One of the ways to cut the cost of fishing is to fish from a free public fishing pier. Notice that I said fishing pier. Some piers are open to the public but don't allow fishing, be aware of that.
Bob with a Fish He Caught off the Pier in Port Mansfield, TX
How do you find a fishing pier? I usually just ask at the campground office, or ask the local coffee crew at the neighborhood restaurant. Drive around the coastal areas and look for signs. Ask at the chamber of commerce or visitor's bureau. Check the city, county, and state parks. Inquire at the bait shop, hardware store, gas station, or any place fishing tackle or bait is sold.
Now that you've found a pier, when's the best time to fish? Some people study charts of the phases of the moon. Some people use the monthly tide charts, studying the highs, lows, and peaks. Others watch the weather maps, analyzing the high and low fronts and systems. I just go when I have the time and feel like it.
I usually don't plan too much, maybe mentioning the possibility the night before so as not to interfere with plans I may have forgotten about. I don't like it too hot, too windy, too rainy, or too cold, so my tentative plans may change in the morning after looking out the window.
When I arrive at the pier, conditions might not be so inviting. There may not be reasonable RV parking. It might be busier than I prefer or busier than I feel is safe. It can be fun and rewarding to share the sport of fishing with children, but a crowd of unsupervised little hellions can be downright dangerous. A piece of cut bait in the face or a crossed line is annoying -- a hook in the back of the head or in the eye is something else. This said, I tend to avoid school holidays and weekends.
On a pier, you can catch a wide variety of fish. I have seen perch, croaker, black drum, red drum, spotted trout, catfish, flounder, sheep head, whiting, shark, and many others caught from piers. These fish ranged from less than a pound, to over 300 pounds. They were caught on gear ranging from a "Little Mermaid" fishing combo to a "Penn" deep sea set up. Any rod and reel with 10-pound test line or better will get you started.
For bait, you can use shrimp, squid, cut bait, mullet, herring, or whatever they have at the bait shop. You can also use things from the kitchen. Chunks of ham, raw beef, raw pork, any liver, whole kernel corn, or pieces of hotdog or sausage, all will work. There are all sorts of artificial baits and lures, too.
A simple bottom rig will work nearly anywhere. Put a sinker on the end of the line; six to twelve inches up tie a medium sized hook; then another twelve inches up put another hook; and you are then ready to bait the hooks and cast out. A simple floating rig consists of a hook on the end of the line; another hook twelve inches up: a small sinker four inches up; and a float set so the lowest hook is about six to twelve inches off the bottom; then bait the hooks and cast out with the wind.
Now add a license, copy of the regulations, a stringer, pliers, and knife. You're ready to go. If you stay in the area you can tune your tackle and technique accordingly. If it's a one-time stop you haven't invested a lot in tackle for one specific area.
Even if you don't catch anything, don't forget to enjoy the water, the waves, the birds, the passing boats, maybe some frolicking dolphins, or even a lone shark swimming past.
Good luck and watch for sunburn.
Watching the Pelicans and Other Wildlife is Part of the Fun of Fishing