Sunday, March 24, 2019

New Species on Pier 60

My family and I were on vacation in Clearwater, and I couldn't resist the temptation of fishing there. I found a few hours to take my dad and brother to Pier 60 to catch some fish. I decided to rent gear from the pier because I didn't bring much and preferred not to risk breaking my own rigs. The pier was very fisherman friendly, and it gave out free buckets to use for storing the frozen bait, as well as a hose for washing hands and melting the frozen bait. I settled for frozen shrimp to buy from the pier after checking a local bait shop that ran out of live shrimp. When the bait quickly defrosted, Jacob and I cut pieces of shrimp into small parts and baited them on the size 1-2 J-hooks. I wish we had smaller circle hooks, because that would have been easier to hook the fish with. In the end, it worked out. The bait was really soft. There was much life in the water, and we saw schools of fish in the water when we looked down. When we casted or dropped the bait, we would sometimes feel bites instantly, and then lose them. Whenever we would reel in to check on the bait, it was gone. This happened repeatedly for the first hour. It was quite disappointing. At one point, Jacob reeled up a cool-looking crab that feel off just as he was bringing it over the side of the pier. I'm not sure what it was, as I didn't have a chance to look at it very well. After a while, when the sun had just set, my brother turned to me excitedly and exclaimed, "Josh, I GOT ONE." I watched him reel in a small Pinfish, our first fish of the day. The catch itself wasn't extraordinary, but a fish is a fish, and it was our first of the day. On the very next drop, Jacob reeled in another fish! It looked like our missing streak was over. I checked to see which species it was, and it was a new one! A Sand Trout! A member of the Cynoscion family, the Sand Trout is recognizable by its white color and distinct lateral line. Although not as popular as Spotted Seatrout, their close relatives, they are also a great fish to catch. As it got darker, I became more desperate to catch a fish, especially a Sand Trout. Sure enough, I dropped my hook, reeled up slightly as I felt the bites, and subtly jerked the rod up. the Rod bent and I felt the tug. Fish on! I reeled in the fish which was almost mechanically vibrating as I brought it up and over the side of the pier. I caught a Sand Trout! A nice catch! I was really happy to finally get on the board. After about another 20 minutes of trying to catch fish, Jacob and I both reeled in a Pigfish! Another new species, the Pigfish is a member of the Grunt, or Haemulon family. It is known as being a good baitfish, and I tried to drop it in the pier lights for Snook in the time I had left. Alas, the fish was foul hooked and didn't survive for very long. Before leaving, we caught yet another new species, a Silver Perch! These fish, although very similar in appearance to the Sand Trout, can be distinguished by a rounder body and slightly taller fins. It makes sense that they were together at the pier, given their similarities. We packed up, returned the gear, and left with smiles on our faces. We had caught rather small fish, but we were happier with the fact that we were able to add a few more species to the life-list.


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