How to fish from a pier

Fishing from a pier is a great, safe and often rewarding way to go sea fishing.

Many piers around the World don't allow fishing 'inside' the harbour but you are free to fish the seaward side of the pier as the image above shows. You will need to check your local bylaws before you fish.

Fishing from a pier.
People fishing from Princess pier, Torquay

The most common forms of fishing from a pier are feathering, spinning and float fishing. I also have a guide on how to set-up a float fishing rig. Click on the links in this paragraph if you don't know what they are.

In the UK mackerel are a popular target for pier fishing. Mackerel make great bait for other fish and they venture in between late spring to mid autumn when the sea temperature is warmest.

When reeling in your rig it is important that you keep your rod over the pier so as your rig comes up it doesn't catch on the pier wall. If you're feather you will have 4 to 6 hooks and any one of them can catch the wall and snag if you don't keep the hooks away from the pier wall.

If you look again at the photo above you will see one person reeling in and he has his rod tip well past the wall.

fishing at Brixham breakwater.
Breakwaters are another popular location.

Piers and breakwaters can be sandy or rocky so you should never assume anything until you ask local people what the fishing ground is like.

You will see people casting huge distances from a pier but you will often catch more fish dropping your line off the side or only casting a few feet. I can often reel in 4-6 mackerel by dropping the rig over the side and just move the rod up and down.

Most of the target fish (mackerel, garfish, whiting, pollock etc) tend to swim between 8-14ft under the water so you don't want your hook too near the surface or too close to the sea bed. If you're float fishing slide the stop knot regally until you find the sweet spot.

Garfish are often a problem for fisherman because they like to swallow the hook deep inside them. If you find you're catching a lot of them slide the stop up the line so you fish deeper than they are swimming. You will still catch the mackerel.

Garfish from a pier.
Garfish caught from a pier

What baits do I use?

Mackerel strips, squid, eels or feathers and lures.

Can I fish a pier at night?

Yes. At sunset you'll notice a quick change from one type of fish to another. In the summer, as an example, you will catch mackerel and garfish during the day and just as the sun sets it will suddenly switch to whiting and pollock.

What type of rod do I need for a pier?

You need a rod without too much bend so you can keep your rig and fish away from a wall as you bring it up out of the water. A 10ft all round beachcaster rod is a popular choice. Pier rods were once popular and even recommended but they don't really have a place any longer with the rods of today.

If your rod does have a lot of bend you can still point the tip towards the water and reel up that way.

Fishing the sea bed any good?

Yes! Depending on the type of sea bed you have a good chance of catching wrasse, conger and many types of flat fish.

What depths are they likely to be at?

Garfish tend to be the fish hunting closest to the top. Mackerel tend to feed around half way up. If you're catching a specific type of fish then this image will show you roughly where you're fishing...

Pier fishing depths.

When do I strike?

Sometimes fish will hit the bait so hard they will hook themselves. However, some fish chew the bait or cautiously take it into their mouth which means you need to strike.

Strike too soon and the bait and hook will be pulled away from the fish. This is known as 'missing the bite'. Strike too late and the fish may have taken the bait all the way down into its stomach and be gut hooked. It's mostly down to skill, judgement and luck as to when to strike.

What hooks do I need?

Circle hooks are becoming very popular because they eliminate the need to strike. These hooks are designed to hook the fish as they take the bait.

Circle hook.
A circle hook eliminates striking.


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