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Anglers and residents uneasily share space along Coffee Pot Bayou waterfront

Austin Goodner, 18, who was killed Sunday, was an avid fisherman. He is shown in this photo near the Pier in St. Petersburg.
Austin Goodner, 18, who was killed Sunday, was an avid fisherman. He is shown in this photo near the Pier in St. Petersburg.
Published May 19, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — The fishermen who cast their nets and lines over the seawall along Coffee Pot Boulevard NE are either a nuisance or a nonissue, depending on who is talking.

Reports of long-standing tension between residents of the waterfront street and anglers surfaced after police say 18-year-old Austin Goodner, an avid fisherman, had an altercation with a man on a bike there, ending with the teen shooting 50-year-old Norman Conrad Seibert. Goodner was later killed by police officers at his home near Northeast High School. Police say he pointed a gun at officers and dared them to shoot him.

On Monday, Charles Thompson, 64, paused with a blue crab wriggling in his long-handled net near the seawall to say he didn't think any such tension existed.

"There hasn't been any tension since we had gillnets, 15 or 20 years ago," said Thompson, who has fished in the area for 30 years. "That's over with."

But Duncan McDougal, 62, who walks along the bayou almost every day, says those who fish often leave behind a mess. Piles of oyster shells, open packets of hooks, other detritus of the fishing life.

"There's a lot of that," McDougal said. "I think they ought to have the right to fish here, but eventually they'll take that right away. I taught my sons to pack it in and out, but there's about eight to every one that does that."

But any tension that might exist appears to be low-level annoyance rather than outright conflict.

St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice hasn't heard anything. Nor has Historic Old Northeast Neighborhood Association president Peter Motzenbecker, who has lived in the neighborhood for 12 years.

But council member Bill Dudley, whose district borders Coffee Pot Bayou, said he's aware of residents tired of trash left behind from fishing or blocking the sidewalk.

"That's been a big bone of contention for some time," he said.

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459.