Swanage Pier Appeal
There are toilets on the pier and a shop where you can buy hot or cold drinks and snacks ( the pasties are excellent). Within the shop building there is a small museum and exhibition. A video is usually playing showing the fish life under the pier...well worth watching to see what the sea bed is like.... and how close the fish are.
Swanage Pier is a major centre for diving and diver training, divers seem to be completely unaware that others have a right to enjoy a day out. They will swim through your lines even if they do bother to look to see where you are. Don't expect to find a parking space on the pier at weekends, each diver will expect to have another half a car space to store all of his or her gear. Do not expect them to move their cylinders dumped in the way when you try walking through them on your way out to the pier. Did you know .... you can lift a diver, who has been stupid enough to swim through your line and get himself tangled, right from the bottom to the surface on 12lb line? They are mostly too engrossed in what they are doing to realise that gravity has suddenly started working the other way round.
A summary of the fishing spots here is best split into sections, The prom section ( gate to start of wooden deck), the stem, the top deck and the lower deck.
The Prom section is fishing shallow weedy ground with mooring ropes, wrasse, bass, rockling, flounders, silver eels and mullet are your targets here, be prepared to lose some tackle. It is un-fishable most of the summer due to parked cars limiting access and diving boats, divers and weed in the water. Best fished in winter and early spring when the weed dies back, although there are occasions when black bream have been caught by float fishing at high tide near the Pier gates.
The stem of the pier is fairly safe for even small children, the sea bed is patchy weed and sand; there is little reason for long casting on the pier, after all, the fish are attracted to the pier structure so there is no need to fish elsewhere. The area between the pier and the remains of the old pier is particularly weedy, most people will float-fish to overcome this weed problem. Set the float to just clear the weed (trial and error...about 8' to 10') and you can get pollack, mackerel, gar, wrasse and bass. Dive boats come and go on the other side where there is a landing platform and on this side to the pontoon at Divers Down.; watch out for them because they won't be paying much attention to you or your needs !
The Lower Deck allows fishing nearer to the water level but is unguarded, so not good for ankle-biters. You will need to be aware of the ferries and cruise boats that come and go from these landing decks. You will not be able to fish when the boat is tied up. You can fish down under the pier as the centre section is not decked....watch for divers though.
The Top Deck is the favoured spot, there is usually a rush to get spots at the end. Fishing off the end allows float fishing for more of the tide as the current takes the float away from the pier...letting your float drift into the pier structure will usually result in lost tackle. The current runs in different directions at different states of the tide so you may have to swap sides if float fishing to take advantage of the flow.The top deck is well railed and is fairly safe for even small children
Bottom fishing very close in with small hooks, size 4 baited with an inch of ragworm, will get corkwing and ballan wrasse by the dozens along with many other species ( a small group of us counted up to 45 species we have caught there between us. )
Bigger baits will perhaps get a bass, and if you cast a sand eel further out towards Ballard Down and find a sandy patch maybe a ray. Undulate Rays seem to be the type most often caught in the bay.
Float fishing is most productive in summer and is the tactic used by most anglers there... if you want to be unpopular cast out a bottom fishing line right in between a group of people's floats that are drifting in the tide....fish close in on the bottom and you will not be spoiling other people's sport.
One fish that is caught quite often during the summer is the shad.... these are recognisable by the way they shed large scales, 5p size, as you get it off the hook; minimise handling and put it back as they are a protected species.
The top deck has bait cutting boards at intervals on the railings and a table and litter bin in the middle of the deck, attached to this table is a disposal tube for old line. Please use them and do not use the seats as bait tables or cutting boards.
Beachcasters are too heavy and cumbersome for this venue in summer, a carp, flattie, bass or spinning rod will do fine and give you the opportunity to enjoy float fishing, bottom fishing and spinning. You will not need more than an ounce or two to hold against tide or waves, grip leads are not needed and will add to the tangle of lost gear in the weed.
Feathering is not a sensible idea on a crowded pier, in any case the mackerel seldom shoal in great numbers near the pier to make feathering productive...it is much more fun to catch them singly on light float tackle.
Bait and tackle can be bought close by at The Swanage Angling Centre 6, High Street, Swanage, Dorset BH19 2NT tel 01929 424989. which you will find about 200 yards from the pier entrance on the right hand side of the road.
If you approach Swanage through Wareham there is a good tackle and bait shop there...... Purbeck Angling.... 28 South St, Wareham, Dorset BH20 4LU tel 01929 550770 which is on the right as you approach the river bridge; there is sometimes a parking space in front of the shop.