Pier Fishing Tips for Beginners: Bait and Tackle

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Written By Russ Egan

Russ is a professional fisherman with over 20 years of experience. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ comprehensively tests and reviews all his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. There is nothing he prefers than heading down to his local tackle store, buying the latest fishing reel, and taking it to the water to test.


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For pier fishing beginners, research local species and regulations, choose appropriate gear, use live or cut bait, observe other anglers, learn casting techniques, maintain proper etiquette, and be patient. Use a fish finder rig, monitor tide and weather conditions, and adjust tactics accordingly.

The best way to fish a pier is to use 15-30 lb mono line, bloodworms as bait, chum if allowed, and a powerful rod to pull the fish away from the underwater structure.

Whether you call it a pier, a jetty, a dock, or a wharf, one thing is certain – fish love living around structure that provides a high opportunity of catching more.

Heading down to your local pier with your fishing rod in hand is a romantic image, but it can also be a productive fishing adventure.

Piers attract all kinds of water life and provide shelter for large fish that would normally live in the deeper waters.

I have compiled this guide to help you get more out of your pier fishing experiences. So let’s dive in.

Pier Fishing Guide

Why pier fishing?

Piers offer structure and protection for fish that they can’t find anywhere else. This attracts fish in greater numbers and larger sizes than you would be able to find anywhere else.

Piers also generate entire ecosystems of life and food sources that attract fish from long distances away.

This combination of food sources and shelter mean that you can throw a bait under the pier and have a very high chance of catching big fish.

Piers also offer easy access and a clean environment, so you don't have to carry all your fishing tackle and tackle box miles to isolated fishing spots.

Piers sometimes have lights installed at night that can attract squid which are another great angling species.

Finally, pier fishing is also very popular for teaching young kids how to fish.

You can catch all many of saltwater fishing species when pier fishing including:

  • Grouper
  • Mackerel
  • Redfish
  • Tarpon
  • Flounder
  • Whiting
  • Croaker
  • Shark
  • Barracuda
  • Snapper
Pier fishing at dusk

What fishing line for pier fishing?

There is no doubt that the best fishing line for pier fishing is a monofilament. Mono provides exceptional abrasion resistance which is critical for fishing around structure that can cut your line.

I recommend 15 - 30 lb mono line for pier fishing.

Fishing lines like braid offer higher strength at a thinner diameter but don’t have good abrasion resistance and would get damaged every time a fish swims back through the legs of the pier.

You can still choose the strength of line depending on what type of fish you are targeting but I would suggest going a bit heavier when fishing around a pier – you can often find some very large fish living around the pier.

mono backing on fishing reel

To chum or not to chum

Chumming the water near your fishing spot is an age old method for attracting fish to your area. But for pier fishing chumming is not as important – the fish are already living there!

Chumming is throwing fish guts, smelly oils, or other attractants into the water continuously while fishing to bring fish towards you.

Local governments can also ban chumming, so check your local regulations before heading down to the pier.

Check with your local tackle store about whether you need any licences and other rules to follow before heading down to the pier.
chicken liver chum

How to haul up a fish near a pier?

If you have been fishing near a pier before, you will know the feeling when a big fish strikes your hook and wraps your line around one of the pier legs. Devastating!

The best way to haul up fish near a pier is to do it quickly. Set your drag pretty hard so you don’t lose too much line and retrieve the fish fast before it has an opportunity to cut your line on any of the structure.

This also means you will have to use a relatively heavier line and drag than you would for the same sized fish.

In the worst-case scenario you can float the fish towards an access point, like a ladder or all the way to the beach.

How much gear to take to the pier?

The good thing about heading down to your local pier is that it is easy to bring lots of gear with you. But generally, you don’t need to take every piece of tackle you own.

Here is our list of must haves to bring with you:

If you are fishing with a lure, then I recommend a spinning reel with a fast action 7-foot rod.

However, if you are dropping baits in the hope of catching a giant grouper, then choosing a powerful overhead reel matched with a 6-foot boat rod is essential.

The size of fish you can catch near a pier is significantly larger than most other fishing spots.

If the pier is especially long then you should consider getting a trolley to help carrying all your equipment. A camping chair is also a good idea.

Bait for Pier Fishing

The best bait for pier fishing is bloodworms, shrimp, anchovies, and sardines – these should all be available from your local tackle store.

The thing to remember is that there is already plenty of food available under the pier. This is why the fish are living there to begin with. So you have to beat the competition.

That means that you should focus on highly attractive and smelly baits that will stand out among the existing food sources.

Pier Fishing BaitEffectiveness
Live Shrimp⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Cut Bait (e.g., squid, mullet)⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Live Baitfish (e.g., pilchards, greenbacks)⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Artificial Lures (e.g., jigs, spoons)⭐⭐⭐⭐
Sand Fleas⭐⭐⭐⭐
Frozen Shrimp⭐⭐⭐

You can also use lures but these will have to be cast away from the pier and retrieved towards it which doesn’t give much time for the lure to be in the strike zone next to the pier structure. Because of this I always recommend bait fishing for piers.

snapper bait

Where to Fish off the Pier?

There are several philosophies about exactly where to fish off a pier, especially if the jetty is hundreds of yards long.

The best place to fish off a pier is all the way at the end, as larger fish are generally more likely to be found in deeper water.

The next place to target is any underwater structure, whether this is weed beds like kelp, rocks. A good location is an old pier if the latest construction has left unused wooden structure where fish can hide.

Finally, look for what the birds are doing. If sea birds are diving into specific locations, then is a good hint that there might be something attracting fish into that area.

What not to do

Piers not only attract fish – they attract anglers as well. So you will often be fishing shoulder to shoulder with other fishermen. This means that there are a few rules of etiquette that you should follow.

  • Never fish around swimmers or divers – piers often attract both, so make sure you don’t catch a human with your hook.
  • Be careful when there are no handrails – the last thing you want is the emergency services to fish you out of the water.
  • A life jacket might be a good idea for kids around piers without adequate handrails – this can turn a tragic story into a funny one.
  • Look out for people walking behind you when casting – the most dangerous thing might be your own hook.
  • Check with your local tackle store about any rules, fishing licenses, or regulations you must adhere to.
  • Some piers have a limit to the number of fishing rods per person. This is normally one or two.

Pier Fishing Video Guide

For those of you who prefer learning from videos rather than just reading text then have a look at this Pier Fishing Hints and Tips guide by TA Fishing:

What is the best fishing line for pier fishing?

The best fishing line is 15 – 30 lb mono line for pier fishing. Make sure you have a lot more line than you think you will need – you will inevitably lose plenty of line cut off on the structure of the pier and need extra available.

What is the best bait for pier fishing?

Bloodworms, shrimp, anchovies, and sardines are the best bait for pier fishing.

Why do people fish around piers?

Piers offer structure and protection for fish they can’t find anywhere else. This attracts fish in greater numbers and larger sizes than you would be able to find anywhere else.

How to haul in a fish near a pier?

The best way to haul fish near a pier is to do it quickly. Set your drag pretty hard so you don’t lose too much line and retrieve the fish fast before it has an opportunity to cut your line on any of the structure.

When to Fish from a Pier?

Like most fishing locations, the best time to fish from a pier is at dawn and dusk. This is when most fish are actively feeding and you are more likely to attract a bite.

The only exception is during winter, when you might have more success at noon when the sun has warmed up the cold blooded fish.


That brings us to the end of this article – you can now happily head down to your local pier and be confident that you will be successful.

If you are looking for more resources online, I suggest looking at this Cast and Spear article.

Please comment below if you have any pier fishing wisdom to share – I love hearing from and interacting with our readers. There are plenty of experienced anglers with secrets and wisdom to share that would help everyone.

Happy fishing!

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