I lived in North Lauderdale Florida in the early 90's. I was working construction and didn't have a lot of spare time. But when I did, one of my favorite things to do was to go pier fishing. I discovered it by taking the kids to the beach one day. There was a long pier there that went way way out into the ocean, and there were people on it fishing. So we walked out on the pier to see what the fishing was like. I hadn't ever seen that kind of fishing before.
Then this guy reels in an octopus, gets it up on the pier and stood there scratching his head trying to figure out how to get the hook out and whether to eat it or not. Another guy pulls in some kind of wildly colored and seriously ugly fish with huge fangs. Then another guy pulls in a small shark. Yet another hooked a tarpon, but it broke off after several beautiful jumps. Man was I hooked by the time we went home.
There were a lot of great things about pier fishing. One was that I could take my kids with me and they could fish or play on the pier, but they were always close by and in sight. That let me fish too.
Another, and maybe my favorite reason, was the wild variety of things you would pull out of the water. Exotic and dangerous and beautiful and ugly and creepy weird and you never knew what it would be until you landed it. I never knew what most of them were. Occasionally someone could tell me but not often. I thought about getting a field guide, but knowing their names really didn't matter, they were all cool in their own way and didn't need names.
Then too there were fish cleaning stations on the pier, nice little setups with running water and lights over them where you could easily clean your fish before taking them home. Super handy.
The pier had a little store where bait and food and drinks and tackle was sold. Prices were reasonable. It was really nice to have that right at hand. The first time I saw pilcher rings I had no idea what I was looking at, and asked the sales guy. He explained that you dropped them over the side and pilchers would get caught in the rings. Pilchers look like large shiners. They make excellent bait. Free bait? How good can it get. I bought one.
Pretty soon I was having fun catching pilchers. My kids absolutely loved catching pilchers and as young as they were it was a bonus that no hooks were involved. After that I only occasionally bought bait, mostly we caught all we wanted and then a lot more too.
There was always the chance of catching something big, like a tarpon or a shark. That didn't happen often on the pier, but it did happen and you just never knew. I never did get a tarpon on that I know of, but on nearly every trip I would hang something huge that broke my line, and I was using heavy line with steel leader. I did catch a shark about three foot long. I cooked shark steaks on the grill for a while after that - excellent eating by the way.
The other fishermen were invariably friendly. It wasn't crowded most of the time, but when it was courtesy was still the rule. Some of the nicest people I ever met were out there fishing. I always enjoyed the afternoon friendships that developed.
Pier fishing doesn't require expensive equipment, or that much of it really. Pliers, a knife, a heavy pole with a heavy reel and heavy line. Steel leaders, hooks, heavy weights. That's about it. It was bottom fishing. Cast out, reel in the slack, lean the pole agains the railing, pop open a beer, and watch the pole tip. Keep it close so you can grab it quick. Lots of people fished three rigs at the same time, I often did.
Pier fishing is great fun, it's relaxing and rewarding and family oriented. My kids would get bored with fishing and play with other kids. Sometimes you get to see something entirely new, and not just the fish.
One day we were out there the blimp they used for ball games was out over the ocean in front of us. You could hear the roar of its engines clearly, then suddenly the engines stopped and the blimp began losing altitude. The wind was blowing it in towards us as it dropped slowly. The engines sputtered off and on. Then it got a little scary as it got within fifty feet of the water and was only about two hundred yards from us. It drifted closer, and lower until it was about fifty yards away and starting hitting the wave tops. I was sure it was going to land in the water before it could get to the beach. Waves were slapping the bottom of it as the engines finally roared into life again and it began to climb and turn away. People on the pier and the beach cheered like we had just seen a sudden death touch down in the super bowl. It was crazy.
If you ever get the opportunity, don't hesitate - go check out a pier and give it a try. I think you'll have a blast.