Pier Angler

If you know when and how to fish them, piers produce fish you simply can’t catch from shore. Fishing from piers gets your bait into the middle of the action—without having to get your feet wet.

Every summer of my childhood, on vacations to my grandparents’ home in southeast Florida, I’d catch a ride to the municipal pier at Pompano Beach early and stay most of the day. I spent my lunch money on bait and wouldn’t leave until my dad physically walked out and herded me back to the car.

Local kids and I, before we were 10, learned from the “old guys” how to catch a variety of fish. On the small side, we wrestled blue runners, jacks, parrot fish and probably some others I’ve forgotten because we also, routinely on the right days, battled king mackerel, snook, tarpon and even red snapper.

Twice, on the grownups’ lines that floated live baits into deep water, I watched sailfish hooked. One even was landed—from the pier. Fish that large are exceptions, not rules, but they underscore the potential at the end of every cast from a coastal pier.

Add big rods and big, live baits and you bring high-level, high-speed predators into the equation. In addition to the aforementioned grand prizes of pier fishing, where allowed—and that’s not everywhere—pier anglers target big sharks.

Quality experiences on piers can start and end whenever you like, even right through the night sometimes. Along the Texas coast, especially in summer, cooler overnight temperatures make fishing more comfortable. Additionally, bright lights aimed into the water attract little fish, and little fish draw bigger fish.

More than time and even tide, success is dependent (especially around the northwestern Gulf) on water clarity. Even the brightest lights can’t penetrate a “wall” of silt and sand in the water column. Fish anytime you like, but if you actually want also to catch some fish, learn what conditions—usually light onshore breeze and a strong incoming tide—are likely to push cleaner water beneath the pier.

That’s important day or night, with an asterisk. In fall, when large schools of spawning-sized red drum run the surf and spawn just outside major passes, their appetites and aggression only seem to increase as water roughens.

Spend a few lazy hours on a pier this summer. So long as you manage expectations and time your trips wisely, you’ll come away a little more relaxed—and maybe a lot more sure what’s for supper—than when you arrived.

Before You Go

Unless you’re an ultralight fanatic, the gear you use to fish from shore or from a boat should be fine for pier fishing. Fish lighter than 5 pounds, which make up 99 percent of the fish caught from any pier, can either be flipped skillfully onto the pier or brought up manually, hand-over-hand.

Call ahead to ask about the best bait and technique for what you hope to catch, and supply yourself accordingly. Bring sunscreen and bottled water, turn off the cellphone so you can enjoy the sounds of the waves lapping against the pilings—and wait for the line to come tight.

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