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Date of Issue: July 15, 2005

Sandscript

Dennis menace to Panhandle, miniscule on Island

With the exception of a few tree limbs blown down, some water in the street, high surf and lots of rain, Hurricane Dennis spared Anna Maria Island last weekend.

No so for the folks in Cuba, the lower Florida Keys, and the Panhandle and southern Alabama. "Ouch" for them.

If nothing else the storm served as a good drill for Islanders in getting prepared for the ongoing onslaught of hurricane season - as if lessons learned last year weren't enough of a warning signal.

Let's hope that Dennis was the worst that the 2005 season gives us.

Tarpon tourney a bust, again

The 15th Annual World's Richest Tarpon Tournament off Boca Grande was again a bust last week, with only one estimated 80-pound fish hooked but lost before it could be weighed.

Barbara Gelder of Englewood was elegible for the third-place prize since she did meet the rules of at least touching the leader holding the fish and got $4,100. The paltry nine boats that entered the tourney split the first- and second-place prize money, $21,300, between themselves.

This is the second year in a row that the tourney has been plagued with a lack of fish in Boca Grande Pass, one of the premier silver king haunts in the world. Anglers have been complaining that holding the event in July is too late for the annual tarpon run, that the timing of the two-day event hasn't coincided with good tides and that it was at the wrong time of day.

Event organizers this year did change the time of fishing from morning hours to late-afternoon, early-evening times, but the switch still didn't produce fish.

Last year's "winner," by the way, was also a woman who hooked and weighed a whopping 23-pound tarpon to take first place. It was the only fish caught in the two days of fishing.

Methinks something should be adjusted if the "world's richest" is to continue.

That's a fish!

Speaking of world records, some Thai fishers caught a 646-pound freshwater catfish in the Mekong River, confirmed by international experts as the largest such catfish ever caught.

The brute was all of 9 feet long. The fishers from Chian Khong, in northern Thailand, had hoped to sell the fish to marine groups for study, but the fish died and they decided to chop it up and sell it to the hungry villagers.

The Mekong River is home to more giant fish than any other river in the world, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

World's deepest coral reef update, too

To continue the "world's biggest, best, most ..." listings, an expedition to what is believed to be this country's deepest coral reef was deemed a huge success by the teams of scientists participating in the jaunt.

The reef, in 200 to 300 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico 100 miles due west of Naples, is called the Pulley Ridge. It once was an island that became submerged as waters rose after the ice age ended. It was discovered last January by researchers with the University of South Florida.

Deep coral reefs are rare because sunlight needed for photosynthesis of plants can't reach the ocean's floor. The Pulley Ridge, though, gets a lot of that really clean water that eventually becomes the Gulf Stream, and water clarity is good enough to allow all kinds of plants and critters to thrive in really deep water.

Last week, an eight-day expedition concluded with a whole lot of news discovered from the reef, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

The finds included a jellyfish that no one had ever seen before, a new-to-science tube worm and some algae that is thought to be very rare in the Gulf.

The scientific community doesn't study deepwater coral reefs much, and the proximity of Pulley Ridge to a lot of scientific facilities in Florida is making it a good spot for what promises to be a global effort to analyze the findings.

And it's right in our backyard.

Shark frenzy

Speaking of our backyard, the St. Pete Times had a pretty neat set of photos taken by a woman on a dock in Tampa Bay off Egmont Key.

The woman, Mary Mathias, was dangling her legs over a dock on the island just north of Anna Maria when she got bored with fishing and grabbed a camera to take some pictures of pelicans.

She saw a fin, a big fin, and snapped a shot. The fin got closer, and she took another picture, then another, then realized the fin was coming right toward her dangling tootsies. Mary scrambled up on the dock, finger still pushing the shutter on the camera, as the 6-foot-long blacktip jumped about halfway out of the water, rolled over and died.

Shark experts believe the shark's odd behavior - blacktips don't do a "Jaws" act and lunge out of the water to grab people - was caused by its death throes as it succumbed to red tide. Mary just happened to be too close to the action.

But she got the shots, bless her heart.

Best of the best in quotes

Those list-loving folks at the American Film Institute have compiled the top 100-best lines in all of American filmdom. They range from the short - "Rosebud," from 1941's "Citizen Kane," to the longer: "Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac ... It's in the hole! It's in the hole! It's in the hole!" from the 1980 "Caddyshack."

The top 10:

10: "You talking to me?" - "Taxi Driver," 1978.

9: "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night." - "All About Eve," 1950.

8: "May the Force be with you." - "Star Wars," 1977.

7: "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." - "Sunset Boulevard," 1950.

6: "Go ahead, make my day." - "Sudden Impact," 1950.

5: "Here's looking at you, kid." - "Casablanca," 1942.

4: "Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. - "The Wizard of Oz," 1939.

3: "You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am." - "On the Waterfront," 1954.

2: "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse." - "The Godfather," 1972.

And the winner is, of course:

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." - "Gone With the Wind," 1939.

My favorites made the list, but didn't earn especially high marks by the judges.

At No. 36: "Badges? We ain't got no badges! We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you any stinking badges!" from "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," 1948, and, at No. 79:

"Striker: ‘Surely you can't be serious.' Rumack: ‘I am serious ... and don't call me Shirley.'" - "Airplane!" in 1980.

Sandscript factoid

Douglas Adams, in one of the five books which comprise the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" trilogy, has a character who is a rain god. He is a truck driver, and can't figure out why he always has to drive through lousy weather all the time. Unbeknownst to him, as a rain god, the rain loves him and wants to be close to him all the time.

My friend Joe Bird is a "storm god."

As Hurricane Ivan bore down on us last year, Joe and family boarded up their Safety Harbor home and hightailed it to safer harbor in Jackson, Miss. - which was right where Ivan ended up, drenching the region.

The Birds later sold their house in Florida and relocated to Jackson.

I got an e-mail from him last Friday. He and family were going on a vacation. Joe writes, "Well, my prowess as a storm god has not diminished. We are now en-route to beautiful Destin, the computer model NOGAPS' ground zero for Hurricane Dennis. We will arrive just in time to join the evacuation party. The summer fun never ends. If all goes as planned, you can thank me later. Sheeesh."

We'll thank you now, Joe, for attracting Dennis away from Anna Maria Island so it can be close to you.

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