TAMPA — Like many at the International Boatbuilders Exhibition & Conference, Steve Schoderer is optimistic about the future of the nation's marine industry.
"We had some rough years," said Schoderer of Mercury Marine, one the country's leading outboard motor manufacturers. "But things are looking up. One reason — technology."
Schoderer, while standing on the dock outside the Tampa Convention Center, said he thinks high-tech features such as his company's new "joystick" operating system will be the next big thing in every new pleasure cruiser....
Veteran racer Bob Noble Jr. knows that the secret to success on the offshore powerboat circuit is just making it across the finish line.
"It is a long season," said Noble, whose STIHL Offshore Racing team leads the points race heading into the Super Boat National Championship. "You try to rack up points as you go, but often it comes down to the last race. That's why everything counts."...
The perennial Florida debate over which to protect — boaters or manatees? — is heating up again in Pinellas County, where state officials are proposing rules that would slow traffic along the Intracoastal Waterway.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is reconsidering speed limits because of a rise in manatee deaths. Officials have identified 21 areas along Pinellas waterways that might warrant half-mile "slow speed" zones....
Chris Burke didn't know what to expect when he walked into the water off Catalina Island shortly before midnight on Monday.
"There's a lot that goes through your mind," said the 52-year-old contractor from St. Petersburg. "You know you are going to have to swim through the night. … It gets kind of lonely. There's a lot to think about."
But 11 hours, 22 minutes and 20 miles later, Burke made landfall on the California coast, completing the second leg of the coveted Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming....
TIERRA VERDE — I consider myself a pretty good caster, but occasionally I do snag a mangrove. I take great care when removing the lure, partly because I'm a cheapskate and can't stand losing a $7 MirrOlure. But I also know that fishing line kills.
On a warm September morning 20 years ago, I was touring the small islands of Tampa Bay, rookeries where pelicans and other birds come to raise their young. My friend Peter Clark, a biologist who had just started a non-profit called Tampa Bay Watch, wanted to show me first-hand what old monofilament fishing line can do....
MADEIRA BEACH — Like most fishermen, Capt. Mark Hubbard keeps his cards close to his chest.
"I don't want to give away all of my secrets," said Hubbard, whose family has been running party boats out of John's Pass for nearly 50 years. "If you want to know how to catch fish — book a trip."
Hubbard prides himself on keeping his repeat customers happy. He likes to send anglers home with fish for the pan, grill and smoker. But like most successful captains, he's a businessman. That's why it's surprising to see him on the list of speakers at this weekend's Florida Sportsman Expo at the Florida State Fairgrounds....
Sean Morris is a reluctant warrior. The soft-spoken communications student at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg never dreamed he'd be an "American Ninja." He just sort of stumbled into it.
"One of the things I have always prided myself on is my balance," said the 6-foot-2, 170-pound extreme athlete. "But this was something that I just fell into."
Morris, 26, a former skateboarder who was born and raised in Sarasota, installed hurricane shutters part time to help pay his way through school....
TAMPA — Taking off on a Jetovator isn't hard. It's the landing that hurts.
"Are you okay?" Eddie McNamara asked as I climbed out from beneath the hydro-powered water bike. "You landed pretty hard."
I grumbled something, rolled back to my feet and made a mental note: Next time stay in deep water, far away from the sandbar.
"You were doing pretty good," McNamara added, "until you crashed."...
Lionfish tournament at Harvey Outpost
The Guy Harvey Outpost on St. Pete Beach is hosting a lionfish spearfishing tournament on Sept. 6. Lionfish are an invasive species that compete with native fish such as gag and red grouper on local reefs. The only way to get rid of lionfish is to shoot them. Divers who participate in the Lionfish Safari must surrender their catch on Sept. 7 when the Outpost hosts a Family Fun Day. All lionfish captured during the tournament will be filleted, cooked and served to participants. Lionfish have venomous spines, but when handled properly, are fine dinner fare. The entry fee is $20. The deadline to sign up is Saturday. Go to guyslionfishsafari.com....
Nothing creates more confusion and anguish among anglers than the words "Red Tide."
For weeks now, a harmful algae bloom has been lingering 5 to 20 miles offshore between Tarpon Springs and Dixie County. There have been reports of fish kills in deep water, but as of today, there have been no issues reported inshore.
Local fishermen and boaters remember Tampa Bay's last major Red Tide. In 2005-06, water- and tourism-related businesses lost millions as dead fish covered local beaches and shorelines....
TIERRA VERDE — Organizers don't know what to expect when hundreds of snorkelers hit the water Saturday to look for scallops.
"We have had some really good years, and others … they have been hard to find," said Peter Clark, president of Tampa Bay Watch, sponsor of the Great Bay Scallop Search. "But one thing is for sure. The water quality in the bay is the best it's been since the 1950s."...
Shea Showalter thought it sounded too good to be true. "Work out for 15 minutes twice a week and lose weight?" she recalled. "Let's just say I was skeptical."
The 38-year-old from Tampa had heard about Bob Kissel and his magic machines from her life coach. "I didn't have a particularly active lifestyle," she admitted. "I had been a swimmer when I was younger, but I hadn't done anything in years."...
AMBERJACK season to close
Add greater amberjack to the list of offshore species off limits to recreational anglers. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council announced this week that the season will shut down on Aug. 25 and remained closed until Jan. 1, 2015.
According to the Gulf Council, sport fishermen will reach their 888,839-pound catch limit by Aug. 24. The Gulf's amberjack stocks are split between the recreational and commercial sectors, with roughly two-thirds of the quota going to sport fishermen....
ST. PETERSBURG — Ron Taylor was just a boy, maybe 7 or 8 years old, but he remembers that first snook as if it were caught just yesterday.
"It was the biggest tussle … such a robust catch," recalled the 72-year-old marine biologist. "Over the years, the visions of snook in my brain, instead of fading, just became more brilliant.
"For many people, fishing for snook is not a sport," he said in a slow Alabama drawl. "It is a religion."...
LOBSTER SEASON OPENS, RUNS THROUGH MARCH
If you missed last month's two-day recreational lobsters season, don't worry. The regular season for spiny lobster in Florida state waters in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean opened this week and runs through March 31.
Many veteran bug hunters wait for August, when the crowds are gone, to dive for spiny lobster. If you are a newcomer to the sport, make sure you measure the lobster in the water. The body shell must be longer than 3 inches. If the lobster is "short," leave it in the water....