Over 300 kayak anglers from Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Virginia, Texas, and from as far away as California, New Hampshire, and Maine arrived for a weekend of fun, fellowship and fishing that officially ran Feb. 15-18. With a so-so weather forecast, early birds arriving on the 14th were greeted by a light rain all day. The rains on Thursday gave way to high winds on Friday, which gave way to bitter cold on Saturday. The weather certainly didn’t dampen the spirits of those that attended. However, it did slow down the fishing, with very sporadic catches being reported.
The weekend festivities started out Thursday night with a meet and greet at Handler Fishing Supply. The owners opened the store after hours, and Paul Van Reenen of Unfair Lures was on hand to talk about his new line of baits. There was also an impromptu crawfish boil put together by Russ Pylant back at KARS Park. I think the raccoons are just now recovering from what was left over that night.
The rains subsided on Friday, but the winds were blowing a bit more than anyone would have liked. That didn’t stop folks from getting out and fishing. As early as 5 a.m., you could hear the anxious kayakers rolling out of KARS and hitting the water.
Friday night the KARS Park crew, led by Kristina Bumgarner, hosted everyone for another meet and greet under the main pavilion. Hamburgers, hot dogs, and cold frosty adult beverages were served while everyone caught up with old friends.
Woody Callaway from Liquidlogic Kayaks and Jim Dolan from Heroes on the Water were on hand to award a Native Watercraft “Manta Ray 14” kayak to the first Native Warrior Program winner. Each year Native will present three veterans a new kayak in recognition of their accomplishments through the Heroes on the Water chapters. Andres Rosa was the very first recipient. Andres started out as a participant with the Jacksonville HOW chapter, and is now helping out as a guide for the chapter.
Melita Ganoe of the Jacksonville HOW chapter baked her wonderful cupcakes for all to enjoy. Mmmmmmmm…
Saturday dawned bright and clear and a bit cold. With an uncertain wind forecast, anglers were on the water early in hopes of getting in some quality time fishing the No Motor Zone and nearby Mosquito Lagoon. Around noon the winds really picked up out of the west, so most everyone hightailed back to the campground and got ready for the night’s awesome dinner, catered by Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q .
Once everyone had filled up on the great BBQ, it was time for the door prizes. The first 200 folks in line for dinner received a gift bag filled with assorted items from many of the great Boondoggle sponsors. First up for the door prizes were the kids, and man did they make out like bandits.
The winner of the kids kayak was Riley, age 6, from Jacksonville. I think she curled up and slept in it that night!
After the little kids were taken care of, it was time for the bigger kids.
After the general door prizes were handed out, things got real serious. A heated game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” determined the winner of a brand new Native “Redfish 12”. It was Woody Callaway against the whole Boondoggle crowd. It came down to just two for the kayak, with Brandon Griffis winning out. He then promptly donated his old kayak to a local chapter of HOW.
As the evenings activities drew to a close, many Boondogglers retreated back to their campsites to mingle around warm campfires until the wee hours of morning. Between the high winds and a very active NASA Public Address system, we were reminded throughout the night of the various wind and low temperature warnings.
Sunday morning arrived all too early for most, as many were packing up and hitting the road home. The winds were blowing even stronger than on Saturday, so fishing for most was out of the question. A few brave souls managed to hit Haulover Canal, but the waters of KARS Park were completely blown out with whitecaps. Others who didn’t fish just stayed around the park, enjoying the company of new friends.
Boondoggle 2013 at KARS Park is in the books. It couldn’t have happened without the tremendous efforts of Charles “Redfish Chuck” Levi, Jr. The YakAngler Nation and listeners of Kayak Fishing Radio thank you, Chuck, for your countless hours putting this event together. A big “Thanks” to all the sponsors who stepped up and donated door prizes for Saturday night, and a huge “Thank You” to the staff at KARS Park for putting up with us during the weekend.