Friday, May 30, 2014


                                        As we transition into summer the fishing fun heats up! In this issue, you will learn about the new service project of the Snook & Gamefish Foundation, iAngler-Tournament. Read about how this new system will change the way tournaments are run, and sign up for our FREE fishing tournaments.
You'll enjoy picking up some tips on fly casting from the well versed writer Mike Hodge, and we've reviewed a fantastic tarpon fishing book edited by SGF friend Brandon Shuler, Ph.D.
This is a great time to join SGF. We're engrossed in many important projects, and membership is a fantastic way to show your support, and let people know that you care about quality fishing, not just for today but for generations to come.
Click here to JOIN the Snook & Gamefish Foundation today!
Brett Fitzgerald, SGF Executive Director.

Sponsored by  West Marine   XFish   ORVIS    DOA
Fish our free tournament!   iAngler-Tournament is here, and to celebrate we're offering some free tournaments to our readers. Next weekend, any fresh water or inshore waters are fair game! Download the new app, "iAngler Tournament," create a profile and register for the free events, no matter where you fish - anywhere on the globe. Read more.

Sebastian Inlet Report

05-30-14 FRIDAY: TGIF! 

It's another pretty morning at the inlet. Winds are blowing out of the East-Southeast at 6 mph and gusting to 9. There is a light chop on the water. The weekend forecast looks pretty good, mid 80's with a mix of sun and clouds, and of course a chance of rain. Will it happen, who knows? Be sure to take lots of water and sunscreen if you head to the inlet over the weekend. 

This morning, Jose Dore of Palm Bay landed a 36" C/R Snook off the north jetty and it didn't get eaten by the Goliaths lurking under the north jetty. That's one for the anglers although the Goliaths remain ahead. Snook are visible but not too interested in eating; they are more interested in spawning now. Saturday is the last day to go for a slot Snook, the season will close June 1st for spawning season and reopen September 1st. , until then they will be strictly catch and release. It's best not to target them during this time. Jetty fishing has been slow, this morning a Black Margate and a Snapper came over the rails, but that was about it for the early morning hours.

Anglers have been having decent luck fishing the Indian River Lagoon and offshore. Docks and Mangroves have been holding Snook, Reds and Trout. 
Our  photo  features Mark Gargano of West Melbourne with a Lookdown he landed from the T-Dock , using live shrimp. This was Mark's first Lookdown, but not his first fish.

From Todd / Eric @ Juno Bait -Juno Beach

INSHORE- Last weekend to invite a snook home for dinner, so if you haven't got your keeper yet this is the last chance for a few months.  Snook action remains good around the bridges at night, and is improving daily at Jupiter and Palm Beach Inlets.  Other inshore action is slow in general.

SURF/PIER- Some nice permit catches from Juno Pier this week.  Whiting and croaker continue to bite well on shrimp and fishbites.  Snook are hanging around the pier in good numbers.  Schools of tarpon are randomly cruising the beach.

From Whites Tackle - Ft Pierce / Stuart

. Inshore the snook fishing on the flats has been good with live bait on the out going tide. The trout fishing has been ok around Queens Cove on the outgoing tide with soft baits and live shrimp. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Peacock Part 2

Accessing Florida's Butterfly Peacock Bass and other fisheries

Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties:
The man-made canals of coastal southeast Florida are part of an extensive, interconnecting network of canals that were primarily constructed in the early 1900's for drainage, flood protection, and water storage purposes. The freshwater canals in the southern section (Cypress Creek Canal and south) are mostly box-cut into a coral rock substrate, more than 10 feet deep with little littoral zone, and have much subsurface water flowing into them. The amount of groundwater flowing into some canals is sufficient enough to dramatically increase water clarity. Canals in the northern section (Hillsboro Canal and north) tend to be shallower, more bowl-shaped, have sugar-sand substrate, and little water groundwater intrusion. Fortunately, many of these man-made canals offer boat or shoreline access; aCanal Overview Map Adobe PDF of the major canals is available. A series of Angler's Guides for the canals listed below provide boat ramp locations, directions, and fishing information for each site:
 Angler Guides Adobe PDF
Black Creek (C-1) CanalCutler Drain (C-100) Canal
Snapper Creek (C-2) CanalAerojet (C-111) Canal
Tamiami (C-4) CanalNorth E-4 Canal
Snake Creek (C-9) CanalCentral E-4 Canal
South New River (C-11) CanalSouth E-4 Canal
Cypress Creek (C-14) CanalHillsboro (G-08) Canal
Earman River (C-17) CanalNorth New River (G-15) Canal
Loxahatchee Slough (C-18) CanalParkline (L-31W) Canal
Canal Overview Map

Local Fishing Guides include:
  • Burke, John:  954-971-1915
  • Fettes, Clark:  954-426-2094
  • Harris, Doub:  954-435-0486
  • Norling, Gregg:  954-979-4933
  • Zaremba, Allen:  954-961-7512
Local Bait and Tackle Shops include:
  • Perk's Bait & Tackle:  561-582-3133
  • X Generation Custom Rods + Tackle: 561-296-7637
  • Boynton Fisherman Supply:  561-736-0568
  • Sandy Hook Bait & Tackle:  561-274-9300
  • Everglades Pro-Bass Center:  954-434-4495
  • Lloyd's Bait and Tackle:  954-401-5681
  • Kendall Bait & Tackle Inc.:  305-670-3474
  • The Fishing Line:  305-598-2444
Taxidermists include:
  • Marine Taxidermy of the Palm Beaches:  561-585-0830
  • Steve's Marine Designs:  954-752-4360
  • Don Winge:  941-353-9359

 Current Forecast:

Miami-Dade County: 
April is a peak month for butterfly peacock spawning and this should be a great time for anglers trying to catch one in shallow water areas.  Depending on water clarity, angers can often sight-fish for spawning butterfly peacock.  The spawning season provides anglers one of their best opportunities for catching a large butterfly peacock as they are highly aggressive when guarding their nests.  Weedless bucktail jigs in bright colors such as orange head, chartreuse body are a good bet for a big peacock on a nest.  Free-lining live shiners, or small, minnow imitating lures by Matzuo, YoZuri, and Rapala as good choices for anglers targeting south Florida’s premier sportfish. The fire tiger and chartreuse color patterns are a dependable color whatever your choice of lure. The Fish and Wildlife Commission strongly encourages the catch and release of butterfly peacock year around but more so during the spawning season to ensure the continued success of this very popular south Florida sportfish. 
Weedless Texas rigged plastic worms in colors including pumpkinseed and watermelon are an effective tactic for catching largemouth bass in Miami-Dade waters.  Live shiners are very effective bait for butterfly peacock and largemouth bass, and are also the bait of choice for snook and tarpon in urban canals.  Wigglers, crickets or a piece of night crawler fished under a bobber, or with only a sinker 3 feet above the hook are excellent ways to catch bluegill, redear sunfish, Mayan cichlid, and oscar.  Mayan cichlid are often seen bedding in shallow water next to the canal banks, and are easily caught on a variety of baits including wigglers and red worms, bread, small poppers, and beetle spins.  Cutler Drain Canal, Tamiami, and Parkline canals are good angling destinations for this time of year.
Broward County: 
Fishing for butterfly peacock in south Broward waterbodies should really pick up as water temperatures in urban canals rise and they begin to spawn.  Bedding peacocks can often be sight-fished and anglers may want to try 1/8-1/4 oz Roostertails in green/yellow and green/orange or the ¼ oz Bomber Fat A in green with black and yellow spots for some fast action. Small, live shiners are always a top butterfly peacock bait.  The FWC strongly encourages the catch and release of butterfly peacock to help them rebound from the effects of this historically cold winter.  
Largemouth bass should be coming off the beds ready to feed and anglers are encouraged to try minnow imitating lures made by Rapala and Rebel in color patterns like black/gold, or silver/black for some fast action.  Bream will be spawning during this time and anglers should have great fun catching them on light spinning gear.  A long shank hook baited with a wiggler, red worm, piece of a night crawler, or cricket often results in some fast bream action.  Good catches of bream can also be made using 1/32-1/16 oz crappie jigs with single or multiple tails, small Beetlespins, or Roostertails.  These types of lures in white, green, and patterns with chartreuse are great bream bait colors.  
The Griffin Road Canal or local parks such as Plantation Heritage, Markham, Brian Piccolo, and Quiet Waters are good areas to try for bass, peacock, and bream.
Palm Beach County:  A live shiner is always a good choice for largemouth bass, particularly while the water temperatures stay cool. As the water temperatures rise, the bass will go deeper and plastic worms in the go-to colors such as red shad, black shad, watermelon seed, and June bug are excellent choices.  Also crank baits such as YoZuri’s Rattlin Vibe and Rattle Traps in natural colors such as blue and black chrome, or shad colored fished deep around culverts with moving water are good bets for some fast action.  Plastic lizards in natural colors and rigged weedless can also be effective this time of year, particularly if fished in the early morning or late afternoon.  Cast them out, keep the rod tip up, and retrieve just fast enough to keep the lizard on the surface and hold on!  Reports are coming in of butterfly peacock being caught in the Ida-Osborne chain of lakes and associated canals.  They will be spawning and weedless bucktail jigs are good baits to use when sight fishing butterfly peacock on beds.  They are starting to make a comeback after the 2010 winterkill so FWC strongly encourages catch and release during the spawning season to allow their population to increase.   Native and exotic bream (particularly Mayan cichlid) are caught on a variety of baits such as pieces of night crawler, crickets or small tube jigs, crappie jigs, grub tails or Roostertail spinners.  Fish these baits along rocky shorelines for some great freshwater action.  For flyfishers, try a 4 or 5 weight rod and tie on a bumble bee popper.   The Delray Canal (C-15) and the E-4 Canal system are two places anglers should give a try.

FWC's most recent sampling data remains a good way to pick among the many canals to be found in southeast Florida:
Between October and November 2012, fish in 9 southeast Florida canals were stunned with electricity, netted, weighed, measured, and released unharmed back into the waterway from which they were collected.  The overall electrofishing catch rate of largemouth basswas 48 fish over ten-inches-long every hour, 50% higher than the 1997-2011 average of 32 fish/hour.  This increase is due in large part to exceptionally good catches of bass in the West Palm Beach (C-51; 130 fish/hr), Hillsboro (G-08; 106 fish/hr) and Boynton Beach (C-16; 97 fish/hr) canals.  A total of 635 largemouth bass >10 inches were counted from 9 canals.
The populations of butterfly peacock in several well-known-to-angler Miami-Dade canals are doing extremely well despite cold water temperatures in January 2010 and a great deal of fishing pressure, a testament to the good conservation ethic of catch and release practiced by many urban canal anglers for butterfly peacock and largemouth bass.  The electrofishing catch rates of butterfly peacock larger than ten-inches-long in six Miami-Dade and Broward counties continue to increase from the 2010 winterkill, and in 2012 they averaged 28 fish every hour, up from 25 fish/hr in 2011 and 22 fish/hr in 2010.  A total of 208 butterfly peacock >10 inches were counted and released from these canals.
The electrofishing catch rate of bream (bluegill, redear sunfish, Mayan cichlid, and jaguar guapote) was 27 fish over six-inches-long every hour which is lower than the 1997-2011 average of 37 fish/hr.  This catch rate is expected to increase as Mayan cichlid continues to recover from cold water temperatures in 2010.
These results are from an annual electrofishing survey designed to monitor sportfish populations in urban canals in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.  Each canal is sampled for approximately eight hours and based on these findings, fisheries biologists at the Non-Native Fish Laboratory in Boca Raton predict that anglers will enjoy excellent catches of largemouth bass and butterfly peacock, and good catches of bream this quarter.
The recent survey produced some interesting facts:
--Southeast Florida urban canals produce good numbers of quality largemouth bass but have few “lunkers” over 6 pounds.
--Some of the best canals for largemouth bass were the Tamiami (C-4) and Parkline (L-31W) canals in Miami-Dade County, Hillsboro and Cypress Creek (C-14) canals in Broward County, and West Palm Beach, and Boynton canals in Palm Beach County.
--Some of the best canals for butterfly peacock were the Tamiami, Cutler Drain (C-100), Black Creek (C-1) and Parkline canals.
--The best canals for largemouth bass and butterfly peacock combined were Snake Creek (C-9), and Parkline canals in Miami-Dade County.  Low catches of butterfly peacock in north Broward and Palm Beach counties were likely the result of low water temperature related kills experienced early in January 2010.  These periodic kills were predicted and expected when butterfly peacock were originally stocked and a few consecutive mild winters will likely enable them to bounce back to historic levels.
--One canal yielded largemouth bass over six pounds, two canals yielded largemouth bass over five pounds, and six canals yielded bass over four pounds.  The largest largemouth bass collected this year weighed 8.2 pounds and measured 22.1 inches.
--The highest number of largemouth bass were shocked in the West Palm Beach Canal, and the Tamiami Canal had the most butterfly peacock.
--Three canals yielded butterfly peacock over five pounds, and three canals yielded four pound butterfly peacock.  The largest butterfly peacock collected this year weighed 5.2 pounds and measured 20.0 inches. 
--Some of the best bream canals were Snake Creek and Tamiami canals in Miami-Dade County, Cypress Creek and Hillsboro canals in Broward Canal, and West Palm Beach and Boynton canals in Palm Beach County.   
--Snook and tarpon are found in many southeast Florida canals and the highest numbers of these sportfish were observed in the Tamiami, Snake Creek, and Black Creek canals, all in Miami-Dade County.

Sebastian Inlet Report


We have another beautiful morning at the inlet. We have a nice breeze blowing out of the Southeast at 9 mph, gusting to 12 which is help keeping our jetty anglers cooled off. 

We received an update from Tommy Turowski of the Sebastian Inlet Bait and Tackle Shop who reported that Bonito have started to show up this morning, they are taking spoons. We still have a smattering of oversized Snook and Reds, big Jacks and Blue Runners coming over the rails of the jetties.

Our first photo features Heath Barrows who fished the north jetty and landed two nice oversized Reds which were returned to the water, using large greenies. Heath reported that he and his friends also landed a lot of big Jack Crevalle as well

Our last photo is for all you tattoo loving anglers out there. This tattoo isn't exactly pretty, but useful? Indeed!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Summer Time = Peacock Time

                                                                             photo courtesy of

The butterfly peacock (also called peacock bass) is an extremely popular freshwater game fish introduced to south Florida in 1984. It is readily caught by bank and boat anglers using a wide variety of tackle and bait that ranges from live shiners to artificial lures and flies. Butterfly peacock prefer live fish and fish- imitating baits often used by largemouth bass anglers, but they rarely hit plastic worms commonly used to catch largemouth bass.
Fishing is typically good throughout the year; however, most butterfly peacock heavier than four pounds are caught between February and May. Shaded areas provided by bridges, culverts and other structures generally are productive fishing spots, along with fallen trees, canal ends, bends and intersections. Nearly all butterfly peacock are caught during daylight hours.
The easiest way to catch butterfly peacock is by using live bait. A favorite choice is a small golden shiner about three inches in length, referred to locally as a “peacock shiner.” These can be fished below a float or free-lined while either casting or slow-trolling with an electric motor along canal edges. A small split shot weight may be required to fish the shiner at the proper depth.
Topwater lures (with and without propellers), minnow- imitating crankbaits and a variety of jigs fished on casting or spinning tackle are good choices for artificial baits. These include floating and sinking Rapalas and Yozuri minnows, Rat-L-Traps, Shad-Raps, Jerk’n Sams, Wobble Pops, Tiny Torpedos and Pop-Rs. A plastic, twin-tailed minnow and jig combination buzzed across the surface or tossed at fish sighted in deeper water also can be productive. Small tube lures and jigs frequently are used to sight-fish butterfly peacock, especially when they are aggressively guarding spawning beds near the shoreline. Although bigger baits (up to five inches) may entice more trophy-sized fish, baits less than three inches in length will produce more consistently than larger ones. However, even big butterfly peacock will take baits smaller than largemouth bass anglers typically use.
Dahlberg divers, deceivers, Clousers, epoxy minnows, zonkers and poppers are all popular selections of flyfishers. Many anglers prefer gold, fire- tiger or natural-colored lures; fly fishermen like
chartreuse or yellow flies with flashy strips of mylar-type materials.
Most butterfly peacock anglers use light spinning tackle with six to eight-pound test line. Light lines and tippets generate more strikes than heavier ones, and heavier lines aren’t necessary because canal-caught butterfly peacock tend to be open-water fighters.
The butterfly peacock can be handled by its lower jaw, using the same thumb-and- finger grip used for largemouth bass, although this will not immobilize them. By the end of the day, successful anglers using this grip will have many minor thumb scrapes caused by sandpaper-like teeth. These can be avoided by using tape, a leather thumb- guard or a fish landing device like the Bogagrip.
The current bag limit for butterfly peacock is two fish per day, only one of which may be greater than 17 inches long. This 17-inch length regulation gives added protection to large fish, which is essential for maintaining a high quality sport fishery. If the popularity of butterfly peacock fishing continues to grow as expected, it may be necessary to consider even more restrictive regulations to protect this fishery (e.g., the bag limit may be reduced to one fish). All regulations for sport fish are subject to change, so always check to be sure of current rules.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) encourages anglers to practice catch-and-release when fishing for butterfly peacock. Overall, this species is a hearty fish and nearly 100 percent will survive being caught and released when properly handled. However, butterfly peacock do not survive as well in live wells or as long out of water as do largemouth bass. It is important that they be released quickly to maximize their chances for survival.
           Approximate Measures of Florida Butterfly Peacock

Sebastian Inlet Report

05-28-14 WEDNESDAY: FISHING IS SLOW........... 

We have another lovely morning at the Sebastian Inlet. Winds are blowing out of the East-Southeast at 6 mph and gusting to 9. 

Wish we had more to report but the jetty fishing remains slow. The only thing we heard from the Sebastian Inlet Bait and Tackle Shop this morning was that the Goliath Grouper lurking beneath the north jetty are nailing any potential catches the anglers may have. There have been a few far and between catches of oversized Snook and Reds, a few big Jacks, a couple of Lookdowns and Margate for the patient angler. 

Our first photo is courtesy of Scott Ward of Indialantic. Scott fished the south side rocks using shrimp. Fishing close to the T-Dock, he landed the juvenile Red Grouper in our first photo today. Scott has fished the inlet for more than 20 years and this is the first one he's seen in the inlet. The Grouper was returned to the water unharmed. 
Randy Gastfield fished the inlet Thursday night, when he hooked up with a 30+ lb. Snook. Randy had the Snook about 75' from shore when a big shark came up and ate all but the head. Randy reeled in the head that was still alive, which weight 7 - 8 lbs. This was near the south side cleaning tables where Randy also saw a 3' Moray Eel and another smaller shark swim by. Many don't realize that big sharks come in that far, but they do, the proof is in the picture. Randy was really disappointed that the Snook couldn't be landed and released to spawn and fight another day. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Monster Jack off the beach

                Fishing Around Bridge Pilings

Sebastian Inlet Report


We have another beautiful day at the Sebastian Inlet. Winds are blowing out of the East-Southeast at 7 mph and gusting to 9. There is a light chop on the water. 

Fishing remains on the slow side for our jetty anglers. Those fishing the Indian River have had better luck. Catches are sporadic with an occasional nice Snook (most are oversized), Red, Lookdown, Atlantic Spadefish or Black Drum. Some Whiting were landed from the beaches over the weekend. Under docks and shady mangrove areas near the inlet are holding Trout, Snook and Reds. We have until midnight on Saturday to land a Snook in the 28" - 32" slot. The season will close June 1st until September 1st.

Our photos today are courtesy of Luke Vila of Kissimmee. Luke, his brother James and friend Justin Mitchell fished the banks of the inlet. Luke reported rough conditions but they had a great time and landed quite a few fish, including the oversized C/R Red in our first photo today. Nice catch Luke!
  Photo two features James Vila of Kissimmee with a good sized Jack he landed and released.
  Photo three is of Justin Mitchell of Kissimmee with a Ladyfish.

From Capt. Charlie @ Fishing Center - Ft Pierce

Summer has arrived and you can bet on hot afternoons and lots of great fishing action around the Treasure Coast during June. The mornings will be calm and it is certainly to your benefit to get out early to beat the afternoon heat. Being on the water at first light is worth the effort to watch the sun rise. Expect a chance of afternoon thunderstorms each day…we can always use some rain around the area this time of year! Watch the weather each afternoon out there. It’s a fantastic month to fish.

Inshore will provide lots of redfish, snook and trout action on the flats. Get those top water lures cleaned up and plan an early morning to get some of that explosive action in the shallows. Try the DOA Airhead or Bait Buster for great top water action. Switch to DOA shrimp or a CAL jerk bait as the sun warms up to continue your success. Watch for bait schools on the flats and you can be assured there are fish nearby. You can expect the fish to be feeding shallow early and move to the edges of the flats as the sun rises. Look for sand holes on the flats! Fish are traditionally lazy and love to sit in a sand hole and wait for the tide to bring the food for them to ambush.

You should be able to find plenty of redfish around the shallows. The population this year has been outstanding and they have been growing all spring. Redfish schools will be feeding on the flats, so be on the lookout for them. Most will be slot size to just over the slot. I love using a DOA shrimp or CAL paddle tails while fishing for reds. Try along the mangroves as well. Lots of fish will move under the mangroves as the sun heats up for the day. Trout will be on the grassy flats and feeding on the same food out there. Move out to three to five feet of water as the day heats up to continue your action. A Deadly Combo can provide inexperienced anglers with lots of fun learning to fish artificials. Don’t forget to fish the docks around the river. Lots of big fish will be hanging around many of the docks along the Indian River. Live bait, TerrorEyz and DOA shrimp can find some exciting action in June. Harbor Branch, Queens Cove and Bear Point will all be hot spots for action all summer.

Snook will provide plenty of action around the bridges and jetties this month. Snook season closes on May 31 and won’t open again until fall. Night anglers will be heading to the jetties for catch and release snook and maybe some tarpon action. Top water lures, feather jigs, TerrorEyz and Bait Busters can all get you in on some fantastic action. Handle the snook carefully and release them quickly and safely so that they will be there this fall. Jacks will also be hanging around the inlets and give you some rod bending activity.

Make sure you take plenty of water with you. It will be hot out there. Drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself hydrated and reduce the risk of heat stroke. Slather on lots of sunscreen! Sunburn isn’t a good feeling at the end of the good day of fishing. A little common sense and a few minutes can a big difference. Make that part of preparations for your adventures on the water. It will just make a great day even better!

                           Catch 365

"Summertime Snookin"
As summertime sets in fully for South Florida; expect more and more days like this along the beach. And with days like this will come snook...lots of snook! Coming over the next few days will be all kinds of summertime snook info, stay tuned!

Friday, May 23, 2014

For many, fishing from a boat is not an option, whether that be by preference or the lack of owning a boat, there is plenty of opportunity for all anglers in Florida by land and by boat. Bridge fishing puts you in position to battle with some big fish, so you have to be as prepared as possible. If you’ve ever gone bridge fishing then you know what I’m talking about. It’s an all out battle when you hook a decent fish, and scraps, cuts, bruises and lumps are all part of the game. More often than not, the fish usually get the better of the battle! The following are some guidelines to get you started. As you gain experience you’ll use what works best for you and your style.
Rod Choice
The rod is the most important piece of tackle in bridge fishing, as this is your sole resource for getting the fish in your hands. Pick the wrong rod and you may very well see your trophy fish waggle a fancy goodbye as you curse yourself a fool. Your rod, along with your skills as an angler will help you control the fish and keep them away from the pilings, where they will always run to cut you off. If the fish wants the piling it will usually win because it’s coming toward you and you’ll have no leverage until it goes beneath you. With that being said a wise choice for rod length is in the 9- to 11-foot class, which will help you begin putting reverse tension on the fish as it makes a dash for the pilings beneath you. That extra 11 feet of rod, plus your two feet of arm reach and perhaps another 2 feet of body stretch can get that tension started 15 feet from the pilings, thus possibly halting the fish from ever reaching the piling and turning it toward open water, or at minimum get its head toward the surface where it’ll lose some fighting power and maneuverability.
You’ll also want a rod with an 18- to 24-inch butt if you’re going after big game. The extra butt length enables you to secure the rod under your arm to help you control the fish better. As an added feature, look for a rod with an extended front grip (forward of the reel) as this will help relieve some of the arm tension over longer battles by supporting the rod further up toward the tip. Never put your hand on the actual rod, as they aren’t designed for bracing beyond the grips.

Fast action rods that are stiff throughout the range are usually best when going after big fish. You want your tension to be placed on the fish quickly. A slow action rod will bend more, giving up crucial ground and allowing your fish more progress toward the pilings. Look for rods with more guides spaced closely together, which disperses tension along the rod better as well as takes some pressure off the tip and other guides—very useful when using braided lines that have a tendency to cut into lesser quality guides.

You need a big reel that will hold plenty of line and has a good drag system and a fast retrieve. I prefer spinning class reels when bridge fishing for fish that have a tendency to run. If I am going after fish that tend to hunker down and pull for bottom structure such as grouper, I will switch to a conventional reel. I know many anglers like to light tackle fish, but doing so from a bridge is almost certain disappointment when you hook a good sized fish such as a snook or tarpon. Your drag tension depends solely on you and your abilities, your line size, and rod length. I prefer to beef everything up and really let my line and rod take the torque. I would rather not try to pull a big fish from a piling beneath me, as the angles just aren’t in your favor. Regardless of drag settings, meaning if you tighten it down or leave it somewhat loose, you’ll want a smooth drag system. A rough drag really stresses your line, guides and your arms through the jerkiness of the drag.

Line is probably the second most important feature, as your line must be able to match up well with your rod. You should use heavy line to help prevent break offs and unnecessary line frays from the pilings. If you’re thinking 30 pound test, then think again! I’ve seen anglers, myself included, lose many fish on 50 pound test, even test up to 100 can be easily broken off upon contact with a piling. Of course, the smaller your line the better odds you have of getting a strike, so the tradeoff is time or a lost fish—you make the decision. The goal is to keep the fish out of the pilings, and as mentioned above, by getting your body, arms, and rod length involved to start tension well before the fish reaches the pilings, the line must be able to handle a tightened down drag.
If catching large, hard-battling game fish is not your goal, you can get by with light- to medium-action spinning tackle and 12- to 20-pound-test line. As a rule of thumb, I like to double my leader line above my standing line, such as a 15/30 setup. Because of the barnacles on the pilings, always use fluorocarbon leader.

I personally like short shank hooks simply because there is less metal showing. Long shank hooks offer a bit more security by keeping the leader away from the teeth when lip hooked. One thing that should always remain constant is that you keep your hooks sharp and rust free. I haven’t found much difference, if any in color preference so I use whatever I have on hand. For some reason, of which I do not know, I do not use gold hook unless they are on the end of a bait catching rig.

I use both live and cut bait for bridge fishing, and my preferences are based on what I am going after. Keep in mind that there are small bridges, shallow water bridges, deep water bridges, tall bridges—all kinds of bridges. For more detailed fishing tactics and methods, please check out my latest book entitled “Florida Inshore Angler.” You’ll find an in depth section on all the above and more.
NOTE: Bait listed is in order of preference. Also keep in mind that this is a rule of thumb, as some days the order can drastically change.

Snook- pinfish, shrimp, small ladyfish, finger mullet
Spanish Mackerel-Threadfins, any other whitebait, shrimp
Snapper- 1-2 inch pinfish, shrimp, greenbacks
Grouper- cut sardines, grunt heads, squid
Pompano /Permit- Sand Fleas, fiddler crabs, shrimp, squid strips
Tarpon- pass crabs, threadfins

The most important thing about fishing live bait from bridges is that you must make your bait look as natural as possible! Small baitfishes rarely swim against a high current, or remain suspended 15 feet off the bottom in high current. Now that doesn’t mean that you won’t get a strike, it simply means that your chances drop drastically. Remember that predator fish will feed into the current!
Bottom Fishing: A good rig is to anchor your weight on the bottom of the leader line, and use a three way swivel that attaches your standing line to your leader line. Attach your bait to the side position on the swivel and allow enough line to get your bait a few inches off the bottom, but never longer than main leader. This presents a natural appearance by allowing your bait to swim down to the bottom as it would naturally do to get out of the current.

Free line: Cast your bait up current and let it come back to the bridge. This resembles natural bait movement.

Time & Tides
The tide, as with any fishing plays an important role. With bridge fishing you don’t have the ability to run with the tide like you would in a boat, so paying close attention here really helps in your success. Concentrate on the changing of the tide, as this is where you make success when bridge fishing. Look to score mostly 1 hour before and 1 hour after the tide change. This is when the current is a bit weaker and the bait begins to swim more freely. Also take note that the major feeding periods around structure usually occur about 1 hour before sunrise and 1 hour after sunset.

Landing your fish
Hopefully the above will enabled you the thrill of hooking into a trophy fish, but now how do you get that 20 pounder over the rail from a 20 foot bridge? If you’re not packing a line gaff then you better hope your fish remains calm, hasn’t frayed your line, is hooked securely, and you have a steady enough hand to pull the line up without any bouncing! A bridge gaff is much easier so I suggest that you either rig your own or go purchase one. A bridge gaff is a large weighted treble hook attached to a 1/4-inch rope with enough line to reach the target. An oversized snap ring is attached to the hook eye, and once you’ve settled down the fish you simply clip it on your line and lower it to the fish and set the hook!
Keep your tip up^
story courtesy of Allen Applegarth/Florida inshore Angler