Dave Bayes is a pier-fishing expert. He grew up around Redington Long Pier and is manager of Dogfish Tackle in Redington Shores, right across Gulf Boulevard from the pier.
Bayes has answered thousands of questions from tourists and natives wondering about the secret to catching fish off a pier.
"Go out on the pier and see who is catching fish and how they are doing it," Bayes said. "They're catching fish for a reason. Just see what they're doing, and do the same thing."
Unlike fishing in open waters with sophisticated Global Positioning Systems and expensive rigs, pier fishing is fairly simple. Bayes said the main needs are a medium to heavy spinning rod with 12- to 20-pound line. A 30-pound leader should also be used.
"Don't fall for those tourist leaders they sell at piers with the wire and the shiny beads," Bayes said. "The fish can see those flashy rigs. It's not going to work."
During the winter, pier fishing can be fairly active. Sheepshead, black drum, whiting, silver trout and speckled trout are biting. And unlike the summer, fishing can be productive at any time of day or night.
The bait of choice is live or frozen shrimp. Bayes warns not to use squid as bait, because it likely will catch catfish, which may be fun to catch once but become a nuisance.
For those who like to use lures, Bayes said a squid spoon is good for mackerel or trout. A Gotcha Plug, basically a small metal tube, will catch fish. Jigs like Love's Lures are good for trout. What won't work, Bayes said, are small lip-lures such as a Rapala, because piers are too high to allow the lure to dive.
And keep an eye on the weather.
"The main thing if you're thinking about fishing the piers is check the wind," Bayes said. "The skies could be clear blue, but if the wind is blowing 30 mph and the water is like chocolate milk, you're not going to catch fish."
POPULAR PINELLAS PIERS
These listed are among the piers with baitshops and/or snacks available. There are many other structures to fish from, ranging from the Friendship Trail spans next to Gandy Bridge to the small, quiet pier at Safety Harbor:
FORT DE SOTO BAY PIER: Tierra Verde; 500 feet, open 24 hours. The bait shop (cut bait, live shrimp and pinfish) is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends. Call (727) 864-3345. No charge for pier access.
FORT DE SOTO GULF PIER: Tierra Verde; 1,000 feet, open 24 hours. The bait shop (cut bait, live shrimp and pinfish) is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends. Call (727) 864-9937. No charge for pier access.
BIG PIER 60: Clearwater; 1,080 feet, open 24 hours. Bait shop (cut bait, live shrimp) and snack bar. Shop hours: 6 a.m.-9:30 p.m. in the winter. Call (727) 462-6466. Walk-on fee of 50 cents; $5.35 for fishermen; $4.45 for seniors and Clearwater residents; $3.75 for children, 11-16; $2.50 for children 10 and under. Rod rentals available.
THE PIER: St. Petersburg; open 24 hours. Bait shop (cut bait, live shrimp, fiddler crabs, pinfish) and snack bar open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Rod rentals available. (727) 821-3750.
REDINGTON LONG PIER: Redington Beach; 1,020-foot pier is open 24 hours during the summer. From Labor Day to Easter, the pier is open 24 hours Friday and Saturday, and 6 a.m.-midnight Sunday through Thursday. The bait shop sells cut bait, live shrimp and pinfish. Rod rentals available. Call (727) 391-9398. $7 entry fee.
NORTH SKYWAY FISHING PIER: St. Petersburg; 1-mile long, bait shop and pier open 24 hours. The bait shop sells live shrimp, cut bait and rents rods. Cost is $3 for vehicle and $2 per person; seniors for $1.50; children 6-12 for $1; $10 for RV or camper. Call (727) 865-0668.
SOUTH SKYWAY FISHING PIER: Bradenton; 3-miles long, with bait shop and pier open 24 hours. The bait shop sells live shrimp, cut bait and rents rods. Cost is $3 for vehicle and $2 per person; seniors for $1.50; children 6-12 for $1; $10 for RV or camper. (941) 729-0117.