When I first started fishing with a rod and reel, I would spend hours on the old 331 bridge fishing with frozen shrimp on the cheapest setup money could buy with what was essentially a large bream hook. I thought I was Roland Martin when I would catch a small speckle trout or redfish. Even as I got more experience and bought my first boat, I would still find myself fishing around a bridge piling at some point during the day. The fish just love the structure. From monster bull reds to 12 inch delicious black snapper, the pilings hold everything. I’ve caught some of my biggest inshore fish around the bridges in our area.
There are several different ways you can be successful around the bridges but I like a 4000 series reel with 10 or 12 pound test mono line on a stiff action rod fishing live bait. I rig the bait using about a half ounce slip sinker or heavier depending on the depth and current. I use a 20 pound fluorocarbon leader with a size 1 owner mutu light circle hook. The reason I use a size 1 instead of a 1/0 is that it is just big enough to hook big drum but small enough to land sheepshead and black snapper. Any kind of live bait does the job, but you can’t go wrong with a live shrimp or a small white bait like finger mullet, pinfish or croakers. I like to fish right up next to the pilings but you have to really be on your toes because when the fish bites, he’s gonna head back into the structure and hang you up. This is exactly why I use mono and not braid. It’s harder for the fish to break the braid, but if it gets hung on the piling, it’s also harder to break it loose and retie. I generally like to use just my trolling motor to go around the pilings once or twice and move to another one. If I find a piling that is holding a lot of fish I will stay and fish it a little longer. Bridge fishing doesn’t get as much exposure as sight fishing or other fisheries but that’s fine with me. That means more fish for the ones that know how good it can be. Even if you don’t have a boat there are several bridges you can fish off of in our area including the West Bay bridge in Bay County as well as the Shalimar and Destin bridges in Okaloosa county. Of course, those enjoying South Walton fishing have the 331 bridge, too. You can still use the techniques above, but make sure you have a drop net to help haul up the fish. You can take my word that no matter what time of year it is, you can find fish holding tight to the bridges.