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....
ST. PETE BEACH — Dave Markett has been fishing the Gulf of Mexico for more than 50 years, but the Tampa charter boat captain and former commercial fisherman fears his grandsons will not be able to do the same if federal fishery managers move ahead with new red snapper rules this month.
Markett, and more than 100 angry recreational fishermen, packed into a tiny ballroom at the Sirata Beach Resort this week to hear representatives of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council discuss "Reef Fish Amendment 40," also known as sector separation....
GULF OF MEXICO — Some anglers prize grouper for their delicate flesh. Others praise king mackerel for their long, fast runs. But when it comes to on-the-water entertainment, the great amberjack just can't be beat.
Pound for pound, you won't find a better fighting fish in the gulf. After a two-month closure, the season for these offshore brutes — which can be found from Key West to Pensacola — reopens today....
Forget about getting anything out of Tom Matthews. The lobster biologist is as cagey as the crustaceans he studies.
"The problem is that lobsters are notoriously hard to count," said Matthews, who works in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's field office in Marathon. "If you took all of the lobsters and put them in one room, they would all gather together in one corner."...
ST. PETE BEACH — Keith Overton didn't know what to do about his skinny snook. The avid angler had caught the linesiders in Tampa Bay and transferred them to his new 33,500-gallon fish tank, but now he watched helplessly as the apex predators slowly wasted away.
"There was plenty of food in the tank," said the man behind Guy Harvey's RumFish Grill & Bar on St. Pete Beach. "But for some reason the snook just weren't eating."...