In spite of hard times, some area fishing guides were willing to show their appreciation to Active Duty Personnel from MacDill Air Force Base and guide them on a free fishing charter last weekend.
Volunteer captains had a brief Captains Meeting on Friday, September 17th where names were drawn to determine which boats participants would board the next morning. The volunteer captains departed from Calusa Island Marina at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 18th, and there was a cook-out at the Marina at 2:30 p.m. to share fishing stories and celebrate good times. Following is Captain Pam Stop’s account of this special day.
The inaugural “Take a Soldier Fishing” redfish and trout tournament was held at Calusa Island Marina in Goodland on Saturday, September 18. Nineteen local captains volunteered their time and expertise to show their appreciation to active duty personnel from MacDill Air Force Base and guided them on a complimentary full day fishing charter.
There were a total of fifty-two participants from the Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines and Army; some of whom proudly wore “MacDill Invades the Swamp” shirts. The triumphant participants were met back at the dock by Coast Guard and Sheriff’s Department representatives, the “Defenders” Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club from Naples, several “Hooters Girls”, and many family members and admirers who gathered to show their appreciation.
During the weigh-in ceremony everyone enjoyed a sumptuous cook-out followed by a raffle with great prizes. Captain John Stop enjoyed showing three career Air Force guys a good time: Christopher Kisse, Michael Ragsdale, and Cameron Hunt posed proudly beneath the “Support our Troops” banner for a photograph of the occasion.
Captain Steve Loyd, Jr. from the Sheriff’s Department won the overall weight class with his 12.56 lb catch, and his father Steve Loyd, Sr. was a close second with 11.21 lb. Senior Master Don Clark and Staff Sgt.
Roger Zehr caught the tournament’s largest redfish aboard Captain William Malloy’s boat; weighing in at 7.50 lb. Captain Kevin Merritt’s crew of Phil Bernier and Evan Ballinger followed closely with a redfish weighing 7.12lb.
The happy faces and wide grins proved that they can’t wait until next year to try their luck again.
You can reach Captain Pam Stop at Stop’s Marine Charters www.StopsMarineCharters.com 239-394-8000