How to catch bluefish from the pier or shore (Ultimate guide)

Bluefish are a great species to target. They a super fast, have razor-sharp teeth, and give an epic fight.

Bluefish are known all over the world by different names. In the US they are called Bluefish, or Snapper, in Australia, they are known as Tailors and in South Africa, they are known as Shad or Elf. 

Bluefish can be caught in the surf, bay, or from a pier.

You can target Bluefish with basically any bait but Rapalas and Soft baits seem to work the best. You will find Bluefish in areas with current or water that has a decent amount of movement.

When targeting these fish from the surf you want to use a rod with a medium tip and around 10-12ft for a good cast. Using a 20-30lb braid is also suggested. For your leader, we suggest you use a steel trace line or a thicker Fluorocarbon line. Use bait such as mullet or smaller baitfish to catch these fish off the pier. Lures will also work here. From the pier use a shorter rod with a medium to heavy action. 

Check out our article comparing the top surf reels for multiple different applications!

When to catch bluefish from the pier or surf

Bluefish are mostly nocturnal feeders but can be caught generally any time of the day. Although you can catch them anytime, the best time to fish for them would be in low-light conditions or at night time altogether. Bluefish go on the bite aggressively as the sun rises and goes down so this would be a great time to get out there and target them.

You should fish for Bluefish in the surf when you can find the right conditions for them. Bluefish travel in large schools and will stick along sand banks and holes where they can best ambush their prey. 

You can also catch bluefish in the surf just off rock ledges and other steep drop offs so keep an eye out for these. When it comes to catching bluefish from the pier this is a great opportunity for you to catch some epic Blues.

From the pier, you are typically casting into deeper water. It’s best to fish from the pier if you are unable to cast out at the surf or if conditions make fishing elsewhere difficult. When the Bluefish are on the bite, piers get quite crowded so try to get there early. 

Where to catch bluefish from the pier or surf

Knowing where to catch the fish is always important. Bluefish aren’t too difficult to catch. 

Bluefish from the surf

If you are fishing in the surf you want to look for currents, sand bars, and channels in bays and shallow water. 

Bluefish follow warmer currents and as they do this they move into shallower areas to feed. Look for a strong current following a channel close to the shore and running out to sea. Whether the channel is running vertically or at an angle, you should find some Blues in it. 

Juvenile Bluefish also come into shallower water near a coral shelf to escape bigger fish. Here they feed on bait fish such as mullet. If you can find the corner of a bay with a coral shelf and drop off you are bound to come right. 

Bluefish from the Pier

From the Pier, you have the added benefit of throwing into deeper water already. If the pier you are fishing is built up with rocks around it they generally taper off giving bait fish cover. The Bluefish will be near the edges of where the taper ends to feed on easy prey. 

Keep an eye out for birds as well. If birds are swarming and even better, diving, there must be a ball of baitfish out there. If you can through near or into the commotion you will have an epic time.

Best tackle to catch bluefish from a pier or surf

When it comes to choosing tackle for Bluefish you want something durable and reliable. Bluefish and very fast and powerful and they take your bait or lure like it’s been hit by a bus. So it never hurts to make sure we are prepared with the best tackle to help us land a monster.

Rod for bluefish

If you plan on fishing in the surf for Bluefish there are several different setups you can choose from. You are going to want a rod that has a sufficient length to it. We would suggest a rod with medium to heavy action between 10-12ft for casting baits. 

Some anglers use specifically designed spinning rods for casting lures. These rods vary from 10-14ft in length and can cast up to 4oz. Regardless of what you go for length-wise, a spinning rod is what you need. 

Here are two great options. The Penn Battalion Spinning Rod 11.4ft is an epic rod for throwing drop shot lures or Rapala’s off the surf. You can through a 3-4oz weight with this rod. It is light and has a brilliant casting distance. 

If you are looking for a heavy option then the Assassin Edge Surf 13ft is a great choice for you. This rod is a three-piece, light in weight but can bring in some monster fish! With this rod you can through a larger bait and sinkers between 4-6oz. 

If you are looking for rods perfect for the pier the Penn Battalion range also has an 8,9 and 10ft option. Another great option would be the Assassin Amia 9ft ( this rod also comes in an 8ft-13ft ). The Amia is incredibly durable and portable. This 4 piece rod is light, strong, and very comfortable to fish with. It has a 3-4oz cast weight and a medium to heavy tip.

Reel for bluefish

Bluefish a notorious for the way they fight. That’s why we love them. The sound of a fish running and pulling a line is like no other. That’s why having a good reel in your corner is always important. Here are two great choices that could work from the pier and in the surf.

The Penn Slammer 8000 is a great reel for fishing in the surf. It has a great spool capacity and retrieve ratio. The reel also has a rubber lining on the inside of the reel between its seams to stop water from getting into the reel. This includes the drag system as well. The drag system is smooth and doesn’t start to stick after time.

This makes the Penn Slammer basically waterproof improving its lifetime as a saltwater reel. The slammer is best paired with braid. For Bluefish 20-30lb braid should be perfect. There are options for smaller spool sizes if you prefer.

If you are looking for something a little cheaper the Shimano Sedona is a great little reel. The design of this reel is very simple. The Sedona 8000 has a great line capacity, a smooth drag system, and a great retrieve ratio. 

Click here to see our top picks for surf reels this year.

Best rigs to catch bluefish from pier or surf

Choosing what rig to use comes down to how well you know the area you are fishing. When it comes to fishing for Bluefish anglers commonly go to drop shot. It’s easy, and effective and you don’t smell too fishy afterward. But using baits can be just as productive. Here are some rigs that work great off the pier and in the surf.

Carolina rig

The Carolina Rig is a very versatile rig that anglers use to target Bluefish and other species. This rig is typically used for bottom fishing. Very important, you want to have a steel trace on your leader. You don’t want to be bitten off as the blue takes.

The Carolina is made of your mainline with a bullet sinker and a bead thread on with a basic barrel swivel tied to the end. You connect your steel wire line to the barrel swivel and your hook to the end of the steel wire. We would suggest a 3/0-5/0 circle hook for the best results.

Alternatively, you could add a soft bait lure with a bass hook to the steel trace. This has been known to be successful from time to time as well.

Fish Finder Float Rig

The Fish Finder float rig is also a great choice. This rig uses a sinker on a slider connected to the main line with a float on the leader. This lifts the bait off the ocean floor drawing the fish up and ensuring you don’t get stuck on surrounding weeds or rocks. 

Using a size five slider with a snap swivel and roughly a 3-4oz pyramid sinker thread onto the mainline with a bead between a barrel swivel tied to the end of the main line. From the swivel, you want to tie an 18” Steel leader with a 2” cylinder foam float thread onto it. 

On the end, we suggest you use a 3/0-5/0 circle hook tied on well or fastened with a steel crimp.

Dropshot Rig

When it comes to the drop shot rig we have three choices. Bluefish go for topwater plugs and Rapala and jigheads for bottom swimming soft baits. It all comes down to what works on the day so have more than one lure ready.

The basic dropshot lure is a Rapala or steel spoon fitted with treble hooks tied to a 19” Steel Leader or a 30-40lb Fluorocarbon leader with a snap swivel at the end. The leader is tied to the mainline or a swivel and then the mainline.

Your biggest concern when using fluoro should be the chance of the blue swallowing the lure and biting you off. You could also throw soft bait lures but they will without a doubt come back broken and shredded. 

Best baits to catch bluefish from pier or surf

Bluefish are vicious when they feed. They hit their prey hard and swim on. So when they hit your bait you want it set in a way that will hook them indefinitely. Prepare smaller baits that mimic the prey of the Bluefish. 

One great bait we suggest is using live mullet. You can go to a nearby river mouth and throw a net for them. Thread the mullet onto your circle hook just underneath its dorsal fin or through its nostrils to ensure it can still swim well. 

Another option is using a slice of mullet or other bait fish. Even juvenile Bluefish could work. You want this bait to float so using the Floating Fish Finder rig above would be perfect. Thread a slice onto your hook and over the notch at the top to keep the bait in place.  

Best lures to catch bluefish from pier or surf

Many anglers would tell you that Bluefish are not fussy eaters. If you throw a lure out there and it catches their eye they will hit it. But here’s the clue, they need to notice it. The best lures you can use for Bluefish are those that catch their attention.

One great lure is using a White Bucktail Jighead. This lure is white and is best used when your reel in and let it sink as you retrieve. With its bright color and the action, it produces you should catch the attention of the blues.

Spoons are well known for being great lures to catch Bluefish. As they swim and move side to side they shimmer and reflect light. A great choice would be a kastmaster spoon. It’s small and gives great movement as well as it doesn’t corrode as fast as other spoons.

Plugs and Rapalas do the job as well. The Rapala X-Rap is a great choice. With two sets of treble hooks, and a lip forcing it to swim at mid-depth, this lure mimics a mullet perfectly.

How to catch bluefish from shore or pier summary

Bluefish are all-round great fish to target. They fight hard, are great for eating, and can be caught in the surf or from a pier. Using either the Carolina, Fish Finder, or dropshot method you are sure to come right! Remember, bluefish have sharp teeth so handle them with care and come prepared. 

Need rig ideas? Click here for 12 effective surf rigs and all the info on how to make and use them.