How to Fish From a Pier

Fishing from a pier is straightforward and is probably easier in some states than fishing in rivers and lakes. Some states don’t require fishing licenses if you are pier fishing and the best times to go are around dawn and sunset. You need to take protection so that your skin will not be damaged by the sun’s rays while you were sitting there for hours at a time. Make sure to research the type of fish in the area so you can know which bait to bring.

Licenses To Fish on a Pier

Before you pack up all your equipment and your favorite snacks and foods and head over to the pier, you must first have the proper licenses in order to fish. The license you need depends on the state’s requirements and if you are fishing in freshwater or saltwater. Also special licenses could be required if you are searching for a certain fish, like salmon or halibut.

In most places, there is not a separate license or different regulations when you are fishing off a pier. Although, there may be the rules that the beach or lake establishes that you must follow. If you already have a fishing license, double-check it and make sure it is not about to expire. Carry it with you at all times in case you are stopped by a ranger or by police.

California, Maryland, and Florida as well as a few other states, have absolutely no fishing license requirements needed if you only plan on fishing on piers.

Equipment Needed to Fish on a Pier

Now that you have checked and you passed all the requirements needed to fish on the pier of your choice, it is time to soar through the equipment that you need.

The most important here fishing equipment you will need is snacks and food. Sure, you could buy food from the many vendors and street sellers that are on the pier, but you must do this before you start fishing. When you start you are unable to leave in case you catch a fish on your line.

Next, you should absolutely bring a foldaway chair. You don’t want to stand for hours and hours or sit cross-legged on the wooden pier. You should also bring an extra back cushion.

Now let’s get into the actual fishing gear

  • A light to medium range fishing rod – depending on where you are, you may be able to catch small to medium-sized fish.
  • A tackle box – is there a wide variety of tackle boxes available so are small enough to carry your hand while others are large enough that you can roll them
  • Bait and lures – in order to know the type of bait you need, you should check out the pier that you are traveling to see which fish are in the area. You should also check the migration habits of local fish
  • Hooks – you never know when one could break
  • An extra fishing line – sometimes fish are stronger than respect and can snap the line
  • A bucket with ice – this is to help preserve the fish that you have caught and keep it fresh while you continue on the pier.
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen, and wind gear – there is no doubt that fishing in any type of environment will take hours. While you are casting your rod and waiting for a fish to bite, the sun and the heat will beat down on you so you must protect your skin and eyes.

This is not a complete list of all of the equipment you could bring, this is only a list of the essentials. Feel free to ask the local fishermen who were with you on the pier for advice and what else you should consider purchasing

Best Time to Fish on a Pier

No matter what type of pier you go to, the best time to start fishing is when there are very few people around. The splashing that the beachgoers make in the ocean as well as the excess of noise above the water can frighten the fish. Also, many fish that are nocturnal only come out at night when it is harder for predators to spot them. 

Many fisherman decide to fish during the early morning hours. They tend to arrive before dawn. If you do not look forward to getting up so early, you can always try to sense it. We believe it is best to arrive just as the sun is going down and you will have a pleasant night fishing experience. If you are night fishing, you should definitely bring a flashlight as it will help you attract fish.

You must also track the cycle of high and low tide. Usually, this is done for you by the beach itself. Beaches that are not private track the tide cycles for guests and display the information at bathrooms and on the pier.

High tide is usually best if you are looking to catch fully-grown fish. The low tide does not allow them enough room to swim freely so they tend to retreat back into the ocean. However, if you plan on also catching crabs and searching for mollusks then you can rotate between high and low tide.

Tips for Catching More Fish at the Pier

  • Try dropping your line directly below your area around the pillars of the pier. Many fish like to hide under the pier because of the darkness.
  • If there is an area underneath the pier that acts as a sandbar, you should fish there. A sand bar catches food and has small animals that fish want to eat.
  • Using circle hooks can make it easier for the fish to hook themselves on to your line.


Pier fishing can be an enjoyable activity if you follow rules and know the best places on the pier to cast your line. Make sure you have the right licenses if you need them at all. Be sure to know which fish are in the area and where they like to gather. The larger the fish is, the more likely you will only catch them at high tide.

You may also like to read How to Fish Around a Bridge.

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