Beginner Fishing

Saltwater Pier Fishing For Beginners

 Growing up, I learned everything I know about fishing from my father. He took my brother and me fishing almost every weekend. One of our favorite places to fish was on Bob Hall Pier near Corpus Christi, Texas. We always had a great time and you can too no matter what pier you choose. Let me share the basics for getting started.

What do you need to know to saltwater fishing on a pier?

  • The right gear and accessories will make your time at the pier more comfortable and easier
  • Carry a tackle box based on what kind of bait you plan on using: dead bait, live bait or lures
  • Always carry a valid state fishing license, even on a pier. Know the size and bag limits for your state
  • Learn how to recognize the fish you catch
  • Choose a fishing rod and reel that best suited for your the fish you want to catch
  • Know the kind of fisherman you are so you can properly prepare and have a better time
  • Watch and learn from others

This article speaks directly about saltwater fishing techniques on a pier. I will step you through each of these points with sage advice, a few how-to videos and links to other resources you will need to get started.

Pier Fishing Gear You Will Need

There are fishing gear and accessories that will make your time at the pier comfortable and easier.

Basic gear includes:

  • Lawn chairs
  • Rod holders
  • Ice chest or fish bag and ice
  • Flashlight
  • Hand towels and wipes for handling fish

Advanced gear:

  • Fishing cart
  • Fish gaff
  • Fish net

Personal items

  • Blanket if at night
  • Hat and sunscreen if during the day
  • Chapstick
  • Food and drinks

Tracy Villarreal

There are few experiences that rival the joy of tossing your line and working your lures through the serene water at a beautiful sunrise. Maybe you have heard some of your friends share their fish tales or show pictures of the beautiful scenery and the awesome fish. And now you want to find out how to get started so you can share this great time too.So, let's prepare to learn

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Pier Fishing Tackle You Will Need

A fisherman's tacklebox can be as diverse as their kitchen gadgets. Everyone has their lures and bobbers they have found handy.

So, here are the basic tackle you will need. You can add to it:

  • Tacklebox
  • Utility and filet knives
  • Hooks
  • Sinkers
  • Leaders
  • Extra line
  • Stringer
  • Bobbers
  • Various lures
  • Fish pliers for unhooking fish
  • Fish measuring device

Here is where a fishing pro needs to know their target gamefish. Gear up for the specialty tackle required. You wouldn't shark fish with a bobber, but you will use steel line leaders and a heavy duty rod and reel setup.

Selecting Your Fishing Bait

One of the first decisions you will need to make is whether you want to fish with live bait, dead bait, lures, or a combination. This will guide you on what fishing tackle you will need.

Dead Bait

We'll start with the simplest solution: dead bait. This is the easiest bait to use because it requires little technique and the fish come to you.

Examples of dead bait include: frozen shrimp, finger mullet, squid, and cut bait. Bottom fishing is the best for dead bait.

You can use either a casting or spinning reel for bottom fishing with a leader, weight and "J" or circle hooks. It is preferable to set the drag on the reel but not required.

Live Bait

The next bait you can use is live bait. You will require a little more technique and tackle to work with this type of bait.

Examples of live bait are: shrimp, finger mullet, and minnows. You will have more luck fishing on the top of the water and near a pier light if at night.

Spinning reels are the reel of choice with a bobber. You will need to be much more attentive when watching your bobber. Spotted sea trout are the favorites and they hit fast when on a run.

Lures And Artificial Baits

Lure fishing is the least popular method for pier fishing for several reasons: it requires steady and deliberate reeling and casting and the sheer height of the pier can give difficult angles when

Some lures for to use include: hard-bodied plugs, bucktail jigs, soft-bodied jigs, and spoons. I have had great luck with gold spoons for redfish.

Spinning reels give me the best control while casting these lighter baits and allow more action ability in my experience.

Learn more about pier fishing baits. Excellent segment on saltwater lures!

Acquiring A Fishing License And Necessary Tags

Each state game regulation department has a resource for acquiring fishing licenses and associated fishing regulations. Here is a list for each Gulf State:

Each person who uses a rod and reel will need to carry their license with them. This is regulated by the game warden of each state with the power to fine and confiscate your fish. You can be fined even if you haven't caught a fish.

Game Fish Size And Bag Limits

Game fish are under close protection in each state. And each state regulations are not the same. State game wardens are not just checking licenses, but also the sizes and fish caught per licensed fisherman.

I have personally witnessed dozens of times pier fisherman were fined and fish confiscated. Here is a list for each Gulf State:

Each person who uses a rod and reel will need to carry their license with them. This is regulated by the game warden of each state with the power to fine and confiscate your fish. You can be fined even if you haven't caught a fish.

How To Identify Your Catch

You will need to be able to recognize and identify the gamefish for your state before you catch one. You will need to be well-versed so your catch will not be out of the water for too much time.

Here is a guide for identifying Texas pier gamefish and non-regulated "keepers" with the bag and size limits and some identifying information here.

Watch some late afternoon to night fishing on a pier to get a feel for what to expect!

Selecting The Right Rod For Pier Fishing

Pier fishing rods have specific characteristics depending on the fish you are targeting. These factors include: length, material, power, action and the handle.

What Kind Of Pier Fisherman Are You?

Are you a serious pier fisherman? Or are you just a casual fan? Knowing this will help you decide how much to invest and what tackle and accessories you should have in your arsenal.

What does a serious pier angler look like? First off, they will often be pushing a gear cart loaded with rods, chairs, rod holders and such.

Pier Fishing Strategy For The Casual Fisherman

What makes pier fishing great is that there is always something for everyone. Its a great bonding experience with your son or daughter and it can be relatively inexpensive. Its a portable activity that you can share anywhere there is a clean body of water.

A casual pier fisherman needs a strategy even if it is just for fun with your friends and family. It is important to know the minimum you will need to do to have a safe and enjoyable time.

A casual pier fisherman:

  • Has a fishing license for everyone who will use a rod and reel
  • Is familiar with what are the gamefish regulated by the state they are fishing and their bag and size limits.
  • Is prepared for releasing any under or oversized gamefish
  • Should plan on catch and releasing any fish they catch if not prepared to keep and clean their catch. Or just catch and release all fish to be really casual. It is unlawful to waste fish in most states.
  • Has the gear and tackle for everyone who wants to fish
  • Either has bait or knows how to use artificial lures
  • Is equipped for cool or rainy conditions
  • Casts their rod without snagging passing fisherman or cross other lines
  • Are responsible for the safety of their children and their gear
  • Can safely bait a hook and unhook a fish. There is nothing like a casual fisherman asking others to do these basic tasks
  • Studies and learns any skills they need to have a safe and fun fishing experience for both their family and others

If any of this seems overwhelming, don't worry, this article will provide you with a good general understanding. Also, I have provided resource links at the end.

Pier rats have stakeout locations as part of their fishing strategy.

Pier Fishing Strategy For A Pro

Then there are the serious pier fishing enthusiasts: the pier fishing pro. They are knowledgeable and skilled fisherman who fish for the sport and the nice meals they supply. They have invested in the right tools and accessories to tackle the job.

A pier fishing pro:

  • Carries a current fishing license with the necessary tags as required
  • Has a plan and knows their desire target fish
  • Has the gear and tackle to go after their target fish
  • Can identify their target gamefish and knows the state bag limits and lengths.
  • Knows the bait they will need and the fishing technique they will use
  • Knows how to land a large fish on a tall pier
  • Has the right spot on the pier in mind before he arrives
  • Knows how to keep his catch fresh and protected from predators in the water
  • Knows the proper way to enjoy his fishing without crossing other fishing lines and safely conducts their fishing activities

Hey, even fishing pros may need some review and I hope you will find some interesting tips you can add to your skillset.

The following are the basic skills and equipment you will need to

(Do I need a cart, plan for stringer, gaff, fishing topwater or on bottom, how tall the pier is, best time to fish)

Simply Hang Out And Observe

Some of my favorite times at the pier is just taking my kids and watching other people fish. Rarely is there no action or nothing to see.

At night is when we have seen the unusual. I remember seeing flying fish skipping along the water. Schools of hundreds of jellyfish pass by and then in 15 minutes they were gone. Some of my favorite moments were watching manta rays pass by under the pier lights.


  • There are fishing gear and accessories that will make your time at the pier comfortable and easier such as lawn chairs, rod holders, ice chests
  • Invest in a tackle box based on what kind of bait you plan on using: dead bait, live bait or lures
  • Always carry a valid state fishing license, even on a pier and know the size and bag limits for your state
  • Learn how to identify your catch so you can target your favorite fish
  • Select the right kind of fishing rod and reel that best suited for your target fish
  • Determine what kind of fisherman you are so you can prepare properly and have a better experience
  • Hang out and watch what others are doing so you can learn as you go

Thank you for reading this article. Please help us to provide more valuable content to you by leaving a comment below with any questions or topic suggestions.

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About the author 

Tracy Villarreal

Tracy has been fishing Texas' beaches, piers, and inshore waters for over 30 years. A kayak fisherman for the last three years, Tracy is dedicated to helping others make the most of their trips by writing informative tips, guides, and onpoint articles based on his own experience since 2018.

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