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How to Fish Docks and Piers

Try these tips to find fish under those docks and piers you want to fish


Photo © Ron Brooks

Dock Fishing

Photo © Ron Brooks
Docks and piers are both forms of structure in the water. They are all very similar and we fish them in a similar manner. I like to think of them as underwater structure that is sticking up above the water line. They are sort of like underwater structure that you can see.


Both of these types of structure are easy to locate - you can see them!! The piers and docks are obviously attached to the shore. That necessarily means you will usually be fishing in relatively calm water. Someone says, "Hey, what about the ocean fishing piers - that's not calm water!" Well, first of all, you have no business fishing close to an ocean fishing pier. In some cases it is against the law; in all cases it is dangerous. There are people with heavy lead weights fishing right where you want to fish!!

So, the docks and piers I am talking about are inshore, in an inlet, waterway, river, or creek.

Tidal Influence

Tides run in and out all day long - ceasing only for as very short time at the peak of the high tide and the bottom of the low tide to change directions. These tidal flows are important factors when fishing a pier or dock.
  • Depth

    Water depth is important because where there is no water, they will be no fish. Tidal changes can range from only a couple of feet in the Gulf of Mexico to as much as 12 feet or more on the Maine coast. And, that variance can be revealing. Along the Georgia coast, the tide difference is around 8 feet on an average basis. Thirty miles south of the Georgia state line, that changes to around four feet. Some docks and piers are completely high and dry at low tide. In other cases, there is substantial water under a dock at low tide. These are the docks to look for. These are the docks that will hold fish.

  • Direction

    As I said, the tide is either running in or out. The water is either rising or falling. I generally like to fish the last of the outgoing tide all the way to low tide, and then the first hour or so of the incoming tide. I catch more fish at that tide stage, because I believe the fish are more prone to feed then. Lower water means that baitfish can't get back into the shallows that a high tide creates along the shore. So, I find a dock or pier that has water under it at low tide and I look to be there around two hours before low tide.

  • Age

    This may be an odd piece of information for some anglers, but I also look for the older docks or piers. New wooden docks and pilings are generally full of creosote or some other preservative - and I just believe that stuff runs off the fish. While concrete piers don't have that chemical problem, both the concrete and wood docks that are new are void of any sea life.

    Barnacles!! That's the key to an old dock. Barnacles draw other marine life. "Baby "everything" live in and around the barnacles. Some pilings will have small clusters of oysters on them - we used to call them "coon oysters" because the raccoons would get to them at low tide and have a feast. You can find juvenile crabs, minnows, crustaceans - it's a regular nursery on a pole. And where you have that kind of animal life you have the beginning of a miniature food chain in one location.

    Can fish be caught on new docks? Certainly, but by far I catch more fish on the older docks that hold the food pantry!

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