What do I need for saltwater pier fishing? 15-item Ultimate Checklist

two anglers wondering what do I need for saltwater pier fishing
Fishing in the height of summer from a rock pier

Pier fishing is a fantastic pastime. And if you have the right gear and set up with you it can make for an awesome day.

I tend to have my pier fishing gear all packed in a bag and boxes ready to go so that I don’t waste time packing on the day. Every minute on the water can count when trying to land more fish.

Here is our 14-item ultimate checklist of essential and nice-to-have items, to help you make sure you know what you need for saltwater pier fishing.

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What do I need for saltwater pier fishing? The 15-item Ultimate Checklist

Essential and ‘Nice to have’ Saltwater Pier Fishing Items

Here we list 14 items categorized into two buckets…

  • Items 1-12 we classify as ‘essential’. We believe they are essential because your fishing session just isn’t going to be as seamless without these and leaving them at home may ruin your trip.
  • Items 12-15 are ‘Nice-to-haves’. These are things we think make saltwater pier fishing all that bit better, especially if you’re sitting on the pier for a good few hours – there are just a few things that we like to take pier fishing that make the session that little bit more comfortable.
  1. Fishing Rod and Reel: Choose a fishing rod and reel combo suitable for saltwater fishing. Opt for a medium to heavy-action rod that can handle the size of fish you’re targeting, along with a reel that has good line capacity and is designed for saltwater use. I like 7-9ft rods around the medium to medium-heavy mark – most of my pier rods are this power rating. This is a great rod and reel combo for pier fishing.
  2. Fishing Line: Select a fishing line appropriate for saltwater fishing, such as monofilament or braided line, as discussed in this article. I like to take different types of leader, and mainline to the pier. If the fish are getting spooked by hi-vis lie, I’ll change it or the leader to try to improve bites. Choose a line strength that matches the target species and the conditions you’ll encounter on the pier. This extra tough line is awesome.
  3. Terminal Tackle: This includes a variety of hooks, sinkers, swivels, and leaders. I carry a handy little box with me that has range of hook sizes to match the bait I’ll be using and the size of fish I hope to catch. Also, I have a bunch of different sizes and shapes of sinkers to adjust for changing currents and depths, as well as split shot weights for more freelining style fishing. Swivels help prevent line twists, and leaders provide added strength and stealthiness. I purchased something similar to this kit when I started.
  4. Bait and Lures: I’ll bring a selection of bait options based on the target species and local bait species. What is in the water is typically best I find. This can include live bait such as shrimp, squid, or minnows, as well as artificial lures like jigs, spoons, or soft plastics. Consider both natural and artificial options to adapt to the conditions and fish preferences. If I’m not getting bites on one colour of lure, I’ll keep switching until I get bites. I quite like having lures similar to these in different sizes.
  5. Tackle Box: As mentioned, I carry a tackle box and bag to store and organize my fishing tackle, including hooks, sinkers, swivels, lures, extra line, and other accessories. It helps keep your gear organized and easily accessible during your fishing trip. I have my eye on upgrading to this box soon.
  6. Fishing License: ALWAYS ensure that you have a valid fishing license or permit as required by your local regulations. I believ it is so important to abide by the fishing regulations to enjoy a legal and sustainable fishing experience – the proceeds often go into conserving the very waters and species your fishing so pay it forward and get a license.
  7. Sun Protection: Don’t forget to protect yourself from the sun while fishing on the pier. I’ve avoided sun birn on most of my trips, but it can sneak up on you. I typically go for a combo of sunscreen, a hat, and polarized sunglasses to shield my skin and eyes from sun rays and glare. Don’t be stupid… get some!
  8. First Aid Kit: Keep a basic first aid kit handy in case of any minor injuries or accidents that may occur during your fishing excursion. This one is super cheap and compact.
  9. Pliers and Cutters: I carry a small pair of needle-nosed fishing pliers or you can get a fishing-specific multitool for removing hooks, cutting line, and handling fish. I find this so useful, especially for deeper hook sets. It’s important to have the right tools to safely handle fish and manage your tackle. This is a good value deal because you get piers and scissors.
  10. Cooler or Livewell: If you plan to keep your catch, bring a cooler or a livewell to keep the fish fresh until you’re ready to clean and cook them. I just bring a cool box with half a bag of ice in there and it stays cool for me all day. Also, if you’re keeping fish, ensure you follow local regulations regarding size limits and bag limits. This is an interesting livewell bucket that’s compact – again, something I’ll be looking at in the coming months!
  11. Snacks and Water: I never forget these! Stay hydrated and energized during your fishing trip by bringing plenty of water and some snacks. When I’m out in the elements, I get hungry and I get thirsty… you will too.
  12. A net: this is crucial and the type of net you choose will depend on the height of the pier you’re fishing. A standard pole net might not reach as far as the height of the pier – a drop net would be much better here. Most of the piers around me are pretty close to the water, so I can use a pole net to land fish.
  13. A Chair: it’s annoying when you forget this. Because standing and sitting on hard concrete for 4+ hrs isn’t great. I bring a comfy camp chair and it makes such a difference to how long you last on your session out there. This fishing chair has it all – rod holder and all!
  14. A book, music, a mate or some entertainment for the lulls: sometimes when I’m waiting for bites I’m just… waiting. So I like to bring a friend to chew their ear off, or a book or music when the fish don’t seem so active. If you’re waiting for the tides to change, a little light entertainment helps time go fast.
  15. A fishing cart: Make things easy on yourself and bring a fishing cart if you can. This will make carrying items 1-14 so much easier and way less of a hassle. This means you’re more likely to bring the items with you, spend more time fishing, and land more fish!
Looking at fish underwater thinking what do I need for saltwater pier fishing
A bunch of fish hanging out under a local pier near me!

What kind of tackle do you use for pier fishing?

Let’s zoom in a little deeper on the actual tackle I take saltwater pier fishing.

For pier fishing, it’s important to have a selection of tackle that suits the conditions, target species, and your personal preferences. Here are some common types of tackle I use for pier fishing:

  1. Hooks: As mentioned, I carry a variety of hooks in different sizes to match the bait you’ll be using and the size of fish you expect to catch. For pier fishing, circle hooks, J-hooks, or octopus hooks are popular choices. Remember to consider the regulations regarding hook sizes and styles in your area.
  2. Sinkers: I have an assortment of sinkers or weights in different sizes and shapes. Depending on the pier’s current and water conditions, you may need different weights to keep your bait or lure at the desired depth. Split shot sinkers, pyramid sinkers, or bank sinkers are commonly used for pier fishing.
  3. Swivels: Swivels help prevent line twist when using certain rigs or when fish are prone to spinning during fights. Barrel swivels or ball-bearing swivels I commonly use for pier fishing.
  4. Leaders: I tend to carry leaders of different lengths and strengths to provide added strength, abrasion resistance, and stealthiness. I also take very transparent fluorocarbon or monofilament leaders when pier fishing because some fish get esily spooked by line and fluro is almost invisible to fish. The length of the leader depends on the fishing conditions and the target species.
  5. Lures: I bring a selection of artificial lures suitable for the species I want to land. This might mean I bring jigs, spoons, soft plastics, or plugs. Choose lures that mimic the local baitfish or the preferred prey of the target species. I take different sizes and colours with me to switch out, as mentioned before.
  6. Bait Rigs: Depending on the fish I’m after, the conditions on the day, the tide, and the pier structure itself I’ll change the type of bait rig I’ll use. If there is lots of structure, then I’ll opt for single hook, simple rigs like the paternoster to avoid snags. Or if it’s fairly clear of structure other than the pylons, and I’m targeting bottom-dwelling species, a simple two-hook bottom rig or a fish-finder rig can be effective. If you’re targeting pelagic species, you might use a high-low rig or a popping cork rig to target mid-water bites.
  7. Bobbers or Floats: I don’t often use these but again it always depends on you’re preferred style. Consider having bobbers or floats in your tackle box, especially if you’re targeting fish that feed near the surface or in shallow water. Adjustable bobbers or slip floats can help suspend your bait at a specific depth.
  8. Gaff or Landing Net: If you’re targeting larger fish that might be difficult to lift or land by hand, having a gaff or a landing net can be helpful. These tools assist in safely and effectively bringing the fish onto the pier.

Remember to adjust your tackle based on the specific conditions and target species you’ll encounter at the pier.

I find asking local anglers or tackle shops in the area can provide valuable insights into the most effective tackle choices for the pier you’ll be fishing from.

How do you rig a fishing line for pier fishing?

Rigging your fishing line for pier fishing involves setting up your terminal tackle, such as hooks, weights, and swivels, to effectively present your bait or lure.

I change my tactics often base don the specific type of fish I want to catch.

But here’s a foundational step-by-step guide I put together on how to rig a fishing line for pier fishing:

  1. Choose your fishing rod and reel: Select a rod and reel combo suitable for pier fishing. Consider the target species, casting distance, and the strength needed to handle potential fights.
  2. Select your mainline: Choose a fishing line suitable for pier fishing, such as monofilament or braided line, based on the factors we discussed earlier.
  3. Attach the mainline to the reel: Spool your mainline onto the reel following the manufacturer’s instructions. Ensure it is properly secured and wound evenly onto the reel.
  4. Tie on a swivel: Attach a swivel to the end of your mainline using a reliable knot, such as a clinch knot or improved clinch knot. The swivel serves as a connection point for the leader, preventing line twists.
  5. Attach a leader: Depending on your target species and fishing conditions, attach a leader to the other end of the swivel. Use a suitable knot, like a barrel swivel or uni-to-uni knot, to connect the mainline and the leader. The leader can be made of fluorocarbon or monofilament and should be of appropriate length and pound test as discussed earlier.
  6. Add a weight (sinker): Slide an appropriate weight onto the leader above a swivel or tie it directly to the leader using a weight-specific knot like a clinch knot or egg loop knot. The weight should be selected based on the conditions, depth you’re fishing, and the amount of weight needed to keep your bait or lure in position.
  7. Attach a hook or lure: Tie your hook or attach your lure to the end of the leader using an appropriate knot, such as a clinch knot or an improved clinch knot. The size and type of hook or lure should match the bait you’re using and the fish you’re targeting.
  8. Bait your hook: If you’re using live or natural bait, carefully place it onto the hook in a way that ensures it stays securely and naturally. If you’re using artificial lures, make sure they are properly rigged according to their design.
  9. Check your rig: Once your line is rigged, double-check all the connections, knots, and the general integrity of the setup. Make sure everything is secure and well-tied to avoid any potential failures or lost fish.

Remember, specific rigging techniques can vary depending on the fishing style, target species, and local preferences. It’s always a good idea to consult with local anglers or experts who are familiar with the pier you’re fishing from. They can provide valuable insights and tips for rigging your line effectively in that particular environment.

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