September is a great time to head out to one of the local fishing piers in the Central West Region. Snook season will have reopened, and a lot of other species will also be roaming the piers because it’s the time of the year where there’s a lot of baitfish along the shorelines. A lot of the piers have lights on them, so the baitfish like to gather under the lights at night, and that attracts the predators like flounder, sheepshead, Spanish mackerel and snook.
We’re fortunate that the largest pier in Florida is in my region—The Skyway Bridge Fishing Pier, which is an old bridge across the mouth of Tampa Bay that has been replaced with a new bridge and is now open to anglers. You can literally drive your car and all your gear right up to the spot you want to fish. This is a great place to find Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, sharks, redfish and tarpon day or night. There’s even big grouper and snapper around.
There’s also the beachfront piers that stick out into the Gulf of Mexico like the ones at Anna Marina Island, Bradenton Beach and the Venice Fishing Pier. They offer good snook fishing, as well as sheepshead, drum and flounder, along with mackerel and bluefish.
If you’ve never pier fished before, the best thing you can do is go out to one of the piers before you plan to fish and watch the anglers. It’ll be obvious who the guys are that know what they’re doing, because they’re the ones catching the majority of fish. Stand next to them, watch them and ask questions, then go get the same rigs and baits and try to duplicate what they showed you.
A lot of the time the best fishing around piers and jetties is up tight against the structure, because fish use the structure for safety and as a spot to ambush their prey. Flounder are a good example. They like to lie on sand or mud bottom close to the rocks or pilings where the small baitfish like to gather. As the baits swim around the structure thinking they’re safe, the flounder slowly move into position and feed. So a lot of times, flounder are right next to the pilings or even under the pier, or right next to the rocks at the jetties.
Some of the best pier fishing takes place at night, which is nice because you get a break from the September heat. You can catch bait at most of the piers and they’ll gather around the lights at night, which the snook on the outside edge of the bait schools. Just catch a bait out of the school that they’re feeding on, and put a hook in it and toss it back to the edge of the bait school and hang on!
Spanish mackerel and bluefish are usually around the bait schools as well, and often a bit away from the structure in open water. They’re really aggressive feeders that will single out a baitfish they want to eat, so you don’t have to fish around the bait schools. You can just hook a small pilchard or threadfin on and cast it out away from the structure and the fish will find it.
Some of the piers sell live shrimp on them, which is a good bait for sheepshead and drum, and even snook. You can fish shrimp on the bottom with a fish finder rig, or freeline them with a small split shot weight to get them down, or you can use a cork to suspend the bait off the bottom. The nice thing about a cork is that a lot of them have small weights in them which increases your casting distance.
Pick a pier or jetty in my region in September and you’re going to find a great spot to spend time with your entire family. Whether you can a bunch of fish or just a few, you’ll learn and get better and spend time outdoors.
Captain’s Tip of the Week #24 Piers & Jetties - 2015
Chevy Florida Insider Fishing Report