Who needs a boat? With a full moon weekend, I drove to Merry Pier in St. Pete Beach for a little grouper digging. Cut and whole sardines were the bait of choice- I tried live pinfish, with no results. Arriving early, the tide was low, and just starting to come in. A couple ounces of lead allowed me to cast to the rock piles just east of ‘the bowling alley’, the pilings left from a wrecked pier just north of the Merry Pier.
On both Saturday and Sunday, the same pattern repeated. As soon as the tide turned, there was a nice incoming current which soon gave way to barely moving water. It was during this surge that all my grouper were caught; once the tide slacked off, so did the bite.Â Most of the grouper were in the 12″ to 16″ range, but there were keepers. I landed a 23″ Saturday, and a 25″ on Sunday. And I lost a few big fish, too.
I’m used to dropping a line down on grouper from a boat. When you hook up, the real battle is getting the fish off the bottom; once that’s accomplished, then it’s just a matter of cranking them vertically 40 to 120 feet straight up to the boat. Fishing from the pier is a bit different. When you hook up, you need to drag the grouper away from the rocks and structure, then haul it horizontally for 40 to 120 feet to the pier; all the while, the grouper is fighting along the bottom. A very different type of fishing, but a lot of fun when they’re biting.
While I was ashore, my friend Peter was in the Gulf catching big American Red Snapper. He caught and released a couple dozen- they’re thick out there if you find the right spot! Congrats.