What a weekend. It started Friday, when I hit the Merry Pier in St. Pete Beach between about 6-8 p.m. Rain was falling, and lightning cracked in the distance- but the snook were wide awake. I had at least a dozen hookups, with three landed (28, 30, and 32 inches). Bait was thick, and the snook and jacks were feeding heavily. Lots of fun!
Saturday, I returned to the Pier for some snapper action. Lots of 8-12 inch fish around… but I nailed a 17″ specimen about 4 feet off the end of the dock. And the snook were still going crazy! By the seawall, I was getting a hit on every shrimp I freelined for about half an hour. Landed a bunch, lost a bunch. Snook are very hard on terminal tackle…
Mid-afternoon, I spoke to Cap’t. Dick, and we decided that a full moon snapper trip made perfect sense. We booked the Getaway, with Cap’t Andy at the helm. We both called around, but were unable to get any more fisherman on the boat (you know who you are!). So we headed west at around 7 p.m., with 4 gallons of bait aboard.
We anchored on the Pipeline at around 80 feet, amidst a few other boats, and set up a chumline. I had a bite immediately- but, it was a lowly “mother-in-law fish”. We started pulling up grunts, which were immediately returned to the sea. Then, Cap’t. Dick hooked up to something with a little more fight in it. We were al astonished as he hauled up a live octopus from the depths. It proceded to crawl about the cabin, suctioning itself to various object, until it was gaffed and depositied in the bait cooler (they make great grouper bait).
Soon, we were surrounded by thousands of squid, which would occassionally jet by the transom- and into te boat. Pretty freaky. Next up were boita, with a few nice size fish causing the drags to sing. After that, a few wayward kingfish showed up, and we deposited two in the cooler. Finally, the snapper bite started as the full moon rose.
Over the next few hours, we landed some very fat mangroves- nice fish, running from a few pounds up to around 10. A solitary yellowtail joined the mix (who ever heard of catching a single yellowtail-Â they usually hang in very large schools). A big lane snapper added to the variety. Keeping with the solitary theme, one (1!) chicken dolphin showed up in the chum slick. Thought we sawÂ some cobia join the fray, but they turned out to be big remoras. Oh well.
We got back on the dock just before 4 a.m., and, to my surprise, the Pier was buzzing. There was bait everywhere, and snook hitting on the surface, as about a dozen fisherman milled about. Who knew the Merry Pier was busier at 4 a.m. than 4 p.m.?
So, after 17 hours of fishing Saturday, I decided to take a break on Sunday. We threw a small party Sunday eevning, with a new snapper recipe compliments of Cap’t Dick (Place snapper fillets on oiled foil, brush with some more olive oil, sprinkle lightly with Evergaldes seasoning and celery salt, and cover completely with think slices of fresh lemon. I couldn’t resist topping with a little Old Bay. Seal the foil, pop in a hot oven for about 20 minutes, and enjoy! We also blackened some fillets, and these made a nice counterpoint to the baked fish. Yum!