Wader’s paradise – Gulf Coast offers lots of places to cast from shore
If the economy has put a crimp in your vacation plans and that trout-fishing trip to Montana or the roosterfish outing to Costa Rica is no longer an option, take heart.
You can get away to Florida’s Gulf Coast and enjoy good fishing with no hassles and relatively little cost in Pinellas County. Park near a beach or a causeway, put on a pair of wading shoes, walk into the water and start casting for everything from snook, sea trout, redfish and tarpon to pompano, mackerel, ladyfish and grouper.
A recent visit to the Gulf Coast from the southern end to the northern end on a recent visit brought out some amazing wade-fishing opportunities.
The first stop was Fort DeSoto Park (Fortdesoto.com), which sits just north of the entrance to Tampa Bay. Fishing is good all around the park, which has numerous boat ramps and campsites that accommodate RVs and tents.
Those who don’t have boats can fish from two different piers or simply wade along one of the park’s beaches. Bill AuCoin of St. Petersburg and Capt. Ray Markham of Terra Ceia led the trip late in the afternoon just north of the park.
A couple of kayakers were paddling out from a break in the mangroves along the shore, and that’s where the first lines were cast. Mullet swam and jumped all around, but it seemed that wherever the line was cast, a fish busted the mullet while pinfish nipped at my plastic jerkbait.
As the sun started to head for the western horizon, Markham finally hooked a nice snook on a DOA C.A.L. jighead with a plastic shad tail.
The following morning, Ray Cioffi of MirrOLure led the way into the surf on the beach at Redington Shores. One nice thing about fishing the Gulf Coast stretch of Pinellas County (Floridasbeach.com) is the abundance of reasonably priced places to stay, from hotels and mom and pop motels to condos and campgrounds.
One could see the pier, which extends well into the Gulf of Mexico, fishing from the beach. Cioffi does much of the research and development for MirrOLure (mirrolure.com), and the fishing was done with one of his creations, the MirrOdine, a suspending twitchbait that perfectly imitates a pilchard. Cioffi, who had arrived at the beach at first light, had released a nice snook, had another one break him off and lost a lure or two to some Spanish mackerel. It was nice to fish without having lifeguards tell you to leave.
As the sun got up, more and more people strolled along the beach behind us, some went for a swim and other anglers fished.
That afternoon, the trip continued to Dunedin, where Neil Taylor, who specializes in taking anglers fishing along the Gulf Coast in his customized kayaks (Adventurekayakfishing.com), took the group out.
After he showed how to get in and out of the sit-on-top kayak, our eager anglers were soon paddling toward the no-motor zone around Caladesi Island State Park.
The plan was to arrive during the last of the falling tide, when redfish would have to leave the park’s shoreline for the grass beds where we waded.
When the reds didn’t oblige us, we got back into our kayaks and cast 12 Fathom jigs with plastic bodies for sea trout, which were much more cooperative.