Dock Fishing in the Winter Part 2; Skip Casting

"Fishing Docks in the Winter; Skip Casting" is part 2 of our "Fishing Docks in the Winter" series. In this article we will touch on the proper way to get your bait far under the dock where fish generally are going to be set up waiting for a meal.

Skip Casting; the secret to effective dock fishing

So what’s so hard about this? If you know where the fish are going to be when it’s cold outside, and you know just about how they position themselves relative to the posts holding up the dock and the tide flowing past them, what’s the problem?

There are two. One is getting the bait to the fish, and the second is getting a hooked fish out from underneath that dock. That’s a trick we can only partially illustrate; experience is the best teacher. We can certainly tell stories about dock fishing, because we’ve done a lot of it. We might even argue it’s our favorite form of skinny water fishing, but that would be a stretch.

Bass Caught from the Dock

Great wintertime Bass caught by reader Drew Pitts

Skip casting is a specific technique that – as far as we know – was developed specifically for fishing docks. It’s the only way to get your baits underneath the "roof."

Here’s another of our silly illustrations (below) showing a dock with water flowing underneath it. Depending on a number of factors, including the position of your boat, the wind, and the flow of the tide at that moment, you might have to cast from either side of the dock we’re showing. The problem comes from having to place the bait or lure underneath the roof. If you’re on ‘this’ side (the bottom of the image) you’re not in so much trouble, but you still have to bounce that bait horizontally to get it under the dock.

If you’re on the other side, casting down underneath the surface of the dock, you might have to bounce-skip the bait three or four times. And believe us when we say that being able to skip that bait underneath a dock is the difference between an outstanding experience and fishing where there appears to be nothing alive. It’s the difference of casting a shrimp two feet outside a dock compared to getting it two feet under the dock. Don’t believe us? Try it one freezing cold, windy, snotty day that turns out miserable -- or incredible depending on your ability to skip cast -- and you’ll believe us. The real bummer is watching people that can do it catch big, strong, hungry fish cast after cast after cast while you’re holding your line (so to speak).

Fishing Docks in the Winter

The closest of the pilings are the easiest to cast to; cast there first. They’re also the ones to cast to if you’re moving from dock to dock or can’t position properly

Positioning your boat to effectively get baits under the "roof"

Boat position is very important in dock fishing; use trolling motors to get around if possible (although people using the new four-stroke engines say they’re so quiet they don’t scare the fish). The bait or lure is going to either move away from your boat (with the tide) or towards it.

Again, let’s compare a real-world dock to our amateur drawings; so you can make a connection between what’s happening with the food the predator expects to see, what you’re going to use to simulate that natural food, and where the predator is likely to be.

Fishing Docks in the Winter

Cover the dock well and don’t ignore any potential feeding areas

Move close and quiet around the docks. The same thing applies to flats; always be quiet. Talking isn’t bad, but hitting the boat is deadly. Fish are not only predators, they’re prey. Hearing anything out of the usual (which is pretty much silence itself if you think about what fish are listening to) scares them. With fish it’s not fight or flee; it’s flee. They hear something scary and it scares them.

If you think quiet and walk quietly and be as still as a cat hunting a mouse, you can catch fish underneath these same docks walking on them as you can casting underneath them. It’s harder, but it can be done. Docks are another one of those places where people fishing from them cast as far away as they can, while guys on boats cast underneath their feet if possible.

Let’s get back to the conversation about how to get your baits underneath the dock, we come back to skip casting.

There’s two ways to cast – over your shoulder (be it left or right) or sidearm. There are ‘transitional’ casts that are in between the two extremes, but for teaching purposes let’s stick to one over your shoulder and the other sideways.

An overhead cast gets more distance; sidearm gives more flexibility. Although it’s harder to master, it can provide perfection of placement and the ability to skip the bait or lure into otherwise impossible-to-reach locales.

If you cast sidearm, release at the perfect time, and throw the lure or bait down towards the water at a slight angle, the bait will skip. Ever skip a stone across the water as a kid? It’s the same thing. Practice the cast in wide open water on the flats; then try skipping a bait underneath the roof of a dock.

We promise it’ll work. It won’t work all the time; sometimes you’ll throw that shrimp nine yards above and beyond the dock. Other times you’ll hit the shrimp or whitebait (or jig) so hard against the side of the dock that it will never be the same. But sometimes you’ll skip that thing so far under the dock it will come out the other side, with the entire width (or length if you’re really good) of the structure to fish.

Fishing Docks in the Winter

You can see the target in front of the Captain Mike image (it’s the long hair and dark tan that gives him away). The graphics show the difference you’re looking for in the ‘shape’ of the cast.

Like we said at the beginning of this article: experience is the best teacher when learning the proper way to skip-cast baits under a dock, but hopefully this how-to article has taught you some techniques that will help you start skip-casting the right way! If you liked this article check out the next installation of the "Fishing Docks in the Winter" series called "Fishing Docks in the Winter Part 3; Positioning your Boat."

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