BY MARCY SHORTUSE – There were 120 excited kids in Boca Grande Pass on Saturday, June 6, all waiting to catch that winning silver king in the Grande Aire Gasparilla Island Kids Classic.
Capt. Matt Haag and his team, which included Megan Huer, Jack Allgeier and Sean Hyer, came out the winners when the tournament ended. They released two tarpon for the win.
“As soon as I realized I could fish on the hill, I realized we were going to win,” he said. “The fish in the Pass didn’t want to bite until after 8, when the tournament ended. I knew they were on the hill. I was the only boat on the hill, and we won. “
Capt. Willie Mills and his team aboard Tracy Lynn got the first fish of the night in the Kids Classic. That angler was Emma Sexton, 11.
That fish was also their last to be released, but it still garnered them second place.
Their anglers included Aubry O’Rourke, Clayton Werman, Keaghan Black and Sexton.
The third place team aboard Blaze carried not one, but two, Mills family members. Capt. Waylon Mills fished with his daughter, 9-year-old Zoey, who took the last fish of the tournament at 7:58 p.m. That tarpon was released at 8:15 p.m., with a little help from all the anglers on the boat, including Marshall Locke, Madison McCorkle and Gauge McCorkle.
“We fished hard without having bites until then, so it was a sigh of relief,” Waylon said. “That was our only full-fledged bite. For two hours and 57 minutes we fished real hard, though.”
This wasn’t Zoey’s first tarpon, she caught one last year, before she turned 9, in August. It was her first tournament, however, as she was signed up for last year’s Kids Classic but it was cancelled.
“That was a big one, and she caught it by herself,” he said. “This one was pretty big for the age group I was fishing, maybe 100 or 110 pounds. The thing is, that size of fish in the hole on that tide, they’re animals. They’re hard to land because they use that deep water to their advantage. When we released it there was lots of cheering going on, and a big sigh of relief from Zoey. Her teammates were ecstatic.”
Releases for the tournament were as follows:
- 5:10/5:25 p.m., Emma Sexton (11) on the Tracy Lynn with Capt. Willie Mills
- 5:28/5:30 p.m. Austin Whiting (14) with Capt. Roger Gibson on the Hammerhead
- 5:40/5:51 p.m. Sean Hyer (10) with Capt. Matt Haag
- 6:07/6:18 p.m. Jack Allgeier (13) with Capt. Matt Haag
- 6:30/6:36 p.m. Alex Dexter (16) with Capt. Nelson Italiano on Little Spook
- 7:19/7:35 p.m. Keaghan Lawson (8) with Capt. Dave Chatham on the Jill Marie
- 7:56/7:58 p.m. Ross Dixon (13) on the Yellowfin with Capt. Sylvester Dixon
- 7:58/8:15 p.m. Zoey Mills (9) with Capt. Waylon Mills on Blaze
The average release time was nine minutes.
“I think this year’s tournament was another successful example of kids helping kids,” said Bill Klettke, one of the board members of Boca Grande Charities, Inc., the organization behind the tournament. “We raised $29,000. $10,000 was donated to Lemon Bay Conservancy to support the summer exploratory program of L.A. Ainger and Lemon Bay High School at Wildflower Preserve. Moffitt’s Families First Program and All Children’s both received $7,000, the Englewood Community Care Clinic received $4,000 and we donated $1,000 to the Crowninshield Community House.”
Next year’s tournament will be held on June 4. The field fills up quickly, so if you’re interested in participating call Gasparilla Outfitters/Special Effects at 964-0907.
For more photos from this event, pick up the Boca Beacon.