That is what Capt. Sandy Melvin is hoping for after this year’s Gasparilla Island Kids Classic Tarpon Tournament – lots of monsters. He conducts the tournament every year now for many reasons, but high among them are to teach kids a love of fishing and the outdoors, and to raise money for children’s charities.
This year the Gasparilla Island Kids Classic will be held on Saturday, June 6 from 5 to 8 p.m. in Boca Grande Pass. So far 28 teams have signed up, which leaves only two spots open. The first Kids Classic was held in 2011. Children ages 15 and younger can participate.
The Island School kids were fortunate enough to have two boats sponsored in the tournament, both by the Carbonari family. That means that eight children from the school will be lucky enough to fish, including all of the fifth graders.
“Everyone needs to experience tarpon fishing at least once in their life!” said Head-of-School Jean Thompson. “Especially if they went to school in Boca Grande, the tarpon capital of the world. Even if you don’t catch anything, just to be out on the water with all the other anglers watching the tarpon roll … it is so amazing!”
The children who were picked are excited, to say the least. One student, Kylie Robbins, said, “It is exciting. I am so excited, because I want to catch a tarpon really bad!”
Another student, Isaiah, seemed to realize the gravity of the situation and said, “It concerns me but I still want to go. I am concerned that the tarpon will be so big I won’t be able to hold on to it.”
“I just want to go fishing!”
L.A. Ainger Middle School and the Boca Grande Fire Department will also be sponsoring teams in the tournament.
“This is a big opportunity for kids to get out on the water and compete like the big guys do,” said Chief C.W. Blosser of the Boca Grande Fire Department. “I’m really looking forward to hearing all the fish stories after the fact, and seeing the smiles on those kids’ faces.”
The entry fee is $1,000 for a four-angler team, and the field number has been bumped up to 30.
Registration is from noon to 2 p.m. at the Boca Grande Community Center, where there will be games and barbecue. At 3 p.m. all observers will meet at the Pink Elephant docks, and boat check-in will be at 3:30 p.m. at the mouth of Miller’s Channel. All teams must check in and receive a flag to participate in the tournament.
At 4:38 p.m. Jim Cooper, the president of Lemon Bay Conservancy, will give a conservation message and at 4:42 p.m. the blessing of the event will be conducted. at 4:45 p.m. Lemon Bay High School ROTC will present the Colors, honoring all military service, and the National Anthem will be sung at the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse Beach. at 4:50 p.m. the Charlotte County Warbirds Vintage Aircraft Club will conduct a flyover of the Pass in honor of our troops and veterans, and at 5 p.m. competition begins.
The tournament will end at 8 p.m. and awards will be given at the Boca Grande Community House at 8:45 p.m., where there will be pizza, ice cream, drinks and live entertainment. Awards include many great prizes, such as iPads and trend-setting headphones, as well as trips to Daytona for the captains.
Charities that benefit from money raised in the Gasparilla Island Kids Classic include Englewood Community Care Clinic’s Sports First Aid Program, Moffitt Cancer Center’s Family First Program, All Children’s Hospital Music Therapy Program, the Crowninshield Community House and the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Program coordinated through Lemon Bay Conservancy.
“In four short years the Gasparilla Island Kids Classic and our kids who have participated, have raised over $120,000 for the charities we support!” said Capt. Sandy Melvin. “Your contributions and support enable us to donate 100 percent of the tournament entry fees to our charities. This event not only helps to teach children how to properly catch a tarpon and fosters a love of our estuary, but it is also great because the event focuses on support for children’s medical and educational needs.”
Call Gasparilla Outfitters at 964-0907 for more information, or go to gasparillaislandkidsclassic.com.