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He’s hooked on fishing and the Skyway Fishing Pier

Greg Sgrignoli is from Pennsylvania. But his favorite fishing spot is off the tip of Pinellas County.
Greg Sgrignoli, 63, catches a small crevalle jack from the north Skyway Fishing Pier. The Pennsylvania man visits often to fish from the pier.
Greg Sgrignoli, 63, catches a small crevalle jack from the north Skyway Fishing Pier. The Pennsylvania man visits often to fish from the pier. [ PHIL MORGAN | Times ]
Published May 19

ST. PETERSBURG — Before 9 a.m. on a sunny Thursday, Greg Sgrignoli was casting his line off the north Skyway Fishing Pier but having little luck. He caught two small crevalle jacks, a pinfish and the only fish he wanted, a mangrove snapper — which was an inch too short to legally keep. Later on, he said, he went to the other side of the pier and caught about two dozen mangrove snappers, five of which he could keep.

“I love fooling the fish to get them to bite. I don’t care what kind of fish it is,’’ said Sgrignoli, 63, a retired owner of a heating and air-conditioning company who lives most of the year in Enola, Pa. He’s been fishing since he was 3. He’s fished off the pier dozens of times in the past six years.

He talked with the Tampa Bay Times about catching fish and why he likes doing so off the Skyway Fishing Pier.

What’s the key to being good at fishing?

Patience, my man, patience. Patience and pay a lot of attention to what’s going on around you. … Even if you don’t know the (fisher next to you), watch what he’s doing. He catches fish, that’s what you need to watch. I do a lot of reading and, honestly, since YouTube came out I could sit at home literally for 24 hours a day and I could watch guys fishing off of this bridge, giving you all the secrets in the world about fishing off this bridge.

Now, I will say this. If you have no patience, I don’t give a darn how much you pay attention, you’ll never be a good fisherman. You’ll be lucky every once in a while and catch a fish. Fishing is a patient thing.

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What’s the most important thing to watch out for?

When you see the bait fish coming through, No. 1, you watch the bait fish. No. 2, other fish eat that, so a lot of times when they’re coming through there’s other fish behind them and below them. You’ve got to watch to see what they’re doing. And then you’ve got to pay attention to where you’ve cast and where you’ve gotten bites. One guy said one time in an article that I read … he said never leave fish for fish. If you’re catching fish, don’t leave that hole thinking you’re going to go someplace and find a better spot. Stay there and fish.

Do a lot of research before you come. And honestly, as easy as it is with YouTube today, you can find all the information you want on fishing this area, fishing any area in the United States.

Why do you like this spot so much?

It’s easy access. You can park right where you are. You don’t have to walk a mile carrying all your stuff. It’s probably not one of the best fishing holes you’re going to find because it does get extremely over-fished. There’s a lot of days when you come here to fish and this place is just absolutely packed with people.

But you stand a chance of catching a variety of fish. I’ve caught grouper off of here. I’ve caught a lot of mangrove snapper. I’ve caught jacks. Today they’re catching Spanish mackerel, small king mackerel. And last week one day they had pictures of tarpon all over … I don’t know if you’d want to try to catch them. How would you ever land a tarpon off of this bridge? But they do it. I’ve seen videos where guys caught goliath grouper off of this bridge.

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You find a pier that’s like this, plenty of room to fish, well maintained, you’ve got (a) bait (shop) here, you’ve got bathrooms here. That’s why it draws people. And you can catch fish. I’m not going to say that everybody that comes here is going to catch fish.

I do know that one of the tricks to saltwater fishing is you have to pay attention to what’s moving through the area when you’re fishing. These fish that you’re catching now might not be here in another month.

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Can you describe the feeling you get when you catch a fish?

Excitement. I think more than anything, I love the fact that I’m standing here fishing and the guy next to me is not catching anything, and I’m catching fish.

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Does that mean you’re better at it or just luckier?

I guess luckier. I took my 9-year-old grandson and a 15-year-old boy fishing in Pennsylvania for the first day of trout (season). And I had taught them both how to fish. I decided that particular day I was not going to fish until they caught their limit or decided to quit fishing, because you could fish as long as you want as long as you throw the fish back. … Well, my grandson fished for an hour and caught 14 fish and finally quit. The kid that was with him caught his limit and then quit. ... And then I started fishing.

And a guy standing beside me asked what kind of hogs we were. Now, we threw every fish back. We didn’t keep any. I said, “We’re not hogs, why do you say that?” “Well there are other people here who would like to catch some fish.” And I looked at him and said, “Dude, a 9-year-old kid out-fished you. You’re 50 or 60 years old. You should learn how to fish.’’ Some people just don’t pay any attention and they think you can just come and grab a line and come throw it in the water and catch fish.

How often do you come to Florida?

When my girlfriend allows me to (she owns a place in Seminole).

If I have my way (I’ll be back here) sooner than later. Every time I leave here I tell her… I don’t want to go home. I’m going home (in) protest.

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