Whale sharks, the largest living fish in the world, reaching a maximum size of roughly 65 feet, are known to move throughout gulf waters, but usually as singles or maybe as a pair. However, in mid June, scientists from the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota were alerted to 10 whales swimming near other 23 miles out. Mote researchers were able to satellite-tag three of the whale sharks, each more than 20 feet long.
"People who have lived here 30 years have never seen anything like this," Dr. Robert Hueter, director of Mote's shark research, said in a statement. "... This time we had 10 and we stayed with them for four hours."
Some wondered if the unusual grouping was the result of the oil spill. "We don't know that the spill is pushing large animals into our waters, but this unusual grouping of whale sharks suggests that we should consider that hypothesis," said Hueter, who said the sharks were likely feeding on fish eggs and other plankton. Whale sharks strain food from the water using a fine mesh of tissue in their throats.
One of the sharks was a 23-foot female named Sara that Mote scientists had tagged in late May. Follow Sara's travels at Mote.org/sara.
Much about whale sharks is still unknown, but Mote researchers have affixed 35 tags since 2003 in hopes of learning more from their movements.
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Last month: A 13-year-old boy reached the summit of Mount Everest, and a 16-year-old girl sailed around the world, becoming the youngest to accomplish those feats. Are these examples inspirational or dangerous?
Too dangerous 51 percent
Inspirational to kids 49 percent
Total votes: 45 votes
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The all-tackle world record for ...
a common snook, as recognized by the International Game Fish Association, is a 53-pound, 10-ounce fish caught in Parismina Ranch, Costa Rica, in 1978. The Florida record is 44 pounds, 3 ounces. There are several varieties of snook. The other all-tackle records of note for Floridian snook anglers are for smaller species: the tarpon snook (3 pounds, 2 ounces; Nokomis, 1996) and the swordspine snook (1 pound, 9 ounces; Port St. Lucie, 2004).
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Cutting through the jargon
Gorp: No matter how people translate it - "good old raisins and peanuts," "granola, oats, raisins and peanuts," or "gobs of raw protein" - it's a combination of dried fruit, grains, nuts and sometimes chocolate that outdoors adventurers throw together for an energizing snack. You know, trail mix. Also, Gorp.com is an outdoors travel, gear and adventuring website.
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Treat it right, fly guy
Just because you're tired from waving a stick in the air casting flies to finicky fish doesn't mean you're done for the day. Saltwater is tough on fly-fishing gear, so proper cleanup is necessary. Lightly mist your reel and rod with freshwater. Spraying with force blasts salt into the reel and speeds up its demise. Every two weeks or so, depending on use, take your rods apart for cleaning. When disconnecting, twist the sections 90 degrees before pulling them apart. Put a thin layer of wax on the male end of the connections. When assembling the rod, insert one into the other and give a quarter-turn twist in the opposite direction from disassembly to line up the guides.
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Number of the month
$1.9 billionThe amount spent each year by anglers on offshore fishing, including tournaments, in the Gulf of Mexico region, based on an American Sportfishing Association analysis of spending on items such as hotels, docking and gear. The big-money Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic out of Destin recently joined the growing list of events that have been canceled due to the oil spill.
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Michelle Glean Simoneau
Age: 52. Lives: St. Petersburg for last 25 years.
What I do: Marketing and public relations coordinator for the past three years at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores.
Born: Rockville, Conn. Raised in Atlanta, and in a beach cottage on St. Augustine Beach.
Education: Flagler in St. Augustine, then USF for degree in Mass Communications.
Previously: Ran her own marketing firm for more than 20 years, and was the executive director of the Tampa Bay Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Also coordinated marketing and P.R. for major local outdoors events, such as offshore powerboat races off St. Petersburg municipal pier.
Family: Three daughters and one son, ages 18 to 32. One daughter is bird rescuer with sanctuary. "I've always stressed to them to give back to their community and environment, and they do that in their daily lives."
Oil spill impact: "It's a disaster and a crisis. We're been involved in oil spills before, but this is a big unknown for us. We've never seen this amount of oil and dispersants. We're trying to get data on the dispersant Corexit. It's really an unknown what it will do in large amounts to the birds, fish, animals and wildlife."
The job: Manages the oil spill response team, international media, marketing, education and fundraising. Thirty staffers and more than 150 volunteers work to rehabilitate and hopefully release injured birds. There are currently more than 500 birds living on site, requiring 600 pounds of fish per day. "All the staff and volunteers have an absolute passion for these birds." Simoneau visits schools, outdoors groups and summer camps to conduct educational seminars, such as Fishing Tips for Injured Birds, and How to Help Baby Birds.
On the side: Plays guitar at local beach bars after work, singing songs about life on the Florida coast.
Favorite bird: One of her best friends is Magoo, 17-month-old eastern screech owl, above, who came to the center as a baby with a permanently damaged left wing.
Learn more: Admission to the sanctuary (18328 Gulf Blvd.) is free, but donations are welcome. For information on volunteering, rescuing birds, oil spill preparations and donations, visit Seabirdsanctuary.com.