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Sunsets at Fort Desoto Beach Are Second To None

Featured Article

The Fish Hunter

Getting out on the water in Southern Florida for some active adventure

Article by George Hastick, Don Seaman

Photography by George Hastick

Originally published in Wayne Lifestyle

The Fish Hunter

As the weather starts turning warmer, we naturally start feeling the pull of the outdoors — and often a road trip. For some, the lure of adventure may be just too strong to resist. It might be just the time to throw caution to the wind and try something new, or maybe somewhere new. If you’ve never tried it, you might want to consider heading to South Florida to see what this fishing thing is all about.

So if the closest you’ve ever come to a Tarpon is on a street sign down the shore, this might be about a mile outside your comfort zone. But should that be exactly what you’re looking for, a bona fide sea captain is a pretty good source.

We asked George Hastick, captain of Fish Hunter Fishing Charters, to tell us what the fishing experience is like in St. Petersburg, and what else might make this a memorable trip off the boat.

Q: What is there to know about fishing in St. Petersburg?

A: The great thing about this area is that there are plenty of places to catch fish with or without a boat. If you want to just stick to land fishing, the St. Petersburg Pier and Demens Landing Park, along with many miles of seawalls, multiple other piers, parks, and bridges, like the Skyway Bridge or the Gandy Bridge, all are great options. The marina has live shrimp and the pier has a variety of frozen bait that you can use to fish these areas.

If you decide to get a kayak or rent a boat you can fish the many mangrove tree-lined grass flats that our area has to offer.

But if you come here for one of our famous trips, I launch my 23.5’ bay boat from Demens Landing Park for an unforgettable fishing tour of this wonderful fishery of Tampa Bay.

Q: What makes St. Petersburg such a great place to fish?

A: We have such a wide variety of fish to catch in our area. This isn’t like fishing in Jersey. Some of the species available in our area include snook, redfish, trout, sheepshead, tarpon, pompano, permit, mackerel, king mackerel, ladyfish, jack crevalle, grouper, goliath grouper, red snapper, mangrove snapper, cobia, hogfish, triple tail, flounder and a variety of sharks. And that’s just the shortlist.

Q: Can you share any “insider” tips for fishing in the area?

A: Sure. Here are a few:

One of the best baits that you can catch is scaled sardines, which is the caviar of inshore fishing. These baits are very frisky and have very white sides which flash as they swim when the sun hits them. The marinas have many different live and frozen bait. And baiting a hook isn’t as difficult as you might expect. I can show you some tricks for that to really bring in the fish.

Redfish and snook are the two favorite inshore fish I love to target. Redfish have a bulldog, “I’m not giving up” type of attitude all the way to the boat. The snook is an ambush predator that will make a loud slap noise at the top of the water when it crushes your bait. Then it might jump out of the water or just come to the top and give a gill-rattling head shake to try to throw the hook!

Look for both fish to be anywhere from under the mangroves (you’re not getting them on the shores of Jersey) to about 70 feet out, as long as there is good live grass or an oyster mound. Moving water is the key to a good bite. There, you can pretty regularly catch sheepshead, trout, or mangrove snapper for dinner.

The tide will move the bait and the fish will position themselves to intercept it with the least amount of effort. So sometimes a cast 2 feet closer to a mangrove or oyster mound could make the difference between whether or not you get the hit. So practice up on your casting skills.

Q: What’s there to do there when you’re not out fishing?

A: Even for those non-fishing enthusiasts that might come here, or after your time out on the bay, we have a ton of things to do in St. Petersburg that aren’t “on the boat”. Let’s start with the beaches, most of them are white sand beaches. Fort DeSoto has been ranked the #1 beach nationally — and it’s also a top camping site.

One of the best things for visitors is our newly reconstructed 92-million-dollar downtown waterfront pier, which extends out 3,000 feet into Tampa Bay. It includes beach access, a splash pad, parks, bistros, museums, a marketplace, cafes, pubs, and shopping — along with a fishing deck and bait shop.

There’s tons of shopping, the Salvador Dali Museum, and plenty of nightlife, each with all the waterfront views you’d expect on the Florida coast not to mention bars, clubs, and restaurants all within walking distance of each other. You definitely won’t be bored if you’re not out there fishing.

But really, to me, the highlight of St. Pete is our fishery. Maybe I’m biased, but the fishing here is incomparable.

Capt. George Hastick captains “Fish Hunter Fishing Charters” in St. Petersburg, FL. He is the co-host of Florida West Coast Fishing Report and also co-hosts “Fishing Adventures Florida”, available on 5 streaming channels and YouTube.

Email:, Call 727-525-1005, or visit: or to learn more about booking your tour and tell The Fish Hunter we said hi!

  • Sunsets at Fort Desoto Beach Are Second To None
  • The Skyway Bridge
  • The Fish Hunter will help you target snook and other highly prized game fish