How a Tampa Bay angler caught a 9-foot tiger shark along the Skyway Fishing Pier

Courtesy of Jay Cross

Jay Cross is probably the most knowledgeable angler that fishes the Skyway Fishing Piers.

“I’ll get off work and fish for a little while. It all depends how the fishing is going,” Cross, who is known as Jay Way and founder of the SkywayMisfits on social media, said.

“I work three days a week, but two are doubles. If the conditions are good I’ll stay and fish but a lot of time I’ll come back when I know it’s good.”

When Cross gets off work, he doesn’t have far to go to wet a line. He works at the bait shops on the fishing piers, so he sees how the fishing is on a given day. Recently the tarpon fishing has been good, and with his large social media following, he finds interested anglers from around the world.

“Last Saturday, I had professional basketball player and actor Dazeran Jones aka Duke Skywalka out there. He wanted a tarpon, so I brought him out and he got a monster tarpon. I would say it was 180 [pounds] plus. He fought it for about three or four minutes. We use heavy tackle fishing between the bridges trying to whoop them pretty quick. Being a fixed structure, it’s combat fishing,” Cross explained.

“After he got the tarpon, we tried to get him a goliath, but he had to leave. I had out a heavy line with 400-pound leader and a big bait, about half a pound piece of stingray. I grabbed the rod and not long after he left, it was eaten.”

When the fight started Cross’s son, who gained notoriety as “Little Rocky” on the bridge, was able to start filming.

“When I first hooked it I thought it was a goliath,” Cross said. “But when it hit the surface we saw it was a tiger shark! My son was screaming, ‘Tiger, tiger, tiger, it’s a tiger!’ on the video. He’s a kid, 13, and was loving it, going berserk. Like most kids, he’s into all kinds of sharks.”

The tiger shark, which Cross estimated over 9 feet long, is the second that he has caught in the bay. Their first was about four years ago at night.

“I tired it out quick, since I was using goliath tackle. We had a barbless hook on and slid a carabiner down the line, then pulled opposite directions for the release. It was a monster fish.”

While normally nocturnal, tiger sharks are not uncommon in Gulf of Mexico waters. Seeing one caught inside Tampa Bay is a reminder that this beautiful shark species and its large relatives are always much closer than we realize.

Cross and other videos of big fish from around the Skyway fishing piers can be found on TikTok and Instagram — @SkywayMisfits.