Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Redington Long Pier bunch hostile to tarpon, outsiders

REDINGTON SHORES — St. Petersburg once had the dubious distinction of being home to the last tarpon kill tournament in Florida. That ended in May, when the 74-year-old Suncoast Tarpon Roundup changed course and adopted an all-release format.

Now, thanks to a new kill tournament, the beach town of Redington Shores is the last place hosting an event where the silver king of game fish is caught and killed for sport.

At least one city official isn't thrilled with the distinction.

"I am speechless," Mayor Jody Armstrong said. "That goes against everything that I stand for."

Earlier this year, after the Suncoast Tarpon Roundup's membership voted to end the decades-old practice of weighing in dead tarpon, a small group of anglers broke off and started their own tournament.

"We kill tarpon," said Paul Herrington, a member of the West Coast Anglers, the group hosting the Redington Shores tournament. "That is what we do."

According to the club's Web site (www.westcoastanglers, as of last week, six fish ranging in weight from 130 to 172 pounds have been officially weighed in for the tournament, which runs through July 19. There have been more than 75 releases.

The St. Petersburg Times learned of the tournament after reader and longtime pier fisherman James Ratz went to the Redington Long Pier to fish and was chased off by several members of the club.

"They gathered around me like some gang deal and said we can't let you fish," said Ratz, a 43-year-old Largo resident. "They were acting like it was some secret society. I said you have got to be kidding. I've been fishing out there for 25 years."

Tony Antonious, the pier's owner, said anyone is welcome to fish his pier but added that the West Coast Anglers have exclusive rights to the "T" area at the far western end, where the best fishing is.

"It costs $150 for members to enter the tournament, and we give (Antonious) 15 percent of all the entry fees," Herrington said.

After Ratz complained about the tournament anglers' behavior, I visited the pier to see for myself.

"Hi," I said to two anglers fishing off the end of the pier. "Are you guys in the tarpon tournament?"

"What does it look like?" one of them responded.

After a moment of awkward silence, a second angler, who also refused to give his name, asked, "Do you feel welcome?"

"Not really," I responded.

"Good …" he said. "Time for you to leave."

With only a notebook and pen in hand, I clearly wasn't there to fish. Instead, I began interviewing 14-year-old tournament angler Dustin Gable of St. Petersburg about a 98-pounder that he released.

That's when another tournament angler called the pier manager. "Get the (expletive) off the pier," the angler told me.

Antonious later apologized for the anglers' behavior. "I won't tolerate that," he said. "I go down there when I get a complaint, but the troublemakers are always gone. Nobody will tell me anything. It is like a mafia line."

Herrington, meanwhile, said if he and his fellow anglers don't kill tarpon, state scientists would have nothing to study.

"If the fish is already dead, we don't want it to go to waste," said Luiz Barbieri, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg.

Barbieri added that the institute was approached by the tournament organizers but told them dead fish haven't been needed for years. "We are finished with that aspect of our study," he said.

In fact, state biologists are currently working with the Suncoast Tarpon Roundup in an ongoing DNA study with live fish. The Redington anglers have supplied skin scrapings for DNA study as well, but it is not necessary to kill a fish to do that.

Meanwhile, Armstrong of Redington Shores said she respects Antonious' right to make a living, but on a personal level, the mayor was disappointed to hear that a tarpon kill tournament was being held on the Redington Long Pier.

"In my day job, I am the chief operating officer of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium," she said. "We are all about rescue, rehab and release. Need I say more?"

Terry Tomalin can be reached at or (727) 893-8808.

Redington Long Pier bunch hostile to tarpon, outsiders 07/03/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 9, 2008 5:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Cup-winning Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk makes Hockey Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman said Dave Andreychuk's name has surfaced often the past eight years with the selection committee.

    30 Oct 2001:  Left wing Dave Andreychuk #25 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates towards the blue line during the NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada.  The Maple Leafs defeated the Lightning 3-2.  Mandatory Credit:  Dave Sanford /Allsport
  2. Rays acquire slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Marlins

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chaim Bloom said the Rays weren't necessarily in the market for a shortstop. The team has a number of those. But when the Marlins recently began shopping Adeiny Hechavarria, well, that was too much to pass up.

    Adeiny Hechavarria has emerged as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstops in the past three seasons with the Marlins.
  3. Rays at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, Pittsburgh

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Pirates

    7:05, PNC Park

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: Alex Cobb (6-5, 4.05)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  4. Lightning journal: Forward Yanni Gourde agrees to two-year deal

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Just three years ago, Yanni Gourde was fighting to stay in pro hockey.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA108
  5. What they're saying about Dave Andreychuk making Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    "Dave helped me so much when I was just starting my career, a young kid that was looking to find his way as a hockey player, a person and a member of the Tampa Bay community. In addition to watching him compile such awe-inspiring statistics, I remember him as a big brother to me and many others, making sure all the …