Reefball seeding proceeding in Tampa, Sarasota
Reefballs are sprouting like wild flowers in Sarasota
and Tampa bays.
A group of Harllee Middle School students deployed 96
of the marine critter attractors at the Bulkhead in
Tampa Bay last Friday, building on 48 they had dropped
in the bays last year. The Bulkhead is northeast of the
Reefballs are round hollow concrete spheres, about
two feet in diameter. They've got holes through them and
look pretty much like big wiffle balls. The idea is that
barnacles and soft coral will grow on them, and the
habitat will attract and shelter marine critters like
crabs and juvenile fish.
Rick Smith, a sixth-grade science teacher at Harllee,
said his students started making the reefballs last
year. Permits were eventually granted to drop them in
the bays at artificial reef sites. Assisting with the
program is Manatee County, Sarasota County and the
Southwest Florida Water Management District, in addition
to the Sarasota Bay National Estuary Program.
Smith said there is another program the school has
started, "Reef Rakers," which allows students to take
scuba diving classes. When certified, the scuba students
go out in the bays and clean the reefballs of excess
"What other middle school has their kids out scuba
diving?" he said with a laugh.
The Reef Rakers program has attracted the attention
of Gov. Jeb Bush, who is tentatively scheduled to dive
with the students in April.
The after-school program at Harllee, by the way, was
the recipient of the 2004 Busch Gardens-Sea World
Environmental Excellence Award, the only such program to
receive the honor in Florida. The award includes $10,000
and a trip for three students to go to San Diego,
Calif., to tour Sea World and learn more about marine
So cruise out to the Bulkhead - it's northeast of
Anna Maria Island in Tampa Bay - come this summer and
expect to find some good fishing, once the critters
start to congregate around the artificial reef that the
Harllee kids helped build.
We'll miss you, Gus
I lost a good
friend Saturday. Gustavo Antonini, 66, and stepson
William W. Cupples, 42, were bicycling near Gus's home
in Gainesville when they were struck and killed by a
pickup truck driver. Florida Highway Patrol troopers
believe the truck driver was "impaired."
Gus was an avid bicyclist who regularly logged
upwards of 200 miles a week on his bike.
Gus was a retired University of Florida professor.
Locally, he was the principal author of two books about
local waters, "A Historical Geography of Southwest
Florida Waterways," focusing on the area from Anna Maria
Sound to Lemon Bay and the second from Englewood to
It was my privilege to have helped with the books.
Locally, Gus had been involved in creation of an
anchorage off Bradenton Beach and the canal dredging
projects on Longboat Key. He was also an avid sailor and
kept his beautiful sailboat on Longboat Key.
I'm gonna miss you, Gus.
Mote gets checked on
Sarasota city commissioners nixed
plans for a 162-seat restaurant at Mote Marine
Laboratory last week. Mote officials had hoped to expand
into a 20,000-square-foot building to include the
restaurant. The eatery would only be open during the day
or for special events, and only for Mote visitors,
patrons or guests.
The Old Salty Dog restaurant, across the street from
Mote on City Island, had objected to the Mote restaurant
on grounds that it would be unfair competition. The Old
Salty Dog leases space from the city on city-owned City
Island to the tune of about $50,000 a year; Mote, as a
not-for-profit entity, pays $1 a year.
Mote officials will re-think the proposal and
probably bring some modified version back to the city
table later this year.
Shark attacks down this year
it good news-bad news.
The good news is that shark attacks on humans were
down last year, the third consecutive drop. There were
55 unprovoked attacks worldwide in 2003, 63 in 2002, 68
in 2001, and 79 in 2000.
The bad news is that Florida leads the world in
number of attacks, with 31 last year. Volusia County on
the East Coast is the hot spot. Topping the list of
targets for sharks is surfers, followed by swimmers and
waders, then divers and snorkelers.
George Burgess, the director of the International
Shark Attack File in the Florida Museum of Natural
History, speculated that the drop in shark-human
interaction could be due to a decline in shark
Tarpon rule changes at Boca
The Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission has developed a series of
measures it hopes will ease "conflicts" among
recreational fishers during the Boca Grande Pass spring
"These measures are intended to address an ongoing
disagreement among fishermen and guides in Boca Grande
Pass regarding the impacts of different fishing methods
and fishing tackle on localized populations of tarpon,
and crowded fishing conditions in the pass," FWC
Traditional fishers who use live bait believe that
fishing activity related to the use of breakaway jigs is
responsible for a reduction in tarpon abundance in the
The non-traditional fishers who use jigs dispute the
claims, and believe that one fishing style should not be
favored over another without a clear biological basis
for such a restriction.
FWC officials agree that the data on the tendency of
breakaway jigs to foul-hook fish are inconclusive.
So, FWC officials approved rule amendments to
prohibit the intentional "snagging" or "snatch-hooking"
of tarpon, which is defined as "the intentional catch of
a fish by any device intended to impale or hook tarpon
by any part of its body other than the mouth, and limit
the number of fishing lines/rods used per boat to fish
for tarpon in Boca Grande Pass to no more than three
during April, May and June."
The rule amendments will take effect in March.
To enforce the changes, FWC intends to increase law
enforcement efforts in Boca Grande Pass this spring to
address reckless boating behavior, and develop brochures
and other educational efforts to encourage the use of
appropriate tackle and proper fishing and boating
behavior in this world-renowned fishery.
The FWC is also working on drafting a proposal to
prohibit breakaway fishing gear in Boca Grande Pass to
reduce the amount of debris that collects on the sea
bottom. It is also working on a law that would expand
the tarpon three-fishing-lines-per-vessel provision to
include all species harvested in the pass in April, May
Movie magic for 'King
Switching from marine life to literati,
Stephen Cannell was in Sarasota a while back to sign
copies of his 10th mystery novel, "Vertical Coffin."
Besides being an author, Cannell is the creator of a
whole slew of television programs, including "Rockford
Files," "The A-Team," "Silk Stockings," "Renegade" and
"Wiseguy." He said he's pretty much dropped out of the
TV scene these days to devote more time to writing his
"I've done 40 shows," he said, "and I don't think I
have that much to contribute to TV any more."
Cannell said he misses the social aspects of
television versus the more solitary life of a writer.
"At one point I had six shows on, and had about 2,000
employees, all friends."
And he hasn't given up the electronic medium
altogether, what with six projects in pre-production and
two or three acting gigs a year. "It's not like I'm
locked in an attic somewhere," he said.
He's enjoying the writing, which he said is "much
more professionally fulfilling. There are so many more
tools at an author's disposal that you can't do in a
screenplay, where everything has to come out of a
character's mouth and usually you have to have them say
things they would never do in real life. You also get to
do research, which I love."
One of the film projects he has well into the works
is a screen adaptation of his novel "King Con," probably
my favorite Cannell novel. He's lined up Bruce Willis to
play Beano Bates, the king of the con men, and has
finished the first draft of the screenplay.
The book, for those of you who are lucky enough not
to have read it yet, tells the story of Beano getting
beaten in a poker game by a mobster. Actually, Beano is
the big winner in the game, but the mobster doesn't like
to lose and beats Beano up.
So Beano does what he does best - he arranges a
complicated con to outsmart the mobster.
It's a great read, as are all of Cannell's books.
about 60 million sharks a year worldwide, and sharks
kill about eight people annually.
Is that something of a disproportional ratio or