McFlat’s Invitational Redfish Challenge raises thousands for charity
Fathers, sons, mothers, daughters and grandparents filled the dock at Tarpon Point Marina Saturday morning as fishing lines with shrimp were thrown into the water to capture as many fish as possible.
Tim Frederic, owner and operator of seven McDonald restaurants and co-founder of the event, said the idea of the McFlat’s Invitational Redfish Challenge unfolded when he went fishing with Mitch Williamson. The two talked about fishing tournaments in the area and how beneficial the Ronald McDonald house was to Williamson’s family when their baby was born early.
Since that initial conversation, the Ronald McDonald House also came to hold a special meaning to Frederic when his son was born five weeks early. Although he did not have to stay at the Ronald McDonald House because his home was close to the hospital, he realized what a great resource it was for families that did not have the option of close-by housing.
Seven years later, Frederic and Williamson continue to hold the McFlat’s Invitational Redfish Challenge to benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Florida.
The festivities kicked off at 7:30 Saturday morning when the adult fishing tournament had its shotgun start. Frederic said they had 47 boats participate.
“We are looking to raise $55,000 this year,” he said about the weekend activities.
The kids fishing tournament, which began around 10 Saturday morning brought out 100 children.. The kids received a fishing rod, which they could keep once the tournament was over, a T-shirt, trophy and lunch with Ronald McDonald once the fishing concluded.
Buckets of shrimp were located in various spots along the pier to make it easy for kids to grab fresh bait for their fishing hooks. Lee County Commissioner Tammy Hall and volunteers from the Sheriff’s Youth Activity League assisted the young anglers in measuring the fish they caught, along with bringing more shrimp to put on their lines.
Saturday morning was all about families bonding and spending time together as they sat or stood on the dock waiting patiently for a fish to bite.
For many children, that wait did not take long.
Zachary Hungelmann and his father Tom decided to participate in the event for the second time this year because of the fun they had last year. Zachary, who will be 10 in a couple of weeks, caught one fish after another when he first arrived at the dock.
“I caught two fish,” he said before 10:30 a.m.
Tom said his son’s first fishing experience was at Bimini Basin when he was 4. Since then the father son duo go fishing at canals and lakes when they have time.
“He’s my outdoors boy,” Tom said, “which is fine with me because I like being outside, too.”
Zachary said he loves the tournament because he gets to have fun.
Corey Crowder took his daughter Chania, 8, to the tournament for the first time Saturday after friends told them about the event.
“Our friends were coming so we came with,” Corey said, adding that they also wanted to support Ronald McDonald charities. “This is awesome.”
Chania’s first experience of fishing was when she went out on the boat with her friend and caught a bass.
Saturday she had the same luck of catching fish.
“I caught three fish,” Chania said, which were snappers.
She said she had a good time.
“It’s really fun,” Chania said. “I like doing it for fun and catching fish.”
Their friends Johnny and Dominique Matthews stood next to them on the dock at Tarpon Point Marina. The duo had the same luck with catching fish as many of the other families did. Early into the tournament, Dominique, 8, had already caught two fish.
She said her father’s job Saturday was to hold the fishing pole until he felt a bite. Once the fish was felt on the line, Dominique said she liked to reel the fish in because that was the fun part.
In addition to enjoying the fishing portion of the tournament, Dominique said she also liked grabbing shrimp out of the bucket for the fishing pole.
Johnny said they had so much fun during the tournament last year that they wanted to attend again this year.
“It’s for a good cause,” he said.
The Matthews have a canal behind their house where they go fishing often.
A 10-pound grouper has been Dominique’s biggest catch so far.
Another father son duo that attended the event for the first time was Brian and his son Nickolas Brown. Brian said he recently attended a kids fishing tournament with his son at The Yacht Club and although it was a good event, he enjoyed Saturday’s event much more.
“I like this one,” Brian said about McFlat’s Invitational. “I like the area and it benefits the Ronald McDonald House.”
In addition, he said he liked how they were given a fishing rod, along with the bait being conveniently placed all along the dock and people there to help if needed.
Within five to 10 minutes, Nickolas caught three snappers when they first arrived.
Their friend Tristin Ramos, 12, also attended the event with them and had luck catching a 10- inch snapper when they arrived.
“It’s fun and calming,” he said about fishing.
Ramos goes fishing every chance he has at the Yacht Club, the beach and the canal behind his house.
Deputy Jeffrey Santella, with the Sheriff’s Youth Activity League, joined in on the fun Saturday as he handed out water to everyone lined up on the dock, along with helping in any other way he could.
“This is awesome,” he said. “It’s a good thing.”
Santella said there were a lot of kids who had never fished before who attended the tournament on Saturday. He said there was also a lot of family time being spent during the tournament as well.
“There are a lot of things happening at one time,” he said.
Santella said the largest fish caught was an 18-inch snook and the smallest was a 7-inch catfish and snapper.