Wading in deep keeps the blood flowing

By RICK FRAZIER, Times Correspondent
Published December 7, 2007

FORT DE SOTO PARK - His name is Earle. Earle Peckham to be exact, and wade fishing is his game.

Four decades have gone by since Peckham began wading Fort De Soto Park. He has covered every nook and cranny from East Beach to North Beach and all points in between.

"Back in '67 when I retired from the Green Berets, I came out here every day," said Peckham, 77. "Now, I get out here about once a week."

Age and 500 parachute jumps have caught up with Peckham.

"I like to wade deep because the water takes weight off my feet and legs, and makes it easier to stand and walk," Peckham said. "Most guys don't like to wade this deep because they get wet, but I don't mind it."

One of the guys he's talking about is me. For me, wade fishing is typically a low-tide affair done on the incoming tide.

Not Peckham. He doesn't care about the tide as long as it's moving.

He likes to target the big three - snook, redfish, and trout - but redfish are his favorite because he loves to eat it blackened.

"Usually every year I freeze up all the reds I catch, and I take them to my family and we have blackened redfish for the holidays," Peckham said. "But this year wasn't a good year for me with reds, so we'll have to have something else."

Like every good angler, Peckham has his favorite techniques. He likes to free-line live bait, so he'll rig his gear for that. He prefers a 9-foot spinning outfit loaded it with, get this, 4-pound monofilament line.

"Did you see how far I was able to cast?" Peckham asked. "That's why I like a long rod and light line. Plus, out here where I'm fishing, there isn't any structure to cut the line."

He attaches a piece of 25-pound fluorocarbon leader to his line, then ties on a long-shank 2/0 hook.

"I like using the longer hooks because it's easier to get the hook out of the fish," Peckham said.

Throwing a bait net isn't easy like it used to be for Peckham, so his favorite bait now is a large, select shrimp. He hooks the shrimp through the head just below the horn. When he throws artificials, he uses a Doc's Goofy jig or Love's Lure pink curly tail tandem.

According to Peckham, there are two important factors for successful wade fishing. The first is being able to read the water. Being able to recognize the lay of the land - its drop-offs, points, or underlying structure that help to determine where the fish are. The other is to keep moving. Don't get stuck in one place. Continue to move until you catch fish and then stay there until the fish don't bite any longer.

And one other Peckham point: Let the fish set the hook. Many anglers are quick to the set the hook and they lose fish because they didn't give the fish enough time to eat the bait.

So, if you're at Fort De Soto Park and you see a tall, silver-haired gentleman wading up to his arm pits, give him a wave and plenty of room.

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, contact the Lubberline at (727) 893-8775 or e-mail captainrick@luckydawg.com.