There isn’t anything more picturesque than going out to the end of a dock, throwing out a line, and waiting for the fish to bite.
But many fishermen have a lot of misconceptions about how to fish from a dock properly. For instance, a lot of people think the biggest fish live in the deepest water – so throw as far as they can off the end of the dock. But actually you’re likely to catch less fish doing so and sometimes the biggest fish are right underneath you!
So if you want to be better at fishing from your dock, read the tips below and you’ll be hauling in great catches in no time!
1. Sometimes the best place to fish is right under your dock
Deeper water does not equate to better fish. That is one of the most common myths that can really ruin a beginner angler’s fishing experience.
Big fish live in shallow water and small fish live in deep water. Water depth is one of the least important factors when trying to catch large fish.
So then if you aren’t trying to just throw into the deepest water, where should you cast?
This answer is highly dependent on a number of factors so can’t possibly be answered here – but I will offer a solution that commonly works. Cast straight down from the end of your dock.
The reason this works is because the physical structure of a dock provides a lot of things for fish. Small fish often feed near dock pilings because they have tiny organisms living on them that they feed on.
Bigger fish will hang out on them to feed on these smaller fish, and they provide good cover to hide in or surprise fish as they come swimming by.
During the summer a dock will also provide shade for fish trying to beat the heat. When the water is muddy, dock pilings provide a safe structure for fish to hold onto when visibility gets low.
Dock pilings specifically are really great locations that usually hold some fish. You’re more likely to catch fish there than just casting blindly into the middle of the water. So head out to the end of the dock and cast right down on a piling. You’ll be surprised what you might catch!
2. Turn on your dock lights at night to catch more fish
If you’re trying to beat the heat you might decide you want to fish your dock at night. It’s also a very popular way to target catfish.
But to enhance your chance of catching a fish at night – try turning on any dock lights that you can find.
The reason for this is that lights bring in bugs. If you spend any time outside in the summer you’ve probably found moths and hundreds of bugs flock to a sole light source during a dark night.
This will happen on a dock too. And as the bugs swarm to the lights, small fish will swarm to the bugs. They’re a great food source for shad, bluegill, perch, and many other smaller species of fish.
And if you’re after bigger fish, then they will also come in to eat the unsuspecting shad, perch, or smaller fish that come to the dock to feed on bugs. So you’re attracting everything in the lake to your dock.
Ideally – try and put dock lights on the end of a dock and sit away from it. You don’t want to scare fish off or get bitten up by bugs. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way…
3. Bring fish to your dock with natural attractants
If you aren’t night fishing though there are still other ways you can attract fish to your dock specifically.
One way is to put out fish food every so often. This is not going to attract fish immediately but over time you will find fish waiting under your dock hoping for a meal. Again, you aren’t trying to feed big fish. You’re trying to feed the small fish that big fish eat!
But a much better way is to put some type of structure that fish like near your dock – in a place where only you know it is. There are many options for this but my personal favorite are christmas trees.
You can watch this video for more information on how to do this, but the idea is you weigh down christmas trees or other fish attracting structure and put them off your dock in a precise location.
Over time, fish will learn that it is there and start flocking to it. Over time, you can get hundreds of fish schooling on the things you purposefully put there and no one but you will know it exists!
If you are a crappie fisherman in particularly – this is a great way to get huge schools of crappie near your dock year after year.
4. Think about your dock vertically
Another mistake that many fisherman make while fishing from a dock is to not think of a dock vertically.
If you look at a dock on the lake you only see what is above the water. But a fish sees a dock below the water, which in many cases can be as deep as it is long.
So above we described how many fish relate to dock pilings as places to sit to feed on small organisms or other fish. Knowing this, many people drop their bait down to the bottom of a piling and just wait for a fish to bite.
But what if the dock piling is 10 feet tall? How do you know the fish is sitting at the very bottom? What if they are halfway up? Or at the top? Or somewhere in between?
This is what is meant when someone says to fish a dock vertically. Fish it at the bottom, the middle, and everywhere in between until you find a fish.
It’s most likely that fish will be at the very bottom when it’s very hot or very cold out. In between, you are likely to find them from the middle to the surface. But this is highly dependent on a variety of factors.
So if you aren’t catching a fish in one place, switch it up and remember to fish vertically on your dock!
5. Set up multiple poles with line monitors
There is also one advantage you have on a dock, which is you have lots of room for multiple poles.
We’ve talked about how fish will sometimes be on a certain piling, at a certain height, and the many factors that can affect where you should be fishing. It’s hard to always pick the right place.
If you’re on a dock, you can combat this by putting out multiple poles in different locations. Or in a location you think there are fish, but put it at multiple depths to figure out how deep they are.
Even if you only do this at first to find where fish are, it’s a great way to save time than casting in one spot at a time.
There are multiple ways you can set up rods to see bites without having them in your hand. The first is to use bobbers which you have to watch, which is my least favorite as it’s hard to keep your eye on bobbers spread out across the water.
Personally, I prefer these fish alarms which you can connect to any fishing rod. When a fish pulls on the line, the alarm will go off and you will know every time you have a bite.
Another option is using a very light-weighted bobber and hooking it between two eyelets on your pole and letting the line hand down for a couple feet. If a fish bites, you’ll see the bobber start pulling up towards the rod.
Again, you have to keep a watchful eye out but if you put all poles near each other it’s easier than watching them on the water.
No matter which method you go with – using multiple rods is a great thing you can do easily on a dock which will let you know quickly where the fish are so you can focus on one area a lot easier. As the saying goes – 90% of the fish are in 10% of the water.
If you follow the tips above, you should be catching fish from your dock in no time! There is nothing more relaxing than putting out a few poles, sitting on a dock and enjoying a beautiful lake. The above is just going to make your fishing trip a whole lot more successful.
What’s your best dock fishing tip? Please leave a comment below if I’ve left out a tip that helped you catch fish!