The month of May in Florida produces spring flowers, increased showers, warmer waters—and the kick-off of lionfish derby season. From now through September, Floridians and visitors have more opportunities …
52nd Edition of the World’s Largest Spearfishing Tournament in St. Pete
When Bradenton, FL. mortgage broker Courtland Hunt competes in the St. Pete Open, he doesn’t fool around. The 2015 winner of the spearfishing tournament’s pelagic division with a 73.3-pound amberjack plans to travel as far as 85 miles offshore in the Gulf to shoot the largest eligible fish he can find– hunting all night and into the day, diving as deep as 170 feet on a special breathing gas mixture, and returning to the weigh-in site by the deadline.
And the 36-year-old says he still might not win anything in the world’s largest contest of its kind.
“The fish that are brought in are just world-class,” Hunt said. “Anybody in it, you might shoot the best fish of your life and not hit the top three.”
Organized by the St. Pete Underwater Club, the St. Pete Open will welcome more than 300 spearos (and their families, friends, and fans) to the 52nd edition Aug. 18-20 at the Magnuson Marina Cove Hotel & Resort. Hunters will try to bag the largest fish in eight categories: grouper; snapper; pelagic; hogfish; cobia/barracuda; lobster (no spearing allowed); sheepshead; and lionfish. They may use spear guns and Hawaiian slings, but no powerheads. Both SCUBA and breath-hold diving are allowed. Competitors may fish anywhere in the Atlantic and Gulf, but must report to the weigh-in by 7:30 p.m. Aug. 19.
Thousands are expected to show up for the weigh-in party and the Aug. 20 awards ceremony. There are no cash awards– just really fine prizes worth tens of thousands of dollars and lots of music, food and revelry.
“They make a big spectacle out of it,” Hunt said. “The prizes are the best. You want to be the best and beat the best.”
The Open is the third event of four in the region’s Super Series of Spearfishing. The overall winner will be crowned following the Suncoast Underwater Challenge in Bradenton in September.
For more information and to register for the Open, go to www.stpeteunderwaterclub.com.