Stokes: Try fishing the old wood

rodcrafter@islc.netNovember 16, 2013 

Florida Daily Life

Fishermen and pier walkers are silhouetted by the sun featuring a circular halo, Tuesday Nov. 12, 2013 at the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Northwest Florida Daily News, Nick Tomecek)

NICK TOMECEK — File -- The Associated Press

Productive waters are always available when other areas fail. The explanation is simple -- the water holds what fish are seeking, mainly a food source.

It amazes me how often these areas are passed over, yet they sit quietly in creeks and rivers. Then, like magic, they are discovered.

Most veteran anglers are aware of their presence, but because of the sheer numbers available, prefer to work other waters -- that is, until the pressure of a tournament or the frustration of the day's numbers force them to take action.

Maybe it's time for some old wood fishing. The old wood I am referring to are docks and piers, each with its own unique characteristic.

The choice to fish one over the other is a matter of knowing which is dead wood and which is active. By this, I mean the established docks and piers have had time to mature. They have accumulated the growth of mussels, shells, barnacles and attachments that attract fish to them.

With today's new technology, it is hard to know which is new or which is old, unless you are familiar with the waters where they are located. This is where experience comes forward. Know the waters you fish and you will ultimately become a better fisherman.

Abandoned docks and piers that are in disrepair are prime targets for a number of species. Like offshore reefs and structures, inshore fish find a haven from larger predators under and around the habitat, and a sort of nanny is composed for smaller juvenile fish to mature.

During low tide, a discovery period is available to anglers to search these wooden structures for the most productive. A good place to start would be the older creek developments where homes have stood for a while; newer docks tend to emit a negative attraction until they have been exposed for a few years. Or, unless they are in an area that provides safety or a break in the current that will be attractive to game fish.

A few subtle hints will aid you in your search. Be on the look for structures that are situated in deeper waters, long docks with heavy timber and thick pilings. Also be aware that most docks which are active will have a depression, a type of cut underneath them that has been blown out, a result of prop wash. This is not always the case, depending on tide and current conditions, but you can be sure one will exist if the dock or pier is on the inside of a turn or bend in the river.

This is not to say those that sit on the end of a point or jut out into a peninsula should be passed by. To the contrary, they can be some of your best targets, especially if in the proximity of deep water. When you approach this type of structure it is best to fish the flow -- let your bait flow with the current towards you, maintain a tight line, take in the slack and be prepared for the strike.

To become more efficient at casting around such structures I suggest a bit of modification by using a freshwater spinner bait. These single- or double-bladed lures are perfect for placing your bait where you want it.

Simply replace the swivels and snaps with saltwater varieties and you have a lethal method of presenting your bait to a number of game fish, mostly spottail bass and trout. While there may be others, such as whiting and croaker, I have found the two species to be the most dominant while employing the technique.

There are many other methods, such as floating a cork rig around the pilings or tossing a direct line with bait attached. However, both will be a cause of hang-ups and lost fishing time. A choice that may prove to aid in such situations is to use longer fishing rods.

One method I prefer is to use a long fly rod with a spinning reel. The added length and leverage has kept me out of trouble on more than one occasion and helped me boat fish that otherwise would have been lost.

Give some of the old wood a try if your fishing has lost momentum. Keep a log and note the creeks where the most productive structures are located. Fish them sparingly so you will have a fall-back plan when things get rough.

Anyone can catch fish some of the time. A true fisherman does so when others fail -- and knows when to brag and when to keep his mouth shut.


The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is upgrading its computer systems, so DNR license sales will be unavailable until 9 a.m. Monday. License sales will not be available until then for any license vendor, Internet or call center.


It would be wise to have your reels serviced now rather than to wait for the start of next season. Any moisture in your reel will take a heavy toll during the offseason. If you're going to have it serviced, the proper time is prior to storage.

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