Fishing (not catching) at the Cedar Key pier

John Muir, a Scottish-born wilderness advocate and dynamic 19th century beard connoisseur, once went for a long walk.  He walked away from Kentucky (who could blame him?), wound his way through the South and into northern Florida.  He kept walking until he got to Cedar Key, a little fishing village on the Gulf Coast.  In his journal, he wrote:

For nineteen years my vision was bounded by forests, but today, emerging from a multitude of tropical plants, I beheld the Gulf of Mexico stretching away unbounded, except by the sky. What dreams and speculative matter for thought arose as I stood on the strand, gazing out on the burnished, treeless plain!

Needless to say, he stopped walking at Cedar Key.  He hopped a sail boat and took off to Cuba.

John Muir looking into the distance (thanks to PBS for the photo)

But if you go to Cedar Key today, you’ll have much the same experience as Muir.  Of course, it won’t be quite like walking through the woods for 19 years, but there’s no way to get to Cedar Key without driving for an hour and a half through nothing.  So when you finally get there, the Gulf looks all the more impressive.

Cedar Key is a 900-person fishing village located north of Homosassa and south of nothing in particular.  The chief industries are clam farms and tourism, although, I never seem to see many of either.  Probably because of its relative isolation on the coast, this tourist town seems surprisingly devoid of tourists.

An ariel view of the fishing pier extending off of Dock Street (thanks to Google Earth).

But that’s great news for an afternoon adventurer.  Cedar Key has a fantastic fishing pier, and when the tourists aren’t out, it’s a wonderful place to spend the day.  The pier extends off the city dock, on the appropriately named Dock Street.  The dock, which stretches out over the water and is home to many of the town’s well-know restaurants and shops, is worth a quick walk through, and there are several good places to get a quick bite to eat.

The fishing pier has eight spokes, a (nice) bathroom, a fish-cleaning station, benches and lots of space.  It’s free to use, there’s parking nearby and the pier has a permit, which means that individuals don’t need fishing licenses.  There’s also a reasonably priced bait shop right next door.

The bait shop’s walls are plastered with photos of fishermen and their catches – redfish, trout, grouper, cobia, sharks of all sorts.  I’ve fished the pier a few times (although only casually), and my catch list is a lot less impressive – catfish, rays, catfish, snakes, catfish.  A few big sail cats were fun to reel in and a good sign that other fish are around, but, needless to say, I haven’t had any use for the fish-cleaning station.

As for bait, I’ve used shrimp (lots of quick catches, but nothing good), pinfish (so-so), squid (just rays) and mullet (nothing at all).  I’ve fished mid-afternoon, at dusk and at night, but time of day hasn’t had much of an effect.  Come to think of it, I also haven’t seen anybody else pull up any great catches out there.  But out on the pier, everyone seems to be having fun (and the bait shop guy assures me that people catch good fish all the time).

It’s a little disappointing that I don’t have better news to report because I really enjoy spending time out on this pier.  I’ll make another trip out there soon and see if I have better luck.

In the meantime, does anyone have any fishing tips for that area?  Anyone with any success from that pier?

Cedar Key is at the intersection of state road 24 and the Gulf of Mexico.  It’s 130 miles north of Tampa, 130 miles southwest of Jacksonville and 60 miles west of Gainesville.  If you get on state road 24 at 1-75 (the Archer Road exit in Gainesville), start driving west.  Don’t turn anywhere. When you’re at a dock with people fishing, you’re there.

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Comments

  1. I LOVE CEDAR KEY. I feel like a schmuck for not seeing this post earlier. Sorry to say I have no fishing tips just enjoy. Thanks for posting about one of my favorite destinations in Florida.

  2. I am looking forward to fishing here later this month.

  3. Virginiafisherman says:

    I’ve fished the pier at Cedar Key on several occasions. We have spent our vacation there for the past few years. We’ve hooked up to some really big Black Drum in the 30 to 40 Lb. class. We’ve also caught speckled and gray trout, redfish, catfish, sharks and some of the smaller species. I don’t know if it’s just the time of year or what but we always seem to have good luck fishing the pier. Our bait of choice is shrimp, frozen or alive, but have also caught shark on cut bait. We use 20 Lb test line and a 2/0 hook, I think the red hooks work best, also we us steel leader rigs that you can purchase at the local hardware store. One of our favorite fishing places and hopefully we can get there again soon.

  4. love this little place . me and my wife go every year. we love to go out to the island and fish off the sand bar. we all way catch fish on high tide. cant wait to go again.

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  1. […] wrote recently about the Cedar Key Fishing Pier and the cool, somewhat-isolated, fishing town that it calls […]

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