Many of us had our first taste of saltwater fishing from one of the many piers that dot the Texas coast. However, now that we’re all grown-up we sometimes forget just how great this type of fishing can be. To be successful, all it takes is a little understanding of the techniques and stratagies of pier fishing. If you doubt this, take a look at the photo wall of any pier and see for yourself. The biggest mistake made by newcomers to Texas piers is thinking that all the good catches come from the end, or “T” as it is usually refered. Don’t believe it. Oh sure, there are a lot of big fish caught from the “T” head of every pier on the coast, but the coolers of trout, reds, and gafftop are usually found closer to the beach. The troughs that parallel to the beach are highways for the many species of fish that roam the surf. They use these highways to travel from place to place in their search for food. Joining the troughs, are cuts (or intersections) that allow the travelers to change lanes without going over the top of the sandbar. Since these troughs run the entire length of the coast it only makes sense that they would be within easy casting distance for pier fishermen. Another big mistake made by most beginners to pier fishing are their rods and reels. Many show up with what is usually considered satisfactory for offshore species. Make no mistake, there have been and will continue to be some very large fish taken from piers. However, we are primarily concerned with the smaller species. In most cases, the same tackle used by bay fishermen will work satisfactorily. This cansists of a 7 foot popping rod with a medium to medium-heavy action and a reel capable of holding approximately 200 yards of 14 to 17 pound monofiliment. If the “T” head draws you to deeper water and bigger fish your tackle will have to match. Long rods in the 11 to 13 foot range are prefered for the long distance casting needed. These rods are also capable of handling much heavier weights than their lighter counterparts. The terminal tackle, leaders, weights, and hooks, is not too different from light tackle, it’s just bigger and heavier. The pier fishermen’s best friend, for catching fish, is a large lively shrimp held by a no.4 or no.2 treble hook under a popping cork. The use of shrimp will almost guarantee a strike and the cork will usually keep the rig from hanging-up on the bottom. Another good reason for using popping corks is the added attraction of sound to your presentation. Although live shrimp is the be all catch all for most fishermen, there have been many a big speckled trout caught on a live mullet or croaker. These baits are most often rigged with a slip weight so as not to alert any fish taking the bait to your presence. The simplest setup for this terminal rig, is a 1/2 to 2 ounce egg weight, a no.7 or no.10 barrel swivel, and a no.1/0 Kayle hook. Slip your line through the weight, tie on the swivel, add a 18 to 24 inch leader of approximately 30 lb mono, tie on the hook and your ready to fish. Oh yea, and don’t forget the bait. If there is a problem with pier fishing it’s landing the fish. Most piers are far enough away from the surface of the water that it makes swinging a speck or redfish up to the boards a considerable risk. Three things can happen, anyone which could cost you a good fish. The problems are as follows; your line could break, the hook could pull loose, or you could break a rod. Although any one of these would make any fisherman unhappy, a broken fishing rod could end your trip before it begins. There is really only one safe way of landing fish from a pier. USE A NET. I know what you’re thinking. “Where am I going to get a net with a handle that long and how am I going to get it in my car?” The answer is not as difficult as you might think. There are two types of nets intended for pier fishing. The first is a “drop-net.” These are generally round with the outside support made of a heavier gauge of medal than most nets. The proper way to use this type of net is to tie three equal length lines to the outer edge, allowing them to meet in the middle. Also, they must be long enough to allow a big redfish to pass witout being so long as to make the net hard to manage. Once you’ve done this tie them together with a long piece of rope that serves as the net handle. To use the net, lower it into the water until it is just below the surface, guide the fish over it and raise it up to you. This is also an excellent way to lower fish, to be released, back to the water without damaging them. The other net made for pier fishermen has a telescoping handle. This net has the traditional head, but the handle collapses in on itself, making transport, from home to fishing, much easier than trying to carry a net with a 12 foot long handle. This net is also useful in the release of fish, but not quite as good as the drop-net. No matter what species you’re after, whether it’s big fish such as sharks, bullreds, or huge drum, or speckled trout, smaller redfish, gafftop, or sandtrout, you’ll find pier fishing a great way to introduce the family to saltwater fishing. So the next time the weather looks good and the high tide is coming in, head down to a pier and get in on some of the action.
– Texas Saltwater Fishing Guide