Pier fishing primer

Veteran angler gives advice on fishing Gulf Coast piers and jetties

Sam Davis

May 02, 2013 at 10:30 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Joe Staton, seen here with a nice bull red, prefers to use cut bait or live bait when pier fishing because of the broad range of species they attract.
Courtesy Joe Staton
Joe Staton, seen here with a nice bull red, prefers to use cut bait or live bait when pier fishing because of the broad range of species they attract.
Joe Staton, a Navy Seabee stationed in Gulfport, has fished rock jetties from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq to piers in California and Virginia. He finds the techniques he honed while fishing around the world work just as well on Gulf Coast piers and jetties from Bay St. Louis to Biloxi.

Staton is no beginner when it comes to fishing. As the son of parents who both served in the Marine Corps, he grew up fishing the salt marshes of North and South Carolina.

"I've been catching my own bait since I can remember," he said. "As early as 4 years old I was catching my own fiddler crabs at low tide and casting my first cast net at 5 for mullet, bull minnows and croaker."

Regardless of where Staton's military obligations take him, he finds the fundamentals are the same. The target species may vary but the approach remains consistent. In all of the locations he has fished, water conditions, weather, time of day, lunar phase, birds and bait are all on his radar.

"My thought process is, when I see water I expect to find fish, and most of the time that holds true," Staton said. "If you can dig up information on a location beforehand that's great, but if you can't, don't let that discourage you. It's called fishing and not catching for a reason."

When Staton scouts an area for the first time he puts his senses in high gear. He pays attention to the types of birds in the area, baitfish, bottom contours and content. If he gets hung up and hauls in a cluster of oysters he knows he's on an oyster reef and not rocks. All these small clues add up to huge success.

"If I see birds in the area, they are doing the same thing I'm doing, looking for fish," he said. "I also like to note the size and color of the most prevalent bait to determine what artificial bait to use.  Mimicking the natural bait in the area is a great way to induce a bite on the resident fish."

Staton is quick to point out that doing a little research on the fish you are targeting and learning the lay of the land is a key ingredient to success in fishing. He also believes a fisherman must put in the time and keep a catch log. It is his belief that writing down the small details of each trip will help you target fish all year long.

According to Staton, a lot of extravagant tackle is not needed to fish the Coast's piers and jetties. He is no stranger to using artificial lures but prefers to use cut bait or live bait because of the broad range of species these baits will catch.

"I mainly fish a Carolina rig with cut bait," Staton said. "I slide an egg sinker on my main line, which is 30-pound Power Pro, tie off to a barrel swivel, then to a 3-foot length of 30-pound monofilament tied to a Mustad Ultra Point 4/0 hook."

One final ingredient to Staton's arsenal is a pier net. A pier net is similar to a crab net, but larger and capable of hoisting a 100-pound fish from the surf.

Staton has landed just about every species of fish a person could catch from Coast piers: bull redfish, massive black drum, speckled trout, white trout, sharks, Spanish mackerel and even a king mackerel. Whether fishing Courthouse Pier in Gulfport or the Tigris River in Iraq, apply Staton's tactics to land more fish.




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