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Nightlife heats up at area piers

By RICK FRAZIER
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 14, 2002

During these hot summer months, night time is the right time for fishing. Some of the best can be found at bay and gulf piers.

Clearwater's Pier60, Redington Long Pier and North and South Skyway Fishing Piers offer excellent opportunities.

One of the primary reasons the piers offer such good night fishing is their lights. Shining into the water they draw thick baitfish schools that in turn draw predatory fish like snook, speckled trout, tarpon and red drum or redfish. The lights create shadows these voracious fish love to hide in, so they can ambush baitfish that are suckered into bright lights.

These piers are equipped with everything an angler needs, from cold drinks to bait and tackle. Admission also covers any licenses required.

PIER 60: It's known for its outstanding catch-and-release snook action. Anglers are applying their trade with great success most nights, though the snook can be finicky at times. One night pinfish may be the bait of choice, and the next night snook will turn up their noses and take a ladyfish, pigfish (grunt) or threadfin herring.

Catch a variety of baits. Gold hook bait-catching rigs are your best bet. Use the heavier line rigs to catch ladyfish, but normal size sabiki rigs with No.8 hooks will catch pinfish, grunts and threadfins.

Cast your free-lined offerings in the shadows. Fifty-pound gear will land one of these monsters.

Most snook chasers have hoop nets so they can bring their catch over the pier rails unharmed and release it in good condition. The pier, however, furnishes hoop nets so a fish isn't unnecessarily stressed or injured during catch and release.

Speckled trout action is at a fever pitch. Gator size trout are being caught in the lights with tandem jig rigs. Florescent pink, chartreuse and glow white are the hottest colors, but anglers say any color will work.

Tarpon, to almost everyone's surprise, are being hooked before first light. Most are not landed, but they are fun to hook and exhilarating to watch with their aerobatic leaps and jumps before they spit the hook.

REDINGTON LONG PIER: This quarter-mile pier is an angler's dream. Situated over natural rock-hard bottom, it draws in everything from grunts to tarpon.

Catch-and-release snook is good. Ladyfish and threadfins are the preferred baits. Free-lining is the best bet in the light shadows.

Tarpon action is tops, with the end of the pier occupied by the anglers using the outrigging technique.

This takes know-how, and the best advice to someone who has never used it is to watch how it's done before attempting it. It can be difficult, but it is rewarding.

Speckled trout are hitting live shrimp floated or free-lined in the lights, with good-size yellow-mouths hitting the planks.

Redfish is being caught, but mainly with live whitebait (scaled sardines) and small pinfish. These fish like the shadows and feed mainly on the bottom, so use a light slip-sinker rig to keep your bait in position.

Doormat-size flounder are being caught using the same redfish technique.

SKYWAY FISHING PIERS: These are the most versatile of all the fishing piers I've covered. Access, length, location and productivity make these piers the most popular in the area.

Big bull sharks and decent size blacktips aren't uncommon from these long piers. Bonita, crevalle jack, mullet, shad and mackerel are great baits for sharking.

Mangrove snapper action is hot, and they're best at the start of the outgoing tide. Live whitebait, pinfish and shrimp are not refused.

Gag grouper can't be overlooked. Artificial reefs built parallel to the piers from the old bridge offer sanctuary to these tasty critters. Just like the mangos, most bites come at the beginning of the outgoing tide. Live pinfish is the best bet.

-- If you've had a great day fishing from land and want to share it with our readers, contact the LUBBERLINE at (727) 893-8775 or email Rick Frazier at captrick@luckydawg.com.

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