[Updated 21 October 2020]
If you want a complete guide to Pier Fishing – THIS IS IT. No, we don’t cover every single pier in Florida, but that’s something to think about for a later date! Fishing from shore is fun. Fishing from in the water (wade-fishing) is also fun. Fishing from a boat is great. Fishing from a kayak is amazing. Fishing from a pier is, in some ways, the best possible way to fish in Florida!
Why is Pier Fishing so great? It combines the ultimate in comfort with the ultimate in possibilities to catch big fish.
Why Pier Fishing Is So Much Fun
Pier Fishing is the Ultimate in Comfort. You drive your car right up on to some of the piers. You can fish from the back of your SUV if you like. You can bring all the gear you want, and leave NOTHING behind. Bring chairs, recliners, tents, pillows, air mattresses, huge tarps to block the sun, all the coolers you want with ice, food, drinks, and snacks. You can bring your stereo and music, bean-bag chair or any damn thing you want when you go Pier Fishing. It’s the ultimate way to fish when you want to have the most relaxed atmosphere possible while fishing.
Compare Pier Fishing to Wade-Fishing. You can’t stay as long, you get dirty, you can only carry minimal gear. Compare it with fishing inshore or offshore from a boat. You’re bobbing up and down, you have very limited space. You are spending money on gas and possibly a crew. Pier fishing has a lot of advantages, but really it’s the comfort and ease of arranging a fishing trip. Just throw EVERYTHING in the truck and go. That’s it. That’s how you plan. Take it all.
Do it Long-Term! You can park your car on the Sunshine Skyway fishing pier in Pinellas County for a couple of days before anyone will bother you and ask that you go away for a while. You can put your seats down in your SUV or truck and sleep for a few hours and wake up and fish some more! Fishrats do this constantly. If you’re a retired Fishrat, you can make a life of this. No kidding!
Grill Your Catch! At some piers you can bring your grill and cook your catch up right there beside your vehicle!
Bait Shops! Some piers have bait shops and snacks and are open all night!
There are so many more reasons Pier Fishing can be the ultimate way to spend a weekend fishing. We’ll cover some more in the material below. Make sure to bookmark this page and come back, we are constantly updating information here to include the latest.
Here’s what I brought to my last Pier Fishing Adventure. It’s an adventure because I went with two other guys who also brought all their stuff. When three guys bring ALL their gear, you have an Fishing Adventure.
Pier Fishing Gear List
- 7 Rods and Reels (5 Spinning reels, 2 Baitcasting reels)
- Tacklebox and all extra gear that doesn’t fit in there thrown into a duffel bag
- Castnet – 8 feet, heavy lead that sinks fast.
- 5 Buckets – big paint can buckets, spackling buckets, as many as I have. These hold gear, fish, bait, water, castnet, and other stuff.
- 3 Aerators – keeping bait alive for a long time is key to Pier Fishing if you don’t want to spend too much money buying from the bait shop.
- 3 Coolers – all three are filled with ice and I also manage to stick some food in there and juice, GatorAde and other replenishments. I also have iced-coffee, soda, and probably a couple of German beers because if you’re on an Adventure, you can drink whatever you want!
- Small Hibachi Grill with charcoal and lighter fluid.
- Small Tent – I’m not sure why, but this always makes the trip. i rarely pull it out because I just sleep in the back of the truck if I’m tired.
- Tarp – this reaches from the truck to the guardrail where I attach two poles. This provides essential sun protection from Florida’s cancer-causing rays.
- Three Camping Chairs – these are comfy and lightweight, and is where I plant my butt most times while sitting around waiting for the fish to bite if I’m not actively doing something.
- Many Bottles of Water – I bring enough water to drink, wash, shower, and to clean cuts with. That’s a lot of water. I typically bring 20 gallons for a Friday night to Sunday Pier Fishing Adventure.
- BBQ Grilling Gear – chicken (because you can’t exist on fish alone!), BBQ sauce, fillet knife, tongs, fork, spoon, butter, lemon juice, garlic, foil, olive oil, salt, pepper, sandwich wraps, hot dogs, and whatever else I’m in the mood for!
- Sleeping Gear! I bring my sleeping bag and usually just put the seats down in the SUV or lay in the back of the truck if I take it. I have a board on the bed of the truck and a pad that softens it. It’s super comfy.
- Flashlights, Headlamps, Lantern – It depends which pier I’m going to, but sometimes there isn’t enough light and I take all of these lights and still wish I had more. I use nice Petzl headlamps for most of my fishing needs and I’ve never been let down by them. The Nao+ model has 750 lumens brightness and auto-adjusts the beam strength depending what you’re looking at. This saves a lot of battery and you can go most of the night on one battery. I have LED battery lanterns and flashlights as well and a charger that works with the cigarette lighter in the truck, but it takes forever to charge. It’s better to bring multiple batteries if fishing for more than 1 night.
Those are the essentials. I do bring some other stuff like tools, sunblock, phone, 2-way radios to talk to friends way down the pier, a change of clothes or two, extra batteries for the aerators, and always tons of snacks. I must eat more pretzel rods than any other living human being. It’s all when I’m fishing. i just prefer to constantly have one in my mouth.
Let’s look at Pier Fishing in detail in the following sections. Let’s find out HOW TO CATCH FISH!
Pier Fishing Rod and Reel
I mentioned that I take many rods and reels when I Pier Fish. I like to set up more than one for bottom fishing because action may be slow and if I have 4-5 baits on the bottom at a time, the fishing can be more exciting. I typically use the spinning rods for that type of fishing because I like holding the baitcasting rod.
5 Spinning Rods (4000 series or bigger) with 50 lb. test on a Carolina Rig setup fishing the bottom. I use live or dead pinfish or other baitfish. I much prefer live because I get less catfish, rays, and sharks. I don’t really target sharks at the pier because they’re too hard to pull up to the level of the pier and it’s more fun to catch sharks when down on their level – in a boat or from shore.
1 Baitcasting or Trolling Rod with 80 lb. test on a Carolina Rig with a big mullet as bait. Sometimes this gets me a shark, but I’ll usually only fish this at night and when closer to the shore so I can walk down to the beginning of the pier and release the shark with minimal stress and lost line/hooks.
1 Baitcasting Rod outfitted with whatever I need for what I’m fishing for. Sometimes I’m fishing for Bluefish. Sometimes Spanish mackerel. Sometimes I am just targeting Sheepshead or Snapper. I love sheepies, and I do spend too much time trying to get a few for a meal almost every time I Pier Fish. Every now and then I’ll go for Grouper. It’s a great-tasting fish that puts up a hell of an initial fight if you can get it up before it cuts your line on some structure.
Bait for Pier Fishing
Bait is expensive, and I know some of you don’t care, you’ll just go buy whatever bait the bait shop is selling and be happy with that. I have also done that on occasion, but I really prefer to catch my own bait because I can save $100 (or more!) over the course of a couple of days on the pier. I might fish for fifteen hours on the pier, that’s a LOT OF BAIT needed.
You can buy a good cast net at most bait shops, at Walmart, online at Amazon, and many other places. Some skilled workers specialize in making them by hand. A cast net is circular and comes in a certain number of feet. I have an 8-foot cast net that I like because it is easy to throw. You have to throw what you can manage. It does take some skill. When cast correctly, the net expands in a perfect circle above the water before it falls straight down. The lead weights on the edge of the net sink the net fast and confuse fish about which way to go. Inevitably some are caught that you can use as bait. Net casting (net throwing) is a skill that you can master in a few dozen throws. Learn how to throw a cast net here. This isn’t how I throw a cast net, but I couldn’t find a good one showing my technique, so I may have to make one.
A cast net can be your best friend for catching enough bait to get you through a couple of days of fishing from the pier. I always bring my cast net and throw for pinfish in the sea-grass beds along the shore before going to the pier. I know many good spots, and you’ll have to find your own because I don’t want hundreds of people showing up when I’m trying to catch my couple of dozen bait fish! Unfortunately that’s what will happen if you share your spot, so be careful about it. Use some discrimination in who you tell where to get their baitfish!
Dead baitfish and other bait like crabs, or shrimp just hooks far too many rays and catfish for my liking. I never enjoy catching those and I do whatever I can to limit my accidental catches of them.
Great Bait and Baitfish to Get for Pier Fishing
Hard, bony, and with sharp fins, pinfish are great snacks for all kinds of fish. It is not difficult to find pinfish in the sea grass in the shallows and cast net them.
What fish eat pinfish?
Mullet are those odd fish that seem to jump for absolutely no reason inshore. One scientific study said they jump to get more oxygen. Makes sense, I guess. They love saltwater canals and areas around streams or rivers entering the ocean bays during strong incoming tides. They have the advantage of being a bigger bait. They grow quickly and can be cast netted easily inshore. I’ve caught 20 mullet on a single throw. Unfortunately, i don’t eat the big ones, I’m just after the smaller ones (under 12 inches) to use as bait for other fish.
What fish eat mullet?
Grouper, Cobia, Redfish, Tarpon, Big Speckled Trout, Bigger Snapper, Big Flounder, Bluefish, Tuna, Dorado, Wahoo, King Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel, just about anything will eat a mullet. Mullet are slow swimmers and chubby. They make excellent live bait for many fish, and they’re used to bait crab traps and in chum because of their high oil and fat content.
Menhaden (also called Bunker, Pogey)
Menhaden are oily fish which make a nice slick in the water when you use them as chum. The oil disperses quickly through the water and has a strong smell which brings in the other fish to the chum ball. Menhaden are found inshore in shallow water during summer months and are easily caught in the cast net. I usually find them in the mangrove areas in less than 4 feet of water.
What fish eat menhaden?
Goggle Eyes (Akule in Hawaii)
Goggle Eyes (Selar crumenophthalmus) also called big-eyed shad are baitfish shaped a bit like mullet from the side, but they are thinner vertically. They have big eyeballs. Fish absolutely love them. Bait shops sell them for $80 to $100 a dozen. They are THAT valuable and many people just pay it to have the best bait possible. You can catch them when there is NO moon at all with Sabiki rigs from a boat in 150 feet of water or more.
What fish eat goggle eyes?
Sailfish, Mahi, Tuna, King fish, Wahoo, etc. These are fantastic baits for these fish.
Shrimp can be in shallow or deeper water, and to be honest, I’ve not tried to catch them in the net except when I happen to just see them there at under my boat, right off the shore, or from the pier. There can be thousands in a small area. It pays to have a cast net ready that you can throw over the side of the pier to grab some shrimp! You’ll need a wide net if possible, but mainly fine seine and with lead that drops pretty quickly (heavy).
What fish eat shrimp?
I think every fish eats shrimp. They’re the ultimate bait if you don’t care what you catch. The pinfish and other bait stealers will steal shrimp from a hook because they’re so soft and easily to tear off a little chunk.
There are many species of crab which inhabit all kinds of waters. If you’re targeting them as bait, you probably want to drop traps or throw a net in the shallower areas. Traps are very effective, you just add some dead fish – especially with an oily composition like Menhaden, and the crabs will be there soon enough. Crabs feed on dead organisms.
What fish eat crabs?
Crabs are a favorite for many saltwater fish and they are plentiful in some areas. Fish that eat crabs are Redfish, Black Drum, Cobia, Crevalle Jack, Snook, Sheepshead, Snapper, Bluefish, Flounder, Grouper, and more!
Cut bait is nothing more than dead fish you cut strips out of for baiting your hook.
What fish eats cut-bait?
There are so many fish which will eat a piece of cut-bait. If you fish it on the bottom, you’ll catch catfish, Flounder, and sharks if it’s big enough. If I use cut-bait, I always use it on topwater because you can catch some more interesting fish there – King Mackerel, Wahoo, Spanish Mackerel, Mahi-Mahi, and more.
Best Florida Fishing Piers
- West Coast Fishing Piers – these coming shortly! We’re doing huge guides for the best fishing piers in Florida.
- Key West Fishing Piers
- East Coast Fishing Piers