© St. Petersburg Times, published May 5, 2002
It could be the 3-pound mangrove snapper or the huge Spanish mackerel.
Maybe even the gator speckled trout that's causing the enthusiasm in Fort DeSoto Park supervisor Jim Wilson's voice over the park's gulf pier overhaul.
In just 35 minutes one day last week, Wilson landed all of these fish in 15 feet of water while working one of the new artificial reefs adjacent to the pier.
Construction costs to upgrade the pier are about $2-million, which is paid for by the "Penny for Pinellas" tax.
Asked why not just fix the existing pier, Wilson said, "It was much more cost effective to build a new pier than to shore up the weathered-beaten old pier.
"The current runs strong through this area, and time has taken its toll on the old pilings. Everything from the first sun deck to the end of the 1,000-foot pier will be replaced."
Renovation has been under way since early January. As long as the weather cooperates, the new pier should open by late August or Labor Day. The new pier will have a pair of sun decks at piling 23. Also, a widened pier end, or T, will almost double the amount of square footage.
The T of the old pier was just 18 feet wide. The new T still will be 18 feet wide, but at the center will be an additional 18 feet, making the area 36 feet wide.
That should open up the pier for the anglers, onlookers and birds. The T will be 138 feet long.
Aluminum guard rails will replace the wooden ones that ate up monofilament fishing line. Four fish cleaning stations will be added. They will have modern starboard cutting boards instead of pressure-treated wooden ones. All of the cleaning stations also will have running water as well.
New lights will be added but with concern for turtles that frequent the white sandy beaches during nesting season.
The best aspect for anglers will be the addition of five artificial reefs placed strategically around the pier.
Each reef will be about 50 feet by 100 feet, constructed from old pier material. There will be no old tires, wood or trash in the reefs.
The contractor is taking great care in constructing each reef. They will cut off any exposed steel, and no material will be smaller than a foot in diameter due to the heavy current in the area.
Another important aspect of the reefs is the placing of the material on the bottom. Each reef is built to allow water to flow. And all material will be placed end to end so there will be no overhanging structure to cause snags. Meaning the reefs will have walls with direct drop-offs to the bottom.
Reefs will be no taller than 6 feet above mean low water stage to help boats.
The reefs are 75 percent complete.
They will be placed 60 feet from the pier to keep people from hitting them if they jump. Reefs will be placed on the west end as well as off pilings 21 and 22 and out from the first sun deck.
Schools of threadfin herring, scaled sardines and other baitfish already are clinging to the reefs.
Anglers in boats searching for bait are taking advantage of the huge bait schools.
I can't wait for the pier to open mainly because of the monster cobia I saw hanging off the reef while visiting.
For more information about the new gulf pier, check out www.fortdesoto.com or call (727) 582-2267.
-- Capt. Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 510-4376. If you've had a great day fishing from land and want to share it with readers, contact the LUBBERLINE at (727) 893-8775 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org