Tournament targets exotic, invasive fish

(Sue Cocking/Miami Herald/MCT)
Steve Papp holds up a large snakehead (left) and a Tilapia at weigh-in...
Story by Susan Cocking
Miami Herald
July 3, 2011
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MIAMI — Steve Papp cleaned up monetarily and ecologically in last week’s one-day nonnative fish roundup tournament in the Everglades.

Papp, a landscaper from Plantation, Fla., won $325 for bringing more than 77 pounds of snakeheads, blue and spotted tilapia, Mayan and yellow-bellied cichlids, sailfin catfish and jaguar guapote to the scales on Tamiami Trail east of Krome Ave. Runner-up Jack Gleason weighed 18 snakeheads totaling 29 pounds, 14 ounces — including the tournament’s largest fish at 8 pounds, 6 ounces.

William Bayes finished in third place overall with 21 pounds, 13 ounces of exotic fish.

“I think it was a really good success,” said tournament organizer Tony Pernas of the Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area. “... It really helped raise awareness of nonnative fish and the threat they pose to the Everglades ecosystem.”

All 28 anglers weighed at least one fish in the second annual contest, which was put on by a consortium of federal, state and local government agencies, and tribal and conservation groups. Sponsors Eagle Claw hooks and JD’s Custom Baits provided identification kits and fishing tackle for the anglers.

The top contestant fished from shore instead of a boat. Papp said he covered about 75 miles in his truck, plumbing Broward canals from SR 84 north to Sample Road and from U.S. 441 west to University Drive. He said casting plastic frogs was an effective technique for catching snakeheads. He cast-netted or snagged some of his other fish.

Papp, who said he is allergic to fish, planned to clean his catch and give it to his in-laws. As for his prizes, “I get to keep the plaques. The money goes to the wife,” he chuckled.

Gleason, an avid bass tournament fisherman, said he caught all his snakeheads in the L-36 canal near Markham Park in west Broward County.

“Topwater is the best bait,” Gleason said. “They’ll come charging from 30 feet away to bite that.”

Snakeheads are good table fare, he added.

“It’s a white, mild flesh. You’ve got to put a little seasoning on them,” he said.

Bayes fished from shore in Miami Springs canals with his friend, Patricia Palermo. Both caught jaguar guapotes, Mayan cichlids and spotted and hornet tilapia.

“Every weekend, I go fishing in the canals, and I knew where the fish would be,” Bayes said. “We were sight-fishing with cut-up night crawlers.”

The tournament featured more than 20 eligible species of nonnative fish found in the Everglades region of Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Collier and Monroe counties. Peacock bass and grass carp were exempted because they were introduced into the South Florida canal system years ago on purpose by the state.

Tournament anglers were discerning between native and nonnative species.

The only native accidentally harvested for the weigh-in was a small bowfin, or mudfish.

(c) 2011, The Miami Herald.

Visit The Miami Herald Web edition on the World Wide Web at http://www.miamiherald.com/.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Susan Cocking

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