One benefits of saltwater pier fishing, off of Sharkys on the Pier, is the variety of the fish you can catch and whether to go for game fish or bottom feeders. In Venice, Florida, game fish include barracuda, bonito, mackerel, perch, and black sea bass, along with tarpon, snook, weakfish, bluefish and redfish. Bottom dwellers include our grouper, sail cat, southern flounder, whiting, sheepshead, black drum and croaker. On the predator end of the scale, we have another potential catch; what I deem as Sharkys Sharks, which include but are not limited to a wide variety of toothy critters: bulls, hammers, shovel nose, sand, lemon, dusky and blacktip sharks, to mention a few.
Choosing where to fish on the pier is important. Simply choosing the end or the middle of the pier is not the most productive approach. If there is a bait shop on the pier, stop and ask what the surf conditions are like and what is biting. Another way to assess current conditions is to see where other people are having success and ask them whats biting? You will generally find a friendly answer to your question along with a fish tale or two from our area locals, who would be more than glad to answer your question.
Look for troughs and sand bars and fish in between them. A still current or low tide usually means the only fish biting will be scavenger fish such as sheepshead, catfish, whiting and ladyfish. An easy way to check the tides if you didnt look them up online before the outing, is by asking or just by looking down at the water surface below. Do you see barnacles out of the water on the pilings? If so, you know it is not high tide but somewhere in-between. Is the water or current slack (not moving), or is it moving to the north or south? Generally speaking, when the tide is going out (low tide), the water movement is to the north, from the pier; as it is the opposite for high tide. These simple clues will make your experience here, while fishing the pier, on Venice beach, Florida, an enjoyable time for all and hopefully catch you all some fish.
Piers are a structure that uses stilts or pillars to support a large platform. These stilts, or “pilings,” serve several purposes in pier fishing. Mainly, they break up or alter the current, creating areas of calm or swirling water. The current will carry food to scavenger and baitfish alike waiting in the calm spots. Potential food for small fish will attach themselves to the concrete pilings. Because the pilings provide an opportunity for foraging, some species will stay close to the pier, while predators will move in and out with the tide and current. This makes a great opportunity for young children to fish straight down, under the pier and for the novice fisherman in catching fish, also. Using small gold hooks jigged up and down under the pier can produce many a species of fish from snook to blue runners. Shrimp and squid, available fro the bait shop, will provide an afternoon of fun for the whole family when fishing from the middle of the pier to the beach. When fishing this area of the pier, light to medium tackle is all that is required. Spinning reels are very popular because of their ease and convenience, and are recommended for beginners. Spinning reels are also good if the pier is crowded; allowing you to be in control of your casts and a must for lure fishing.
The T or Head of the pier should be reserved to Conventional and Bait casting reels on medium heavy to heavy equipment. Sure, you can catch a six foot shark on light tackle but not before that fish runs and tangles all the lines around you just before breaking you off or breaking your equipment. Use common sense and it will keep tempers down; remember it is a public pier and we are all out here to have fun.
Speaking of common sense, because of the variety of fish found near piers, bait and tackle selection is a matter of personal choice, local conditions, and your potential catch. Decide what youre targeting to catch before buying the rod, reel and line. If going for large fish, buy a pier net. If youre planning on shark fishing at night, purchase a pier gaff and spotlight. Now dont leave home without it! Without that pier net or gaff, just how were you going to get that fifteen pound fish or six foot shark up to the top of the pier, on the deck, twenty feet over the water?
When selecting a fishing rod there is no overall best rod for pier fishing. For predatory game fish, a medium-action graphite or graphite composite rod, six to eight feet in length, works well. If fishing for bottom dwellers, a rod no longer than six feet with a long handle for two-hand casting is more practical. Your arsenal will probably want to include several rods to accommodate varying conditions and a variety of fish species. Generally speaking, shorter, stout rods are used for situations where little or no casting is required and longer rods with medium to heavy actions are used to propel baits and lures to waters away from the pier structures.
Now you have your rod and reel, you need line? Monofilament is the most common type of fishing line used in fishing today. Abrasion resistant lines should be considered when fishing around pilings, so the line is less likely to break from wear or nicks caused by barnacles and the concrete. Low-stretch lines can be advantageous if fishing with a lot of line out. Stronger line is required if fishing for tarpon or sharks. For the best chance of landing fish from a pier, it is important to match rods, reels and line with what youre fishing for; I cant stress that enough.
Techniques may include casting away from the pier, casting close to pier, using live bait rigs, trolley rigging or ballooning out, when targeting large sharks at night. In pier fishing, finding structure and locations that hold fish are more important than simply casting long distances. Casting to nowhere, you can do in your front yard, casting to structure or thermal planes catch fish. Some of the largest sharks caught on the pier here in Venice, Florida were hooked up less than thirty feet, from the end of the pier at night. A 14 foot hammerhead holds the pier record caught not much father than you can spit!
Feeding habits change as the sun goes down. Larger predators like sharks feed from dusk till dawn, generally speaking. Though when youre in excess of six feet long, I guess you eat whenever you want. Sharkys on the Pier is lighted and the structure of the pier causes a shadow line on both sides of the pier. If fishing at night, use the shadow line to your advantage. On the side of the pier facing the current, game fish will line up inside the shadow line. On the backside of the pier, fish will line up just outside of the shadow line. Think of it as a meal line and they are hungry.
Our pier here in Venice, Florida is free and open 24/7. No fishing license is required but you must know the law! You will be summoned or worse, end up in the poky for having that out of season fish or undersized whatever. Know what it is before you keep it! Let me stress this again: “When in doubt, throw it out.”
Pier fishing can be a challenging and fun pursuit. Fishing from piers offers several advantages for both the novice and advanced angler. It is not as physically taxing as other forms of fishing, and it requires minimal gear. Our Venice pier is accessible to young and old alike; as well as being handicapped accessible, with cut outs for those in wheel chairs and a navigable ramp entrance on to the pier. It can be a good way for families to fish together and to tutor the beginning angler.
One of the advantages of pier fishing in Venice, Florida is that if anyone gets bored from lack of bites, you can grab your towel and hit the beach on either side of the pier for a refreshing swim in the Gulf or looking for our famous prehistoric sharks teeth washed ashore alone the waterside. At the base of the pier is our infamous beach front restaurant “Sharkys”, where you can sit outside on the deck under cool cabana type shelter and sip on your favorite beverage while waiting for something go to eat or just to watch the people go by. Fishing at night and listening to the sounds of Raga or the Oldies, preformed by live bands, are a special treat and will spoil you on the weekends. Piers are exposed to the sun, so bring sunscreen and dont forget to put it on, a cooler, and something for shade. Oh Yeah, and have fun, too!