Pier fishing for big fish

Pier fishing for big fish

Fishing from a pier or any structure lets anglers fish deeper water without a boat and best of all these structures attract fish!

Many young fishermen…and women, start their angling life pier fishing but over time they move on to areas that offer bigger challenges….of catching bigger fish.

….but you can catch big fish from piers if you do it right.


There are thousands of piers around Australia and many allow you to catch top quality fish.

 Water depth, pier structure and proximity to rocks, weed and channels all influence how good the fishing will be. Picking the right pier will make a difference to your chances of catching big fish.

You can go to most piers and fish without any planning at all. Under the right conditions you’ll catch fish and sometimes, you’ll catch a good size fish….

…but the BIG fish don’t turn up without you doing some serious planning. 

Different fish require different rigs, hook sizes and baits in order to catch them and it pays to specialise if you really want to land a ‘trophy’ fish.

Specialisation means you choose the right gear, bait, and the right pier to land that big fish.


Choosing a target species depends on one of two things :

 1. how far you are willing to travel or

2. what is available at your nearest pier.

For instance, I often work on minimising travel so I go to my nearest pier. I know the most likely fish species there and take gear that will catch the biggest fish of that species. However, each year I travel interstate to target big fish. In that case I’m not worried about the distance, I’m focused on catching the biggest fish I can.

In both these cases I learn as much about my target species as I can and  take the gear I need to put those fish on the deck. This is what it takes to give yourself the best chance of a good fish.

If you prefer to go out in the middle of the day, when it is sunny and fine, with your usual gear, frozen bait and just enjoy the sun….catching a  big fish might be an impossible dream!

 If, on the other hand, you want to target big salmon then you could do very well on a windy day with an incoming tide, falling barometer, gang hooked fresh pilchard on a solid monofilament or fluorocarbon leader etc….you get the idea…

…Planning and taking the right gear is essential.


Despite the species there are some fairly general conditions and actions that will help attract those bigger fish.

The more of these conditions that you can combine the better your chances of a good fish and in some cases all must exist to hook a ‘trophy’ from a pier. Here I’m talking about gummy shark, snapper, flathead, salmon and elephant fish….all depending on the location.

Tide – fishing the incoming tide, especially the two hours leading up to the top of the tide and the hour afterward as especially good for fish feeding activity. There are exceptions and some fish will feed in a falling tide depending on species and location but for the most part the rising tide is best.

Timing– low light levels are the times when fish are most active. Dawn and dusk, as the light levels change seems to be a trigger point for many species. Some species are best targeted at night but many are around at dawn and dusk.

Weather– barometric pressure plays a big part in the predatory fish feed. A period of steady barometric pressure over a number of days will induce small crustacions and fish to feed….and big fish to feed on them.  Ideally you want overcast conditions and a light breeze to break up the surface of the water.

One exception to this is a sudden or oncoming low pressure system. Predators seem to sense an oncoming storm or drop in pressure. This can trigger unusually high feeding activity. Seasoned fishermen know what to look for and will rush out to fish in the lead up to a storm. Fish like snapper, Australian salmon, shark and numerous other predatory species go hunting in these types of conditions.

Time Of Year – not all fish are present throughout the year. They migrate in and out of bays and inlets according to the seasons, breeding habits and preferred food types.  The anglers who catch the most big fish know the habits of their target species and fish for them in the right season. For instance big bream, snapper and Australian salmon are more likely to be around at different times of the year, especially in the colder months. If you know their habits you’ll know where and when to expect them.


The gear you need and how you rig your bait, will all depend on the fish you target….but lets start with the most general tackle that will catch a few different types of fish.

Both a paternoster and running sinker rig is the best setup on a 10kg outfit. Hooks are best kept around 4/0 to 6/0 and fitted with a whole bait. Pilchards, fresh calamari and garfish are good standard baits that will catch a range of fish.

  If you really want to specialise you need know a lot about your preferred catch.  For instance, gummy shark take a much heavier outfit and different bait. Whole fresh calamari, cured eel fillets, fresh salmon fillets and fresh pilchard are best on a 6/0 circle or ganged suicide hooks, 20kg mainline and 80kg trace. In short specialisation takes special tackle!

If the pier is quiet long and the water is deep enough you can drop your bait straight over the side…the pier is a fish attracting structure so the fish will come to it.  The only exception is if there is a channel or weed within casting distance. Then it is worth using a longer rod to get your bait out to those spots.

Keep a trickle of berley going to attract the fish. Small chopped up pieces of your bait thown into the trail of the current will bring the fish in. keep throwing in the berley regularly and eventually you’ll attract the fish. If you want to make the job easier you can  hang an onion bag in the water on a long rope. Fill it with fish pellets,  mashed fish pieces or even cat food will do. The main thing is to have some “fishy” food smells floating in the water.

Fishing for big fish can be a bit of a challenge. You don’t always come home with a fish but when you do it’s usually worth all the planning and time.

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