GO FISHING is a daily look at the area fishing scene through the eyes of local charter boat captains and fishing guides. Today: Ray Markham.
After fishing the 18th annual Old Salt Johnny Keller Tournament on Sunday in St. Petersburg, anglers walked away with a renewed interest in a fishery here that most say is "flat." In all, 230 anglers weighed 54 fish in the multi-species inshore tournament fished in winds of more than 20 knots.
Targeted species in the tournament were spotted sea trout, flounder, grouper and sheepshead. At the conclusion, anglers headed to the weigh-in at Bay Pines Marina hoping to collect one of three prizes for each category of fish, plus a master angler award.
A glance at the leader board showed trout more than 5 pounds already on the board. A sheepshead pushing 10 pounds anchored that category. A grouper just less than 10 pounds was on top, but the tightly contested category was flounder, where the top three were separated by one-tenth of a pound, with the largest weighing 1.16 pounds.
Lynn Manzella and Paulette Barrett, who fished with me, showed no disappointment in their catch. While their trout wouldn't make the board, one of the half-dozen flounder we caught missed the top spot by about two-tenths of a pound.
In past years, few flounder were weighed. There were dozens caught in this tournament, but the separation between first- and third-place flounder was a scant tenth of a pound. While small, the numbers show a marked increase of the species.
Since the tournament's inception, the Old Salts have donated more than $70,000 to All Children's Hospital. This year, 13 anglers won money, but the real winners are everyone who entered, making it possible to give something back to the community.