by Alan Luecke
(Kansas City, MO)
Gulf Kingfish (Whiting)
A few weeks back my wife and I spent a few days with friends in Pass a Grille, Florida. Pass a Grille is the neighborhood at the far south end of St. Pete's Beach in the Tampa/ St. Petersburg area. It's about a mile long and a block wide with the Gulf to the west and an arm of the bay to the east. It feels like an island. I took my three Diawa Kiyose rods; 33SF, 43MF and 53M, and my saltwater bait and flies.
I walked down the beach and back up the bay everyday. It quickly became apparent that this would be a keiryu trip. The standard setup was a red, size 12 bait hook with some large Isome Sandworm and a BB shot a little ways back. I used all three rods but mainly the 53M, the ocean is big. The large Isome worm made it easier to insert the hook up through the center of the worm, but it is large only in comparison to the small Isome. It's still a lot skinnier than Gulp.
A sea wall lined with rocks runs up the bay side of the neighborhood. The water was clear enough to sight fish individual areas and fish which is always fun. The fish were small but varied. I caught two different sculpins, white grunts, pinfish and a slippery dick. I ended up using the 43MF quite a bit off the wall. The reach was about right and I could one-hand it.
The beach was my main goal of the trip. After working the rocks and docks in Mexico I was really looking forward to fishing the surf line of an open beach. Pass a Grille has a beautiful long, smooth open beach. The water is shallow out 40 yards. Perfect for kids, but I was hoping for more wave action a little closer to shore. You go with what you got.
The treat of the trip for me was walking down the beach and catching whiting right behind the wave break a few feet from shore. Whiting is the local term for Gulf and Southern Kingfish. There're in the drum family, like redfish, and feed on little critters stirred up by the waves. Along the beach most of the fish were chub size, 5-8 inches. I think I caught close to thirty-- walk, cast, catch.
At the south end of the beach a rock jetty with a fishing platform sticks out into the pass between Pass a Grille and the barrier islands to the south. The small platform is full of local regulars casting whole pinfish for snook, bonita and jacks. I didn't intrude but did wade out most of the way along the beach side of the jetty. I was waist deep and casting out another 30 feet. Pompano or Sea Trout were the target, but I ended up catching larger versions of Whiting and Pinfish. Still, 12-13 inch wild, saltwater fish on a fixed line will make for a fine day.
When I was researching Pass a Grille I got very excited about it's close proximity to Fort Desoto State Park on the islands just to the south. The park has flats, mangroves and a kayak rental. Unfortunately, the distance was further than it looks on the satellite picture. Our group took a shuttle rather than rent a car and two long taxi rides on top of a kayak rental would have made for an expensive day.
The good news is my wife loved the beach and says we're going back (and renting a car). I'll also bring a lighter rod for those beach whiting.
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"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." -
Col. Robert Venables 1662
As age slows my pace, I will become more like the heron.
The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.
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