Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Celebrity fishing tournament benefits youth

GULF OF MEXICO — Frank Perri knew he had found the right spot. He had traveled for more than an hour to this wreck more than 50 miles offshore hoping to catch red snapper.

But not any fish would do. It had to be a big one, doormat size, large enough to feed a hockey team, or least everybody in his boss' office.

"There are some real monsters down there," Perri proclaimed to his fellow anglers as he dropped a dead sardine over the side. "The trick is just getting them to eat."

Steve Yerrid rolled his eyes. The two men had been fishing together for longer than either could remember and their angling rivalry was as tumultuous as a decades-old marriage.

"We'll see," Yerrid said, pitching a live pinfish over the side. "We'll see."

Perri, a seasoned blue-water captain, had recommended that Yerrid start with cut bait, his theory being that the oily stench of dead sardine would work the snapper into a frenzy.

But Yerrid, always seeking an advantage, be it in the courtroom or on the aft deck of a sport fisherman, thought his dancing pinfish would prove irresistible to the ravenous red snapper.

"I got a bump," Perri said, reeling up his line. "Sardines are the way to go."

Yerrid glanced over his shoulder then jerked his rod to set the hook in the mouth of fish feeding somewhere below.

"Missed it," he growled. "But it did hit a live pinfish."

Perri laughed. He knew it was hopeless to argue with a trial attorney who was used to getting the last word.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah …" he quipped. "Sardine."

Yerrid smiled. It didn't matter who was right or wrong. That's the great thing about an old fishing buddy: He keeps you entertained even when the bite starts off slow.

Yerrid, a Tampa attorney, started the morning a little stressed. He had papers to file, battles to fight, but the mini snapper season would only last a few more days. A man has got to have priorities.

"I just like being on the water," he said. "Fishing always puts a smile on my face."

In 1996, another of Yerrid's fishing buddies approached him with an idea on a trip just like this. Chuck LaMar, the first general manager of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, wanted to put on a first-class celebrity fishing tournament to raise money for an organization that helped young cancer patients.

Yerrid pulled out his checkbook to cover the cost of the tournament. "Now all you have to do is figure out how to raise some money to help these kids," Yerrid said.

In the years that followed, the Grand Slam Celebrity Fishing Tournament brought some big names in sports to the Renaissance Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg for two days of competitive fishing.

Participating anglers are teamed with a celebrity, such as baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, and one of the region's top fishing guides. Over the years, Tampa Bay's premiere inshore fishing tournament has raised millions to fight pediatric cancer, which each year kills more children than asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and AIDS combined.

When the tournament started, just three out of five children survived their fight with cancer. Today, thanks to the help of the Pediatric Cancer Foundation, that number is four out of five.

The highlight of the weekend is the Kids Fishing Derby where young cancer patients fish off the docks at the Vinoy, where expert anglers such as Yerrid and Perri help bait hooks with live and cut bait.

Back on the boat, far offshore, Perri was the first to land a snapper.

"Now this is what we are looking for," he said.

Seconds later, Yerrid answered with a hit of his own.

"Now not so fast …" he said, showing off a fine snapper of his own.


Captainís Corner: Grouper moving in as water temperatures rise

Red grouper have made their move inshore this past week as waters closer to shore have warmed up a bit. Concentrate your efforts on hard bottom areas in depths of 100-120 feet for the rest of the month, and remember that all shallow water grouper are...
Published: 03/18/18
Updated: 03/20/18

Captainís Corner: Cold causes spiny lobsters to go into hiding

The cold front that ended Wednesday drove the offshore bottom temperatures back down into the low 60s. On dives Friday, my dive computer read 62 degrees at the bottom in 54 feet of water. On the next dive it read 60 in 62 feet. We were looking for ho...
Published: 03/18/18

Captainís Corner: Snook are the hot bite

Surface water temperatures have dipped into the low 60s, but the fish donít seem to mind. The longer days get the temperature up and helps keep it from getting into the danger zone at night. Snook have been the hot bite this past week and, believe it...
Published: 03/16/18
Updated: 03/17/18

It has been a crazy month regarding all the drastic weather changes. We experienced a record-breaking warming trend in February, followed by an endless amount of cold weather this month. The arrival times for many spring migrations of fish has been i...
Published: 03/16/18

Captainís Corner: Big trout moving out of the shallows

February seemed like March with record-breaking heat, but now March seems like February with below-average temperatures. This is a good thing. Spring fishing has started way too early in the past few years. The cold-water temperature we have now will...
Published: 03/14/18
Updated: 03/15/18

Captainís Corner: Temperature changes affect fly fishing

Having a fantastic river trip one day where we caught a lot of snook in shallow water on a fly and going back to the same location three days later and not finding any cooperative fish can be very puzzling. What happened? Recent warm weather was repl...
Published: 03/11/18
Updated: 03/14/18

Captainís Corner: Warming trend increasing activity over grass flats

Water temperatures have finally started to climb into the low 70s on the flats. The temperatures have been fluctuating with the past few cold fronts moving through. Large schools of reds should start showing up on the flats in the Pinellas Point area...
Published: 03/11/18
Updated: 03/13/18
Captainís Corner: Favorable water temperatures approaching

Captainís Corner: Favorable water temperatures approaching

We traditionally look at two holidays to signal the start of trolling season for kingfish and Spanish mackerel along with their attendant migratory companions, blackfin tuna, cobia and barracuda. These are St. Patrickís Day (March 17) and Columbus Da...
Published: 03/11/18
Updated: 03/12/18

Captainís Corner: Spring fishing is getting close

When the weather settles down in the bay area, spring fishing should shift quickly into high gear. Just before the recent heavy winds arrived and churned the nearshore gulf into a muddy mess, seasonal migratory fish were showing up all over town. For...
Published: 03/10/18
Updated: 03/11/18

Captainís Corner: Trout return to their early spring areas

Cool air has filtered down, giving us hopefully the last cold blow for awhile. Recent fronts have shaken things up. But fishing has been good considering the weather. Trout have pushed into their early spring areas, basically where they were five wee...
Published: 03/10/18