Spots still available for Blind Fishing Tournament
The Florida Council of the Blind is taking registrations from blind anglers for its annual fishing tourney, as well as hoping to sign up more boat owners to volunteer their vessel and time.
The 1st Annual Blind Fishing Tournament will take place March 28 at the Cape Coral Yacht Club Beach. The inshore slam partners a blind angler with a sighted captain and a sighted mate.
“I’ve got blind anglers crawling out of the woodwork calling me,” event organizer Mike Ulrich said.
As of Tuesday, 18 captains had signed up and 10 anglers had registered for an open spot.
Ulrich noted that about 75 percent of the current anglers participated in last year’s tournament. The participants are coming from across the state, including Miami, Port Charlotte and The Villages.
“Half are from out of the area,” he said.
All team participants are required to have a Florida saltwater fishing license; those age 65 and over do not need one. The blind can obtain a free disabled fishing license by filling out certain state forms.
Blind anglers are allowed and welcome to fish with their own equipment, but gear will be made available. They are also encouraged to wear sunscreen and bring a hat and snacks for on the boat.
“Just act fast and contact me,” Ulrich said. “These spots are filling up very fast.”
This is the fourth year the tournament has been organized, but it is the first year it has been offered statewide. The first three years it was hosted for the Southwest Florida Council of the Blind, one of the 23 chapters in the state; the Florida Council is a state affiliate of the American Council of the Blind.
Last year, 25 blind anglers took part with the help of 23 volunteer captains.
“I’m trying to build 25 teams,” he said. “If I had even more captains, I’d open it up to 50.”
Boat owners interested in volunteering do not need a captain’s license.
The boat captains are eligible for prizes if their team places in one of the top spots.
For the tourney, each team will submit one of each species – a redfish, a snook and a seat trout – caught by the team’s blind angler. The fish must be legal keepers and make the minimum length.
The team with the heaviest combined weight of all three fish wins first place. In the case of a tie in terms of bag weight, the team that was the first boat to return to the dock will claim the win.
The first place team receives $500 cash and free wings from Hooters for a year for the blind angler, $100 cash for the sighted mate and a free one-year membership to Sea Tow for the boat captain.
The team members will receive a free T-shirt, as well as a free barbecue cookout on the day of the tourney, and free pizza and wings at BackStreets Sports Bar following the captains’ meeting March 27. It will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Cape Coral Sail & Power Squadron, at 917 S.E. 47th Terrace.
Each team will also receive 50 free live shrimp to use for bait during the tournament.
On March 28, all participants will meet at 7 a.m. at the pavilion at the Cape Coral Yacht Club Beach. Free donuts and coffee will be provided to team members, and the team pairings will be revealed. The teams have from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. to fish before they must return to the yacht club dock for weigh-in.
After the tournament, there will be the cookout of burgers and hot dogs, with all of the fixings.
Food and drinks will be available for purchase for those who were not part of a team.
There will also be a 50/50 drawing held, as well as various raffles. Some of the items range from fishing-related products, to a weekend getaway at the Pink Shell Beach Resort and Marina.
Ulrich noted that volunteers are needed at the pavilion from 7-9 a.m. and 1-6 p.m.
“Basically, just to help blind people navigate their way around,” Ulrich said.
Sponsorships and prize donations are still being accepted.
Ulrich explained that when he went blind about 11 years ago, he learned to fish on his own and with some help. Learning to fish gave him a sense of empowerment, despite losing his sight.
“That’s why I try to pass this on to other blind people, and the (volunteer boat) captains can play a big part of that,” he said.
The registration cost for anglers is $25, with another $25 if they bring their own sighted mate.
To register, first contact Mike Ulrich at (239) 540-7431 or (239) 565-5845, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will reserve a spot until the payment is received. Checks should be mailed to: FCB c/o Mike Ulrich, 4642 Coronado Parkway, Apt. A101, Cape Coral, FL 33904.
“Once I receive that check, they’ve locked in their spot,” he said.
For additional information on the Florida Council of the Blind’s 1st Annual Blind Fishing Tournament, or to become a volunteer captain, an event sponsor or to donor raffle items, also contact Ulrich.
The Cape Coral Yacht Club is at 5819 Driftwood Parkway.