I made use of my Florida fishing license for the last time in beautiful Saint Joseph Peninsula State Park. I fished in two places there and it is one of the nicest beaches that I have ever fished.
Also, the north end of the peninsula sports the largest coastal sand dunes I’ve seen outside of North Carolina – a great place to fish. I only found a few fishermen along several miles of beach, but the consensus was that whiting were in the surf in good numbers. I asked about catching them with frozen squid, fishing the bottom, and I was told that I surely could. The fish that Yankees refer to as a whiting is not something that would live in the Gulf, and I was further perplexed to be told that they were "good eating,” but I figured I would give this a shot. After all sorts of hi-jinks, including accidentally throwing my filet knife out in the campground dumpster the night before trash pick-up and having to replace it, and twice leaving the tackle shop without bait, I got down to a spot on the beach that I had scouted, and chosen for a sand bar just distant enough (~40 yards away.) There was another fisherman nearby, and I set up with enough space to avoid tangled lines, but just enough.
For my rig this time I used a double hook with a 2 oz. sinker, which was more than sufficient to hold bottom. In the Gulf there was not an intense amount of drift – in the rough surf of the Atlantic, I’m accustomed to using 'Sputnik' sinkers, which have wire feet to keep them from bouncing along the surf.
On the first cast, I caught a fish. It was about 10 inches long and was a fun enough fight on my tackle. I brought it over to the other fisherman and asked if it was a whiting. He said yes and confirmed that there was no size or catch limit. It had enough meat on it to be worthwhile, so I threw it into the cooler I had filled with water. As it turns out, what they call whiting are the fish known back home as kingfish, and called a sea mullet in Hatteras. A few casts later, I caught another, and after a short time I had four. Kathryn was coming to join me on the beach and I texted her to bring a bucket. At the end of a short day, I had caught six whiting but nothing else, so we decided to keep the biggest three (I’d been throwing back the smaller ones) and make a meal.
A few days later, still in St Joseph's Peninsula State Park, I fished from breakwater rocks near a beach named Stump Hole. The only thing that I caught there were two more small whitefish, but a man from Michigan was there fishing with his dog. Almost as soon as he told us that he’d had no success all day, he lost a nice looking amber jack that spit the hook while he was hoisting it over the rocks. Within minutes, we saw him catch a fat keeper black drum – a fine fish. He told the dog he’d caught their dinner, and packed up.
Kathryn Tully and Shane Sesta are a married couple, one American and one Brit, who are spending a year traveling across America and writing about their discoveries. Sonny is their rescue cat and fried chicken aficionado.