by Dan Carns
Kayaks are inherently suited to dock fishing, but do require some advance planning and maneuvering to be successful. Kayaks glide thought the water so effortlessly that you must stop your kayak as you approach a dock so you don’t spook the fish. One real advantage is that the fish will not hear your approach and may never see you casting around and under the structures. Dock fishing is usually best done at night, but I love fishing them just as dawn is breaking or as night fall arrives. You should have a 360º light on the back of your kayak and maybe a head lamp to help you, when landing fish or changing gear. When I’m dock fishing I often use my stick-it pin as most fish will dive under the dock once hooked, leaving you helpless to control your kayak. Braid line is a must for dock fishing here in S.W. Florida as all the dock posts are covered in barnacles and more importantly, oyster shells! Redfish and snook always seek shelter when hooked, so your drag and line strength have to hold and turn them away from the dock posts immediately or you risk losing them.
Depending on the time of year any number of fish can be found under or around a dock. Snook are notorious for using docks for shelter and as an ambush point, as they use the shadow line in the water to mask their presence, waiting for the tide to push bait fish past their hidden location. My favorite artificial is the natural color Exude Shrimp from Mister Twister on a weighted twist lock hook, set up weedless, so you can pitch them way under the structure. Another favorite is top water right along the shadow line that brings out those explosive strikes! Snook behavior is so easy to watch if you sit back and observe them under a dock with a snook light. If you’re dedicated to a lifetime of fishing, then take the time to study fish as they go about their routine, put your rod down and just watch. Often fly fisherman will spend up to an hour on a stream watching fish feed and insects hatch to establish a pattern of behavior.
Redfish are another favorite dock lover, but tend to move around from dock to dock. Most of my redfish catches occur in between docks in the shallow water close to shore as they cruise back and forth searching for that next meal. Big reds will hold close to the dock piling facing into the current using the post for cover, darting out to catch unsuspecting bait, especially live shrimp presented slowly toward them on the bottom.
Sheepshead are the most fun to catch around docks and pilings. Catching these tasty fish is a bit art and a bit technique. Small hooks, shrimp and lightning reflexes will help you extract them. Black drum and mangrove snapper round out the usual suspects.
It’s a wild world-get out there? Fishman Dan, Gulf Coast Kayak, 4120 Pine Island Rd NW, Matlacha, FL 33993, (239) 283-1125