By Tim Huffman
Docks & Marinas offer fishing opportunities without the use of a boat. It’s true that the past three decades have put most fishermen into a position to afford a boat. Go to the lake on a pretty spring day and you’ll agree the number of boat fishermen have grown. However, there are still opportunities for no-boat fishermen.
Kevin and Charlie Rogers from Missouri are known as high speed, run and gun fishermen so it will surprise those who know them that their roots stem back to fishing from docks.
“It’s one way I learned to fish,” says Charlie. “With our boat and equipment we don’t do it now but it’s still a good way to fish. It’s a slower paced fishing while moving from stall to stall at a dock.”
Kevin says, “A lot of people don’t have an interest in owning and having to upkeep a boat. There are many expenses and much time involved even with a smaller boat. In my home state of Missouri, and I’m sure in many other states, there are great fishing docks and good crappie fishermen who fish from them. I know dad learned much of his fishing from a dock and I fished from them when I was young.”
The Right Dock
The keys in the winter include deep water and cover. Fish may move up in the water column or get shallow on occasion but usually they will be in the deep water. Any dock with a drop or ledge of some type can be a gold mine.
“When fishing a dock the number one thing I look for is cover,” says Charlie. “Some of the best cover is hanging down suspended from ropes or cables. Pay close attention to cables along the edges and in corners of stalls. Also look for cables in the middle of the walkway boards…meaning the cover is suspended directly under the walkway. Some cables may be obvious while others will be harder to locate.”
Charlie Rogers believes in good plastics for catching crappie. He started early morning with larger jigs while fish were aggressive (Bobby Garland Minnow Mind’R shown here) but when the bite slowed down he switched to a 1/32-ounce head and a shortened Scent Wiggl’R.
“Fishing from a dock is complete opposite of what we do when fishing from a boat,” says Kevin. “Today on the dock we are using 4.5 and 5-foot rods so when we set the hook we won’t tear up the rod tip on the roof or a support. Spinning rods are best to handle the light line and get the jigs back into the tight areas.”
Jigs need to stay in the strike zone when flipping. Also, smaller baits are more enticing around a dock where fish see a lot of baits during their lifetime. Downsizing helps, especially when fishing pressured fish. Baits 1/24-, 1/32- and 1/64-ounce are common offerings. The Rogers’ prefer using a larger jig when fish are aggressive. But, most of the time from a dock they say the best bet is a small jig like a shortened Scent Wiggl’R on a 1/32 head.
“We are a believer in Bobby Garland plastics and have been on their pro staff for years,” says Charlie. “Their baits are very good with their Slab Slay’R being a great bait for our jigging. We would have on the new 1-inch model Slab Slay’R on here on the dock if we had some in the right colors. I know it would work here today with the finicky bites.”
Line size is water color dependent with 2- or 4-pound test usually recommended. The light line is not only good for line-shy fish but also for handling the lightweight jigs.
Crappie around docks usually prefer a bait that is slowly falling or still. Active fish will attack anything, but sluggish or shy crappie want a subtle presentation.
“We use a lift action by using our fingers to raise the jig slowly,” says Kevin. “It’s exactly like we do from a boat. We learned it years ago when fishing from docks bringing the jig up through the brush. The slow lift seems to be appealing to any crappie.”
Kevin believes dock crappie are just like crappie on other structures. Early morning and late evening is best, or at night from a dock. During the day the fish will use the shade but may become shy with all the action around the dock. They will still eat but are cautious.”
Charlie says he wants his jig in brush. “A good presentation is a good presentation whether you are out on the lake or on a dock. You need to pay attention and put it where the crappie are located.”
Quiet isn’t a big deal with Charlie. “No, I don’t think it bothers the fish. I’ve dropped the lids in the boats and stomped around but if they are going to bite they are going to bite. There might be people and golf carts running on a big marina dock but I don’t believe that bothers the fish.”
“Winter is prime time for fishing docks,” says Kevin. “The disadvantage of dock fishing is you can’t go to different places on the lake. So, you have to fish every inch of the dock and then re-fish it. Some people enjoy the relaxed atmosphere while most of us have learned to be on the move in a boat. There’s nothing wrong with either type of fishing.”
Charlie says, “I started by fishing docks using a 1/100-ounce jig and my line was nylon sewing thread, about 1-pound test. Now Kevin and I use 3/8- and 1/4-ounce jigs on 15-pound braid when fishing in the boat. Things have changed but dock fishing is still an option. If the wind is blowing 30 mph it’s a good place to go. I’ve met a lot of nice people on docks throughout the years.”
Docks are not much different than fishing other structures or covers. Fishing from a dock is an advantage in strong winds. Water depths, bottom contours, cold fronts, bad water color and fishing pressure are similar factors that can influence dock crappie the same as open water crappie.