Our shores have all kinds of public piers where you can catch saltwater fish as well as crabs and possibly bait. These are good places to introduce youngsters to fishing. Some of the smallest and simplest are just extensions of docks used to access the boat, but others are more elaborate as they are long and occasionally wide structures built on stilts that extend far into the water.
Look for lesser known pillars
Many of the larger public piers are well known and easy to find, but there are others that are smaller, not well advertised, known mostly to locals, yet still offer pier fishing for various species as well as the opportunity to spread out for social distancing reasons.
An example of the latter is the public fishing pier at the northern end of Anna Maria Island in southwest Florida. Though I’d spent a lot of time in Florida over the years, I had never heard of the small but obviously popular Rod and Reel Pier when I vacationed nearby until last winter. When looking for public fishing spots in an area you’re visiting, always check with a local bait and fishing shop and inquire about public fishing piers (as well as the time and tide to fish for).
The most common activity on public landing sites is bottom fishing, which involves using bait to catch species of fish that are hanging around on the bottom around or near the pier structure (such as flounder, spot, croaker, and catfish) or species more likely to get through moving the area (like striped bass, mackerel, snapper and sea trout). Repeated throwing of bait, especially jigs and floating plugs, is also possible, but is sometimes hindered by crowds or locations.
Best pier spots and tides
Where to fish on a pier is sometimes an important consideration, and many regulars love the pier, which is usually where the water is deepest. Keep an eye on others fishing on a pier to get a feel for which places are best as they are not the same on every pier.
The direction of the tide is often a factor in where to be. It is best to fish on the side of a pier where the direction of the tide is different from you. If the tide changes direction you may need to change the side of the pier you are on accordingly.
Most saltwater fishing is best when the tide is moving, and some piers have little or no water when the tide is low, making this a bad time for pier fishing. Before and after high tide is generally preferred.
Do you need a license?
In some facilities, e.g. For example, a state-licensed public pier that has an entrance fee does not require a saltwater fishing license. However, in locations without such an agreement, you will need a saltwater fishing license (short term or annual) issued by the state where the pier is located. Make sure you get this beforehand.