fashion as you would on the boat.

Pier fishing is not at all complicated and you can have great fun casting bait.

The best place to pier fish

There are several factors that you need to consider before you go pier fishing. These include the time of year as well as the type of fish that you are looking to catch. Check out the best time to go fishing.

As you pick a spot for pier fishing, you will probably be joined by like-minded folk.

Choosing the best time to pier fish

When choosing the best time to go pier fishing one of the crucial bits of information that you are going to need is the stages of the tides.

As a rule of thumb, you should aim to go fishing two hours before the high tide and two hours after the high tide.

This is also what you are going to do during spring tide.

Another thing that you will need to consider is the light conditions. Fish are less cautious when there is low light than when there is plenty of tides.

Pier fishing gear

The gear that you are going to need when pier fishing includes:

  1. Sinkers for ensuring that the bait remains low and deep in the water and for preventing the bait from going with the current.
  2. Bait and lures. You may prefer to use live bait such as shrimp, sandworms, sardines, squid, and bloodworms.
  3. The fishing hook and the best type are the j hooks.
  4. Fishing scissors. Sometimes you may need to cut the fishing line and for this, you will need the right type of fishing scissors.
  5. Fishing knife. You will use this either to filet your fish or to cut the bait into the right size.
  6. Tacklebox. This will help keep the bobbers, the hooks, and the scissors well organized for easier carry.
  7. This is where you will put your catch.
  8. Fishing chair. Instead of standing up for two hours straight waiting for a catch, the picnic chair will help you chill out as you wait for the bait to work.

When pier fishing, you want to use a heavier tackle. You may get a large fish and you might have to pull the fish straight out from under the pier.

You can use either a traditional reel or a baitcasting rod. Just makes sure whichever model you pick is very strong.

Regulations for pier fishing

Keep in mind that every state will have its own set of regulations regarding pier fishing which includes licenses, day passes as well as permits.

That said, the general rule is that you will need a permit to fish on non-private owned waterways. Check the conservation page belonging to the state where you are planning on doing some pier fishing. Here you will update yourself on the type of fish to go after and which to release. You will need to have fishing pliers for this.

Take care not to leave dirt, plastics, and other debris behind. Make sure that you have a plastic bag to put these. Show respect to others who are fishing on the same pier as you and maintain enough distance.

Make sure that you observe safety precautions. Also, avoid sitting on the railing or hanging on them to prevent yourself from falling in.

Always maintain supervision on a child when bringing them along for fishing.

Landing the catch when pier fishing

It is not the easiest thing to pull a fish up to the pier after it has taken the bait. A drop net is one of the best ways to do this. As it prevents the chances of the fish freeing itself.

If the fish is big and heavy and is fighting profusely, then you can end up tearing the lip out of the fish if it got caught by the lip.

For the best spinning rod, you will need a heavy mono reeler. It should be long enough to reach out a distance from the pier into the water while having several turns on the reel.

Globo Surf Overview

Fishing on a dock or pier presents several challenges. Anglers who choose to fish here will need to have the right type of special equipment designed to handle the environment.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!