Gags, Goliaths & More


Saturday was beautiful – warm, sunny, perfect for a day of South Pinellas fishing. My friend David was in from Denver, so we met up at the Merry Pier in St. Pete Beach Saturday morning. With the full moon, the tides were unusually low… and still going out. Strong. I managed to net some whitebait, and we bought a few nice shrimp at the tackle store.

First up were Mangrove Snapper. I hadn’t seen any keepers in a month or so, but I nailed 3 legal size right off the bat, along with a few smaller specimens. Next, the gag grouper started biting. Between David and I, we probably caught a couple dozen. As the water cools, the larger gags begin to move into shallower water, and sure enough, I managed to catch a legal 22 1/2 inch grouper (see picture above). I had a few big hits, which ended in cut-offs or broken line, and I figured they were either big gags or snook responsible. But I may have been wrong:


An unidentified fisherman was on Merry Pier sporting some serious stand-up gear – huge reel, heavy mono, a rod built like a pool cue…  I assumed he was either shark fishing, or clueless. I was wrong on both counts. As I was packing my gear, his rod bowed over and he was straining to keep a huge fish in check. It tore drag, and he skillfully kept it out of the pilings. After a brief but epic battle, he brought a big Goliath Grouper to the surface. This fish had a mouth like a 5 gallon bucket, and was solid muscle. It was released unharmed before it could be measured or weighed; but I’d guess it was a good 30 pounds. So, that might explain some of my cut-offs and break-offs in recent months…

Sunday was brutal. North winds at 25 knots, temps in the 50’s. But the flounder were biting none-the-less. My friend Mike, along with his brothers from Detroit, managed a nice meess of keeper flounder up to about 18 inches. They were still catching them when I left to host a party for the Buc’s game (we won, and everybody enjoyed fresh blackened grouper fillets).

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