On the Water
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Docks Decked Out for Fishing

Your best catches are waiting just underfoot
By Dan Armitage
Published: July 1, 2008
Kids Fishing
With the shade and cover they provide, most docks attract fish. But with a little help, you can morph most any dock into a highly productive fishing platform for anglers of all ages to enjoy.

Sure, your dock is fun central for swimmers, boaters and sunbathers, but a properly outfitted dock can also provide you and your fellow anglers with some of the finest fishing on your lake. With just a little planning and a few key accessories readily available on the market, you can soon be pulling in trophy-worthy catches from the comfort of your own shoreline.

The Accessory You Already Have

Whether you realize it or not, your boat dock does more than offer handy access to the water. No matter whether it’s fancy or humble, it already serves an important role for fish and the food they seek.

The shade made by any dock structure is welcome refuge to underwater creatures, many of which do not have the benefit of eyelids to help them shutter their retinas from the bright rays of the sun. Gamefish seek such shadowed shelter for that element alone, and often stick around to stalk baitfish and enjoy the other benefits they find under even the most basic dock.

Savvy anglers know all this. That’s why you may find boat-based anglers lingering off your dock – or anchored outright – targeting the structure with cast after cast. Or you may find telltale signs of passing fishermen’s presence in the form of hooks, bobbers and ill-cast lures that have been snagged on the dock in your absence. Many a fishing tournament or casual contest has been won by anglers fishing nothing but the waters around docks.

Rod Holder
Tear your eyes away from the catch this young angler is holding and you might spy the dock-mounted rod holder that played a part in landing these fine fish.
Photo by Dan Armitage

The Accessories You Must Have

• Structure: When it comes to dock fishing, the more structure the better. If you haven’t already removed them, consider leaving the downed trees and logs in your shallows to attract a fish population to your dock. If your swimmers balk, clear one side for swimming, and leave the other side au naturel for fishing. If your shoreline is free of submerged foliage, consider adding structures like submerged Christmas trees or even commercially-made fish attractors. Be sure to check with your state and local regulations first, but if adding structure is legal, it’ll help to attract fish, and in turn you’ll be providing a safe, secluded place for fish to reproduce and repopulate your lake.

• Rod holders: Anyone who has had a rod stepped on, tripped over, or punted into the drink can tell you that rod holders are an important accessory to have on any dock used for fishing. There are plenty of models available that are made for bolting onto a dock or post, and PVC pipe can be easily fashioned into holders for various applications.

Porcupine Fish Attractors
From old Christmas trees to commercial products like the Porcupine Fish Attractor, establishing structure in the vicinity of docks creates the cover that fish and their prey require and will quickly improve the fishing opportunities in the immediate area. : Photo courtesy www.porcupinefishattractor.com

The Accessories You Might Want

• Seating: Seating is important too, as it helps anglers remain comfortable and patient. Aside from typical dock seating options like benches and hammocks, some companies offer seating for the angler among their dock accessories. You can buy a swivel chair with a full 360- degree pivot to allow you casting access in every direction.

• Storage: Another nicety is a storage box to keep your gear organized. Everything from towers with hooks and trays to hinge-top lock boxes are available. Outfit a tackle box with your favorite dock fishing lures and stash it away on your dock for easy access.

• Bait & Live Wells: You will probably also want to consider making or buying a bait well and/or a live well to keep both your bait and your catch alive and fresh while you fish. Avoid the temptation to put your fish on a stringer alongside your dock, as more than one dockside catch has been stripped clean by hungry turtles.

Shoremaster125_dock locker
This corner dock locker from ShoreMaster takes up minimal space and is the perfect size for storing tackle, sunblock and any other essential fishing gear. : photo courtesy ShoreMaster

• Lighting: New options in dock lighting can help you keep casting well into the evening. Some companies make their own lighting attachments for dock posts and gear towers, while others sell universal brackets that allow you to attach solar-powered lights to your dock.

• Landing Net: Finally, you’ll need to equip your dock with a landing net attached to a handle long enough to reach a catch too heavy to lift outright without breaking the line – an event that will become commonplace once your dock is adapted for fishing and you’ve got some shoreline habitat.


When Dan Armitage isn’t fishing with his wife and son, he conducts fishing and outdoor photography seminars around the U.S., and works as an outdoors writer and radio show host in Ohio.

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