The original Sunshine Skyway Bridge opened in 1954, replacing a ferry system that ran from Southern Hillsborough County to Pinellas County. The bridge was built to support two lanes of traffic. Years later, another bridge was constructed parallel to the existing bridge, expanding the thoroughfare to four lanes. On a stormy day, May 9th 1980, the freighter Summit Venture collided into the bridge. A portion of the structure collapsed, killing 35 people. The new Skyway Bridge was open for business in 1987. It is a four-mile-long cable stayed bridge, spanning the mouth of Tampa Bay.
In 1994, the Skyway piers opened to the public. Using portions of the old bridge, piers were constructed on both the north and south ends of Tampa Bay. The southern pier is the longest fishing pier in the world. Ruble from the collapsed portion of the bridge was used to create reefs under and around the piers. Water depths range from 15 to 25 feet, making for a perfect fishing environment.
Today, these piers are a wonderful resource for anglers, photographers and spectators. Each side boasts bait and tackle stores, restroom facilities and plenty of room to fish. The piers are ideal for handicapped anglers and parking is just steps away from the fishing areas. Snook, tarpon, grouper and mangrove snapper are just a few of the species that can be landed from either pier.
Zachary Johns has fished the Tampa Bay area for over 15 years. He frequents the Skyway Piers weekly and has learned how to fish the piers through trial and error. Zachary uses satellite imaging to find structure, knowing he will find fish in these areas. On a typical evening, he will start catching bait a few hours before sundown. He uses a sabiki rig, tipped with shrimp, pinfish or greenbacks which are plentiful. Zachary fishes the shallows for snook, using a 5000 to 8000 series reel, medium heavy to heavy rod, 30 to 40-pound braid and 60 to 130-pound leader. When fishing for grouper, he uses heavier gear in deeper water. After sundown, Zachary uses his smaller setups, as it is time to target mangrove snapper. He has a true passion for the Skyway Piers. It reminds him of all the great times he has had there with his friends.
The Skyway Piers are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The cost for entrance is $4.00 per vehicle and $4.00 per person, children under 12 are $2.00. This price is hard to beat, considering it is a 24-hour entrance fee. One huge advantage to fishing the piers, no fishing license is required. Whether you are a hardcore angler, photographer or just want to enjoy a beautiful sunset, the Skyway Piers are truly an amazing resource you won’t want to miss.
Photo Credit: Zachary Johns, Charles Andrew Braat and Shannon Sutter,
Drone Photo: Jeff Malino
Special thanks to Chris Cadenhead – CEO of Pier Associates, Inc.