Anglers come together to replace boys' stolen fishing gear

- Two teens enjoying a day by the water become the target of a thief.  They say he befriended them but, as soon as they turned their backs, he took off with their fishing gear.

The story has quickly spread through the local fishing community, some taking issue with the fact that a grown man stole from a couple of young fishermen.

While the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office studies surveillance video, fellow anglers are working to make things right for 14-year-old Carson Vescovi and 13-year-old Chris Oliphant.

The boys say they were lured into fishing when they were just guppies.

"The passion for it has been growing everyday," Carson said.

For them, a day on the water, bite or no bite, is better than any smartphone app.

"If anything bites, we'll take it," Carson continued. "We get a tug on the end of our line, we're happy."

Carson even has his own YouTube channel, "Phased 2 Fishing," showcasing his adventures and best catches on the water.  But, Sunday, a "shark" was on the hunt at John's Pass and these teens were the bait.

They say a man approached them several times, insisting on offering fishing advice.

"I'd just broken off my line, so he decided to show us how to tie knots," Carson recalled.

The man suggested a new fishing spot, farther from where Carson left his bag.

Chris recalled him saying, "to walk down and use this shrimp right here, drop it down, you're gonna get one every time. He's like, 'Keep going, keep going.'"

While they fished, the other guy made his big catch.

"I'm like, Carson, where's your bag? And then, we looked all around and couldn't find it," Chris said.

Hubbard's Marina surveillance cameras caught it all.  They show the man taking Carson's bag containing more than $100 in lures and some cash.

The man then brushes past an employee and, eventually, takes off running.

"I've been saving up to buy all this nice stuff and then it was just gone like that," Carson complained.

He posted a warning on Tampa Bay Fishing Club's Facebook page. His fellow anglers got to work.

"What caught me the most was, he tried to take advantage of their trust and he kept coming back," said Dyland Hubbard of Hubbard's Marina. "He grabbed their bag and ran. It was just cowardice and it was sad to see, especially for young anglers hooked on fishing."

One after another, people have offered replacement lures, lines and encouragement. The marina even hooked them up with a free fishing trip and whatever else they need to get back on the water.

"Unfortunately, there are some bad seeds out there and I don't want them to lose faith in the angling community," Hubbard offered. "Hopefully, they'll have more tackle than they left with."

It's a fish tale with a happy ending.  After all, these boys aren't about to let one bottom feeder ruin the sport they love.

"I'm just mind-blown of what everyone is doing," Carson added. "There's nothing that'll ever stop us from fishing."

Dylan Hubbard gave all of the surveillance video to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.  They're now investigating the theft.

The boys said the suspect had tattoos on his arms, but the most notable one was an orange anchor on his hand.

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