July 23, 2008

Beach Inventor Puts a New Angle on Fishing

By Jennifer Rich, Destin Log, Fla.

Jul. 23--Shawn Gregory has a knack for enjoying the simple things in life -- and he's found a way to make them even simpler by inventing the fishing kayak and putting a new spin on the beach cart.

The Seagrove resident first engineered the kayak two months ago out of the desire for a more economical way to fish.

"We've caught over 35 kings in the last few weeks," said Tony Mennillo, a long-time Destin resident and friend of Gregory.

The modified kayak provides a new and challenging way to fish that beats the usual drawbacks of fishing from a large boat.

Gregory is able to fish anywhere from a quarter of a mile to three miles offshore by getting around with paddles or a small electric motor that hooks up to a battery on the kayak.

This approach makes sense to Gregory, because there is no expensive gas to buy, it is environmentally friendly and it allows him to make a quiet entrance to his fishing zone.

This design has allowed Gregory and Mennillo to successfully catch king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, dolphin, bonita, pompano. They are now angling for tarpon.

Fishing on the kayak is an adventure from start to finish, as the pair catch their bait on their way to the big fish. Minos, herring and hard tail are caught on the way to their destination.

Catching the big one aboard the kayak is a carefully choreographed effort.

"You have to fish with someone you know and you have to know the species," Mennillo said.

Once a fish is reeled in close enough, a hand gaff is used to pull the fish the rest of the way in.

"You are basically sitting on a surfboard hooking your bait. Then you gotta bring 'em to the surfboard," Menillo said. Once you reel in the big one, like a king mackerel "You have to hold the kings in the water until they die, because you sure can't hold 'em in the boat between your legs."

They inevitably try to avoid a blood trail in the water to avoid curious sharks. On their excursions, they have spotted hammerheads,bull sharks and sea turtles.

Hopes for the fishing kayak are high.

The friends will see what the kayak can do this year at the 60th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo.

"We can win," Mennillo laughs.

In the meantime, Gregory will add more equipment to the kayak to get it geared for wreck fishing. He plans to use a GPS system to locate known reefs and chart the spot with a machine.

In addition to Gregory's new spin on fishing, his unparalleled beach cart makes fishing from the beach more convenient.

"I always used to carry stuff to the beach," Gregory said. "Now I can load this up and even pull it on a bike."

With limited fishing access on the beaches, Gregory's cart allows him to fish in more places with ease.

Beach carts are mass produced in different variations, but Gregory's design has a few advantages.

Instead of heavy pneumatic tires, Gregory's cart is successful because of light Roleez tires that were purchased on an axle. To that, he added a lightweight aluminum frame that allows him to carry fishing gear, a cooler, beach chairs, an auxiliary pump for tire repairs, sand flea rake and even an eight foot ladder tower for sight fishing.

Other carts on the market use Roleez tires and are made of aluminum, but not many are as light and carry such large items in an organized fashion.

Gregory's inventions are a work in progress and a reflection of his philosophy that he and Mennillo share.

"If people live here and are not taking advantage of the natural resources around them, then they are missing it."


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