Cleaning up: For years, we have proudly called ourselves the "trash men" of the gulf because we pick up floating debris. Our finds have included line ranging in size from crab trap to hawser discarded by a tug or freighter, plastic swimming floats, skim boards, bags of trash, fuel tanks and mylar balloons. The most dangerous are the balloons. The printing wears off, and soon they resemble jellyfish. Sea turtles can't distinguish the two and ingestion can kill them.
Good and bad finds: As more anglers make runs before sunrise, it becomes difficult to see a line floating on or just below the surface. Entangling a line in a propeller, at best, will result in a loss of fishing time or, at worst, damage to the boat. One benefit of picking up trash is a potential bonus. Recently, we were rewarded with tripletail (found on a piece of a plastic chair), cobia (near a skim board) and small mahimahi (near a plastic gas tank we saw several boats pass).
Tip: Throw out a small handful of cut pieces of sardine when picking up trash, especially in 80 feet or deeper. Small dolphin are sometimes spooked by the boat but will run to the chum.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.