Saltwater Keiryu, Cool Fish Slow Fishing

by Alan Luecke
(Kansas City, MO)

Southern Puffer

Southern Puffer

I just got back from a week in the Pass a Grille neighborhood of St. Pete Beach, Fl. Like the rest of the country the weather was an issue. Our flight was delayed three hours waiting on a storm front to clear. After the storm we had a chilly day and a week of cloudy water. No sight fishing for me, but suffering is relative. I fished four beautiful days in a very beautiful place and caught fish every day if not at the pace I hoped for. Big cold fronts are not the fisherman's friend wherever you are.

Pass a Grille is the very southern end of St. Pete's gulf beach. It's a mile long and one block wide with the Gulf on one side a wide channel with a sea wall on the other and a rock jetty on the southern tip. Small Pinfish and whiting (Gulf Kingfish) are fun to catch in the surf line with a light rod and some Isome Sandworms which hold up much better in the surf than real shrimp. The jetty is always full of spin fishers looking for Snook and Pompano but the rocks and corners around it always have something to catch. In Florida "always something" means Pinfish, the saltwater equivalent Green Sunfish. Fish are fish, especially when things are slow. And saltwater fish are stout. A Pinfish fights like a Smallmouth, just smaller.

There are two public docks on the bay side that give access to some structure and deeper water. They were a good place for me this trip. I love the surf but not much was happening there.

Twenty minutes away in Fort Desoto State Park I found a bridge over a small cut, or pass as the locals say, that had easy access and a constant tidal flow. My first two fish were new species! A new favorite place. The pass produced a Sheepshead, a Red Grouper and a Gulf Flounder and of course lots of Pinfish.

My rig for most of the trip was the Daiwa Kiyose 43MF with #3 level line, 5X tippet and a #10 Bonefish hook with AA shot and live shrimp. This is a capable and nice rod for bank fishing. I can cast it all day one or two handed without even thinking. I'm sure the shrimp I fed to the Pinfish were a significant addition to the ecosystem's protein content. They have an amazing ability to quickly clean a hook no matter how elaborately the bait is impaled.

On the docks I landed Pinfish, Mangrove Snappers, two Southern Puffers and another Flounder. I also had two very substantial feeling fish break me off very quickly, probably Catfish or Grouper. I reloaded with the Kyogi 18 and 0X tippet, but did not find anymore big fish. I debated everyday about using the 43MF or the Kyogi. The perfect rod most of the time or a less handy, heavier rod just in case. In the ocean you can always be instantly out gunned no matter what you bring. There is rumor of a Goliath Grouper under those docks.

Inshore saltwater is all about bait fishing, but just for the record I did catch a fish on a fly, a White Killer Bugger, naturally.

This was my third trip to Pass a Grille and it's always a different puzzle to solve. The Flounders and Puffers along with the Sheepshead and Grouper were new, but I didn't catch one Grunt which has never happened in Florida or Mexico. Next year it's the Kyogi at night for the big guys.

A special thank you to Vern B. who has become my identification specialist. Vern's an experienced birder and knows how to dig out the hard ones.

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