St. Petersburg, Florida is a Mecca for Fishing Enthusiast! By: Capt. George Hastick

Sure, there is a wide variety of things to do in St. Petersburg. We have multiple museums including the world-famous Dali Museum along with plenty of beautiful white sand beaches including Fort DeSoto, which has been ranked the #1 beach nationally in the past and #7 for its camping sites. Also, the night life in downtown St. Petersburg is unmatched with waterfront views and multiple bars, clubs and eateries, all within walking distance of each other. During the day, there are multiple shops of various kinds for every one’s interest. From high end boutiques to smoke shops–downtown has it all. Let’s not forget about our newly reconstructed 92-million-dollar downtown waterfront pier, which extends out 3000 feet into Tampa Bay and includes beach access, splash pad, park, bistros, museum, market place, cafes, bar and grilles, gear and gift shop, along with a fishing deck and bait shop. So, there is plenty to do in St. Petersburg, but one of the best experiences is our fishery.

We have such a wide variety of fish to catch in our area that there is something for everyone! Some of the species available in our area include snook, redfish, trout, sheepshead, tarpon, pompano, permit, mackerel, king mackerel, ladyfish, jack crevalle, grouper, goliath grouper, red snapper, mangrove snapper, cobia, hogfish, triple tail, flounder and a variety of sharks, to name a few.

Now, right next door to the St. Pete Pier is St. Petersburg Municipal Marina and Demens Landing Park. This is where I launch my 23.5’ bay boat with a 2023 Yamaha 250 SHO outboard to guide people to this wonderful fishery we call Tampa Bay. The great thing about this area is that there are plenty of places to catch fish, with or without a boat. The pier and Demens Landing Park, along with many miles of seawalls and multiple piers and bridges in the area, offer land fishing where you can catch a sheepshead or a mangrove snapper dinner along with a possible redfish, snook or trout. The marina has live shrimp and the pier has a variety of frozen bait that you can use to fish these areas. You will want to fish along the sea walls, docks and along the pilings of the piers and bridges. An all-around good set up for inshore fishing would be a 7 to 7 1/2-foot medium pole with a size 3000 to 4000 reel loaded with 15-pound braided line, 4 feet of 25 to 30-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon leader and a 1/0 circle hook. When using shrimp, I like to hook it through the shell of the head being careful not to hit the black dots, which will kill it. I will pinch the tail off, which will not kill it, but will create scent around your bait. This is the best of both worlds, because you will have movement and scent at the same time, which both attract fish to bite.

Many of the parks and areas near our bridges, like the Skyway bridge and Gandy bridge, offer good wade fishing opportunities, but be careful to shuffle your feet when walking, so you do not step on a stingray. For wade fishing, I would use the same set up, opting for the longer pole so as to be able to cast further. The more area you cover by fan casting, the better your odds are. I would use artificials or shrimp while wade fishing. For the artificials, I would try both a 1/8 to 1/4-ounce jig head, an Owner 3/0 to 4/0 twist lock hook with a 3 to 4-inch paddle tail and an artificial shrimp. I like using Saltwater Assassin’s Sea Shad in sugar and spice and shrimp in molting or Papa Smurf colors.

Now, if you get a kayak or rent a boat, you can fish the many mangrove tree-lined grass flats that our area has to offer. One of the best baits that you can catch is scaled sardines. This is the caviar of inshore fishing. These baits are very frisky and have very white sides which flash when they swim and the sun hits them. Redfish and especially snook are the two favorite inshore fish I love to target–leaning towards snook just slightly. Redfish have a bulldog “I’m not giving up” type of attitude, all the way to the boat. The snook is an ambush predator that will make a loud slap noise at the top of the water when it crushes your bait. Then it might jump out of the water or just come to the top and give a gill rattling head shake to try to throw the hook! Look for both of these fish to be anywhere from under the mangroves to 70 feet out from the mangroves, as long as there is good live grass or an oyster mound. Both of those attributes hold bait which, in turn, attracts fish. Moving water is the key to a good bite. You can catch some on a slack tide, but once that water starts moving, the bite will usually turn on. The tide will move the bait and the fish will position themselves to intercept with the least amount of effort. So, sometimes, a 2-foot closer cast to a mangrove or oyster mound could make the difference of whether you get the hit. So, practice up on your casting skills, if you need to, and make a trip to St. Petersburg–a fisherman’s paradise.

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