Did you know that fishing off a pier can save money and be just as successful (if not more successful sometimes) than fishing off a boat? With the right gear, technique, bait, and license, if applicable, all you need to do is arm yourself with some knowledge, and you’re sure to have a great pier fishing day. One significant factor to know about is the best time to fish off a pier.
While you may have fun and find success fishing off a pier and at many times of day, the ultimate best time to go pier fishing is during times of low natural light like dawn or dusk.
Once you know all about the best time to fish off a pier, you’ll be halfway to setting yourself up for angling success. Let’s explore some background information and details around pier fishing to understand the best time to fish off a pier.
History of Pier Fishing
People have been enjoying the sport of fishing for centuries. It’s considered a “prehistoric practice” that can be dated back at least 40,000 years. Of course, fishing was initially correlated with food for survival, and it wasn’t until much later that modern development allowed it to shift to become a hobby for some.
The earliest piers are thought to have first been built in the 1870s in Southern California to meet the area’s initial development needs. A crucial addition to benefiting the shipping and trading industry via boats wasn’t long until anglers realized fishing could be quite good off a pier.
Pier fishing is an important part of the history of some of the earliest piers, including the iconic Malibu Pier in California. The California Department of Parks & Recreation says that in 1934, 19 years after it was built, it opened to the public for pier and charter fishing, and the rest is history. A few years later, a bait and tackle shop building was even built at the ocean end to support the fishermen.
Best Time to Fish off a Pier Explained
Times of Day
You may have a great time and fantastic fishing success fishing off a pier at any time of day. However, even if you have the best tackle and bait in the world, if you’re dropping your line in off a pier when the fish aren’t there, you can’t hook the big guy.
We suggest you aim to plan your pier fishing around times of low natural light, which would be early morning around dawn or dusk.
Take it from Jon of Cast and Spear, who says that fish are less cautious when natural light is low. They’re more likely to wander up into shallower waters, closer to your pier and within catching reach.
Experts say the changing of light triggers feeding behaviors in all kinds of fish.
Additionally, dawn and dusk are special times for fish who are feeding on baitfish, as well. Even the hour before dawn or that first hour to two after the sunset is prime times for catching a trophy fish.
It may go without saying, but if you are fishing early enough to have your bait in the water at the time dawn breaks, you may be the only one on a public fishing pier or at least one of few. This can be to your advantage when the fish swim by only one choice for a tasty breakfast.
If you’re fishing in the ocean, pay attention to the tide. The tide stages are important considerations, as it can make a big difference in the best time to go pier fishing. For the most part, fishing off a pier is best a couple of hours before high tide or a couple of hours after low tide. A changing tide means your bait will be moving in the water, which is to your advantage.
Pro tip: the side of the pier that faces the current and tide is ideal for fishing deep on the bottom. The down current side of the pier is best suited for fishing right off the surface for fish like mackerel.
Combining both of these suggestions for a well-timed fishing trip that minds the tide timing with the low light times can make for an unforgettable pier fishing experience for saltwater fishing.
Times of the Year
For saltwater fishing on the coast or if you’re in the adjoining rivers, bays, and inlets, you’ll notice that early spring is a fantastic time for pier fishing. As winter fades, the coastal waters warm up, and hungry game fish will follow their bait right up the coast. This usually takes them on a journey right past fishing piers.
Spring also means rising water temperatures and migrating fish species. They’re hungry, and they’re wandering right past the pier close to shore, so it’s a perfect time to tempt them with something tasty at the end of your line.
Why Do People Fish off Piers?
For the most part, there are three options for where you fish: the shore, a pier, or a boat of some sort.
There are several reasons someone may choose to fish off a pier, with major considerations typically ranging from time to money to equipment, while still wanting to get out in the water a bit. In many areas, you don’t need a license to fish off a pier, so that can save a step and some money.
Pros of Fishing off a Pier
Several great reasons exist to fish off a pier. Here is a handful of them:
- Many types of fish are accessible to many people – many people aren’t aware that several types of fish travel up and down the water’s edge, within easy reach from a pier.
- Save money – with no need for a boat; you save from having to spend money on a boat, its travel to and from the fishing site, and maintenance.
- Save time – when pressed for time, would you rather: A) walk out onto a pier and start casting, or B) hook up and haul a boat on a trailer, launch it, park, prepare the boat, etc.? You absolutely save some time by opting for pier fishing.
Cons of Fishing off a Pier
While it has its perks, pier fishing isn’t always perfect. Some cons of pier fishing include:
- Limited location – obviously, with pier fishing, you’re limited to the stationary location(s) of available piers. You’re not able to easily jut across to another ledge or deep spot, which may limit your fishing success.
- Sharing space on a public pier – depending on which type of pier you select, if it’s public, you stand a chance to have to share your fishing space with someone else.
How to Fish off a Pier: Techniques to Maximize Fishing Success
Sometimes referred to as “pier rats,” people who often fish off public piers will tell you, “the biggest biting fish are at the end of the pier.” This is typically true, as larger fish tend to be found in deeper waters, so get as deep as you can off the pier.
The deeper water isn’t always the end all be all to fishing success, though. Evaluate how your pier is set up and what surrounds it. Some fish do like to gather closer to the shore. Fish also like to hide or feed near an underwater structure such as a dropoff or rock formations, and even if that’s in the shallower water, follow it.
Safety for Fishing off a Pier
It’s important to understand local laws and guidelines related to pier fishing where you are.
Some states do not require a fishing license if you’re fishing from a pier, and some do. Check your local regulations to be sure.
Always be mindful of your surroundings on a pier. You must be careful not to step off the edge on a vigorous cast or hook someone behind you on a public pier with a careless overhead cast.
Be mindful of your surroundings at all times and read up on local regulations and laws, if applicable.
All in all, fishing off a pier is a fantastic option for anglers looking to catch a big fish. If you can manage to get out on the pier during the best time – dawn or dusk – your success should be multiplied. Best of luck on your next pier fishing expedition!