Fort Desoto Fishing Pier
There are actually two piers at Fort Desoto Park. One is on the bay side and the other is on the
Gulf. The pier on this page is the Gulf Fishing Pier. It is the longest (over 1,000 feet). It is open 365 days a
year, and always has people fishing on it. There is no charge to fish on the pier, and thanks to Friends of Fort
Desoto who purchased a pier fishing license, you will not need to have a Florida fishing license to fish from the
pier. The pier used to be open 24 hours, but now closes at 11 p.m.
Note: Fort Desoto Park, like most other County and State
Parks, closes at sunset. Gates block access to certain areas of the park. But the fishing piers are open later. The
pier has plenty of lighting at night and it has tables with running water to clean your catch.
Bait shop and concession hours: Mon-Fri 10am to 4pm, Sat-Sun 10am to 5pm.
The "bait shop" is more of a tackle shop and food concession. They only sell frozen bait. They are famous for their homemade lemonade!
The Gulf pier is an excellent place for watching birds. There is usually a large flock of gulls and terns on the beach near the pier, and there are plenty of shorebirds around as well. There were two sightings of a Sooty Tern near the pier in 2012 and a Pomarine Jaeger has been hanging around the pier in the Fall of 2012. Northern Gannets can sometimes be seen in the winter months, especially during high winds.
Of course, not everyone on the pier came to fish. Lots of people just come out to sit and relax and
watch the fishermen. Others are just taking a walk and enjoying the scenery, which is very good here. Across the
channel is Egmont Key with its flashing lighthouse. Enormous cargo and cruise ships
navigate the deep channel and are fun to watch. It is amazing how fast they move.
Above: when you walk out onto the pier and see lots of birds diving like this, it means there is a
lot of bait fish (minnows). This means bigger fish are here too, chasing the bait. If you look closely at the
photo, you will notice a clear division between the light green water in the foreground, and the darker water over
which the birds are flying. The water is dark because there is a nearly solid mass of millions upon millions of
baitfish in the water. The island you see in the distance (upper left horizon) is Anna Maria Island on the other
side of the mouth of Tampa Bay.
The pier has a number of roofed shelters so you can get out of the sun, or shelter from the
rain. The pier also has concrete benches and tables with running water are provided for cleaning your catch. The
pier is lighted at night.
Above: an American egret waits patiently on the pier, hoping for a handout, perhaps an unwanted
fish thrown by a fisherman.
I've never been to the Gulf fishing pier at Fort Desoto and not seen a dolphin. This one surprised
me. I was watching several fisherment reeling in ladyfish and Spanish mackerel when this dolphin surfaced right in
front of me. Unfortunately I had my camera turned off. By the time I turned it back on, the dolphin was further
away and this was the best shot I could get.
If you get hungry or thirsty and didn't bring your own food and beverage, the Gulf Pier
concession will provide. It is open Mon-Fri from 10am to 4pm, and Sat-Sun from 10am to 5pm. It also sells fishing
tackle, t-shirts, and frozen bait.
Above: The Gulf pier at sunset as seen from atop the fort. The lights of the pier are on. Egmont
Key can be seen in the distance, and a large cargo ship is moving through the deepwater channel.