December proved to be another hot month for fishing on Clearwater’s Big Pier 60. Warmer-than-normal weather patterns kept species of fish around that normally would have left for warmer waters. Mid-70’s air temperatures and low-70’s water temps prevailed.
Spanish Mackerel were seen almost daily. These toothy speedsters roam mid-water, and will take almost any offering that is moving and resembles a baitfish. Fishing with a float is most effective, as is using artificial lures to get a strike. Once the schools or productive area is found, anglers can make repeated casts into the area, and multiple fish can usually be caught. Spanish Mackerel have a minimum size of 12 inches, with a daily bag limit of 15 fish per angler. Most of the Macks we see here range from 15 to 25 inches. Freshly-caught Mackerel fillets are mild and have very little “fishy” flavor, especially if the red “bloodline” meat is trimmed from the skinless fillets.
Lots of Flounder continued to be caught here this month. Flatties need to be 12 inches or larger to be kept, and we saw a lot of “Doormats” in the 20+ inch size. Flounder, although they may lie on the bottom concealed, have two eyes looking upwards to allow accurate binocular vision for a strike up into the water column. So fishing a few feet up above the bottom is a good tactic. Some use floats to suspend cut baits or live fish. Others use lures to cover lots of ground and elicit a strike. The tandem grubtail baits we sell in the tackle shop work well, especially when tipped with a bit of shrimp or cut fish.
Cobia were spotted often this month, with quite a few undersize fish released. Cobia have a minimum size of 33 inches, and a Cobia of any size puts up quite a fight. This is a fast-growing, very curious fish that is commonly seen prowling under and through the structure of the pier. Cobia may strike a lure, or he may be taken using a large live bait fished on the bottom or free-lined. Some find success using a float, so its evident that this is not a picky feeder.
Snook season ended here Dec 1st, but we saw aggregations of Snook around the pier at night, with quite a few fish released.
RedFish were seen this month, with some Reds over 40 inched caught and released. RedFish have a slot size of 18-27 inches, so anything larger or smaller has to be released. Red Drum, as they are also known, fight with a head-shaking pull that experienced anglers usually recognize before the fish is seen. The big breeder “Bull” Reds contribute to next years’ fish in a big way, and it is the conservation of the breeding stock that has kept the biomass of this species in good health.
Spotted SeaTrout were taken after dark with live baits and lures equally effective. Spotted SeaTrout have a minimum size of 15 inches, with a bag limit of 4 fish. Only one of the four kept fish may be over 20 inches. Again, it is these rules that insure we have fish for the future, and the FWC does enforce these rules vigorously. Please handle SeaTrout with care; fish released after flopping around on the concrete usually die. Holding a fish in a dry towel removes the slimecoat, and is a death sentence also. I find that carefully bringing the fish to the rail, and touching or holding just the hook allows a release that does the minimum damage to the fish.
We also saw LadyFish, Silver Trout, Grunts, Black SeaBass and Gag Grouper here this month. Grouper season is closed to recreational anglers anyway, and the Grouper tend to be smaller than keeper size. These Gag Grouper are also known as “Grass” Grouper to locals, and like to hang around potholes, ledges, and other structure. These fish spend a few years inshore, then move offshore as they get older. They also change their sex, but that’s another story for future reports!
There have been lots of Sharks about, including BonnetHead Sharks, BlackTip Sharks and others. It has been, and continues to be, our policy here on Pier 60, to release all Sharks unharmed. Shark fishing is NOT ALLOWED. If you must fish for Sharks, do it somewhere else.
December 1st to February 28th:
Sun-Thurs. 6 A.M. -9:30 P.M.
Fri.-Sat. 24 hours
Good Luck Fishing!
November stayed quite warm here, with one cold front passing through which dropped the water temperatures below 70 degrees. Most of the month we had water temps in the low-80’s and high 70’s. Fishing was quite good as a result, with our normal summertime fish hanging around for much longer.
Spanish Mackerel were caught most days, with a few of the larger King Mackerel grabbing live baits and running all the line off fishermen’s’ reels. Yes, it’s exciting, but the fisherman is left with an empty reel as he is powerless to stop the screaming run. Perhaps the next time he may have stronger tackle.
The Spanish Mackerel were caught on little live fish, GotCha Plugs, and other shiny offerings that mimic small baitfish. Even the larger Sabiki Rigs work well for the Spanish Mackerel, although after a few fish most rigs are in tatters from the toothy Spotted Speedsters. Key is to present the lures or offerings in mid-water where Mackerel lurk ready to slash anything that resembles something edible.
Flounder were seen with abundance this month, with most fish well above the 12-inch minimum. Flounder do like to feed on live fish, or a lure that resembles a live fish. He may lie on the bottom with his two eyes looking upwards, but he is ready to attack with vigour an offering passing above or nearby. The tandem soft grubtail lures we sell work well, especially when tipped with a bit of shrimp. Oftentimes the “take” feels more like a heavy weight than a strike, but that’s only at the beginning of the fight. Experienced anglers can feel the Flounder shake his open mouth as he tries to expel the hook. If you bring the Flounder to the surface, his best chance to get away is when his head is just lifted from the water- all he needs is a little slack in the line, and that’s when his head-shake redoubles and he may get away.
Spotted SeaTrout fishing at night was consistently good, with the best results late at night. Some days we saw SeaTrout caught into the mid-morning, but most success was at night. Fishing for SeaTrout can be successful using small live fish or other live baits, but lure fishing also works well. The MirroLure we carry is a locally made suspending twichbait, offered in two sizes and many colors. There are other versions available, like the surface walker that drives Trout mad. Pick your color, and you will find out quickly if you have the pattern for the day. Choose another color if you don’t get results in a few casts. The old standby pattern I’ve used with great success is the red head and white body pattern. Rarely does this lure disappoint.
Snook were still found with abundance under the lights at night. Some of those big SeaTrout feeding on the surface were themselves the object of attention, as big mama Snook exploded under the unlucky Trout. Large live baits fished with a minimum of tackle entice the most hits. Snook are adept at wrapping lines around pilings, so the anglers must be aware and ready to thwart attempts to get away thusly.
We also saw lots of other species of fish this month, including Jack Crevalle, Pompano, Gag Grouper, LadyFish, Rainbow Runner, BlueFish, Sand SeaTrout, Mangrove Snapper, White Grunt, ButterFish, and more.
Good Luck Fishing!
Fishing in October on Pier 60 was an adventure! We saw many different species of fish caught this month. The weather remained unseasonably warm, and so water temperatures remained over 80 degrees all month.
Spanish Mackerel continued to be caught most every day. Anglers were using lures, cut bait, and live minnows to catch the Spanish. Many anglers were able to catch their limits of 15 fish per day, and most all the Mackerel were well in excess of the 12-inch minimum size.
A few King Mackerel were in attendance, as some anglers lost their rods over the side from the ferocious strike of these migrating speedsters. It isn’t too uncommon to see the King Mackerel leap from the water, soar through the air, and land teeth-first upon a lively baitfish held close to the surface by a float or bobber. The screaming drag and futile efforts of most fishermen to turn the run usually ends in the fish having all the line. They call these fish “Smoker Kings” from their ability to smoke the drag and destroy the innards of most reels.
We saw lots of Cobia this month, with the larger keeper fish over 33- inch minimum eluding most fishermen. Many undersized Cobia under the 33-inch minimum were brought up and released, however.
Quite a few Snook were seen feeding at the end of the pier late at night this October, and a few anglers were able to take home a legal-sized fish between 28″ and 33″. Snook season remains open thru the end of November.
Flounder continue to be in abundance this fall. Every day we saw a good number of legal-sized fish over 12 inches, along with some doormat-sized fish over 20 inches.
Lots of baitfish around the pier insured that schools of marauding Jack Crevalle and Blue Runners would pass thru a few times daily in what we call a “Jack Attack”- a feeding phenomenon that is interesting to witness.
Pompano were caught with good frequency towards the middle of the month. Most anglers here find success using the “Crazy Jig” we sell in the tackle center. Essentially a weighted hook with attached feathered teaser, it flutters as it falls, and is a killer lure for the Pompano, and other species also.
Sheepshead have been feeding along the pilings that support the pier, and are easy to target once you get the technique down pat. Use a small strong hook, a split-shot, and a small piece of crab or shrimp. Chum the fish a little bit, then introduce your baited hook into the feeding area. Chances are the fish will strip your bait off until your technique is honed. Watch the line, as you can see it move before you will feel the fish take. Setting the hook is always problematic when fishing for the SheepsHead, but practice will soon pay off.
A few keeper RedFish, or Red Drum were taken this month. Keepers must be slot-sized between 18 and 27 inches.
Spotted SeaTrout are showing up mostly after dark, and are swarming around the lights under the pier. Usually the fish mill about for a few hours before feeding heavily, so if you see them but they won’t bite, just have patience, because after awhile they turn on, and bite most anything that moves. Spotted SeaTrout have a minimum size of 15″, and only one of your 4-fish bag limit may be in excess of 20″.
The last part of the month we saw rough weather, thanks to late-season Hurricane Patricia. Although Patricia ravaged the West coast of Mexico with unprecedented fury, we received squall bands here, and high surf.
Of course with all this fishing activity, we saw a fair number of Sharks. One excited angler was bringing up a fair-sized Spanish Mackerel when a 5-foot BlackTip Shark leapt out of the water and tore a gash in the Mackerel. The angler was both scared and stoked!
Pier 60 is open 24 hours a day for fishing until Dec. 1st.
Dec1st. – Feb 28 Hours are Sun-Thurs 6 AM-9:30 PM Fri-Sat 24 hours
Good Luck Fishing!