The city of Okeechobee will celebrate its centennial on Jan. 21 but it got things started early with the Dec. 17 opening of an exhibit driving home the vital importance of its namesake lake. The Smithsonian …
World’s Largest Spear Fishing Tournament to be Held in St. Petersburg
By Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost Travel Journalist
As many as 400 spear fishers from throughout Florida and the U.S. will gather in St. Petersburg Aug. 19-21 for the St. Pete Open– the world’s largest underwater hunting contest and one of the beach’s biggest parties of the year.
Spearos will compete on scuba gear or simply dive down holding their breath using pole spear, Hawaiian sling, or spear gun to try to bag the biggest fish in each of seven categories. At stake are some $50,000 worth of prizes and trophies to be awarded at a huge public weigh-in party at the Magnuson Marina Cove Hotel & Resort.
“It’s one day of intensive, bust-your-bottom spear fishing. Dive, dive, dive!” said Charlie Barnes, president of the St. Petersburg Underwater Club, which is putting on the contest for the 51st year. “We love the competition. We love the camaraderie and it’s the biggest party in town.”
Divers will fan out in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean hunting for mongo specimens in the categories of grouper; snapper; pelagic; hogfish; cobia/barracuda; lobster (hand-caught only; no spears); and sheepshead. New this year is a prize sub-category for lionfish. The tournament has no boundaries; however competitors must be in the weigh-in line by 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 20. Late comers will be disqualified.
Barnes, a veteran spear fisher himself, said the best strategy is to shoot fish in each of the categories, since only one fish per category can be entered. He said it’s common for contestants to run 50 miles offshore to their hot spots, diving as deep as 200 feet in the hunt for big fish. Competitors must abide by all state and local fisheries laws, such as bag and size limits and closed seasons.
Entry fee is $100 per diver. Less than 300 slots remain open, so go HERE to register now!
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Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/. For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling, camping, sailing and powerboat racing. She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit.
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