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Volume 1, Issue 9, March 2011: Life On The Seawall - Getting Back To Your Roots

Welcome to another issue of FRESH FROM THE SALT. In our Vol. 1, Issue 9, March 2011 edition, titled Life On The Seawall - Getting Back To Your Roots, we discuss how many of us got started in our saltwater adventures. To many, that start was fishing from the seawall. This could have been any of the following: dangling a fiddler crab down by the barnacles hoping for a big sheepshead, free-lining live shrimp at an attempt for a nice trout, redfish or snook, throwing your castnet at schools of traveling mullet, dropping blue crab traps and/or chicken lines for the once plentiful blue crabs on our coast, or any number of other activities that compelled us to spend our free hours working the seawall edge. For me, my early years in Tarpon Springs, mainly during the mid 1970s, meant all of the above, with an emphasis on castnetting all the mullet we could and builing our own smokers out of tee-pee styled 2x4s and burlap covers. We'd hang our mullet up on nails on the 2x4 frame and let the wood chips, below, slow-smoke the fish for about 24 hours. Coming in at a close 2nd place was our focus on catching giant blue crabs, sometimes through the use of small, triangular or square style fold-up traps, or, chicken lines, but usually just as easy as moving up and down the wall, slowly and methodically, and scooping them off the barnacles and oysters with a quick swoop or our dip nets. Whatever our target species, our bounty was always plentiful.

Fast forward to 2011 and I find myself trying desperately to pencil in days when I can manage to take my high-tech flats boat out on the water for just a few hours. Please understand, I LOVE this boat! It was a major life goal since childhood. However, between work and all the other domestic responsibilities, I'm lucky to get to spend even a day or two on the water. And despite the fact that the boat allows me to get to waters I could have never reached before, my bounty is never what is was during my childhood and adolescent seawall days. Between the distance to the ramp, the cost of gas, and the sometimes questionably strict bag limits in place these days, I sometimes question what it's all for anymore. It was at this point that my good friend Jon Nowokunski suggested that I take a break from the expensive and often tiring routine of taking the boat out and just come over to his St. Pete seawall for a little R&R fishing. Well, I did just that, a few Monday nights ago. With perfect Spring weather, a few cold beers and a group of great friends, I found myself back to my roots, sitting there on the seawall with a live shrimp under a cork. No blacking out the livewell with hundreds of whitebaits and chumming up the world... just a carefree, kicked-back Monday night with a single rod dangling over the wall's edge, my best friends cracking jokes here and there, and the occassional, but modest, trout or redfish.

So please join us as we re-visit the slow and worry-free life on the seawall. This story also appears as an abbreviated article titled Nothing to Brag About: Getting back to your roots, good for the angler's soul, in the March, 2011 issue of Saltwater Angler Magazine which can be found in most of our West Central Gulf Coast bait and tackle stores and seafood restaurants.

Ok folks, Spring is here and now is the time for the best fishing action of the year, whether from your fancy boat or from your cozy little neighborhood seawall. It's all good, as they say!

Joshua W. Broer (pondfisher)

Life On The Seawall - Getting Back To Your Roots

All winter long my buddy has been trying to get me to come over to the public-use seawall adjacent to his apartment in St. Pete. He had been raving about the trout bite all winter, claiming that some nights they were catching fish on almost every cast. The ladyfish could get rather thick, he'd mention, but live shrimp free-lined or under a float were producing some banner nights on all tides. I was just too busy, or I just couldn't handle that cross-county rush-hour traffic, I'd tell him, turning down offer after offer all season long. This particular Monday though, with Monday Night Football done and nothing exciting going on at home, I gave in and headed over the bridge.

Equipped with four dozen shrimp, two spinning rods, a fly rod and a six-pack of beer, I figured I could make this fun, no matter what the outcome might be. Boy was it ever fun, "with a little help from my friends", as the Beatles would say. At just around 5:30 p.m. the tide was already in, stagnant, and ready to make its move back out. So, I had missed the big incoming that to me promised the best possible bite. No worries though, I would just set up, wait for the water to start moving and hope for the best. My good friends and locals there, Jon and Teresa, turned the corner with margaritas and rods in hand, wearing big smiles since I had finally made it over.

Jon was right, the ladyfish were everywhere and maybe crowding out the trout. You simply couldn't keep your shrimp in the water for more than a minute before those feisty little fish would grab your bait. Quality table fare, they are not. Rod-benders, well, if you only care about action, they can't be beat. It was at this point in the night that I broke out my 8-weight fly rod and began to play with them, trying for a bigger and bigger fish. Then it finally happened. I hooked up with a pretty 16" trout on my beat up fly. It would be the only trout of the night but I didn't even care. It was species number two of the trip and, it was fun. Jon and Teresa continued to mess with ladyfish and were all laughs.

Dark had set in and the outgoing tide was beginning to rip. This, I had hoped, would bring a shift in action and maybe some "better" and bigger fish. It did, sort of. With legs dangled over the seawall edge and Jon and I now joined by his neighbor, "Pepper", we talked of the future and days gone by. Right then, my rod smacked down from its mangrove prop and the line came tight. Finally, I thought, a nice trout, red or snook has inhaled my shrimp. It was nothing of the sort though. It could have, however, if the IGFA had a record for this category, be the single largest pinfish ever landed on Florida's west coast. As disappointed as I was that my catch turned out to be what is usually my grouper bait, I was shocked at the size of this fish a pound if not more. There was more laughter from the growing group on the seawall.

Jon's brother showed up, followed by other residents enjoying the same nightly ritual. It truly no longer mattered what we caught as the perfect temperature, great company and constant tight lines made for a wonderful, unforgettable gathering. Some folks began to feed their ladyfish catches to large, lingering blue herons. Others, like Teresa, took to reading fishing magazines. It was a community feeling that is mostly absent in my North Tampa neighborhood. For me, it was happy and sad all at the same time. And then my line came tight again. This time a beautiful, healthy little schoolie redfish had eaten my bait and continued to up the species count. I was, of course, now wondering where that elusive snook might be and thinking that this story would have a different theme. But no slam this time.

Though no snook showed up, the tide was almost slack and it was getting late, this had turned out to be one great fishing trip. What a wonderful world it is at the seawall, whether in your own backyard, at the local park, or just along the side of the road somewhere. Heck, with all the focus on fishing from the boat these days, I had almost forgotten my roots.

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