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Captains needed for blind fishing trournament

By Staff | Jan 20, 2016

An annual fundraiser is in need of additional local boat owners to serve as volunteer captains.

The Florida Council of the Blind will host its Annual Blind Fishing Tournament on March 19 at the Cape Coral Yacht Club. The inshore slam partners a blind angler with a sighted captain and mate.

“This tournament really gives back,” Mike Ulrich, the organizer of the event, said.

He explained that he lost his eyesight about 11 years ago.

“I didn’t think I’d be able to do much of anything again,” Ulrich said.

Then, he learned to fish and found a sense of empowerment.

“It has given me a major part of my life back,” Ulrich said. “That’s what this is all about.”

As of Tuesday, over a dozen people had signed up as volunteer boat captains.

“I was originally hoping to come up with a total of 50, but I’d settle for 25,” he said.

To be a captain, volunteers only need a boat and a love of fishing.

“You don’t need a captain’s license because you’re not being monetarily compensated,” Ulrich said.

Volunteer captains are asked to let their team borrow equipment, like rods and reels.

“A lot of these blind anglers are coming in from out of the area,” he said.

Last year, a total of 26 blind anglers took part on 23 boats.

“This year, we’ve opened up the blind angler registration out to the whole United States,” Ulrich said. “We’ll have blind people coming in from all across the country.”

On March 19, the tourney will kick off at 7 a.m. at the Cape Coral Yacht Club pavilion with a free breakfast for all of the participants. Teams will be assembled, and the goodies bags handed out.

Fifty live shrimp will be provided to each team for free to use as bait.

At 8 a.m., the teams will take to the water, with the final weigh-in set for 2 p.m.

“Each team can submit one of each species caught by that team’s blind angler,” he said.

The three target species are redfish, sea trout and snook.

“They all have to be legal keepers,” Ulrich said.

Following the weigh-in, the winning teams will be announced.

“We have prizes for the top three fishing teams,” he said.

On the first place team, the blind angler will receive a $500 gift card to Bass Pro Shops, while the sighted mate will get $100 cash. The volunteer boat captain will win a $500 fuel card and a one-year membership with TowBoatUS. Additional prizes are planned for the second and third place teams.

“There’ll be more prizes added,” Ulrich said.

The tournament will wrap up back at the pavilion with a free cookout for the participants.

There will be live entertainment, along with some raffle drawings and such.

“We will be selling food and drinks to the public, too,” he said.

Prior to the tourney, a non-mandatory captain’s meeting will be held Friday, March 18, from 6-7 p.m., at the Cape Coral Power Squadron. A pre-tournament party will follow at a venue to be announced.

“We’ll go over the whole tournament particulars, and basically give them some heads up pointers on what to expect when they have a blind person on their boat,” Ulrich said.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer captain, or to donate items for the team prizes or raffles, contact Mike Ulrich at (239) 540-7431 or (239) 565-5845 or via email at mulrich@centurylink.net.

“We’ve also got some really good sponsors lined up, but we could always use more,” he said.

The Cape Coral Yacht Club is at 5819 Driftwood Parkway.

The Cape Coral Power Squadron is at 917 S.E. 47th Terrace.