Fishing Piers, A Cure of the Boatless Angler

By Dennis M. Lubin


Not all of us own a fishing boat, but we still enjoy the sport of angling. Boat owners will tell you there’s more to owning a boat than meets the eye. A day out on a fishing boat takes planning, lots of preparation, knowing the channel markers, ramps, and some degree of basic engine maintenance. Land anglers may not be quite as mobile and flexible as boat owners on the water, but there are many options open to the land-based angler.


Fishing piers provide lots of benefits to the land angler, such as safe access, fish structure, and in some cases shelter from the elements and plenty of company. The structure itself will attract schools of live bait. My first experience of fishing was on a pier in Long Branch, New Jersey with my father, and is one of the many reasons why I love fishing today.


Some piers have rules on how many rods are allowed on the pier so check before fishing. As a rule of thumb, take no more than three rods. Here’s what to include: an 8-foot medium action rod, a 6-foot rod for catching bait, a flow-thru bait bucket, about 50-feet of nylon cord, and a 6-foot cast net. Check the fishing pier for regulations regarding a throwing net.

Today one of the most popular bait catching rigs is a sabiki bait – catching rig. This rig consists of 6 multiple small, sharp hooks usually gold in color which are attached to dropper loops. The rig is attached to a swivel and 1-to 2-ounce weight depending on current conditions. The hooks can be dressed with small pieces of bait, small-feathered jigs and red beads to add attraction.

The sliding sinker rig helps keep the fish from feeling the weight and dropping the bait. This rig consists of an egg sinker, a barrel swivel or a spit shot that can be used as a stopper. use a 18-24 inch fluorocarbon leader attached to the hook. If the pier has a sand bottom, use a pyramid sinker.


Pier fishermen sometimes encounter quite a bit of debris, rocks and other structure to snag their rig. Choose a floating rig, if this is the case, to suspend a live pin fish, pig fish, crab or shrimp. The floats come in bright colors like green or orange so its easily spotted as it drifts. Add more attraction to your baits by using a popping cork – great for sea trout. Cajun Thunder make a clicking weighted float with two brass beads which rattles to attract game-fish.


Fishing piers themselves are a man-made fish attraction. The cement or wood pillars become encrusted with barnacles and mussels, which also attract fish. Fishing piers are supported by large stones, which provide food and cover for schools of blue runners, sardines, finger mullet, and herring. The holes in the rocks are excellent places for grouper and snapper to hide. Since many piers start from the beach area, many anglers get a chance to fish the surf for the sand feeders like flounder, pompano, and whiting.


The best attraction of pier fishing is the access to great catching. Piers offer safe footing, shelter areas during storms, lights for night fishing, running water, and fish cleaning tables. Some offer full service bait shops and clean restrooms. The bottom line is fishing piers, both large and small, are an excellent place to meet new fishing friends or to just take your family fishing.