The Howard Frankland Bridge

On holidays like the just-passed Labor Day, there are a lot of boats on the water, and many end up in the same places, such as near bridges and other water structures. This Trip Plan for the Howard Frankland Bridge applies to all the bridges in the bay area, with some specific tips included.

Fish Live Near Structure

The idea of fishing structure is the basis of nearly every article we write about catching (or learning to find) fish. Whether we're talking about how to best drift a flat or where to position a boat in order to effectively fish residential docks, we're talking structure. The one exception to that general rule is when we're talking about open water predators. If you're fishing for Kingfish, Mackerel, or Albacore in the waters of that vast fishery directly outside the Skyway, or chasing Jacks, Bluefish, or Ladyfish for clients or friends anywhere in the bay or on the beaches, you're not dealing with structure to any great extent.

fishy spotsYou can see this from the Fishy Spots feature of our site. They provide something critical to our target species: a place to sit and wait for bait to come to them.

Think about it: if you're eating something that's good at getting away from you, wouldn't it make sense to sit somewhere the bait HAD to pass your face? When the tide is coming in, the fish sit on the north side of structure; and even before the slack tide turns into full-blown outgoing, they've long moved onto the south sides of the exact same structure. They're moving from side to side as often as they are from pylon to pylon or bar to bar.

If you think about it, a single oyster bar, positioned in the right place where tidal movement pushes bait and water, will often prove to be a fishy spot, right? It's why bridges are such hot fisheries. The have dozens–and in some cases, hundreds–of structures that can affect change in the flow of the water. There are three primary positions to consider when you're fishing the Howard Frankland Bridge, or any bridge in the bay or in saltwater.

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The Land Connections

The first place likely to hold fish are the causeways where bridges connect to the shore. When you look at the Fishy Spots map we've created for this bridge fishing article, you'll see that one of the places we've caught Snook–lots of Snook–is on the connections. If you want to catch more fish in our bay, fish all the bridges. And fish the connections.

The flow of water where large bridges connect to the shoreline change the direction of the water; and draws both predators and the bait they're chasing. These fisheries–of which there are a good number around our community–are productive all year long if you learn to fish them and do it on a regular basis.

fishy spots 2


Pylons are productive in a number of different ways. They provide life forms that love to stick on concrete or stone. That means that every pylon holds barnacles (and more recently, those green mussels, non-native to our region but still delicious to fish). If you want to catch Pompano, Permit, and those huge Drum (not to mention plenty of Grouper and Snapper and even Goliaths at some of our bridges), pylons are the place to fish for them. And that wall-life makes for wonderful chum if you're smart enough to carry a simple scraper.

A rusty (mine is, anyway) old scraper you would use to scrape junk off of a sidewalk is a perfect way to release a few inches (no more) of those barnacles and green mussels into the flowing tide, where Pompano, young Permit, and Black Drum will come and feed on the chum and your baits.

Spans and Dredged Channels

When the Howard Frankland Bridge was built, channels were dredged on both connecters to the shoreline. Part of the reason for the stronger tidal flows near connectors is those dredges, the other being their position relative to the flowing water. If you stick your finger in a flowing stream, you would be able to see its effect on the flow of the gentle water. The same thing happens, in mega form, where water flows around those finger-like connections. The center spans are the deepest channels.

The outside of the actual span walls often hold open-water predators like Bluefish or Jack, while the walls of the span bridge are great for Sheepshead in the spring mating season and Snapper year round.

Our extensive maps provide anglers an excellent way to begin fishing unfamiliar sites and structures. But fishing is fishing, and the more time you spend on the water and around this structure, the better you’ll get at fishing other bridges. We also strongly encourage you to share new places with us.

The History of the Bridge

In 1924, a guy named Bud Gandy hired a group of immigrants and locals to build a bridge across the bay. The Gandy Bridge was privately-owned, and cost 50 cents to cross. It also saved hours of time driving north through Oldsmar to travel between downtown Saint Petersburg from either downtown Tampa or the Port of Tampa, cutting a 45 mile trip to a little more than 20. The Ben T. Davis Causeway came next in 1927. The two remained the only means to cross the bay until 1960, when the Howard Frankland was built. When it first opened, rather than I-275, it was part of the original I-4.

The original bridge was built by dredging connections to the land with a hump in the center for water traffic. It connected to 4th Street North in St. Petersburg, crossing a mangrove structure called Big Island Gap.

When the bridge first opened, it had only a low center concrete divider, which resulted in too many head-on collisions to count. That resulted in a Jersey barrier (a three-foot high concrete wall). The accidents, traffic jams, and random access spawned local names like the Frankestein and our personal favorite, the Car Spangled Banner.

Construction on a second span start in 1989, and three years later, in 1991, gave us what we have today. The fish are there, though, whether the traffic is moving or not.

Rather than write stories about huge fish we've caught there, and days when we’ve gotten tired before the fish stopped biting, we'll just let you read the map icons and fish the bridge.

The Bay Middle Grounds

This area is well known to locals, but not as fished as you might think. It's wide open water, and a range of bottom structure, as you can see from this screen capture of the map's general area, is perfect to attract bait. In fact, if you're looking for bait and put your boat in at any of the several ramps in the middle of Tampa Bay, you're very close to the spot.

You can reach it easily from a wide range of ramps in the bay, and it can be part of a trip that includes Weedon Island, the bridge, and more.

Thanks for being part of our wonderful and exciting community.

The Online Fisherman

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