A Primer on Pier Fishing

You don’t need a boat, you don’t need a high-dollar pickup truck to pull a boat, you don’t have to fill either with $4 a gallon gasoline, you don’t have to buy special insurance to protect you if you have to be towed back to port or if your trailer malfunctions during the haul. You don’t have to worry about mechanical repairs so far from home where a marine mechanic may take advantage of you because he knows you’re not local. And, you don’t have to sit on a boat talking to yourself waiting for the fish to decide it’s snack time.

Those are just a few of the things you don’t have to do when you decide to fish from one of the many public piers that dot the coastline of the Eastern United States.

For eleven-years now I’ve been making a once or twice junket to warm bodies of saltwater each year. For most of those times I dragged either a bass boat or a center console deep-v boat. On three occasions I had trailer tires shred requiring a piggy-back ride on a tow truck and on four occasions the fishing was interrupted with expensive trips to the boat doctor.

So, about two-years ago I decided to park leave the boat in the building I built just to give it a good home and learn a little about pier fishing. I only know of two piers that are large enough to permit one to drive their vehicle onto and not have to haul their gear. One is in Pensacola, FL and the other at Tampa Bay, FL. both are the remains of what were once bridge approaches that were made obsolete by more modern bridges.

Most piers require one to park in a lot and physically tote the necessary gear to a spot on the pier. Since most piers jut far into the water this can be a carry. Some solve this by packing light. Taking a single rod and a small back pack for hooks, sinkers and other terminal fishing gear. Others, probably former Boy Scouts, approach a pier trip as if it were a Serengeti safari. I consider myself someplace in the middle.

The minimum equipment I require includes a comfortable folding chair, a small cooler full of iced beverages and snacks, a tackle box big and well equipped enough to meet whatever needs arise, a 5-gallon bucket and aerator for keeping bait fish and shrimp alive, and at least two rod and reel combos.

Since this is too much for one man to carry I also require some sort of pier cart. Factory made carts don’t come cheap, costing at bottom close to $200. They also aren’t very collapsible when it’s time to put them back in the vehicle. I’ve seen people using everything from simple luggage carriers and wire grocery baskets all the way to huge aluminum custom-made four-wheeled contraptions complete with marine batteries to power their CD player, flood lights, bait tanks, and recharge the cell phone. In my case I must have something that folds and will either fit in the rear of my van or hang from a bicycle rack.

What I settled on came to me by accident. Stopping at a church sale at the end of a fishing trip I saw a folding children’s bicycle trailer made by Schwinn and bearing a price tag of just $3. So, I says to myself, this could be easily made into a very portable pier cart and for very little cash. Before the next trip I ripped out the canvas bottom and replaced it with strips of oak, mounted a couple of rod holders and a handle fabricated from PVC pipe. Imagination is the only limiting factor to what one can manufacture from PVC.

I’ve pretty much got this pier thing figured out now and if the value of used boats wasn’t so deep in the tank I’d probably just get rid of it. With a couple of bike racks mounted on my big blue van I can easily strap on my pier junk and go “live down by the ocean” for a couple of weeks at a time and watch my concerns flow from my mind into the warm brine via my fishing line.

There are many rewards to pier fishing. You get the thrill of occasionally hooking up with something monstrous and enjoying one of those Hemingway Old Man and the Sea moments. You can sit there and listen to the sea birds and soak up some needed vitamin D and you frequently get to meet new and interesting people with stories to tell you and lessons to teach you. Often these encounters become the seeds for stories that I can tell. You just can’t order new story seeds from Amazon, it just takes some boots on the ground effort to find them. While I remain able I think I’ll keep searching them out.

Check out the following photos:

The North Jetty jutting into the Atlantic Ocean at Sebastian Inlet, FL The bite here ranges from small bait fish to giant sharks and Goliath grouper. Sebastian is a narrow inlet connecting the Indian River to the Atlantic. The fish population becomes very concentrated here which accounts for its reputation as a great place to wet a line.
My re-purposed child's bike trailer now serving duty as a pier cart. Going to further modify it to include a cutting board for cutting bait and some holders for small tools such as pliers, scissors, and a bait knife.
A very happy pier fisherman with his jack crevalle. It's a kick to see a school of bait fish busting out of the water being pursued by a herd of these monsters. Jack crevalle are not eaten by most but they are highly prized as a sport fish. They are tremendous string stretchers and fight to finish!

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