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Saltwater Fishing Tips: Pier Fishing in Northern Florida

Updated on October 26, 2011

saltwater fishing tips - Florida fishing

I've learned a lot of saltwater fishing tips over the years, mostly from my experience with Florida fishing. I think I was born to fish, and I especially enjoy saltwater fishing. I cut my teeth, so to speak, on fishing for bream in local ponds. Then I moved on to channel catfish. I caught my first ten-pound largemouth bass when I was eight years old, which was when I was also introduced to saltwater fishing by my uncle. I fell immediately in love with saltwater fishing, and I've done it all - surf fishing, deep sea fishing, offshore trolling, angling tidal creeks and rivers from shore and from a boat, and casting from the jetties. My absolute favorite type of fishing, however, is from a pier. Lots of tasty fish hang out at fishing piers, and I've created lots of fish recipes with my various catches!

Pier fishing is easy and relaxed, and now that I'm older, I appreciate both of these salient qualities. My favorite piers are partially covered, so you can get some sun if you choose, or stay in the shade. If a rain comes along, it doesn't have to ruin your fishing, either. Most piers also have amenities like running water, fish-cleaning stations, and lights for night-time angling.

Piers are a natural gathering spot, not only for anglers, but for anyone seeking a great view of the ocean and the salty breezes that often caress pier-goers. There's a great deal of camaraderie on the pier among the fishermen, too. Just about everyone in attendance is helpful and friendly, and we all kind of "root" for each other - it's us against those briny monsters of the deep. We often share bait and offer advice to each other about winning strategies, and of course, there are always plenty of entertaining fish stories to be shared.

Of course, the best thing about Florida fishing from a pier is the fish. Just like the fishermen, a pier is also a gathering place for fish. Most species are attracted to structure, and a pier does not disappoint. Barnacles grow on the pilings, and they attract fish. Bait fish seek the cover of the pier, and their presence attracts predatory fish. Since fish are constantly being cleaned and the scraps being thrown overboard, there's a constant "fish restaurant" inherent in a pier, which attracts more fish. So you can see why a pier is a sort of smorgasbord for fish.

One reason pier fishing is so exciting is that you never know what you might catch. For example, from my favorite pier, I've caught black drum, redfish, bluefish, spots, whiting, sheepshead, spadefish, mangrove snapper, sand trout, flounder, stingrays, pompano, huge starfish, octopuses, whelks, skates, cobia, spotted seatrout, weakfish, croaker, tarpon, catfish, needle fish, cutlass fish, hogfish, Spanish mackerel, blue crabs, puffers, sea robins, toadfish, stone crabs, and several species of sharks. Something's always biting!

For successful pier fishing, you'll need a simple rod-and-reel combo, weights, a variety of hooks in different sizes, a large float, and a big round pier net. This is needed to retrieve large fish from the water. Many piers keep one on hand, attached to the pier by a long rope.

As for bait, you might be able to catch your own from the pier. If you can sling a cast net, include one in your pier-fishing arsenal. You have a great vantage point from the pier, and you'll often be able to spot schools of bait fish in the surf.

In addition to any live minnows you may be able to net, some of the best baits to take with you to the pier include fresh dead shrimp, live shrimp, mud minnows, sand fleas, fiddler crabs, and cut mullet. Add a few artificials to the mix, too, like spoons, jigs, tube baits, and plugs. That way, you're bound to have something that will tempt even the most finicky finned diner.

Fish some baits on the bottom, and attach a live shrimp or minnow to a float. Every once in a while, cast an artificial in the depths. If you have some heavy tackle, hook a live fish to your line for tarpon, big sharks, and cobia. That way, your bases will be covered. You'll hit the bottom feeders, the surface feeders, and those in between. Be sure to check your bait regularly, however, and make sure it's fresh.

One note of caution: If you like to cast your bait out and then set your rod down and take a break, tie your rod to the pier railing with cord. There are some huge fish that could strip your rod from the pier, so better safe than sorry. I've seen gigantic tarpon come through and snatch rod and all off the pier.

Once you've landed a few fish and decide to keep them for eating, dress the fish by removing the head, the entrails, and the scales. Or, if you prefer, fillet the fish. Rinse the cleaned or filleted fish well with clean running water. Get the fish chilled as soon as possible. Most of the fish species you'll catch can be successfully cooked by:

grilling - coat fish and grill with oilive oil. Sprinkle fish with your favorite herbs and spices and cook over medium coals.

frying - dip fish in an egg wash, shake in flour, cornmeal, or cracker meal. Season. Fry in peanut oil at 350-360 degrees.

blackening - cook fish in butter in a white-hot iron skillet. Add lots of seasonings.

baking - coat fish with butter or olive oil and seasonings. Bake at 350-400 degrees.

How can you tell when the fish is done? If the fish is dressed, the flesh will begin to pul away from the backbone when it's done. Fillets will turn opaque and be easy to flake with a fork.

For tips on catching individual species of fish, along with ways to procure free bait, see the attached articles below.

Typical pier catch: black drum, mangrove snapper, flounder, whiting.
Typical pier catch: black drum, mangrove snapper, flounder, whiting.


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    • profile image

      Nikki 3 years ago


      My daughter and I will be visiting my mom in Palm Coast next month. Although I grew up in Florida, I live in Oklahoma now and I've never been saltwater fishing. My daughter (15) and I love to fish and we've always wanted to try fishing from the pier. I'm wondering if there is someone or some place you can direct me as far as finding out everything we need to know. My mother has some saltwater rods, although I have no idea of the condition. Renting may be a better option. I've heard sand crabs are good bait. Proper wait to bait the hook with a sand crab? Fresh shrimp? Best time of day to fish? I'd love to see her catch something impressive. If she did, I don't know how we would go about taking "it" off the hook.

      We are used to catching small bass and catfish.

      Any information or direction you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

      Thank you,


    • profile image

      RobUK 6 years ago

      Love fishing sunshine skyway pier coming back in September so watch out fish here I come, any tips would be nice learn something every time I come.

    • john000 profile image

      John R Wilsdon 6 years ago from Superior, Arizona

      This made me remember fishing with a drop line off a pier in San Diego, Ca. when I was a kid. Been awhile since I thought about it. Great hub.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      I like both, Charles, but saltwater is my fave!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      You'll love it, Florida CA!

    • reversecharles profile image

      reversecharles 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I never had much luck in fresh water, but in saltwater I am like chicken of the Sea. Great Post.

    • profile image

      Florida Collection Agency 7 years ago

      Great hub. I am a freshwater fisher, but hope to become a saltwater fisher someday. This hub helps.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      I love Florida, Tex! Thanks so much for reading and leaving a comment!

    • profile image

      Lake Texoma Striper Guides 8 years ago

      God Florida is so much more beautiful than Texas, I miss that coast so much now that I've moved out here.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Bummer, Bat! The birds in FL aren't quite so bold!

    • bat115 profile image

      Tim 8 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      one of them somehow knocks it over causing the lid to open spilling ice, soda and fish all over the pier. then they just go to town. It's at Pismo, where this happens. The birds have no fear of man there.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Bat! How do they open the cooler??

    • bat115 profile image

      Tim 8 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      I have done pier fishing a few times. I don't know if it's a california bird thing, but, everytime, birds always come out of nowhere and snatch my fish out of the ice chest we put em in.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks! I'll check it out.

    • zennetsolutions profile image

      zennetsolutions 8 years ago

      Great Hub, Check out my fishing boat hub over at


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