August 21, 2020
The longest pier in the world is located on Florida’s west coast: the Skyway Fishing Pier. Here you’ll find fantastic fishing and some of the best sunsets in the world. It’s a place to park for a few hours and spend the day (or night) fishing.
Where Tampa Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico is without a doubt incredible fishing grounds. The topography of the area and the tidal movements create a feeding frenzy for species such as tarpon, snook, redfish, trout, grouper, Spanish Mackerel, cobia, and much more. And sitting right in the middle of this fantastic fishing grounds is the Skyway Fishing State Park. You can’t ask for easier access than this.
You see, the pier was actually the old bridge that crossed the bay, connecting St. Petersburg to cities on the other side. Nearby cities include Rubonia, Palmetto, Bradenton and most notably, Sarasota. But the cities aren’t what draws the crowds here. It’s the fishing found throughout Tampa Bay where anglers hook big fish.
The story is: in 1980 a section of the bridge collapsed when a freighter hit a piling. Soon after, development began on the new Interstate 275 overpass, Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which opened in 1987. Parts of the old bridge were still standing and viable, so the state converted it to a state park and opened it up to anglers. The rest is history.
The nice part about fishing the Skyway Pier is that you can drive to your spot and have all your gear just a few feet away. It’s not your typical pier that juts out into a body of water where you have to walk 1,000+ feet to the deep waters. Simply drive to the spot you want to fish, unpack your rods, reels, tackle, cooler, and lawn chair, and enjoy a few hours of rod bending action.
The time of year and time of day will of course determine what you’re finding at the end of your line. Tarpon, or silver king, are a local favorite because of the size these acrobatic fish grow to. Fish in the spring months of March, April and May for peak season numbers. Tarpon are fast, silver fish that love to drag the line and leap out of the water to toss the hook. Most anglers will count how many they’ve hooked since most tarpon spit the hook or break off before getting to the pier. And if you do happen to land it, make sure to get a quick photo before releasing back into the bay; all tarpon are catch-and-release only, and any over 41” need to remain in the water at all times.
During the cooler months of October, November, and December, redfish and spotted seatrout are frequently found in good numbers. Drift your bait along with the tide and you’re sure to feel a tug on the line. Adding a popping cork or top water lure adds an almost certainty of landing a red or trout. Popping corks ultimately imitate the sound of crab or shrimp, and the hungry fish simply can’t resist.
If you have young or first-time anglers in your group, keep your bait near the pier’s pilings and the oyster beds. There are fish here that will feed on just about anything, and are an easier catch for novice anglers. Sheepshead are frequently found feasting on oyster bars and have the teeth needed to chomp on crustaceans such as crab, and sometimes even shrimp. Bait your hook with cut or live crab and you’ll soon be dehooking this black and white striped fish. Sheepshead typically weigh less than five pounds, another reason they are a good fit for those new-to-fishing anglers.
Ultimately, there’s a variety of fish that can be caught from the pier. You can go drift fishing, bottom fishing, jigging, or even fly fishing from the pier. Casting is possible from the Skyward State Fishing Pier because you typically don’t have people walking behind you like at other piers. It’s a one-of-kind experience that is worth checking out.
Make your way to Interstate 275 to access the park. Northbound and southbound lanes both have exits to the entrance. Keep in mind that there is a fee for each vehicle plus a fee per person: $4 per adult; $2 for children ages 6-12; and kids under five years old are free.
Another perk of this pier, it’s open 24-hours a day, 365 days of the year. There are lights all along the road and fish often are more active near where the light shines. Plan a night fishing adventure and you just may be hooked on a new way of fishing!
For some of the best fishing in the state, with easy access, check out Skyway Fishing Pier State Park. If you’re itching to head out a bit farther, consider hiring a Tampa Bay charter captain. They typically run four, six, and eight hour trips and will have everything you need for a day of fishing. Either from the pier or a local charter, fishing Tampa Bay is always a fun and memorable day!
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