Skyway Fishing Pier State Park (Tampa)


Image of road, freeway, highway, overpass One of the longest piers in the world is located on Florida’s west coast: the Skyway Fishing Pier. Here you’ll find fantastic fishing and some of the best sunsets in the world. It’s a place to park for a few hours and spend the day (or night) fishing.

Skyway Fishing State Park

Where Tampa Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico is without a doubt incredible fishing grounds. The topography of the area and the tidal movements create a feeding frenzy for species such as tarpon, snook, redfish, trout, grouper, Spanish Mackerel, cobia, and much more. And sitting right in the middle of this fantastic fishing grounds is the Skyway Fishing State Park. You can’t ask for easier access than this.

You see, the pier was actually the old bridge that crossed the bay, connecting St. Petersburg to cities on the other side. Nearby cities include Rubonia, Palmetto, Bradenton and most notably, Sarasota. But the cities aren’t what draws the crowds here. It’s the fishing found throughout Tampa Bay where anglers hook big fish. The story is: in 1980 a section of the bridge collapsed when a freighter hit a piling. Soon after, development began on the new Interstate 275 overpass, Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which opened in 1987. Parts of the old bridge were still standing and viable, so the state converted it to a state park and opened it up to anglers. The rest is history.

Fishing the Skyway

The nice part about fishing the Skyway Pier is that you can drive to your spot and have all your gear just a few feet away. It’s not your typical pier that juts out into a body of water where you have to walk 1,000+ feet to the deep waters. Simply drive to the spot you want to fish, unpack your rods, reels, tackle, cooler, and lawn chair, and enjoy a few hours of rod bending action.

The time of year and time of day will of course determine what you’re finding at the end of your line. During the cooler months of October, November, and December, redfish and spotted seatrout are frequently found in good numbers. Drift your bait under a popping cork along with the tide, and you’re sure to run into one of these inshore favorites. Live shrimp will typically do the trick.

If you have young or first-time anglers in your group, drop your bait near the pier’s pilings and the oyster beds. Enough weight to hold bottom coupled with a small hook and frozen bait can yield Sheepshead, Mangrove Snapper, and catfish. Though not the pinnacle of sportfishing, these species are abundant, and can make for a fun time when nothing else is biting.

One of the most coveted inshore fish, Tarpon, or silver king, are a local favorite because of the size these acrobatic fish grow to. Fish in the May, June, and July for peak season numbers, though they can typically be caught from March to mid August. Speaking of size and acrobatics, you'll need to step up your gear if Tarpon are the target. 40# main line to a 60-80# fluorocarbon leader is a good start, paired with a live crab or pinfish on a 6/0-7/0 circle hook. Those fishing artificials usually opt for a large swimbait. 

Ultimately, there’s a variety of fish that can be caught from the pier. You can go drift fishing, bottom fishing, jigging, or even fly fishing from the pier. Casting is possible from the Skyward State Fishing Pier because you typically don’t have people walking behind you like at other piers. It’s a one-of-kind experience that is worth checking out.

Visiting Skyway Fishing Pier State Park

Make your way to Interstate 275 to access the park. Northbound and southbound lanes both have exits to the entrance. Keep in mind that there is a fee for each vehicle plus a fee per person: $4 per adult; $2 for children ages 6-12; and kids under five years old are free. Another perk of this pier, it’s open 24-hours a day, 365 days of the year. There are lights all along the road and fish often are more active near where the light shines. Plan a night fishing adventure and you just may be hooked on a new way of fishing!

For some of the best fishing in the state, with easy access, check out Skyway Fishing Pier State Park. If you’re itching to head out a bit farther, book a fishing charter in the surrounding area for a tailored deep sea fishing experience.

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