Florida Fisherman Accidentally Nets Sidewinder Missile, Regrets Catch and Release


Rodney Salomon-Prudo (above), a fisherman from Madeira Beach, Florida, netted a rusty old supersonic AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking missile while fishing in the Gulf of Mexico late last month.

The missile was about 8 feet long. Such a catch is a rare occurrence, despite the fact that Air Force fighter jets test fire some 300 missiles each year in the area.

In fact, Florida's share of the Gulf of Mexico is a military test range. And Captain Salomon said he pulled two missiles off the sea floor during his two-week trip.

But he left the other missile behind -- "brand new and still beeping," the captain said -- which perhaps was for the best.

After all, Tampa Bay barely handled the excitement of one missile turning up on its shores Monday, hauled in by a fisherman who had strapped it to his boat for 10 days in rolling seas, prompting a 500-foot evacuation around the Tom Stuart Causeway, a media circus and a military bomb squad's visit.

But it was all for naught. At first authorities on Monday described the air-to-air missile as "live." But Tuesday the Air Force said it was actually "inert," the explosive warhead removed before it was test-fired.

Fisherman laments losing Sidewinder 'souvenir'; Air Force says missile found Monday wasn't armed (Tampabay.com)


  1. “But he left the other missile behind — “brand new and still beeping,” the captain said — which perhaps was for the best. ”

    It figures he’d still be griping about the one that got away.

  2. How often do they fire hot ordinance into the Gulf?
    This could be a great scrapping opportunity.

  3. #5/Toxonix:
    Not very often if at all. Almost all of the Gulf launches are test launches out of Eglin AFB. They don’t care how the ordinance explodes, just that it releases and guides as expected. If they want to see how it explodes, they’ll usually launch out of Nellis AFB in NV, which has a big (4700 sq mile) test range.

  4. Yeah, it was a Sidewinder. But 3 years from now when he’s recounting the story with his fishing buddies it’ll be a Titan.

  5. @ #4 posted by grimc

    Nah, no beeping. No time for it – they fly pretty fast.

    @ #6 posted by Takuan

    I mess around with ’em a bit (inert ones on display) at the USS Midway Museum here in San Diego. I’m a docent there, so if anyone comes by for a visit, look me up on Saturday afternoons.

  6. a kind offer! I wonder… a new model rocketry competition with home-built IR trackers and R/C target drones.

  7. I dont know to much about these types of things but am I wrong to guess that they have farly advanced tracking and guidence systems in them and all of that is still intact for any one to find and reverse engeneer

  8. #12 swestcott:

    The Sidewinder is usually basically just a heat-seeker, although various guidance systems have been fitted. Mostly, it’s “popular” because it’s reliable and fairly cheap (comparatively), but the guidance isn’t very advanced as missles go. Most of the sophisticated guidance systems go on the so-called smart bombs. There are plenty of those in the Gulf, too, but nobody’s lifting one of those off the bottom without heavy equipment.

  9. The sidewinder is just a cheap weapon,
    that’s why they built so many of them
    (hundreds of thousands), 5″ rocket motor,
    a small charge of TNT, and the guidance
    system, I loaded hundreds of them when
    I was in the Navy , good little weapon,
    cheap and very effective for its limited
    range, This grinnin’ fool wouldn’t be so
    smiley if the TNT was aboard, wouldn’t even
    be enough to photograph,

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