Fishing Bridge Pilings

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Fishing Around Bridge Pilings

Photo © Ron Brooks
Some pilings are large poured concrete structures. Photo © Ron Brooks

All up and down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), bridges span waterways, canals, creeks and rivers. Some are low and long. Some are high and wide. But all of them have pilings and or pillars in the water. And all of them will hold fish.

Older bridges may have wooden pilings sunk into the bottom many years ago. Newer bridges will be made with poured reinforced concrete. But whatever the makeup, they all can be great places to fins=d and catch fish – if you know how to fish them.

We are talking saltwater fishing here and with a few exceptions that means a tidal current on the incoming and outgoing tide. It’s that current that we use and work to find and catch fish like sheepshead, seatrout, redfish, flounder and rockfish (stripped bass). These pilings are poured right up to the high water level of the incoming tide. On a flood tide, they will even be under the surface a bit, something you need to be aware of. The incoming tidal current will be moving one direction. The outgoing current will be moving the other direction.

On these big pilings you will want to fish ob the down current side of the piling. A huge eddy of water will be found right behind the piling, and short of the wind blowing you, it will often keep your boat in one place without anchoring.

All or the fish we mentioned above will position themselves in this eddy – they hate fighting a current. They will be at a variety of depths. Flounder will be on the bottom. Seatrout could be at any level. Redfish will usually be on the bottom, and stripers will almost always be close to the bottom. I back away from the column and pitch my bait right up to the back side of the pillar. I allow it to sink naturally to the bottom and then work it back to the boat.

When I fish bridge pilings I fish with one of three methods.

  • Slip Float RigA slip float allows me to set the depth of my bait - usually a live bait like shrimp or mud minnows. I cast the rig up the side of the liar and let the bait go down to the float stop. Then I allow the float to make its way in the current until it swings around behind the pillar in the eddy. I adjust the bait depth on subsequent casts to find at what level the fish are staging in the water column. This is a good method for any seatrout or yellow mouth trout in the area.
  • Jig HeadsMy all-time favorite bait is a jig head with a live bait. I like live shrimp, mud minnows or small finger mullet. I will cast this jig head right up to the pillar and allow it to go to the bottom. Then I work it back to the boat on or just off the bottom. This is good for flounder, reds, and stripers.
  • Artificial BaitsCrankbaits are ideal for bridge structure. Cast up current and bring them back along the side of the piling. Try different sized baits with different sized lips. The lip size determines the depth at which the crankbait will run, so you can experiment with various depths.
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Fishing Divided Bridge Pilings

Divided Bridge Piling
Divided Bridge Piling. Photo © Ron Brooks

On these pilings the current runs left to right and right to left. That space between the pilings is a great place to find sheepshead and seatrout. They will be there on either tide, looking for a meal passing by in the current.

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Fishing Channel Bumpers

Photo © Ron Brooks
Fishing Bridge Channel Bumpers. Photo © Ron Brooks

Bumpers are made up of a whole series of pilings driven into the bottom. They are designed to give and not break if a boat or barge happens to run into them. They protect the actual bridge pilings from damage. The sheer number of these pilings makes an ideal habitat for fish, baitfish, oysters, crabs and barnacles. This is a sheepshead haven.

I have to say that the older the bridge, the more likely you are to find sheepshead, because older pilings have been there long enough to have a large growth of oysters and barnacles. Depending on the tide, you can fish almost anywhere on these pilings and locate some fish. Look for the pilings that block the current flow and that allow an eddy to form behind them. That’s where you want to drop your bait. And in this case, that bait is almost always going to be a fiddler crab. Small live shrimp – maybe – but fiddlers for sure.

In all of these scenarios, be sure that you DO NOT ANCHOR IN THE CHANNEL!! First of all it's against the law but more importantly, it's dangerous when large boats come through.