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Keep a memory, release the fish

By TERRY TOMALIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 18, 2001


REDINGTON LONG PIER -- William Pelno had caught his share of monster redfish, but his friends never believed him.

"Whenever I caught one of the big ones, I never had a camera," he said. "I would tell people about it but then they would say "Yeah, right.' "

Most anglers are used to catching small reds, 30 inches or less, as they fish the flats for other inshore species such as snook and trout. But when red drum mature, they move offshore to breed. Every once in a while an angler such as Pelno may hook one on an artificial reef.

"I only had 12-pound test so it was quite a fight," Pelno said of his battle with an estimated 50-pound redfish in a 12-foot boat a mile from shore. "Then this guy came by in a boat and said "Do you want a picture?' "

Dave Locklear of Dunedin had a cheap, throw-away camera aboard, so he snapped a few frames of Pelno and his redfish before it was released.

"This was the fourth fish I caught this size, but I never had any proof," said Pelno of Seminole. "I do now."

Which just goes to show that, in this day of catch and release and fiberglass trophy mounts, a disposable camera should be in every tackle box, next to the needle-nose pliers.

Some anglers may not know this, but they no longer must kill a fish for it to qualify for a world record. The International Game Fish Association has awarded records to anglers who have caught and released their catch.

For details, get a copy of 2001 World Record Game Fishes, free to all IGFA members. The record book lists more than 850 species in all-tackle, line classes and fly-fishing categories. Single copies are available for $12.95 plus shipping and handling. Memberships start at $35. For information call (954) 927-2628. MANATEE WATCH: Tampa BayWatch needs volunteers to help with its manatee program. The environmental group is conducting training sessions throughout February and March. Volunteers distribute free boater kits at area boat ramps, marinas and festivals, as well as assist in manatee research and pilot or crew the organization's new pontoon boat.

Tampa BayWatch hopes to encourage boaters to voluntarily slow down in waters six feet deep or less and teach them to better spot and avoid manatees.

The free boater kits include charts that show areas in the bay that are frequented by large numbers of manatees. Boaters also are given a free pair of polarized sunglasses that reduce glare and make it easier to spot manatees.

For more information about Manatee Watch and other BayWatch volunteer opportunities, call Kip Koelsch at (727) 896-5320.

NO-MOTOR TOURNAMENT: Speaking of manatees, there is no better way to see one than from a kayak. These human-powered crafts are quiet and non-intrusive, but their biggest asset, at least for anglers, is their shallow draft.

A fishing kayak can float in a few inches of water and provide access to places that are usually off limits, even at high tide.

It is no wonder that somebody would put together a tournament dedicated to these skinny-water fishing machines. The Second Annual No-Motor Tournament will be Saturday at Osprey Bay Kayaks on U.S. 19 N in Clearwater. The captains meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Osprey Bay. Canoes, kayaks and johnboats are welcome, just leave the motors at home. Proceeds from the tournament will benefit the Suncoast Sea Bird Sanctuary. For more information, contact Kevin Fenn at (727) 524-9670 or visit www.ospreybay.com.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Spring turkey season is March 3-April 8 in South Florida, and March 17-April 22 elsewhere in the state. The recreational fishery for red snapper in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico will open at 12:01 a.m. April 21, with a 16-inch minimum size limit and a four-fish bag limit. The season closes at midnight Oct. 31 when the quota of 4.47-million pounds is projected to be caught.

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