Dock Fishing - The Complete Guide
Turn your dock fishing trips into catching trips with these tips to make the most of the dock at your house on the water or even a fishing pier nearby that you frequent. Whether you are fishing off a freshwater dock or saltwater dock, the tactics to attract and catch fish remain the same.
Dock fishing can be done during the day time, but is often most successful at night under some dock lights. Having the right bait can make or break a dock fishing trip, but we've got the tips and tricks to help you bring in more fish.
Dock Fishing - The Complete Guide
What is Dock Fishing?
Dock fishing refers to fishermen who cast their rod and reel in attempt to catch fish from a pier, or dock, rather than being in a boat. If you are a bass fishermen, then dock fishing refers to trolling in your bass boat from dock to dock, casting your lure along the perimeter of other peoples' docks. The dock fishing we are discussing is not for bass fishermen, it's for those who are fishing without a boat.
Dock fishing can be successful during the day time, but it is often most successful at night. Utilizing a bright dock fishing light and pairing it with some good bait and even a fish attractor can significantly increase your success rate at dock fishing.
How to Attract More Fish to Your Dock
There are three tried and true ways to attract more fish to your dock - their level of success is listed in order. Dock fishing lights will bring bounties of fish in the fastest, followed by baits to lure fish in, and lastly artificial fish attractor which simulate a small artificial reef are the third-most successful technique. If all three of these are combined together, you should have loads of fish in no time.
If you're only going to choose one technique, tough, we strongly suggest you try dock fishing lights. They are far more successful than the other techniques listed for attracting fish to your dock.
Dock Fishing Lights
The single-most efficient way to attract fish to your dock while fishing at night is with bright dock fishing lights. Leave your dock lights on to stay on every night, and you'll have schools of fish congregating at your dock on a nightly basis. There are many colors to choose from for dock lighting options, but when you compare the 3 most popular colors: green, warm white, and blue, green does the best job at attracting fish. When you take it down to science, the green color wavelength appeals to the fish sensors the most. That being said, finding a quality green dock fishing light that lasts can be troublesome. There are some key features you should look for in finding your dock fishing light.
Underwater Green Dock Fishing Lights
Investing in an underwater green dock fishing light is the first step in turning your dock into a home for wandering fish. Naturally, docks provide shade during the day for fish, the posts provide algae for them to eat, and if you can leave your light on every night you may have your own miniature fish reef before long.
All dock fishing lights aren't made the same, though. There are some crucial factors to look for in a dock fishing light to determine if it is going to last a long time or suffer to pre-mature failure. The most common cause of pre-mature failure in dock fishing lights is due to a combination of heat dissipation and electrolysis. The good news is we have already put together an in-depth article covering everything you need to know in our Guide to Buying the Best Underwater Green Fishing Light.
Above Water Green Dock Fishing Lights
An above water green dock fishing light is great for those who want to leave a light out and not worry about whether or not they are going to get barnacle growth on the light or have some random fisherman snag the power cord with their fishing line.
The only catch with above water lights is the light is not in the water column. If you are in shallower water, roughly 5-6 ft deep or less, then this will most likely not matter because it's shallow enough that the light will illuminate the entire water column anyway. If you are in deeper water, you will still do a great job illuminating the water column and attracting fish, but the bigger fish in the deeper waters will use the darkness to hide until they are ready to come up and go after the bait.
There's two type of overhead green fishing lights - spot and flood style lights. The spot style is ideal for homes on canals that want to minimize the spread of the light to their neighbors, while flood style is ideal for areas that want to illuminate as much water surface area as possible.
Naturally, being mounted above water means no barnacles. No barnacles means the lights are maintenance free and free from the number one culprit that causes premature failure in underwater fishing lights. Maintenance free green fishing lights are non existent with an underwater light, but it's certainly made easy with an above water dock fishing light. The above water light does a great job at attracting fish.
Best Bait for Dock Fishing
The best bait for dock fishing can vary depending on where your dock is located, but there are a few staple methods that work in virtually all dock fishing situations. Let's take a look at some of the best baits for dock fishing.
Shrimp Fishing Bait
Shrimp are some of the most universal baits there are. We have caught fish in both freshwater and saltwater on shrimp. If you are able to get ahold of live shrimp, that's a plus. However, live shrimp are hard to come by and are even more difficult to keep alive. Dead shrimp are readily available in the frozen section of most grocery stores and work very well as whole or cut bait.
The downside to shrimp being such a universal bait is that you will catch literally anything. That includes the trash fish you may not be interested in. If you are fishing from a boat, this can be less than ideal but luckily if you are dock fishing it works to your advantage because once you catch all the trash fish, well the prized game fish are all that's left...or vice-versa.
If you're dock fishing in saltwater, take the time to go to your local beach and you might be able to dig in the sand on a low tide for ghost shrimp. Ghost shrimp have been called some of the most important yet least recognized fishing baits to use while dock fishing.
Worms for Fishing Bait
Worms are the staple fishing bait that most anglers started on. Earthworms are easy to find, whether that be at your local grocery store or a nearby field. They will work on just about any fish, but are geared primarily towards freshwater species. Worms are great for dock fishing, and will attract just about any fish regardless of size.
Glow in the Dark Lures
If you're looking for a dock fishing bait that isn't smelly and messy, then a glow in the dark lure may be the perfect option for you. Glow in the dark lures work great for dock fishing at night and do a great job at attracting prized game fish species. We have caught countless trout and redfish on glow in the dark lures while fishing in a Rockport, Texas saltwater canal. We have also caught catfish and bass with glow in the dark lures on several Texas freshwater lakes.
Whether you are using worms and shrimp or not for your dock fishing bait, glow in the dark lures are a great alternative to change things up.
Artificial Fish Attractors
Artificial fish attractors are typically made from PVC and simulate an underwater reef. This encourages fish to nest around your dock and "stay a while". Artificial options made from PVC are highly desired because they will not degrade like all natural options such as submerged trees will.
If you want an all-natural option, it is popular for people to submerge Christmas trees, oak, or citrus trees to provide structure for the fish to stay around.
Christmas trees do not typically last very long because the branches are small and the trunk is a soft wood, so they are less desirable if you are trying to do something purpose-built. Oak and citrus trees will last much longer.
Preparing Your Catch
The best part of dock fishing, especially when it's at your own home, is that you can clean your catch as soon as you reel it in. Unlike fishing from a boat, dock fishing at home is not subject to rules requiring anglers to not clean their catch while fishing on open water.
The best recipes start during the cleaning process. There are 3 common methods for filleting and cooking fish: on the traditional fish fillets without skin, on the half shell, and butterflied fillets for stuffing.
Traditional Fish Filleting
The traditional style of fish filleting is to use a sharp fillet knife to remove the meat off the skin. This will leave you with a fish fillet like you would find in the freezer section of most grocery stores.
Filleting Fish on the Half Shell
Fish on the half shell is most commonly done with redfish, but it refers to removing the fish fillet as if you were filleting the fish the traditional method, but not removing the skin of the fish with your fillet knife. Instead, the fish is de-scaled and the skin is left on. When you go to cook the fish fillet, season the meat side and put the fish on the grill with the skin side facing down. Once the fish is fully cooked, the skin can be removed or eaten as you wish.
Butterfly Fillets (for stuffing)
You've probably heard of butterflied shrimp, well this is the same principle. This technique is also commonly done on flounder, but can be done on most fish effectively. The fillet knife is used to carefully split the fillet down the middle, and then remove the meat from the bone. The skin is typically left on, and the center of the fillet is commonly stuffed with crab meat, butter, and sometimes shrimp.
Preserving Your Catch
Once the fish is cleaned and the fillets are prepared, it's time to vacuum seal the fillets. It's important to use a fish and game vacuum sealer which was made to handle the high moisture content associated with fish and game meat. It's also handy if the vacuum sealer is capable of running on a 12v battery or 110/120v standard AC outlet. This gives you full versatility for sealing your fish, which is very convenient when dock fishing. Prior to purchasing your vacuum sealer, you may want to educate yourself by reading our Guide to Buying the Best Fish and Game Vacuum Sealer for Sale.