Annual mullet toss in Matlacha gets intense
Mullet flew in all directions Saturday afternoon at Matlacha Community Park during the Mullet Tossing 21st Annual Championship, which was hosted by the Matlacha Mariners.
Competition was intense as five categories of individuals wanted to out-throw their opponents during the mullet toss.
The winner for the “Fry Mullet” division for girls 1-5 years old was Matlacha resident Skylar Sanders with a throw of 18 feet, with Long Branch, N.J., resident Clinton Campbell winning the boys with a toss of 21 feet.
The winner for the “Fingerling Mullet” division for girls 6-10 years old was Cape Coral resident Emily McWilliams with throw of 41 feet. The winner for the boys was Bokeelia resident Landon Flett with toss of 35 feet.
The “Juvenile Girls” division winner for ages 11-15 was Cape Coral resident Maddy McWilliams with a toss of 41 feet, and the “Juvenile Boys” division was won by Cape Coral resident Dilon Reichenbacher with a throw of 55 feet.
Westford, Mass., resident Pat Witkum won the “Grey Mullet” women’s division of 60 years old and older with a throw of 51 1/2-feet, and Matlacha resident Woody Gunther won the “Grey Mullet” men’s division with a throw of 125 feet.
The winners for the age group 15-60 years old went to Lehigh Acres resident Donna Whidden with a toss of 85 1/2 feet and Bokeelia resident Eric Flett with 155 feet.
Matlacha Mariner member Ross Stornello said Eric Flett was tied with the winner of the last two Mullet Toss Championships after their regulation throws, but in a one fish throw for the tie-breaker, he prevailed and is the new men’s champ.
A field was outlined in red at the park to provide contestants with the opportunity to see where they were throwing, along with a line that they had to stand behind before they threw the mullet over hand or underhand to reach the furthest distance.
For just $5 a toss for adults and $2 a toss for kids, individuals could throw the mullet as many times as they choose.
After hearing about the mullet toss through word of mouth, Jason Frank decided to visit the park to see what it was all about.
“I have to check this out,” he said about the mullet toss. “I’m new to the island and I like going to all the events out here.”
Frank said he was curious and excited to see how far he could throw the mullet during his first attempt ever.
“It is great for the little kids and us big kids,” he said, laughing.
Next year he said he plans on attending the event again, but will practice throwing mullet before entering into the competition.
After Eric and his wife, Pat Grass, who are from Petawawa, Ontario, heard about the event, they decided to attend and take part in the toss.
Eric said he had never seen a mullet before Saturday.
“I think it is neat,” he said about the mullet toss. “It is a great way to have a community event.”
Eric said although the fish was slimy when he threw it, he had a lot of fun and plans on coming back next year.
Pat said throwing the mullet was certainly a different experience for her.
“I have never done that before,” she said. “It wasn’t too bad. I expected it to be a little slimy.”
Those who stood along the sidelines also joined in on the fun as they watched to see where the mullet landed because they never knew how close it would land to them.
Brian and his wife, Lou Murray, attended the event for the first time Saturday and thought it was completely hilarious to watch people throw the fish. He said it was unbelievable to watch how far the kids threw the mullet.
Although there was absolutely no way Brian was going to throw a fish, he said he had a lot of fun watching. He said he purchased a shirt, so he could go home to Canada and explain what the mullet toss was to everyone.
The idea of the mullet toss stemmed from people of the island becoming bored after tourist season ended. Since the fishermen already had mullet on hand because that was what they fished for, they began challenging each other to see who could throw the fish the furthest.
The mullet that was used during the event will be recycled as crab bait or crab food.