Florida Pier Fishing 101
Don’t shrug off pier fishing until you’ve had a chance to try it. Our local piers can fill a table with Pompano, Speckled Trout, Spanish Mackerel, Kingfish, Mangrove, Mutton, and other Snapper, and even Grouper.
Pier Fishing Tips
Pier Fishing Gear
|What Species of Fish Can I Catch?||Best Rods and Reels|
|Bottom Fishing with Rigs||Best Bait and Lures|
|List of Local Florida Piers|
Although we’re a fishing site and we’re going to talk about pier fishing, we should probably mention the different kinds of piers. The first type is work piers, where ships load and unload freight. The second type is mooring piers, where boats of different types are moored for one reason or another, including floating piers that support boats while tides rise and fall, affecting the lines attaching the boat to the structure. The third type is recreational piers, and that’s where fishing piers come in. The history of recreational piers goes back to 1813, when the Ryde Pier was built on the coast of England.
Fishing piers are basically long docks that stick out into the water from the shoreline. When you first walk onto a pier, the water underneath you is naturally the most shallow. In our waters, this is where you’ll find Snook, Speckled Trout, Redfish, and other species that can be caught from the surf near the pier. The further you walk out on the pier, the deeper the water gets.
As the water gets deeper, it also gets cooler and the species you find there represent the depth and temperature of the water. Fish the bottom further out on a pier and you’ll catch Snapper, Sheepshead – at the right time of year, winter for the most part–and even a tasty Grouper.
In many ways, fishing a pier is no different than fishing from a boat in relative depth, flow, and temperature of water. There are several different thermoclines as you walk further out onto the pier; the deeper the water, the cooler the temperature. And there are differences within each depth, with the warmest water on the top of the water column, cooler in the middle, and coolest at the bottom. This makes pier fishing unique from shore fishing without a boat. You can fish shallow water for an hour, move further out on the pier to fish a live bait in the middle of the water column, then walk out to the end with balloon floats and catch a Kingfish.
Pier fishing is unlike any other kind of fishing. If you’re on the beach and catch a big fish, you simply keep fighting until it gets tired enough to be brought to your feet, where you can release it. On a pier, you have to literally lift the fish into the air to grab it and put it into your cooler. Unfortunately, the only way to release a fish on a pier is to drop it into the depths below. The distance to the water requires heavier-than-normal tackle. A medium/heavy weight spinning rod is capable of fighting most big fish from a pier, and with braided line you’re still fishing with relatively light tackle that will allow you to feel the bite.
A reel with good gear ratio helps too, so be sure to pick one that matches the rod you’re considering. Knowledge here is priceless. We suggest you spend time on our forums and ask people who know and have experience in the type of fishing you want to do.
You can fish the bottom at various depths, from a few feet (in the case of some coastal piers) to almost a hundred. Depending on the species you’re targeting (surface Mackerel, for example), you might not be interested in bottom fishing, though you really should give it a try.
There are several different rigs you can use when fishing from a pier, as shown in the image below. You can bottom fish using terminal tackle or use Palomar knots and eliminate the metal. Both of these rigs let the angler fish at different places in the water column. Normally, we’d advise against that, but in this case using metal terminal tackle is totally functional and often appropriate. It lets you put on a longer leader than the Palomar rigging and fish more effectively with live baits.
The last of the three rigs shown is a typical bottom rig we use in shallow (and sometimes deeper) water called a Fishfinder rig. They’re effective and will work on piers.
Baits are a subject in and of themselves. You can use live bait like sardines, shrimp, or even pinfish you catch using small hooks on the pier you intend to fish. To this end, we suggest having Sabiki rigs with you when you head to your local pier. They can catch bait easily and the bait can then be put onto another rod and dropped right back into the water. Shrimp can be bought at local shops, and live is always better than frozen.
Pier Fishing Lures
The rig you use depends on what’s biting and what you want to catch. All kinds of lures work, including spoons, when open water predators like Mackerel are busting the surface. But dollar for dollar and bite for bite, the best lure you can use when fishing a pier is a jig. You can drop them into the water from the shallow land connection all the way to the deepest spot, and bounce them to simulate a crab. You can swim them to make them look like an injured baitfish, and you can even retrieve them fast enough to make them splash around and act like a baitfish on the surface. They’re the number one lure for pier fishing.
Don’t shrug off pier fishing until you’ve had a chance to try it. Our local piers can fill a table with Pompano, Speckled Trout, Spanish Mackerel, Kingfish, Mangrove, Mutton, and other Snapper, and even Grouper. Local piers, including the Skyway and the Clearwater Beach pier, are outstanding and often produce great catches.