The “Take Kids Fishing” Online Course

How To Fish From Piers, Docks, & Seawalls With Kids

seawall fishing snook

Fishing from piers, docks, and seawalls can be a very fun and safe activity for the entire family when done properly.

On the fun side, it’s of course extremely important to know what sort of rig with what sort of bait to use given the area so that you all will be catching fish as quickly and consistently as possible.

And since the focus in on helping kids catch fish with little effort, this post is specific to fishing with cut bait (chunks of shrimp, squid, baitfish, etc).

Here are the 4 factors that should determine which sort of tackle you’ll need and what type of line and leader assembly you should use:

  • Target Fish Type – type of fish you’ll be targeting
  • Water Depth – how deep the water is
  • Structure – underwater structure in the area you’ll be fishing (rocks, seagrass, sand, oysters, coral, etc.)
  • Current – water flow through or around the pier/dock you’re fishing from

And on the safety side, it’s important to know what type of leader assemblies are safest to use for kids as well as how to use it all correctly.

So this post will be focused on helping you effectively match your fishing methods based on the important factors mentioned above for you to maximize your results in creating special memories that the kids and you will cherish for a lifetime.

How To Fish From Piers, Docks, & Seawalls

The most important factors in determining what tackle and leader assembly you’ll need when fishing from piers and docks are listed below in sequential order for making your final decision:

  1. Target Fish Type
  2. Water Depth
  3. Structure
  4. Current

And although this may seem to be a lot of factors, there’s an easy way to break them down that allows for making the decision quick and easy.

But before the core breakdown, it’s important to understand how to simplify each of the categories into two decision-making segments.

1) Target Fish “Type”

Notice that I used the “Target Fish Type” and not “Target Fish Species“…

The reason I recommend only worrying about the “Type” of fish is because when fishing with kids, our core goal is to have them have as much action as possible.

And to help keep the decision making simple, it’s best to group all fish species into just 2 Types of fish because it’ll immediately help you know which water column to target:

  1. Ambush Feeder – feed near bottom and/or structure
  2. Roamer – feed in open water as well as around structure at various water depths

When in doubt on which one to target, the majority of fish that hang around piers and docks are structure oriented and feed near the bottom, so bottom fishing will most often result in the most fish catching fun.

If you’re seeing other people catching fish nearby and you’re not sure which category they fit in… this simple “tail test” will be your guide:

How To Distinguish An “Ambush Feeder”

Ambush Feeders have a rounded or flat tails designed for propelling themselves from a stationary hiding place (most often near structure) towards their prey quickly as possible with just a few kicks…

For an example of a rounded tails, you’ll see one below in the pic of the ultimate of all ambush species… flounder, which are built to sit on the bottom in hiding to wait for a meal to get too close before making an ambush attack on their prey.

flounder tail

Strong Angler CJ Shepherd with a nice flounder!

But not all ambush feeders have rounded tails… some have more of a “V”, but they still at least have a good amount of surface area as shown in this picture of a sheepshead:

sheepshead tail

Strong Angler Drew Ouzts with a nice sheepshead catch

How To Distinguish A “Roamer”

Roamers have a very defined split tail that is thin like a road racing bike tire making these fish built for swimming long distances and for going very fast.

These fish rely on their speed to catch their prey and can be found away from structure in almost all water columns.

Best of all, they often feed in schools so finding one means that there are likely more in the area so if you catch one, you’ll likely catch more.

To see an example of a Roamer’s tail, here’s one that is a common catch from a pier:

Spanish mackerel tail

All smiles here with this Spanish Mackerel catch!

2) Water Depth

Water depth is the next factor to consider because it’ll determine how much weigh you need to keep your bait in the strike zone for as long as possible assuming you focus on bottom fishing.

When fishing the bottom, a basic guide could be to use roughly 1/8th oz of weight for ever 2.5 feet of depth.

  • 2.5 ft = 1/8th oz
  • 5.0 ft = 1/4th oz
  • 7.5 ft = 3/8th oz
  • 10.0 ft = 1/2 oz

Note: If heavy current, more weight will be needed to compensate for the water drag on the line.

3) Structure

When considering which type of rig you’ll use, it’s very important to consider the type of underwater structure that’s in the area you’re fishing.

This includes both structure on the bottom as well as any nearby pilings.

For bottom fishing, knowing what type of bottom structure (rocks, oysters, seagrass, etc.) is on the bottom is incredibly important for you to select the proper type of weight so that you don’t get snagged and have to lose tackle and re-rig.

When in doubt, it’s best to start with a dropper rig so that you can cover the bottom while having the lowest probability of getting stuck.

4) Current

The final of the 4 most important factors to consider is current, which is the movement of water in the area that you’ll be fishing.

The cause of current is mostly driven by tidal changes, but wind and barometric pressure can effect currents too.

But overall, current is important for the following 2 reasons:

1) Water Drag

The more current in an area, the more water drag you’ll have on your line so the more weight you’ll need to get your bait down to your target depth.

And if you’re fishing the mid depth level, you’ll most likely need to walk the bait down the pier, dock, or seawall at the same speed as the current to maximize your results.

So no matter what type of fish you’re targeting, you’ll need to account for the current speed.

2) Eddies

And an Eddy is where the water swirls around after being obstructed by some sort of obstacle (structure).

Just like us, fish like to get as much as they possible can with exerting as little effort as possible, so they often use eddies to keep out of the heaviest current while still being able to see a potential meal passing by in the nearby current.

So it’s important to know that many of the ambush species hold right on the edge of eddies so that they can get their easy meals provided to them while not having to exert much energy.

Note: Current speeds and direction will fluctuate throughout the day for areas with moving water… and some areas in back bays or protected coves have very little or even no current at all.

Putting It All Together

Now that we’ve covered the core factors and why they are important, here are some top level recommendations that you can use to get started.

And to make this easiest, we’ll break them down between targeting the “Ambush Feeders” and the “Roamers”.

Note: When in doubt, focus on the “Ambush Feeders” because most fish feed near structure or along the bottom which is where Ambush Feeders are most often found.

Recommendations for Targeting “Ambush Feeders”

For targeting Ambush Feeders, it’s best to focus on the bottom feeders so the most important factor to consider is how much bottom structure there is in the area you’ll be fishing.

Heavy Bottom Structure

A Dropper Rig with a circle hook is best for bottom fishing around heavy structure if the water is 5 ft deep or more, and a bobber can be used to float your bait right above the bottom if under 5 ft of water.

Heavy Structure Tips (5 ft or more):

  • Keep the casts short at first, and expand out if you’re not finding fish
  • Keep your line fairly tight to minimize any loose line in the water wrapping around structure
  • If heavy current, then focus on eddies behind large structures

Heavy Structure Tips (less than 5 ft option):

  • Secure your bobber (popping cork preferably) above the hook with enough line in between to two to keep the bait stays above the bottom/structure
  • Keep an eye on the bobber for signs of a strike, and pop it on occasion to attract attention to your bait
    • Strong current: focus on eddies behind large structures, and allow your bait to drift over underwater structure on the bottom if applicable
    • Weak current: use a popping cork to slowly work your bait over underwater structure on the bottom
Medium Bottom Structure

A Dropper Rig with a circle hook is best for bottom fishing around medium structure

Medium Structure Tips (more than 5 ft deep):

  • Prospecting casts (long casts that cover longer strips of bottom) are typically ok, but should be done cautiously
  • Keep your line fairly tight to minimize any loose line in the water wrapping around structure
  • If heavy current, then focus on eddies behind large structures and let the current drag your bait down-current (cautiously feeling bottom for snags)

Medium Structure Tips (less than 5 ft deep option):

  • Secure your bobber (popping cork preferably) above the hook with enough line in between to two to keep the bait stays above the bottom/structure
  • Keep an eye on the bobber for signs of a strike, and pop it on occasion to attract attention to your bait
    • Strong current: focus on eddies behind large structures, and allow your bait to drift over underwater structure on the bottom if applicable
    • Weak current: use a popping cork to slowly work your bait over underwater structure on the bottom
Minimal Bottom Structure

A Dropper Rig, Barrel Rig, or Pinch Weight Rig with a circle hook can be used for bottom fishing around medium structure

Minimal Structure Tips:

  • Prospecting casts (long casts that cover longer strips of bottom) are great so you can cover more ground in search of patches of structure for fish
  • Make sure to fish the structure of the pier, dock, or seawall that you’re on because that may be were the majority of the fish in the area are holding to
  • If heavy current, then focus on eddies behind pier/dock pilings or sharp turns in the seawall and let the current drag your bait down-current (feeling bottom for snags)

Recommendations for Targeting “Roamers”

For targeting Roamers, it’s best to focus on Current because it typically funnels baitfish into certain areas which will then be the prime spots to find the Roamers given that their always moving around looking for the next meal.

Strong Current

A pinch weight about 12 inches above a circle hook can be a great rig to use. If the child is younger, then a bobber could be smart to use so that you both can see exactly where the bait is and when a strike occurs.

Strong Current Tips:

  • Cast up-current, and walk it back as far as you can at the same speed as the current moves your bait.
  • Keep your line fairly loose, but watch it for any twitches/movements that signify a bite
  • Once it swings all the way back, it’s typically best to retrieve that bait and start over with an up-current cast

Weak Current

To target Roamer species in weak current, you’re best option is probably to use a popping cork rig with your bait hanging ~24 inches below it so that you can cover water while also calling fish over to your bait.

But please know that most Roamer fish prefer areas with current, so targeting structure as if you’re going after Ambush Species would most likely generate the best results.

Weak Current Tips:

  • Cast up-current (if applicable), and allow bait to slowly drift back with current.
  • If bait pods are in the area (look like small patches of rain drops on the surface), then keep your bait near them
  • If minimal current and no visible bait pods, then use a popping cork and slowly pop it along the surface close to any type of structure that is in the area

Recommendation Note: These of course aren’t set in stone for every location, so you should continually test out slight alterations over time.

Conclusion

Fishing from piers, docks, and seawalls can be a fantastic way to thoroughly entertain kids in a way that helps them build a love and respect for the outdoors while teaching them practical lessons like knot tying, casting, etc. that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

Best of all, it can be fantastic bonding time for families to have fun together making memories that will be cherished forever.

And although there are multiple factors to consider, it all can be grouped into manageable fragments that can help you make the proper decisions on which leader assembly you use.

Which Leader Assembly Can Be Used In All Conditions?

For those who don’t want to bother with getting various types of weights, hooks, and line… the one leader assembly that can be effectively used in almost all scenarios is the Dropper Rig.

So if you’d rather start with minimal tackle, the dropper rig with some frozen shrimp would be a great choice.

Click here to see the ideal Dropper Rig

Click here to see how to hook chunks of shrimp

 

P.S. – Have you seen the online fishing courses for adults yet? Click here to see all of the current courses being offered along with our exclusive fishing club for inshore fishermen.

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of