© St. Petersburg Times, published March 2, 2003
Pitching the light jig underhanded, it landed quietly with a slight "bloop" next to the rickety dock. After letting it settle at the bottom, the first twitch of the fake minnow bait brought a leaping, gill-rattling snook that peeled off drag. Palming the reel spool slowed it down briefly, but it took off again, burning line as it headed for the safety of another dock.
Fortunately, the run slowed before the fish was able to make it to the dock and was turned away from the fish-losing structure into the landing net.
Docks and snook go hand-in-hand, especially when the water is still cool. Most residential canals hold plenty of snook this time of year, but they are nearly impossible to access by land. But one place in northeast St. Petersburg offers easy access to docks, snook and parking. Coffee Pot Bayou is off 30th Avenue North and Coffee Pot Boulevard. It dumps into the bay at the North Shore area and is lined with docks, drain pipes and drop-offs that hold plenty of linesiders.
Parking is available at Coffee Pot Park off 30th Avenue North and First Street or at many avenues off Coffee Pot Boulevard. Be aware of no-parking signs.
If your approach is light tackle in the 8-, 10- or 12-pound range, keeper snook will be difficult to catch in this arena. There is too much structure to which snook can race in such a short distance. Dock-snook fishing is not finesse-style fishing. It is down and dirtybut highly productive if the correct tackle is used.
Rods should be in the 20-pound class. Graphite or fiberglass will both work. Graphite is more sensitive and sometimes the subtle "bink" is easily felt through it. Length is a matter of preference, but 7-foot sticks give more leverage in turning when the fish is running.
Reels need to be matched to the 20-pound class rod. Better reels provide line information and capacities on the reel spool skirt or on the box they come in. The reel's drag system is extremely important because if the reel has a sticky or jumpy drag, it could cause line failure in the main line or leader and especially at the knot(s).
For this style fishing, braided line is superior to monofilament for several reasons. Braids are thinner in diameter, so a heavier line can be used. They also are more abrasion resistant. Barnacles and concrete will not slow a braid down. It will saw through the barnacles. Oyster shells will do damage but not as quickly as to a monofilament. Sensitivity was mentioned earlier, and since braids do not stretch, they are more sensitive, which can be a big help detecting the bite. The braids on the market today are not triangle shaped so they will not cut the ceramic insert of the rod guides as earlier braids did.
Fluorocarbon leader should be tied to the main line with a line-to-line knot. A surgeons knot is easy, quick and strong, and 40-pound leader will suffice.
Experience in dock fishing proved that if the snook will eat, it will hit on the first or second cast. The technique is to work each dock with two casts on both sides, then move on to the next. Casting under the dock will spook the fish and give it lockjaw. Cast beyond the dock and slowly bring the bait back along both sides.
Tail-hooked shrimp or pin fish are great live baits for this area. The only problem is controlling where they go. They could easily swim into a piece of structure and get snagged. Artificial baits are easier to control and can be just as productive. Light jigs dressed with gold glitter shad or slug tails will not go untouched. Also slow sinking crank baits in natural patterns that rattle work.
Just remember that snook are mainly nocturnal feeders.
-- 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