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16th annual Calusa Blueway Kayak Fishing Tournament set for Nov. 9

By Staff | Oct 31, 2019

A charitable fishing tourney with both a twist and an on-shore component for the whole family is set for next Saturday in Matlacha.

The 16th annual Calusa Blueway Kayak Fishing Tournament to be held Nov. 9 and sponsored by Gulf Coast Kayak will benefit Candlelighters of Southwest Florida.

The catch-photo-and-release tournament will begin at safe light.

Anglers must fish from paddlecraft in Lee County waterways with “weigh-ins” from noon to 3 p.m.

The ceremony will begin at 3:30 p.m. at the Old Fish House Marina where a “family fun event” featuring door prizes, raffles, food, live music and silent auctions will begin at noon and run until 4 p.m.

“We were approached by Lee County in 2015 about taking over the Calusa Blueway Kayak Fishing Tournament,” said Gulf Coast Kayak co-owner Diana Stockbridge. “When we agreed to sponsor the event we thought it would be great to do something for the community at the same time. In 2016 we chose Candlelighters because they do so much for kids with cancer and we decided all of the proceeds would go to them.”

It’s been a good partnership.

“This is the fifth year the tournament has named Candlelighters as beneficiary,” founder Klair Snellbaker said. “Last year we raised $8,000 and this year we hope to do even better.”

Candlelighters is an independent not-for-profit founded by Snellbaker in 1984. This year it celebrates 35 years supporting kids with cancer and their families.

In 2014, the owners of Gulf Coast Kayak, Diana and Bryan Stockbridge, invited 17 youths between the ages of 8 and 18 who had been diagnosed with cancer or a blood disorder to go paddling.

“The relationship grew from there,” Snellbaker said. “Naming us as the beneficiaries of the tournament is a wonderful thing and we’re very grateful for all Gulf Coast Kayak, Old Fish House Marina and all that the businesses, anglers and volunteers do each year to make this tournament a success.”

Snellbaker founded Candlelighters after the loss of her daughter, Erin.

Erin was diagnosed with cancer at 2 1/2 years of age. She died as a result of the disease at age 4. Candlelighters’ mission is “to provide support, education, and assistance to families of children with cancer or blood disorders and the professionals who care for them.”

Candlelighters serves more than 550 families in a five county area – Lee, Charlotte, Hendry, Glades and Collier.

PointYbel Brewing Company will host the captain’s meeting and registration at 16120 San Carlos Blvd. in Fort Myers on Friday, Nov. 8. All anglers must be present. Registration will begin at 6 p.m. and the captains’ meeting is at 7 p.m.

Tournament registration is $65 for either a single kayak angler or single paddle board angler.

To register online, visit 2019calusabluewaykayakfishingtournament.evenbrite.com/ .

First prize (Gold) is $1,000; second (Silver) $500; and third (Bronze) $250.

Additional prizes are awarded to the first place SUP anglers.

The “Kayak Fishing with Jim Sammons” show will film throughout the tournament.

“This is a great event that continues to grow in popularity year after year,” said Mike Hammond, Lee County Parks & Recreation’s Calusa Blueway coordinator. “Gulf Coast Kayak has taken this tournament to the next level and we’re happy to be a part of it. Having Jim Sammons and his film crew here makes it even more exciting.”

The Olde Fish House Marina is at 4530 Pine Island Road, Matlacha.

Race details and registration can be found by searching for “Calusa Blueway kayak fishing” at www.eventbrite.com, or call Hammond at 239-707-7981.