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Gulf Coast Kayak raising money in tourney

Funds group raises from Blueway fishing tournament will go to Candlelighters

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | Nov 4, 2020


Gulf Coast Kayak will be raising money for Candlelighters via the 17th Annual Calusa Blueway Kayak Fishing Tournament, scheduled Nov. 14 in Matlacha.

The cost is $45 per angler or $180 for a team of four. The cost of entry includes registration and tournament shirt. There will be a mandatory virtual captains meeting at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13.

Prizes will include a Vanhunks Mahi Mahi kayak, a Body Glove Porter inflatable kayak, Body Glove Performer inflatable iSUP, and other prizes.

This is a paddle sport, meaning no one is allowed to compete from any vessel with a motor. This is also a “catch-photo-release” tournament, meaning competitors will keep no fish.

“The anglers get a universal measuring board,” said Gulf Coast Kayak owner Bryan Stockbridge, “which we hand out to them on Friday, the night before at the captains meeting.”

He explained the target fish this year are speckled sea trout, redfish and snook. Once they’ve caught the fish, he explained, they are to place it on the measuring board and get a good picture of it from above covering the front and back to determine the total length. At the end of the day, the pictures are emailed in and the winner is determined by the longest “slam,” meaning the longest combination of each fish.

Stockbridge said on Nov. 14, competitors will launch their kayaks at safe light, usually around 6:45 a.m. and photos must be turned in no later than 3 p.m.

“This year is different from the other years because of COVID,” said Stockbridge. “Normally they would come to the Olde Fish House and turn over their cameras and the judges would download the pictures and essentially score the fish. This year, we’re trying not to do any large groups together, so this year they’re going to email the pictures and they have to have them in by 3 p.m.”

The event has become a special place in the hearts of Stockbridge and his wife Diana, who have given proceeds from the event to Candlelighters for the past four years. Candlelighters of Southwest Florida, is a non-profit charity, whose free services support families with children who have been diagnosed with cancer.

“We were blown away by the work they’re doing,” said Stockbridge. “So we offered two free kayak tours to some of the families, and then we thought it would be a great organization to donate to if we could help keep them going.

“This year we want nothing more than to spread the word about Candlelighters,” he continued. “Last year they had to cancel two of their biggest fundraising events and this year pretty much every one of their fundraising events has been cancelled except for this little tournament that we do. Hopefully the right person will hear about them at the right time.”

Race details and registration can be found by searching for “Calusa Blueway kayak fishing” at www.eventbrite.com, or call Mike Hammond at 239-707-7981.

For more information about Lee County Parks & Recreation, locations, amenities, and special events, visit www.leeparks.org, call 239-533-7275 or email leeparks@leegov.com. facebook.com/TheGreatCalusa Blueway or instagram/greatcalusablueway

Gulf Coast Kayak is at 4120 Pine Island Rd, Matlacha, FL 33993. For additional information, call239-283-1125 or visit gulfcoastkayak.com