Lake Okeechobee Tackle Shop owner dies in boating accident

BY ED KILLER [email protected]
Tuesday, August 12, 2008

— This small lakeside community and its even tighter-knit fishing community was shaken Sunday by news that one of its well-known anglers and business owners was suddenly gone.

Paul “Bubba” Helton, 57, of Okeechobee fell from his bass boat Saturday afternoon while returning to Okeechobee from across the lake. Helton’s boat was one of six that had spent the morning fishing and having lunch in Clewiston.

At about 3:30 p.m., Helton reportedly slipped from the deck of his 21-foot bass boat about 10 miles south of Indian Prairie Canal after stopping for a short break from the 30-mile boat ride.

“There was a little bit of a swell on the lake, and he stood up and slipped overboard,” reported Capt. Larry Wright who spoke to the three passengers on Helton’s boat. “They said he popped right back up, but showed no signs of struggling or distress.”

Helton was not wearing a life jacket. The depth of the water was about seven feet.

Wright said that he appeared to dive back beneath the waves, perhaps to retrieve his glasses from the lake bottom, thought the other boaters. But after a few minutes, Helton failed to return to the surface and the passengers took action.

One called authorities while the other two threw out anchors to stop the boat’s drift and then jumped into the water to physically try to help Helton. After hours of searching, they were unable to find him.

Law enforcement officials arrived about an hour later. Officials searched for Helton until darkness Saturday. His body was found Sunday afternoon at about 5 p.m. by an aerial search by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He was found about a half mile from where the incident occurred.

The cause of death is unknown. An autopsy will be performed in Fort Myers.

Helton will be missed.

“He was like a brother to me,” said Red Altman of Okeechobee, a former fishing guide and bass tournament angler who worked on the lake for years along with Helton. Altman was best man at Helton’s wedding to Margaret over 15 years ago. “He moved to Florida from Tennessee 22 years ago and was a big Volunteers fan. I’m a Gator fan. It was about the only thing we didn’t see eye to eye on.”

Wright will miss Helton’s straightforward approach.

“We had our moments where we would bump heads, but it was over as soon as it began,” said Wright who guided out of and often helped man Garrard’s Bait and Tackle owned by the Heltons. “He was the kind of friend that if you called him at 3 a.m., he wouldn’t ask questions, he would just be there.”

Helton was often an outspoken critic of water management policies when it came to Lake Okeechobee’s water level and quality. He told Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers in June 2007 that in his opinion, the mismanagement of Lake Okeechobee that spring sent small businesses into an economic tailspin.

Altman said there will be a remembrance for Helton from 5-7 p.m. Thursday at Buxton Funeral Home, 110 Northeast 5th Street, Okeechobee. For directions visit or call (863) 763-1994.

From Staff and Wire Reports
888-629-BASS (2277)

Everglades, no Snakes and Bugs – Just Fishing!

Keep your hands on a can of bug spray…this could not be any farther from the truth!

This could be the number one questioned asked when tourist are booking fishing or sightseeing trips in the Florida Everglades.

Critters of the Everglades are everywhere. But you have to know, that there are very few encounters with bugs. Don’t get me wrong, “there are bugs in the Everglades,” it’s just not bug infested like people think it is.

The way to approach fishing in the Everglades is no different then fishing back home on your favorite body of water. In most cases, you will probably encounter less bugs in the Everglades.

I think it’s the whole, “Swamp Thing,” that gets people nervous. They pretend or imagine there going to be lost in a real swamp, then expecting the same on our guided trips. It could not be any farther from the truth.

The “Swamp critters” are one of the biggest deterrents for people not experiencing the Everglades. When your on a guided excursion, you won’t have any trouble spotting the big stuff such as alligators, snakes, turtles and the many different species of birds the Everglades has to offer. But toads, bugs and other smaller animals in most cases escape your mind among all of the natural distractions.

The blessing of actually seeing this place, is learning what the wilderness provides when you open your eyes to it!

The Everglades, is an original creation, not something a museum bought or rented and put on display. People work there entire life’s in order to get to experience this beauty just once. Our staff spends all year working in this beautiful place called the “Everglades,” which provides a mix of real life and fancy for everyone involved.

If you are visiting South Florida area and would like to experience a fishing and sightseeing trip please give us a call. We can be reached @ (888) 629-BASS or email us at fishing

Central Florida Fishing Report

Central Florida Freshwater Fishing

If recent weather trends continue into the weekend, the fishing will be the same as it has been. But with the start of the backside of the new moon last week, look for good changes to come as we approach the full moon on the 18th of July.

Keep an eye overhead throughout for rapidly forming thunderstorms. The good news is that the influx of fresh water continues to improve things on area lakes and along the St. John’s River.

In lakes like Poinsett and Washington, try to locate areas of moving water where largemouth bass and panfish will lie in wait for small baitfish being flushed through cuts by the current.

Small swimming lures like the Rapala’s work well, but if underwater foliage proves troublesome, go to weedless rigged jerkbaits like Zoom super fluke.

You can work different levels of the water column by opting for weighted hooks. On the St. Johns, continue to look for deeper holes around bends in the river that hold fish. They may become more difficult to locate if we continue getting heavy afternoon rains.

Tight Lines,

From Staff and Wire Reports

888-629-BASS (2277)
Florida Peacock Bass
Florida Peacock Bass

Pin It on Pinterest