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Beware of Leaping Sturgeon!

A fisherman who crashed his boat on a river bank when a 5-foot sturgeon jumped from the water and hit him in the chest remained hospitalized Wednesday, three days after the crash. Brian Clemens, 50, is the latest of at least four Florida boaters struck by leaping sturgeon this year.

"No one really knows why they jump," said Lt. Stan Kirkland of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "I have heard theories ranging from it indicates the end of the world to they're mating, but no one can really tell. They just jump." Clemens was listed Wednesday as stable, the best of four possible conditions, at Bay Medical Center in Panama City. He had transferred out of intensive care Tuesday. He was fishing alone Sunday on the Choctawhatchee River in the Florida Panhandle when the fish's impact caused him to lose control of his boat, said Clemens' wife, Joy. "I've seen them jump before, but he said within seconds it just came out of nowhere," she said.

Her husband was ejected onto the bank, suffering a broken sternum, two broken ribs, a collapsed lung, several abrasions and a cut on his right knee that required 16 stitches. He was on the river bank 30 to 45 minutes before two men came to his aid. "They really saved his life," his wife said. "If they hadn't come along he might have laid there all night."

After being helped back to the landing, Clemens drove himself home 20 to 25 miles before calling his wife, who was traveling, to tell her what happened. She notified a neighbor, who call an ambulance.

Joy Clemens said her husband cannot remember what happened to the gulf sturgeon, a species of special concern in Florida.

ainesville elementary school principal Lacy Redd, 34, suffered a collapsed lung and five broken ribs over the Memorial Day weekend when a sturgeon jumped from the Suwannee River into the family boat.

On the Fourth of July, a leaping sturgeon knocked 19-year-old Danny Cordero and his girlfriend from their personal watercraft on the Suwannee. Cordero cracked some teeth.

* Sun, 8/11/2002

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