Saltwater Pier & Surf Fishing (2023)

There are hundreds of public parks and fishing piers located near beaches, boardwalks and ocean shorelines that offer anglers like you the opportunity to cast a line. To get started:

  1. Make sure you have the right saltwater fishing tackleand gear for the conditions and species.
  2. Determine whatfishing techniquesyou will want to use when you get to your perfect fishing spot.
  3. For both saltwater pier and surf fishing, check your local tide charts to see if the tide is coming in or out, this will affect the fishes’ feeding patterns.
  4. Make sure you have your fishing licenseand know your state fishing regulations.
  • Saltwater Pier & Surf Fishing (1)

    Saltwater Pier Fishing

    If you are trying to decide between saltwater pier and surf fishing as a beginning angler, try pier fishing first. Fishing from a pier is a great way to get started, as a limited amount of saltwater fishing tackle is required. It is also exciting and diverse because of the range in water depth covered by many of these structures and the range in species you may catch.

One of the most important pier fishing tips to remember is safety first since there are usually several anglers casting and reeling in fish within close range to each other. Make sure you are not casting overhead near another angler to ensure no one gets hurt.

Suggested Saltwater Fishing Tackle for Pier Fishing

  • 6 to 9-foot medium heavy action rod with corrosion resistant spinning reel
  • 10 to 15-pound test braid or monofilament fishing linewith 20 to 30-pound fluorocarbon leader line
  • 2/0 to 4/0 size circle hooks(if you choose larger baits, the larger hook size will work better)
  • Assorted pack of sinkers. You may want to buy split-shot and egg sinkers of varying weights, use the heavier sinkers for areas with stronger current
  • Lures such as jigs, soft plastic shrimp, spoons and topwater plugs or live bait such as shrimp
  • A popping cork or float to keep live baits off of the bottom

Saltwater Pier Fishing Spots

When looking for the best fishing spots along a pier, consider trying the areas below. You may need to try a bit of trial and error if you cannot see below the water if its high tide, or ask another angler who may be fishing there as well.

  • Saltwater Pier & Surf Fishing (2)


    Oysters, barnacles and small marine plants live on the pilings and rocks that can be found near fishing piers. All of these organisms provide food for larger game fish. Pilings and rocks also offer fish cover from the sun or protection from larger, predatory fish. Try live lining a live shrimp rigged on a 2/0 circle hook with a popping cork when fishing from a pier near pilings.

  • Saltwater Pier & Surf Fishing (3)

    Seawalls or Bulkheads

    Most piers are located near seawalls or bulkheads to help keep the ocean from eroding the shorelines, and for anglers these types of structures often mean good pier fishing because there are plenty of hiding places for bait and fish. When fishing seawalls or bulkheads, drop any of the above baits or lures straight down and jig them or bounce them near the base of the structure.

    (Video) Saltwater Pier Fishing!! (This is Why I Love Saltwater Fishing)

  • Saltwater Pier & Surf Fishing (4)

    Saltwater Surf Fishing

    Saltwater pier and surf fishing are very similar in terms of the species you may catch, but they can be different in terms of space, technique and tackle. Fishing from the beach means you have the ability to move along the shoreline by foot, and can even wade into the water in order to get to the areas where baitfish may be located and the larger fish are feeding. Saltwater species such as redfish, snook, striped bass, pompano, flounder and sea trout are a few examples of fish you may find.

TIP:Consider reviewing a topical map to familiarize yourself with what the ocean floor looks like beyond the beach, this will give you a general idea of how to find the best places to drop your line.

Suggested Saltwater Fishing Tackle for Surf Fishing

  • 7 to 12-foot medium to heavy action rod with a heavy-duty spinning reel that is corrosion resistant
  • 17 to 20-pound test line with 30 to 40-pound test leader line (can go up to 50-pound leader line if you have a need to increase the weight of the sinkers you are using due to current or wind)
  • Lures such as jigs, plugs, soft plastics and metal spoons or live bait such as shrimp or crabs
  • A variety of hooks ranging in size from 1/0 to 10/0, depending on species and size of bait used
  • 3 to 8-ounce sinkers (use the heavier sinkers when fishing areas with strong current or tidal movement)
  • Rod holder or sand spike that can hold your rod in place and prevents your reel from coming into contact with the sand

Saltwater Surf Fishing Areas

Once you have your saltwater fishing tackle, head to the beach and look for the below areas. If you are not able to locate them visually, consider looking over a topical map, asking a fellow angler or checking the local fishing reports.


Pay attention to where the waves break off of the shore or beach. The area where the waves break is generally where you will find a trough that runs parallel to the beach. It's near these troughs that you will find areas of fast-moving current where the baitfish and crustaceans will most often be found. You can often spot large schools of baitfish near the surface in these areas or see birds several birds flying overhead. Try using a fish finder rig in these areas for species such as flounder, sea trout, bluefish and pompano.

Jetties and Breakwaters

Look for jetties or rock formations that extend out into the water and influence the current. Jetties are good places to try surf fishing since the rocks situated below the water are usually home to the baitfish and crustaceans that larger fish like to feed on. Waves crash up against jetties and breakwaters, and create holes as the wave recedes and carries sand out with it. Since the hole is deeper than the ocean floor, it attracts small shellfish and baitfish looking for calmer water and a place to hide. These hiding spots create ambush spots for predatory game fish. Man-made structures like jetties and breakwaters also give shore anglers better access to deeper waters.

  • Saltwater Pier & Surf Fishing (5)


    Points are natural sand or land formations that protrude out into the ocean and create an area of current where game fish can corral baitfish. The current flowing past a point will create areas of shallow water that borders deep holes. At low tide, you can wade out onto the point and cast beyond the breakers. With the incoming tide, try fishing these holes and bars that may have been exposed during low tide. Be sure to exercise caution when fishing points since swiftly moving currents can push anglers from shallow water into deep water very quickly.

    (Video) Pier And Surf Fishing Gear: My Favorite Rods, Reels, & Braid

TIP:As a general rule, anglers who wade into the surf should always be aware of tidal conditions and take a fishing buddy along whenever possible for safety reasons.


Inlets are reliable places to find fish because there are two colliding bodies of moving water or current. Inlets are often marked by the presence of other notable fishing features such as jetties, bridges, sandbars, sloughs and deep holes. The combination of structure and convergent water creates an ideal scenario for surf fishing. Look for rips, bars or troughs where game fish will usually be waiting for a meal to drift by in the moving current. The fish tend to be stationary, so it's best to use baits with aCarolina rig, or a jig or plug that will move along with the current to provide a natural presentation to the fish.

Always looking for a new fishing challenge? Once you have mastered your saltwater pier and surf fishing skills, it might be a good time to hop aboard a small flats boat and try your luck atbackwater or flats fishing.

Baitfish Patches

Surf and shore fishing takes a good eye. If you can spot a school of baitfish, then you might be able to catch bigger fish that are following them. But hurry, game fish strike fast and leave. When you locate a school of baitfish, look for the openings or lighter colored circles in the schools of bait. Often times, if a predatory fish is in the midst of a school of baitfish, the bait will try to keep a safe distance on all sides of the larger fish to avoid being eaten. This is what creates the holes in the bait schools. If you cannot locate these holes, cast your bait or lure to the outside edges of the baitfish schools.


Baitfish and schools of larger fish can swim so close together they actually change the color of the water. Train your eyes to look for these moving patches of color, and you will be rewarded for your efforts. Cast ahead and let your bait float to the school.


Birds fly above slow-moving baitfish. Get close and try to figure out if the baitfish are dead or alive. If they’re thrashing around, you should fish shallow. If they’re wounded, fish deeper.

(Video) Fishing N.C. Pier Shore & Surf - Ocean Isle Beach - June 2022

Deep Shore Water

Currents can run along the shore and form pockets of deeper water. This deeper water usually appears darker than the surrounding water in the area. Bigger fish will move into these shallows and rest or wait for baitfish to pass by. You might get something bigger than you expected.


The calmer waters between the place where big waves crash and calm water starts are called breakers. The crashing waves create a sort of trench in the shore. Food settles in the trench, bait fish come for the food and game fish come for the baitfish. This provides an ideal location to find fish but anglers must understand that fish that come to feed in these areas will feed very briefly in one location and move on to continue searching for food.

Colliding Waves

Underwater currents can collide near points, inlets or other natural or man-made structure. Where these currents meet, food will collect and can be found throughout the water column in concentrated areas. The food will attract baitfish and then game fish. Don’t look for crashing waves. Look for something a little calmer.

Saltwater Weed Beds

Good anglers see different colors in the ocean, and they learn to spot weed beds and other creatures attached to them. Smaller fish feed on the weeds and attract the fish you’re after. You’ll want to fish around the edges for the best results.

Surf and Shore

Surf and coastal shore fishing can be done right from the edge of the ocean, from man-made structures like jetties and breakwaters or from a boat. Some surf anglers actually wade right into the waters to cast to fish that may be lurking under the waves.

Surf and coastal shore fishing is challenging. There’s very little structure to attract fish. So surf and shore fisherman must be able to read the waves, look for color changes in the water, monitor water temperature and understand migration patterns.

(Video) Eating Whatever I Catch! Saltwater Pier Fishing (Catch and Cook)

Saltwater and Tides

Tides raise and lower the water level approximately two times per day and affect where fish are located and how they feed. The timing of a high or low tide changes daily and is also different for each coastal area.

A shallow area that might hold fish and be a very good spot to fish during a high tide will become a bare mud bank during low tide conditions. A slough (a slight depression in the bottom) that might be perfect for bottom feeding fish during a low tide situation might not hold fish on a high tide.

Running tides (rising or falling) are best since they cause bait to move and promote active feeding among coastal fish. Changing tides, time of day and location are also important when you’re fishing in brackish water—coastal water that’s a mix of salt water and fresh water and contains a mix of saltwater and freshwater fish. Brackish water is found in most tidal creeks and rivers along all coasts and is highly affected by tidal movements.

In general, the best fishing is almost always on a rising or falling tide—not the dead low or dead high, also referred to as "slack tides" when there is little or no tidal current.

Rip Tides

Water that flows in and around points, sandbars and rocks tries to find the quickest way out. This escaping water forms a faster-moving river of water through the obstacles. Look for the change in speed and color as the faster moving water typically picks up and carries mud or sand out with it. These deeper “rivers” will attract predatory fish.

Floating Foam and Debris

Foam from crashing waves follows along with the currents. As it moves, it collects debris and small marine critters. Little fish are attracted to the critters and big fish are attracted to the little fish. Sometimes these floating lines of junk are big enough to provide shade for larger game fish. Fish them.

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(Video) Fishing The Pier When Something Crazy Happened! **Karen Alert**


Is 200 yards enough for surf fishing? ›

Surf Fishing Reel

Regardless of which style you choose, its important to select a high-capacity reel that can hold at least 200 to 300 yards of line. Always be sure to use a reel designed for saltwater use, as freshwater reels will corrode over time if used for surf fishing!

Is 150 yards enough for surf fishing? ›

Having only 150 yards of line will allow you to reach the outer sandbars, but it is not enough to turn a big drum, bluefish or snook. Therefore, make sure you have at least 100 yards of additional line left in the reel after the cast.

What pound test should I use for pier fishing? ›

Recommended Saltwater Pier Fishing Gear: For successful pier fishing, you will want to bring a 6 to 9-foot long medium or heavy-action spinning fishing rod. A 20-pound test line should do well for general use.

What's the best bait for pier fishing in saltwater? ›

Shrimp is a go to bait for saltwater anglers. This all-purpose bait works because shrimp are common in saltwater environments and fish are attracted to the scent and movement. Dead or alive shrimp can be used to catch fish onshore or offshore.

What pound test line should I use for surf fishing? ›

Usually, 20-30 pound test monofilament or braided line works best in nearly all surf fishing situations for smaller fish such as surfperch, bluefish or stripped bass. If there is any chance you might hook into a shark or tarpon from the beach, use a setup with 50-80 pound test line.

How many yards of line do you need for pier fishing? ›

The Amount of Fishing Line You're Using

When fishing on a pier, anglers don't have to worry about the casting distance, as the structures allow them to cast into deep waters with any decent cast. A line of 100 to 150 yards is enough for pier fishing. Waters that are not too deep may require a line of 150 to 200 yards.

How long should my surf fishing line be? ›

Surf fishing rods are almost twice as long as freshwater rods, attached with a reel that can hold hundreds of yards of thick fishing line. For beginners, we recommend a surf rod combo between 8ft to 10ft in length attached with a 6000 to 8000 series reel, spooled with 25lb to 50lb braided fishing line.

How far can a surf rod cast? ›

Although there are many variables - the length and power of the rod; the weight, density and shape of the lure; the diameter of the line - 85 or 90 yards is about tops for the average surf caster using a three-ounce lure such as a Hopkins and a 20-pound-test outfit.

What size hooks for surf fishing? ›

2/0 hooks are the best all around hook size for surf fishing. A 2/0 circle hook will catch smaller fish like whiting and pompano but are also big enough to catch bluefish, mackerel, fluke, flounder, redfish, snook and tarpon too.

Is 12lb test good for surf fishing? ›

8-15 lb mono or 20-30 lb braid. 8 lb test is the minimum pound test for surf fishing. Anything less would put your gear at high risk.

What is the best time to fish off a pier? ›

Generally speaking, the best time to fish from a pier is either early morning or sundown. This is when moving tides attract a lot of baitfish to the area, which in turn, brings out the big and hungry of the fish world, too.

Is pier fishing better at high or low tide? ›

High tide is definitely the best tide for pier fishing.

Conversely, low tide lowers the water level and makes it shallower and less comfortable for most species.

Does garlic attract saltwater fish? ›

Garlic: This is another one that has anecdotal evidence that it attracts fish or at the very least neutralizes odors that can repel fish. I guess it is worth a try if you happen to have some garlic around on your boat. It might be a good way to get the smell of sun screen or bug spray off of your hands.

What smell attracts fish? ›

The most effective scents found in fish attractants are garlic, natural fish oil, fish pheromones, anise oil, and amino acids. All of these scents make baits smell and taste like prey that fish would eat in nature.

What is the best bait for surf fishing? ›

If you're looking to catch any of these three species (corbina, spotfin croaker, and yellowfin croaker), sand crabs should be your number one option. Since these fish regularly feed on sand crabs along the shoreline, it's pretty much a no brainer. Sand crabs will be your best bait for surf fishing.

What color line is best for surf fishing? ›

The best color fishing line for surf fishing is clear. A close second best color is pink for surf fishing. Surf fishermen have their favorites that they swear by. They all catch plenty of fish.

Can you use a 7 foot rod for surf fishing? ›

In general, it's totally fine to surf fish with a 7ft rod. However, the use of a short rod requires a small reel and consequently a thin line. As a result, surf fishing with short rods can limit you in terms of what species to target, and may fall short if things get heavy.

What weight Oz for surf fishing? ›

The best size weight for surf fishing is between 1 ounce to 4 ounces. The weight size should be based on the current, fish you're catching, and how quickly it can drop to the bottom of the water. Heavy waves require higher weight, whereas still water and small fish need lighter weights.

Is 100 yards of fishing line enough? ›

The Amount of Line Needed When Inshore Fishing

With infrequent exceptions, most inshore fishing takes place in 100 feet or less of water. So, keeping only 100 yards of line on a reel gives you more than enough line to cast or fish the bottom while providing plenty of extra line to account for rigging or tangles.

What is the best fishing line for pier fishing? ›

Monofilament, or mono, is not only the best saltwater fishing line for most applications, it's also the most popular. Mono is thin, strong and subtle, water resistant and has good knot strength.

How do you catch big fish off a pier? ›

Pier Fishing: The EASIEST Way to Catch Big Fish from the Pier

How long should my surf fishing line be? ›

Surf fishing rods are almost twice as long as freshwater rods, attached with a reel that can hold hundreds of yards of thick fishing line. For beginners, we recommend a surf rod combo between 8ft to 10ft in length attached with a 6000 to 8000 series reel, spooled with 25lb to 50lb braided fishing line.

Is 125 yards of fishing line enough? ›

At a minimum, most anglers would be good using a reel capacity that can hold 100 – 150 yards of line.

Is 150 yards of braid enough? ›

It's rare that you'll need more than 100 yards but 150 will definitely keep you covered! You can do a monofilament backing if 150 yards of braided line is not enough to fill up the spool. There may be times that you hook into a bigger fish that's cruising the shallows. But there's no reason to get spooled.

Is a 4000 reel big enough for surf fishing? ›

For general purpose surf fishing I recommend a 4000 to 6000 series spinning reel paired with 15# to 25# braided line. A setup in this range will land 90% of the common beach dwelling species you are likely to encounter.

What color line is best for surf fishing? ›

The best color fishing line for surf fishing is clear. A close second best color is pink for surf fishing. Surf fishermen have their favorites that they swear by. They all catch plenty of fish.

What's the best bait for surf fishing? ›

And chunks of fresh cut fish such as mullet, menhaden, croaker, etc. work well for some species like “bull” redfish, drum, bluefish and even ground mullet (but not so much for pompano and whiting). As always fresher baits are often the best bait for surf fishing, even live if you can get it.

What action is best for surf fishing? ›

Fast action rods are the best rods for surf fishing because they offer the best sensitivity, the best hooksets, and most importantly, the best control when fighting against fish.

What happens if you put too heavy line on a reel? ›

Adding a bigger line than is recommended on the reel will reduce the line capacity on the spool. Additionally, line that is too heavy for the rod will make it difficult to cast small lures or baits. Line size should be within the range listed on the rod and reel.

What is a 4000 reel good for? ›

4000 and 5000. Medium size reels are very popular as they provide access to various fishing applications. As well as covering everything inshore, you also have good surf access, rock access, as well as access to lighter pier fishing. They're great in saltwater and freshwater, land-based, or afloat.

What size rod goes with a 4000 reel? ›

Choosing a fishing rod to go with this size reel: A 4000 or 40 reel is where you start to gain a little size so this sized reel will generally suit medium action classes of rods in the 6ft-7ft (barra/snapper style rod) with a line class of around 4Kg-10Kg or in an 8ft-10ft (light surf) rod with a light line class ...

What size braid is best for spinning reel? ›

You should use 8-10 lb. monofilament as backing for your spinning reel. Any heavier than that and you start running into problems like your braid not laying flat along the backing or your braid getting caught in the mono to braid knot.

How much line do I need for a 2500 reel? ›

Here is a spinning reel size chart
Spinning Reel SizesRecommended Line (Mono)Recommended Line (Braid)
20004-6lb (2-3kg)5-10lb (2-5kg)
25005-8lb (2-4kg)5-12lb (2-6kg)
30006-10lb (2.5-5kg)6-15lb (2.5-7kg)
35006-10lb (2.5-5kg)6-15lb (2.5-7kg)
15 more rows

How do I know when my spinning reel is full? ›

To begin with it's important to fill your reels full. Casting reels should be between an eighth of an inch from the top and all the way to the top. If you get too much line on them, you'll get a weird sound when you cast. Spinning reels should be all the way full, right to the top.

Is an 8000 reel too big for surf fishing? ›

With that in mind, and based on my own experience and what I see others using, I can comfortably say that 5000-6000 is the optimal range for surf fishing reels. The size 5000-6000 is large enough to hold 300 yards of most lines used for shore fishing.

Can I use a 3000 reel for surf fishing? ›

A 3000 is an excellent surf reel for smaller to medium fish. They can be too light should conditions require heavy lead. The reels I prefer to use most in the surf are the 3000 and the 4000.

What is a 2500 reel good for? ›

Reel size 2500 is also on the smaller end, and like the size 1000, it is best suited for light lure fishing tactics like drop shotting, spinning, or jagging. An increased number means that the spool and line capacity are slightly larger than the size 1000 spinning reel.


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