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Junior angler gets a record for Christmas

Steve Yerrid wanted to take his son on the adventure of a lifetime _ Christmas vacation in an angler's paradise, the Tropic Star Lodge on the coast of Panama.

"We're hoping to catch him a marlin," Yerrid said. "That would be just an incredible thrill for an 11-year-old boy."

Yerrid, son Gable and friend Joe Zambito had a 2-pound bonito trolling behind the boat when a fish of unknown origin hit.

"We thought it had to be a marlin because the bait was so big," Yerrid said. "But then we saw the fish and couldn't believe it was a dolphin."

Gable fought the big bull to the boat. Back on shore, the fish weighed in at a hefty 51 pounds. While the dolphin was shy of the all-tackle record (87 pounds, caught in Costa Rica in 1976), it was large enough to earn the young Yerrid a spot in the International Gamefish Association's Junior Record Book.

Record categories exist for boys and girls. Children 11 to 16 qualify as juniors, and children up to 10 qualify as small fries.

The IGFA mails its International Junior Angler newsletter to members in approximately 50 countries. The newsletter keeps young anglers up to date on potential records, teaches ethical practices and promotes conservation.

Junior anglers have the option of weighing their potential world records on certified scales in the boat and releasing their catch alive. Junior anglers do not have to belong to the IGFA to submit a potential record, and there is no processing fee.

Junior memberships are $12 in the United States ($17 international). In addition to the newsletter, members receive a Junior Angler Club fishing cap, embroidered jacket patch, a member decal, membership card and updates on records.

For a free list of junior records and sample of the newsletter, contact: The International Game Fish Association, 300 Gulf Stream Way, Dania Beach, FL 33004; (954) 927-2628.

NEW SNOOK REGULATIONS: The minimum size limit increased on Jan. 1 from 24 to 26 inches and anglers no longer can keep fish longer than 34 inches. The captain and crew of four-hire vessels are prohibited from retaining the two fish snook bag limit. Snook season, however, is closed until Jan. 31. Snook must be released during June, July and August.

RED SNAPPER SEASON OPENS: The recreational fishery for red snapper reopened Jan. 1. Anglers may keep four fish per person in federal waters, which begin nine miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.

_ If you've made a great catch, send a copy of the photo to Terry Tomalin, Outdoors Editor, St. Petersburg Times, 490 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. Photos will not be returned.