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Pass-a-Grille pieris perfect on foot

By RICK FRAZIER
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 3, 2002

If you're looking for a free and easy place to fish where there's a great chance of catching decent fish, check out the the rock-jetty pier along the channel at Pass-a-Grille.

Located on the channel's north side, the jetty forms the southern tip of Pass-a-Grille Beach.

Drive south on Gulf Boulevard from St. Pete Beach to the end, and follow the curve to the right and to the pier. There's plenty of parking, and there's a sand trail through dunes to the pier.

One of the best features of the pier is the amount of water that flows around it. The outgoing tide is preferred, because you can cast your bait upcurrent and let the tide sweep it around the pier.

Some of the year's best snook fishing is going on there and will continue until water temperatures drop, sending snook into deep canals and rivers.

Nate Whittington of St. Petersburg usually spends 2-3 evenings a week at the pier trying to catch linesiders. His best was a 26-incher, but he is determined to catch a lunker.

Whittington prefers live bait and catches his own with a cast net at the pier. There's plenty of whitebait, or greenbacks as Whittington calls them, on the calm side of the jetty where the current isn't strong.

It's much easier to throw a net in calm water, and a small, 6-foot net with three-eighths-inch mesh catches as many greenbacks as you need.

Free-lining the greenbacks is best, because it gives the bait a natural appearance as it is swept downcurrent.

Whittington catches a variety of other fish at the pier. Spanish mackerel are almost always eager to take his bait, especially when it's lively. Just as he does for snook, Whittington free-line's his bait for the Spanish mackerel.

Whittington uses a lightweight spinning outfit with 10-pound line and a small piece of monofilament leader with No. 1 or No. 2 hooks.

Live bait isn't necessary. Jim Corbin of Leesburg uses artificials at the pier. Working in St. Petersburg on a condominium project, Corbin fishes at the pier to unwind and relax. Lures makes it easy: They're productive, and you don't have to spend a lot of time and energy catching bait.

Jack crevalle, ladyfish and mangrove snapper are among the fish Corbin has caught. Hard-body crank baits and gold spoons are some of his favorite baits, and he uses a medium-action spinning outfit.

As the water cools, sheepshead will be a big draw at the pier because of the rocks, to which they stay close looking for food. Sheepies bite best on a slack tide, which allows a better presentation.

Medium tackle is best for sheepshead, which are scrappy and will cut a line against the rocks. Fifteen-pound line and 30-pound leader gets the job done, and at slack tide a small weight will keep a bait in the zone.

Barnacles are the choice bait for sheepshead, but fiddler crabs, oysters, green mussels and cut shrimp work well.

If you use barnacles, scrape a few extra to sprinkle around the rocks for chum. Once you start to see the fish hitting the chum, lower your bait and set the hook. Don't always wait to feel the strike, as sheepshead are notorious bait stealers. They can strip your hook without you feeling a thing.

-- 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 captrick@luckydawg.com

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