Fishing from the Jetties 4 Tips for Your Success

Last updated on February 2nd, 2024 at 09:12 pm

If you don’t have access to a boat and are looking for someplace to fish from the shore, then fishing from the jetties is an option you should consider. It’s a common question for us shore bound anglers: How can I catch fish from shore? Fishing from the jetties is can be a great place to try. And, when conditions are right, you can catch a lot of fish from the jetties

At a Glance:

Jetties are constructed primarily of rocks and or granite and essentially become a long man made reef that attracts fish of all kinds to the structure. Either for protection or to pursue prey that seek shelter in and around the rocks. When fishing from the jetties, you have a wide variety of areas to fish from currents, eddies, pockets, holes and the rocks themselves. And at various depths along the jetty. Along with the bait that is attracted to the jetties, this can make for an awesome fishing destination.

fishing from the jetties - Lady with a nice blue fish caught from the jetties
Photo Credit:

One of the great things about fishing from the jetties, or piers, is that you get to stay dry.

Face it, when the water is cold or rough it’s not much fun to be wade fishing or, in many cases, even fun to be fishing from a boat.

Fishing from the jetties gives you an opportunity to fish when you might otherwise have to call the trip off.

And, even when the weather is nice and the water warm, fishing from the jetties is great for those who would just rather stay dry and out of the water. Like piers, they can get crowded at times so you will need to bring your patience and your manners as you most likely will be sharing the jetties with other fisherman.

What is Jetty Fishing?

The first thing we need to cover is: What is a Jetty? According to the Britannica, A jetty is any of a variety of engineering structures connected with river, harbor, and coastal works designed to influence the current or tide or to protect a harbor or beach from waves (breakwater). The two principal kinds of jetties are those constructed at river mouths and other coastal entrances and those used for the berthing of ships in harbors and offshore where harbor facilities are not available.

Jetties are man made structures usually made of rocks and or granite blocks that extend out into the water from shore. Sometimes for hundreds of yards. Found mostly around harbor inlets of offshore dock facilities, these rock structures act like a natural reef system attracting forage species and the predators that feed on them.

Jetties are used to protect harbors, inlets and beaches from waves and erosion much like a breakwater at a marina.

The water on the outside of the jetties can often times be much rougher and ominous than the relatively protected waters inside the jetty system.

the Port Mansfield jetties in Texas
Port Mansfield Jetties in Texas

Fishing from the jetties is just like it sounds. It’s where you haul all of your gear with you and walk out onto a jetty and start fishing. Sometimes the walking can be a bit hazardous. Waves splashing on the rocks grow moss and algae that are very slick, and the uneven surface of the rocks can trip you up if you’re not paying attention.

Now, fishing from the jetties may not be for everyone. Because most of the time you will be carrying all of your gear and supplies to your fishing spot. You will need to be able to walk on the uneven and sometimes slick rocks. And, you are venturing out into the open water where, when it gets rough, a wave could sweep you off your feet and into the water in an instant.

fishing from the jetties - waves breaking over the end of the jetties
Waves Crashing over the Jetties

With all that said, I have had some awesome days fishing from the jetties.

It’s not overly complicated, there are fish there year round. And, if you explore the structure, you can find a variety of fishing options.

Too rough on one side, fish the other. No luck close to shore, move further out on the jetty.

How to Fish on the Jetties

Fishing from the jetties can be a great option for the shore bound angler. There’s the structure of the jetty that attracts bait which in turn, attracts predators. The wind, waves and tides produce holes, currents and eddies that also attract and hold fish. And, you can catch a variety of fish. Everything from sheepshead, redfish, trout, sharks, Spanish mackerel and even tarpon from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico to halibut and rockfish from the cold waters of the pacific northwest.

Keep in mind however, that just because there is a pile of rocks extending out into the water doesn’t mean you will find fish wherever you decide to start fishing. Certain areas and structures along the jetties will attract and hold fish better than others and at different times based on factors such as tides, winds, waves, currents and structure along and around the jetty.

Tarpon caught while fishing from the jetties
Tarpon caught from the jetties

Fishing From the Jetties – Structure

1.) Deeper Water: Fishing from the jetties offers access to much deeper water than you can typically reach fishing from shore. The further you walk out on the jetties the deeper the water will generally become and, on the channel side of the jetties it can be much deeper to allow for ship traffic in and out of the harbor or inlet. Sometimes, these deeper water areas will be where the fish are holding.

2.) Rocks: When fishing from the jetties you are essentially fishing from a long man made reef.

These rock structures provide areas for algae, barnacles, crabs, shellfish and bait fish to grow and seek protection.

This food chain will then attract predators to the buffet. At the jetties, there are always fish in the area.

3.) Currents and Eddies: The wind, waves and tides can create a significant amount of current in and around the jetties. The rocks offer a break in these currents forming eddies that bait use to escape these strong currents. Of course, the predators will take advantage of these currents and eddies to pursue their prey. Checking along the length of the jetties, as well as both sides, you can locate these changes in current.

4.) Holes: The currents and wave actions along the jetties will cause erosion in different areas of the bottom adjacent to the jetty creating deeper holes that will often hold fish. You will just have to do some exploring, or ask some of the regulars, to find these deeper holes. Keep in mind the ocean bottom is always changing dependent on these currents. Where the hole is this week, may be a sandbar next week.

The good news is that even though you are limited to fishing the length of the jetty, you can find a wide range of structure to fish if you are willing to do a little walking and scouting. Quality fish can be found within easy casting distance of the jetties as predators seek bait that is hugging close to the rocks for protection.

structures to look for while fishing from the jetties

Tides and Fishing from the Jetties

chart of tides and currents at the jetties

Tides can affect your fishing success and decisions when fishing from the jetties. Incoming and outgoing tides can create strong currents that will potentially move bait and the fish that feed on them.

In addition, often time the outgoing tide will pull muddy or murky water from inshore out through the jetties. In that case, you may need to switch and fish the outside of the jetties to find cleaner water and fish.

On the other side of the coin, the incoming tide will often bring cleaner cooler water from offshore into and through the jetties which will often bring fish in closer to shore as well.

Tidal movement, either in or out, will produce currents and eddies which fish will utilize for feeding and resting from the current.

So, which tide is best for fishing from the jetties? You can probably guess my answer, “It Depends.”

Generally speaking, fishing is better when there is some tidal movement, either in or out. The currents can move bait out of the protection of the rocks where predators can grab an easy meal.

For More Info on Fishing and Tides
Read: Surf Fishing and the Tides

Remember, the fish economy is basically: Don’t expend more energy than you consume and that goes for both bait and predator. Bait will seek protection from having to swim against the current in the rocks or eddies formed by the jetties.

Predators will seek these eddies to also not have to expend so much energy swimming against the current.

And, they will wait for bait that ventured to far from the protection of the rocks. Then get caught in the current to be swept right to them making an easy meal.

underwater photo of bait fish hugging close to the jetty rocks
Underwater photo of baitfish along the Jetty rocks

The outgoing tide can suck bait out from the bays and harbor and the water will tend to be warmer but often murkier. Incoming tides can bring larger predator species in much closer to shore and the jetties making for some exciting action. The water will also tend to be cleaner and cooler with an incoming tide.

In short, no matter the tide, you can still catch fish from the jetties so just be mobile and observant. Look for eddies, fish feeding activity and or bait. Or other anglers catching fish, just please don’t crowd in on them. Look for similar structure and what bait and fishing technique they are having success with.

Best Times for Fishing the Jetties

The best time for fishing from the jetties is best when there is strong tidal movement at or near dawn or dusk. It’s best to target the tidal movements even when they don’t line up with dawn or dusk. Slack tide is typically very slow. No current to move the bait and it can get down deep in the crevices between the rocks making in very hard for the predators to get at.

Full moon rising over the ocean
Full Moon over the water

As a general rule, the Best Fishing Times will be:

  • One hour before and one hour after high tides, and one hour before and one hour after low tides. …
  • During the “morning rise” (after sunup for a spell) and the “evening rise” (just before sundown and the hour or so after).
  • During the rise and set of the Moon.
  • When the barometer is steady or on the rise.
For More Info on Fishing at Night
Read: 11 Tips for Surf Fishing at Night

The moon phase can affect jetty fishing as well. Moon phases will affect timing and strength of tidal movements and some have theorized that during the full moon fish use the extra light to feed during the night and not as much during the day. I can’t confirm or deny that, but it is something to consider and test for yourself.

That will of course depend on where you are in the world, what time of year, and the species available at the time.

Along the gulf of Mexico coast, you can catch every thing from pin perch, sheepshead, speckled trout, redfish, black drum, mackerel, sharks, rays and sometimes even tarpon.

What Can You Catch Fishing from the Jetties?

King Mackerel caught while fishing from the jetties
King Mackerel caught from the jetties
nice ling cod caught from the jetties
Ling cod from the Jetties photo credit:

Check with your local bait and tackle shops for what’s available in your area.

Or, join the local fishing forums online and get some firsthand information from actual fishermen in your area.

If you have jetties, you will have some fish around them somewhere.

What Do You Need to Fish the Jetties

Fishing from the jetties offers a variety of species and fishing techniques. And, each will require some different gear. For speckled trout, Spanish mackerel or stripers chasing bait along the jetties a good 6 – 7 ft medium to medium heavy spinning or bait casting outfit will do.

If big black drum or redfish is what your after, a heavy action 9-10 ft rod paired with a 6000 – 8000 series spinning reel loaded with 30 lb mono or braided line will be more the order of the day. If its large sharks or tarpon you’re seeking, then you better scale up your tackle again. Penn Senator with 100lb braid on a rod with some serious backbone will give you the best chance of landing some of the big toothy creatures that frequent the end of the jetties.

Man carrying his rods over his shoulder as he walks out on the Jetties
Photo credit:
For More Info on Good Rods for the Jetties
Read: 8 Good Rod and Reel Combos

What bait to fish the jetties

With such a variety of fish available fishing from the jetties, you can catch them on a wide range of baits, both artificial and natural. Lures like spoons, plastic bait fish or shrimp imitations, swimming plugs and yes, even top waters can be good choices.

rigging up a whole shad to use as bait at the jetties
Whole Shad for bait photo credit:

Natural baits, whether live or dead, will depend on what species you are targeting and are always a good choice. Again, you local bait and tackle shops will be you best bet for what’s biting and what they’re biting on. If you are bottom fishing, keep in mind that you may need a surf spider weight to hold your bait in place against the current.

Otherwise, you end up washed into the rocks. And that’s not fun, not to mention it can get expensive. Hook sizes will change depending on what species you are targeting. Just a quick recommendation: change out the treble hooks on your artificials for single circle hooks. The single hook will be less likely to hang up on the rocks and, with a circle hook, fish hook themselves on the strike.

For More Info on Lures
Read: Surf Fishing with Lures

What do you need to fish from a jetty?

Jetty Fishing Gear Checklist:

  • at least two rods – one may break and it’s a long walk back to the car.
  • A good pair of slip resistant shoes – Golf shoes can be good
  • Tackle Box or tackle backpack – with asst. Hooks, weights, lures, and leaders
  • Bait and or Bait bucket
  • Filleting knife.
  • Long Nose Pliers.
  • Lip Grips to hold the fish for a photo and for safely releasing fish
  • Long Handled Landing Net – easier to land the fish without getting wet
  • Polarized Sunglasses to see into the water.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Insect repellent.
  • Broad Brim Hat or Cap.
  • An old towel to hold the fish and wipe your hands.
  • Camera
  • A current Fish Measuring device
  • A fold up chair
  • Small cooler for Drinking water and snacks.
Young lady walking down the beach with her tackle backpack
For Info on Fishing Tackle Backpacks
Read: Best Surf Fishing Tackle Bags

It’s a lot to carry I know, making it all the more important that you do some research and planning before you head out. A good beach cart may help, it the rocks are not too uneven. Otherwise, a good fishing tackle backpack is your best bet.

Some Jetty Fishing Tips

Carry at least two fishing rods with you. If you break one either by slipping and falling, or by a big fish, it is usually a long walk back to your vehicle to get a replacement. Plus, by carrying several rods, you can fish for several species and use different baits and techniques.

Shoes with studeded cleats for fishing from the jetties
Studded Shoes for fishing from the jetties

Wear Slip resistant shoes. The jetty rocks can get slick as ice with just a little water.

Be extremely careful and get a good pair of shoes that will grip even when wet.

Those rocks are unforgiving and nobody wants to carry you back with a broken bone.

Always pay attention to your surroundings. The weather can change quickly and cause waves to build and wash up on to or over the jetties. One rouge wave and you could find yourself swimming.

Talk to the local bait & tackle shops. It’s there business to know what’s biting and how to catch them. You can get a lot of good information while you purchase some bait and gear. Don’t forget to go online and search for some local fishing forums. There you can interact with actual local fisherman and get some good firsthand information.

Beach Fishing vs Jetty Fishing

Fishing from the Jetties is a great alternative to beach fishing particularly when the surf is rough and or when the water is just to dang cold for wading. You can stay dry and warm on the jetties and still have a good chance at catching some fish. The jetties, like piers, can get crowded, especially when the fish are biting, so be prepared to share the rocks with others.

Beach fishing gives you more options for fishing locations as you are able to travel up and down the beach. You also have a much better chance at avoiding some of the crowds.

And, if you can drive on the beach, it is much easier to get all of your gear to the fishing hole. But, more than likely, you at some point will get wet when beach fishing. You, your gear and your vehicle will need more clean up after a beach fishing trip as well.

fisherman fishing the beach at sundown

The structure provided by the jetties attracts fish year round and by walking the jetties you can find areas of deeper water, currents, eddies and bait concentrations that will increase your chances of finding fish. Jetties can be dangerous when the current is running strong and the waves are crashing against the rocks. So, be careful, and always keep an eye out on mother ocean. A stray wave can sweep you off the rocks and out to sea in no time. Of course, you could also try pier fishing if the jetties become too dangerous.

Cartoon character thinking with a red question mark behind him

What is a jetty in fishing?

A jetty is a man-made structure extending into the water, typically built to protect a harbor or shoreline. Anglers often use jetties for fishing as they can attract various fish species.

What types of fish can be caught from jetties?

Common fish species caught from jetties include striped bass, flounder, redfish, snook, sheepshead, and various types of panfish.

What fishing gear is suitable for jetty fishing?

Medium to heavy spinning or casting rods, a sturdy reel with a strong drag, and a variety of lures and baits such as jigs, live or cut bait, and artificial lures.

When is the best time to fish from jetties?

Fishing from jetties can be productive year-round, but many anglers find success during dawn and dusk. Tides and weather conditions also play a crucial role.

Do I need a fishing license for jetty fishing?

Yes, in most places, a fishing license is required. Make sure to check local regulations and obtain the necessary licenses before fishing.

What safety precautions should I take when fishing from jetties?

Always be cautious of slippery surfaces, strong currents, and unpredictable waves. Wear appropriate footwear, use a life jacket if needed, and be aware of your surroundings.

Can I catch fish from both sides of the jetty?

Yes, fishing from both the ocean side and the side facing the inlet or harbor can yield different species. Experiment with different locations on the jetty.

What are some popular jetty fishing techniques?

Casting near structure, using popping corks, bottom fishing with live or cut bait, and jigging are popular techniques. Adjust your approach based on the target species.

Are there any restrictions on the size and bag limits for fish caught from jetties?

Yes, each species often has size and bag limits. Check local fishing regulations to ensure you’re in compliance.

Are there any specific rules for cleaning and disposing of fish caught from jetties?

Dispose of fish waste responsibly, and follow local guidelines for cleaning and filleting fish. Some areas may have specific rules to prevent pollution.

Remember to check local regulations and guidelines specific to the area where you plan to fish. Happy fishing!

Jetties – Another Great Place to Fish

If you’re a shore bound angler, you should check out the opportunities for fishing from the jetties. Those long piles of rocks and granite attract and hold fish of all kinds. And, you can fish while staying high and dry which is nice, especially when the water is cold and or rough. Always check the weather first, rough seas can sweep you off the jetty or the spray from the waves can make the rocks extra slick making walking very treacherous.

Spanish Mackerel caught while fishing from the jetties with a plastic DOA Shrimp
Spanish Mackerel caught from the jetties

They can get crowded at times, like fishing from a pier, but that usually means the fishing is, or at least has been, good.

Grab your gear and take a walk out on the rocks. Everyday fishing is a good day, and you might just catch some fish.

Be social, be courteous of the other fisherman and take the time to watch what the successful ones are doing. There is always more we can all learn.

As always, stay safe, enjoy the journey and please try to leave it cleaner than you found it. If you have any comments, questions, ideas or suggestions please leave them in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you asap. You can follow us on Facebook: Rex The Beach Angler, Instagram: thebeachangler7, Twitter: @AnglerBeach, and YouTube: Man Art Creations.

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