Pier Fishing

Couple fishing off pier at sunset
Colin Gray/Cultura/Getty Images

Most saltwater fishermen and women don't own a boat. That's a simple fact that would seem to limit their ability to fish. Most of the slick fishing magazines feature articles that necessarily involve fishing from a boat, and not just any boat mind you, but one that has all the bells and whistles. Some fishermen feel relegated to only reading about great fishing adventures, for in their world, a boat is financially out of reach.

Fishing from a pier, dock or wharf usually provides an angler with an edge over someone who may be fishing from shore only a few hundred yards away. There is the decided benefit derived from having the choice of either casting your line out, or dropping it straight down to the bottom. 

Who Pier Fishes?

But there are those shore bound souls who have chosen another lot in life. They choose not to be left out of the fishing scene, and as such they have developed a style and following all their own. These are the pier fishermen and women. Some are affectionately referred to as "Pier Rats." They came in all sizes, all ages, and both sexes. They come with a variety of tackle, some expensive, some worn and taped together. But come they do, with a very special camaraderie.


Bottom Fishing

Pier fishing is an art all its own. The fish, depending on the species, generally come in waves as a school passes through. And the really good pier rats know how to get with the action while the fish are there. Most are bottom fishing, usually with a multi-hook rig weighted on the bottom. Whiting and croaker are caught two and three at a time. The pier rats have a way of knowing just how long to wait to get more than one fish hooked up before reeling in.


Bigger Fish

Some come for the bigger non-bottom feeding fish like blues, or mackerel or king mackerel. These are the ones at the end of the pier with all manner of contraptions to get a live bait floating just under the surface as far off the end of the pier as possible. I've seen kite rigs that would make Leonardo daVinci proud. Mostly I've seen the two rod approach where the fishing rod is set up with the bail open and the bait is clipped to another lighter rod and cast out. Line leaves the fishing rod and the bait is placed perfectly many yards out from the pier. When a fish hits, the bait rod is yanked free to allow the fisherman to use the big rod for fighting.


The Pier Tackle Box

Any manner of containers on wheels can be found on the pier. After all, the tackle, gear, bait, and rods all need to be toted. These pier fishermen have fostered more innovation than people give them credit for. Many commercial items tailored for the pier fishermen where simply "stolen" designs put through a marketing program. The well equipped pier rat can make one trip from shore to the pier and have everything needed for a lengthy fishing foray.


What's It Like?

And what about the fish these folks catch? You won't find a lot of catch and release out here. They want dinner, not pictures for the wall. They spend their time fishing, socializing with the regulars, and helping out anyone near them that appears to need help. The amateurs are easy to spot, and after having fun watching them for a few minutes, the regulars are more than willing to help out.


Bottom Line

These are indeed a very special breed of fisherperson, these pier dwellers. They garner a big salute from me for having more patience, more stamina, and more inventiveness than most any other fishing group I can think of. Great going Pier Rats! Keep those line tight!

Are you a pier rat? Know someone who is? Tell me about your experiences and ideas for others by sending me an E-mail.