His uncanny knack for fishing landed many prizes

Not only did he enter competitions, but he ran a seafood business.

By NICOLE HUTCHESON, Times Staff Writer
Published September 30, 2007

GULFPORT - His instincts told him exactly where to anchor his boat. Where to sprinkle a little bait. And how long to wait.

Catching fish was Myron "Sonny" Aylesworth's best talent.

That skill helped him provide for his family. It made a name for him in the community.

"It was just a beautiful sight (seeing him fish)," said Harry Aylesworth, 67, Sonny's son. "He'd be at the right place at the right time so many times that people couldn't believe it."

Sonny fished competitively and operated a seafood business for more than four decades. He died Thursday. He was 91.

Like the calm gulf waters that he loved to fish, Sonny lived a peaceful life and was considered a Clark Gable look-a-like.

After moving to Gulfport from near Syracuse, N.Y., with his family as a teenager, he graduated from Mirror Lake High School. As a young adult, he worked as a deckhand at the St. Petersburg pier, where he helped fishermen, but also picked up their tricks.

"He knew all the special spots out to the mouth of Tampa Bay near Egmont Key," his son said.

He served in the Coast Guard during World War II. And after touring much of the southeast coast of the United States, Sonny came back to Gulfport and began building his seafood business with his brother, Ralph. That's when he met and married Grace, a fellow native of upstate New York.

The couple had a son and two daughters.

Sonny rarely told war stories, but did hint at having a role in forcing a Nazi submarine into shallow waters. He preferred instead to surprise his son with shrimping expeditions at 2 a.m.

"He'd say 'Harry let's get up and go shrimping,'" the younger Aylesworth fondly recalled of his father's morning surprises.

"We'd go out to what is now the Bayway and spend hours shrimping."

The Aylesworth brothers expanded their business to a second retail location in the Clam Bayou area in the 1950s. At that time, that area was more a rough-and-tumble fishing village than yacht club haven.

A decade after opening the Clam Bayou location, Sonny decided to sell his retail stores and get into the wholesale business. He opened a shop at 28th Street in St. Petersburg that included suppliers from Chesapeake Bay to Key West.

Sonny gained fame as a fierce competitor in the area's Tarpon Roundup fishing tournament. He won cash prizes and several cars.

Aside from fishing, Sonny led the usher board at his church, St. Peter's Episcopal Cathedral, and enjoyed lunching with his old fishing buddies.

His health began to fail in the last couple of years, but his reputation as a master fisherman never left him.


Myron M. "Sonny" Aylesworth

Died: Sept. 27, 2007.

Survivors: wife, Grace; one son, Harry; two daughters, Cerese Henderson and Susan Crumpler; five grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild.

Services: Viewing 2-4 p.m. today at David C. Gross Funeral Home, St. Petersburg; services 3 p.m. Monday at St. Peter's Cathedral.