See that pic? It’s from 18 years ago. I have spent A LOT of time fishing around docks for very good reason—they can be fish magnets! Whether fishing from the dock itself or casting from a boat, outstanding action for fish like bass, panfish, and snook awaits. You CAN just stroll right up, start casting, and have a good chance at catching something, but why not maximize your results? There's a method to picking docks apart, and here I'll go through some of the ways I do just that.
1) From a boat, try fishing the open water around the dock first. I'll often start by sprinkling a few casts (or at least looking) around the outside of the dock before fishing the main structure. Sometimes, there will be debris or busted pilings below the water's surface that can hold just as many or even more fish as the dock itself.
2) When fishing the structure itself, start casting around the closest section to you first. If you cast deeper into the structure and hook a fish, other (closer) fish holding in the dock can be spooked along the way during the fight. When fishing afoot, fish the start of the dock and work your way out. From a boat, start at the end and work your way in.
3) Practice sidearm casting. If you can toss a short, very tight loop with a sidearm cast, you can shoot a fly back up underneath docks and walkways that some anglers can't reach. A shorter fly rod helps with this immensely!
4) Don't be afraid to get close to the dock on a boat. Most of the dock fishing I've done has been from a boat for bass, stripers, and snook. I've noticed a lot of people tend to stay off docks quite a ways and make long casts to them. This will cause accuracy and efficiency to suffer. In my experience, I've found that these dock fish commonly don't get spooked as easily by boats and I can often get VERY close to them. I think part of this has to do with the fish already being more accustomed to seeing and hearing people, boats, etc on a daily basis. This isn't backcountry flats fishing! I like to pull in nice and close and really pick the dock and the shade lines apart. The strike zone here can be very small!
5) Try using a heavier tippet. Not only can a dock itself be a hazard to your line, but crusty ropes, isolated pilings, and sunken junk that fell off the dock can pose a threat, too. I love to fish light line whenever possible, but around a dock I'll try and fish tippet that's heavier than I'd typically use to help safeguard against chafes and break-offs.
6) Pick the best looking docks. I like targeting docks that look old or have growth on the pilings which attract forage like baitfish and crabs. Docks that are totally isolated, have current, or are on points or the backs of bays can be hot spots depending on species and time of year, too. Look for other key features like flood lights specifically put on the dock to attract fish, or sunken objects by the dock like christmas trees or brush piles that are purposely set out by crappie and bass anglers. In a long line of docks, try fishing the first one or two on either end of the lineup. Larger docks can be better than smaller ones, but I focus more on the quality of the dock and where it's located.
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