One day in 1988, Wally Laumeyer saw an old man fishing on the pier at the Cape Coral Yacht Club. He had 10 fishing poles set up all around so that if kids wanted to fish, the man could give him a pole and let him try to hook the big one.
That got him to thinking about doing something like that, and 27 years later more than 300 kids and even more parents crammed onto that pier Saturday morning for the 27th annual Cape Coral Kiwanis Kids Fishing Derby.
All these years later, Laumeyer is still the one in charge, working since October and putting in more than 85 man hours to get the rods and reels, the raffles prizes and making sure everyone has a good time, whether they catch a fish or not.
“I just love seeing these kids fish, and they’re catching a lot of fish. Some of them have never fished before,” Laumeyer said. “Here we are with all kinds of water and they’ve never had a chance. It’s nice to know I was around to see there was a need for it.”
Trophies were awarded for the biggest, smallest and most fish caught. Kids were given rods and reels to take home, and there were also 15 bicycles raffled off for the kids to win.
“What’s nice is the parents are out here with them. Some of them haven’t done much with their kids, and they’re having a great time,” Laumeyer said.
Charmaine MacPherson-Velazquez brought her husband and children Isabella, 7, and Nicolas, 5 for the second time after winning a bicycle last year.
“We love coming here. We love what Kiwanis is doing,” MacPherson-Velazquez said. “Nobody could get here early enough to come.”
Both caught fishes early and had lots of fun, though they argued who had the biggest fish.
“His was bigger. He caught a pufferfish,” mom said.
“No, it was littler. It was that little,” Isabella smiled, showing with her fingers the size. She caught a spadefish.
Rose Brady brought her son Ashten, 7, who caught a 12-inch angelfish, the biggest one to that point.
“It fell off his pole, but he swam in and got it with his bare hands,” Brady said.
“No, it was stuck on the shore. It was in a few inches of water and I got it,” Ashten said.
John O’Malley brought his grandson, Donovan Diaz, 6, who was visiting on vacation. Diaz may have reeled in the smallest fish known to man, less than two inches.
“I didn’t know it was possible. The bait was bigger than the fish,” O’Malley said. “He caught it in a cluster of clam shells and it got stuck. I thought the rod was going to break, it was pretty heavy.”
Kyle Ipavac, 12, was having a banner day on the water, catching eight fish in two hours, leaving some to joke that was leaving the same fish on the rod and reeling in the same fish.
“I let them take the bait and hook it,” he explained. “It’s a lot of fun being here and hanging by the pier.”
The Key Club from Cape Coral High School was also there to sell water and snacks and supply bait to the fishermen.
And it was all for the kids, just like when that old man set up those poles all those years ago.
“If we can keep one child out of trouble, it’s worth it.” Laumeyer said.