Optimist Club’s Junior Anglers enjoy first outing at ‘Ding’ NWR
The Sanibel-Captiva Optimist Club had sponsored many community activities for island youngsters over the years, including formal dances. However, it had not coordinated any sports-related events until it recently launched the Optimist Junior Anglers Club.
Aimed at kids enrolled in fifth through eighth grades, the club officially began on Monday with a group outing to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
‘We wanted to get the kids more involved with sporting activities, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to do that,” said Stan Howard, president of he San-Cap Optimist Club. “We thought by adding a fishing club, we could branch out with something different that anybody can learn and enjoy.”
Co-sponsored by Tarpon Bay Explorers — who is loaning the Junior Anglers fishing rods and tackle — and Bailey’s General Store — who is supplying the bait — several members of the Optimist Club are lending their fishing expertise to the teens and tweens. For eight consecutive Monday mornings, the group will head out to various island locales, including “Ding” Darling NWR, Tarpon Bay, the Causeway Islands, Sanibel Fishing Pier and private beach accesses.
Although he enjoys spending his days at the Rec Center’s Summer Camp, Nick Atkinson admitted he was “very happy” to try his hand at fishing the refuge’s waters, something he had never done before.
“It’s a lot of fun because it’s so relaxing,” said Atkinson as he sat with his line dropped into the water, hoping for a bite. “I’d like to catch something. Anything!”
Patience and persistence finally paid off for Chris King, who reeled-in the first catch of the day — a nine-inch sheepshead — 40 minutes into the activity. The fish was measured and released back into the water, with a warm round of applause offered for King’s triumph.
Fellow Junior Angler Mitchell Rice, baiting another hook with live shrimp, seemed to be enjoying himself despite the lack of landing a fish.
“I love this weather… it’s kinda cool with a nice breeze,” he said, casting his line toward the water again. “I’d be more excited about catching something, but it’s still early. The fish are coming.”
Optimist Club member Ian Wainwright smiled at the young assortment of boys and girls taking part in the activity, several of whom had never been fishing before.
“It’s a lot of fun for anyone who’d like to learn how,” he said. “I learned to fish when I was 6, so it’s something for all ages. It feels great to be a part of passing this along to another generation.”
The Optimist Junior Anglers Club will gather every Monday from 10 a.m. until noon through Aug. 16. For additional information about the club or other Rec Center Summer Camp activities and outings, call 472-0345.