How to Fish and Catch Fish off of Gulf Coast Florida Piers
Florida is Arguably the Fishing Capitol of the World
When in Florida it seems that every one fishes from men, women, and children they all grow up knowing how to use a fishing pole and catch fish in Florida. But fishing is not as easy as it sounds, in Florida there are several kinds of fishing that are very different and each have a unique way to fish them.
- Freshwater fishing in lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams.
- Brackish water, and Estuary fishing in environments that go from saltwater to freshwater.
- Saltwater fishing on the Atlantic Ocean side.
- Saltwater fishing on the Gulf of Mexico side.
As a new resident of Manatee County in the city of Bradenton I have access to all of these areas to fish, all within a couple of hours. But mostly I concentrate on the Gulf of Mexico side which is only a few miles from my home.
The Gulf of Mexico has many species of fish you can catch all from a pier or shore line which gives you the unique experience of always wondering what you are going to pull in. It also has a lot of other types of wildlife you can see like various shorebirds, turtles, manatees, and dolphins.
So while fishing can always be a fun and unique time each time you go, it can made more of a catching experience if you know what you are doing. Remember fishing is fun, but catching fish is even funner.
The Gulf of Mexico Near Tampa Bay at Anna Maria Island
First Find a Great Pier to Fish From
There are a lot of great piers to fish from in the Bradenton area and while we will list a few here I know there are many others. So if you know of any other piers then please let us know. Here are some of the piers in the area.
- Skyway Bridge Fishing Pier
- Anna Maria Island Pier
- Rod and Reel Pier
- Bradenton Beach Historic Pier
- Palma Sola Fishing Pier
What makes these piers great is that most of them are free or charge a fee, so that you do not need a fishing license to fish off of them. This is great for out of state travelers to enjoy some fishing.
For purposes of this article we will talk mostly about the Bradenton Beach Historic Pier which is located right off of Cortez Blvd which dead ends into Anna Maria Island where you hang a left and then another left on the street with the Circle K on the corner. Better yet stop in at the Circle K and get some supplies. The street will dead end and you make a right and the pier is at the round-a-bout.
This pier is pretty long, has several covered areas for much needed shade, has four picnic tables at the end, several benches, and a couple of bench swings. There is also fish cleaning stations with fresh water and bathrooms. There used to be a restaurant and bait shop but those are currently closed. You can get bait from a local bait boat that has recently parked near the pier and sells live bait, and rents poles and other fishing items. Most piers have a bait shop on them or nearby.
LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW - tells us about some other great PIERS in the area where you can fish at.
Some Items you will need to fish off the pier.
Here is a basic list of items you may need to fish off of the pier, most of which you can rent, or pick up from the local WalMart, K-Mart or sporting goods store. There are quite a few of these stores on the way to the piers.
You dont need to spend a lot of money to get these items.
- Fishing Pole, preferably at least 7 feet long with 20lb test line already spooled on. You can get one at a discount store for about $20.00 that will do the trick. A spinning rod is the best to use as it is easier to cast than a bait caster model and you can use multiple poles at some piers.Some places will even rent poles for a small fee.
You can also pick up small poles for kids for a few bucks. There is always small fish your kids can catch anytime at the pier to make sure they get their first fish.
- Bucket - get a 5 gallon bucket for fish if you are going to keep them, or for bait. You may want to get a little rope to lift it down to get some saltwater if you are going to keep fish but we advocate catch and release. $3.00 to $5.00
- Bait Bucket - a Flow Troll bait bucket is about $10.00 and holds bait securely and allows you to keep them alive by storing the bait in the water to use when needed. Or you can use a small bucket.
- Fishing tackle and/or lures. You will need at the very least a few sinkers, drop rig leader system and some hooks, size 4 or 6.
- Bait, either live bait or frozen bait will work although if you are going out and want to catch fish then live bait doesn't disappoint. There are plenty of bait stations around that you can get some bait, live shrimp is the best.
- You can also use some gloves, a towel, a hook remover and other tackle. You dont have to spend a ton of money to go fishing, and with movie ticket prices as they are today you could take your whole family out to the pier, go fishing, and have some fun valuable memories to take home with you.
So take a little time and go get the supplies you need to help make sure you have a great time out on the pier. If you have any questions go to a local bait and tackle store and they will help you out or talk to the people on the pier, they are always glad to help. Who knows if you go the Bradenton pier you may even see me!
Some Basic Tackle and Rig Setups
There are four easy to use basic tackle and rig setups you can use that will help you catch fish on the pier. We will discuss each and the benefits of them.
A word about leaders, use a fluorocarbon or mono-filament leader of 10lbs to 20lbs from the swivel. A fluorocarbon leader is more expensive but will increase your chances of catching fish.
Light Sliding Sinker Rig - this is an easy to use setup that is perfect for live shrimp. Use a super light egg sinker that goes before the swivel, then a leader to a bait hook. You want about a 1/4 ounce egg sinker, or you can use no sinker and let the bait float free. You can also replace the egg sinker with some split shot in a pinch.
A word about hooks. Use the smallest hook you can on live bait. The longer the shank the better to hook fish. We recommend a size 4 or 6 bait hook for most fish and small pan fish hooks for smaller Pinfish and other bait fish.
Heavy Sliding Sinker Rig - when casting frozen bait off the pier you should a heavier sliding sinker. This will allow for a longer cast and will hold in the strong currents. We use this when we cast out large chunks of squid or fresh Pinfish cuts.
A word about weights - use only enough weight to keep your bait where it needs to be. There is nothing more frustrating to have your bait flow in the current and tangle in your neighbors line.
A Basic Drop Rig - this is the easiest rig to use on the pier. It is easy to use because you can get the whole setup at the tackle store for cheap. They come ready to go, all you have to add is a hook and a weight and tie it on your line. For a couple bucks you can be fishing in no time.
A word about swivels - we use a lot of swivels in our fishing rigs. Make sure you use a heavy duty one for fishing rigs, and stainless steel ones for lure hook ups.
A Pinfish or Bait Fish Rig - when I go fishing now I only try for a few different species and dont spend a lot of money on bait. I buy some frozen squid for about $3.00 and catch all the bait fish I want. I use a three way swivel, a sliding egg sinker, and two leaders and small hooks for pan fish. Then cast it out with some small squid bits on the hooks and wait for the small fish to take the bait before reeling them in.
Basic Fishing Rigs
Is a Bad Day Fishing Better then the Best Day at Work?
Baits You Can Use
There are two types of bait you can use, either live bait or frozen (freeze dried) bait. Frozen bait is cheaper and available at most stores for about $3.00 per package.
Live bait is sold mostly at local bait and tackle stores.
A dozen live shrimp is available for about $4.00 and will last for about an hour for one person.
LIVE SHRIMP - use a bait bucket to store live shrimp so they stay fresh. Then use a rig above and make sure to hook them through the middle behind the head or in the head behind the black spot. If you need to catch fish, this is the best option because you will get frequent bites and you can make your day of fishing actually catching fish.
GREEN BACKS OR MINNOWS - live ones will help you catch all kinds of fish, dead ones will catch bait fish like Pinfish and Grunts. We use these to catch our bait of PinFish so we can go after larger ones.
You dont have to buy these if you have a long enough net you can get them from the water but you have to be quick. The best time to do this is before and after the sun comes up and the bait is close to the pier. Cut them in half and hook them through the eyes and in the back near the tail.
FROZEN BAIT - frozen squid, mullet, sardines, and other frozen baits are perfect for some species like catfish,shark, and other larger fish. This bait is easy to hook although smelly so be prepared if you have kids for some icks and gross comments.
LIVE PINFISH or GRUNTS - hook live bait fish like these in the back near the tail to catch sharks and groupers.
CUT PINFISH - use cut Pinfish to catch all kinds of fish. They are easy to get and cheap (you just need a Pinfish rig above and some frozen squid or minnows.
Sometimes You Will Catch Something Unexpected
Where to Fish Around the Pier
Fish in the middle of the Pier (at the Bradenton pier there is a square cut out in the middle) or right down from the edges to catch most fish with live bait shrimp.
With frozen bait and live Pinfish or Grunts cast them out to catch larger species of fish.
You can also hook live Pinfish to large tackle and fish for Grouper right along the pier.
One thing you dont want to catch are BIRDS, they are everywhere and they fly right into your line if you cast out from the pier. On one day I hooked three birds and and to reel each one in and unhook them. Believe me this is not fun!
When you get to the pier ask around and see what is biting and where and get your pole in the right spot.
Also watch out for boats, for some reason if you cast out from the pier, boats will come close to the pier and grab your line in the propeller. This can cause some serious damage causing you to cut your line.
If you are like me and dont like the fish smell on your hands after a fun day of fishing then buy some limes. After you are done fishing, cut them in half and rub them all over your hands and voila, fish smell is gone.— GchanMako
There are a lot of different fish to catch from the pier. Here is a partial list of the fish we have either caught ourselves or have seen caught from the pier.
- Spanish Mackeral
- Spotted Trout
- Black Tip Shark
- Bonnethead Shark
- Saltwater Catfish
- Mangrove Snapper
- Lizard Fish
- Spade Fish
- Cowpen Fish
- Trigger Fish
- Stone Crab
- Spider Crab
- Gray Snapper
Plus a whole lot more.
Picture of Fish Caught on the Pier
So what are you waiting for..grab a pole and some bait and go out and catch some fish. We have shown you how, the pier rats will help by giving you great advice. More importantly make some fun, active memories with your family.
Bonus Content - The Best Day of Fishing or As the Adage Goes
A day where there is a slight breeze and the sun is out at a perfect 72 degrees, with butterflies floating in the air, magic ponies, unicorns, rainbows.
And every cast brings in the perfect fish that unhooks itself, allowing you to keep casting and catching.
Oh if each day of fishing was like that, I would never get to work. But as we all know those days are magical, elusive, and happen only once in a while, if at all.
But is the old adage "the worst day of fishing, is better than the best day at work", really true? I believe I had a day to test that adage, and it didn't leave me wanting.
I was measured, and tested, and left wanting for fish.
Best Day Fishing Like Ever...Not...
It started with my impatience, I have hooked many a Grouper and my patience has landed them. But this time I rushed it, and the hook came flying out of that fish mouth like a ball on a string, on one of those wooden paddle toys.
It was all I could do to avoid being the one hooked in the corner of the mouth. Then I lost the fish of the lifetime. As I turned I saw my pole bend, and I rushed over, and as my neighbor fisherman could attest, the pole bent again, breaking off and damaging the rod. It was a big fish, possibly the fish of a lifetime.
The tackle was huge and hardy but the fish was bigger and stronger.
I again was measured and left wanting. Then adding insult to my pride that was injured, my final cast produced a horseshoe crab. Now in itself this would be an interesting catch, at least worthy of a tale or two.
But as you can see, fate intervened again, and dealt me another funny situation. Because the crab had left its horseshoe building. So what I pulled up was only an empty shell.
In the end I did what any good fisher person would do...try again? No way, I packed it up and left. That was enough torture for one day. So as I was hailed and regaled with questions of "how did you do?" as I exited the pier.
I realized something, I didn't do that bad. I had fun, I lost bigger fish that will only get bigger in the retelling of the tale. And I spent time outdoors, relaxing, and getting what little bit of exercise you can walking around a small pier.
In the End...
Well in the end a tall tale come to life right in front of me. Due to rumors of a big Goliath Grouper that lurked in the shallows under the pier. You know tales of lore, myths, or legends fabricated by locals.
The ones we tell little children to give them that special feeling when they reel in a disappointing little bait fish.
Lo and behold right in front of me, a crowd had formed in the shallows on the pier. And right below one of the docks sat a big Goliath Grouper.
Simply loitering, uncaring of the spectating crowd, daring an angler to catch a free meal he can snatch up. Oh what a site, its mammoth tail slowly working back and forth, seemingly floating effortlessly just below the dock.
In the end it reminded me once again, that while I didn't have a great or magical day fishing, it was better than any day I can remember in the entire history of my working for others. So was it the best day fishing?
Maybe or maybe not, but it certainly was fun.
And that my friends makes me believe that the old adage is true!