Saturday, December 16, 2017

Anclote fishing pier reopens, regulars return

After two and a half months of construction, the fishing pier at Anclote Gulf Park reopened July 26 and that has the morning regulars settling back into their routine.

"Big Al" Dunkerley, 71, is typically the first to show up, lugging his gear to a favored spot just as the morning sky is breaking into layers of pink and blue. For an hour or so, the Nashville transplant pretty much has the place to himself, hoping for the best, but not bothered if he catches anything or not.

"I find this to be so therapeutic," he said while following a habit that has him casting his line, counting to eight until his lure bounces off the bottom, and then giving 12 quick jerks to drag it across the rocks.

"I wouldn't come out here just for the fish and I wouldn't come out here just for the scenery," Dunkerley said. "You get to catch a meal once in awhile. You get to enjoy the sunrise. You see the presence of God all around you."

A little after 8 a.m., the others start to straggle in.

There's Dennis Cujdik, 62, who sometimes comes with his wife, Amy, 45. He started out as a kid fishing for food on the Jersey Shore, but comes here now to experience what he missed after 35 years of working in management for Comcast.

"It's a nice place to be," he said. "You see eagles, hawks, manatees. Last week someone caught a blacktip shark here."

Then comes Seymour "the Birdman" Brown, 84. The friendly character from the Bronx spent years wading the local waters back in the days when "everybody was catching everything." But now he settles for small baitfish that he'll take home to feed to a friendly blue heron he nursed back to health some time ago.

Add to that the lone Florida native, "Two Pole Bob" Hall, who has opinions about all sorts of things and is not afraid to share them.

Finally, there's the "Prince of the Pier," Dominic Magrone, 65, from Chicago. He's known for eating what he catches and always lending a helping hand while casting a net across the way from his son, Gaetano, 38, who doesn't have a nickname yet, and is there to catch "whatever."

They get along just fine, probably because they follow a fisherman's basic etiquette. That includes respecting someone's space and keeping your distance so lines don't get crossed; waiting your turn for the "hot spots"; and tossing your waste lines into a covered trash bin so birds and other wildlife don't get tangled.

"There's definitely a pecking order. A lot of (fishermen) understand it, but a lot of them don't," said Two Pole Bob, who really wishes, by the way, that everyone would pick up after themselves and use the new cutting boards when they cut their bait, instead of mucking up the railings.

The pier is a busy place on the weekends and in the winter months, but ask any one of the regulars, and they'll tell you that come summertime, you don't tend to catch a lot.

So, why bother?

Turns out, it's not just about the fishing.

A lot of it is about greeting the day with friendly conversation, not-so-gentle jibes and solving the world's problems while the egrets wade and the sun beats down on your face.

"The people are more interesting than the fish," said Two Pole Bob. "You can catch fish anywhere, but you can't always get the people."

Michele Miller can be reached at [email protected].


Captainís Corner: Look for that strong speckled trout bite on grass flats

The speckled trout bite has taken off nicely after the first good cold front last weekend. You will find a consistent bite along the grass flats from Apollo Beach down to Pinellas Point. The sweet spot seems to be 4-6 feet of water. If you can find s...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Captainís Corner: Drop in gulf water temperature means itís sea trout time

The gulf temperature has dropped significantly since our first real cold front last week. One day the water was in the mid 70s, then after the front, it fell to the low 60s. That caused speckled sea trout to become a reliable target. Redfish have bee...
Published: 12/14/17

Captainís Corner: Good time for shallow-water flats fishing

Shallow-water flats fishing can be very exciting this time of year. Trout and redfish are available in good numbers, and the opportunities to catch some gator trout have made recent trips very rewarding. Some of the largest trout have been in very sk...
Published: 12/11/17
Updated: 12/13/17

Captainís Corner: Seek clear water for bottom fishing as temperatures plummet

The great weather, calm seas and exceptional fishing we experienced at the end of November and beginning of December came to a screeching halt with the cold front that came through. Surface water temperatures plummeted from an unseasonable 71 degrees...
Published: 12/11/17
Updated: 12/12/17

Captainís Corner: Sheepshead action lively in cooler weather

Conditions after the cold front are cool and are going to be for a while. That doesnít mean you canít or shouldnít fish. Many anglers get stuck on snook, reds and trout and forget how fun it is to catch sheepshead. Many reefs are already holding good...
Published: 12/09/17
Updated: 12/10/17

Captainís Corner: Fishing will return to normal, but when?

The severity of this cold front will determine the fishing forecast for the next several days. Bait that had been abundant inshore will scatter. Nearshore gulf waters will muddy, and water temperatures. at least temporarily. will plummet. How cold, h...
Published: 12/08/17
Captainís Corner: Planning around fronts can lead to productive days

Captainís Corner: Planning around fronts can lead to productive days

I canít believe we are in the last month of the year. And while this is one of my favorite months to fish, it will be controlled by weather. As cold fronts become more frequent and harsh, planning your trips around them will make the biggest differen...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/09/17

Captainís Corner: Strong results for redfish, speckled trout

This is a great time for variety. Combined trips for speckled trout and redfish are achieving excellent results. With the correct approach, great catches of both species are a reality now. The best anglers use the lightest tackle. Light rods and reel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Captainís Corner: Take advantage of abundant gag grouper before season ends

Gag grouper fishing and spearing is hot. The season for these grouper in the Gulf of Mexico is winding down, with a slated closure at the end of this month. The cooler water has the gags moving closer, and they are happy when the bottom temperatures ...
Published: 12/05/17

Captainís Corner: Bait schools near shore drawing kings, mackerel, bonito

Nearshore fishing is still going strong in north Pinellas. Bait schools are roaming just a couple of miles offshore, attracting kingfish, Spanish mackerel and bonito. The beaches are still holding sardines for cast netting at sunrise. I like to have ...
Published: 12/03/17
Updated: 12/05/17