Sunshine Skyway at sunrise
When water temperatures crept up into the 70s around Tampa Bay in early March, anglers at one of the most iconic fishing locations welcomed the arrival of kingfish. Nearly every day at the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier there have been reports of some large drag-screaming king mackerel as anglers are able to fish from the bridge despite a windy week.
Among those reeled in this week, none may have been bigger than Glen Hite’s monster catch.
Hite, a 33-year-old angler who lives in Seminole, made the trip down to the North Skyway pier on Monday. It was cold, windy and rainy, but that didn’t stop him from soaking a few lines. Over the years he’s caught plenty of 30-pound plus kingfish, and his best friend landed a 55-pounder fishing on the south pier about four years ago. He’s aware big fish roam into the bay stalking the bait-dense bridges for their next meal.
Arriving early, Hite started by trying to get live bait as the sun appeared from the east.
“As the sun began to finally rise I finally hooked a bait but was disappointed to find out it was only a grunt,” Hite said. “Knowing I was baitless, I told my buddies a grunt was better than the bait I didn’t have out, so I hooked him in the back and slid him down the outrigger.”
Hite’s custom 8-foot 3-inch rod and Avet reel were secured to the bridge by his custom made wooden rail. He went back to mackerel fishing, wanting to secure one as a bait for big kingfish.
“Five minutes later I heard ‘Fish on’ from the guys at the end of the pier,” Hite said. “When I turned I saw it was my rod slammed over and peeling drag. I ran over and pulled the tie; the fish was already 50 yards out so I gave him a bump hook set. He then sped up and headed toward the bridge.
“After about 150 yards of drag he began swimming towards the pilings on the big Skyway Bridge. I tightened the drag slightly and began to pump and crank.”
Slowly working the kingfish away from the bridge, Hite then had to weave in and out of other anglers on the bridge. He knew a monster was on the other end. When a tangle occurred with another line, he loosened his drag to get the lines undone before resuming the fight.
“Finally clear, we were back where it all began. I told others it was either huge or snagged. He then rounded the corner and charged toward the end of the pier and started to charge under my feet. I pushed more lever into the drag and knew I had to put the screws to him. I was either going to get him or break him off.”
The large kingfish finally relented and was brought to the surface. Hite and his friends lowered a bridge gaf and after a few missed attempts were finally able to get the fish heading up to their possession.
“When it hit the ground we all screamed in excitement and realized just how big it was!” Hite exclaimed.
They all guessed it weighed somewhere in the low 40-pound range. That was underestimated. On the piers scale it came it at 49.8 pounds, a true monster, while measuring a massive 60 inches long!
For Hite the memory will last forever, and even a visitors to the pier won’t soon forget it.
“A few vacationers asked to get a picture with it, which I was cool with.”