Florida Fisherman Accidentally Nets Sidewinder Missile, Regrets Catch and Release

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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.

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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)