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Monday, 22 September 2014 00:00

Emily's 2014 Inshore Benefit Fishing Tournament

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At 3:00am I rolled into Josh Slager’s driveway in Lakeland, FL and we started our journey to the East Coast for the Emily's 2014 Inshore Fishing Tournament. Emily is a ten-year-old little girl who is the only one in the world who has the genetic disorder Chromosome 2q36 Deletion Syndrome. She also has autism and epilepsy. This is an annual tournament to help raise funds for Emily’s therapy at her special school, which costs $29,000 a year.

The tournament was a Catch, Photo, and Release event, with limits, of three trout and three redfish. Kayaks, canoes, and Gheenoes were allowed, as were live and cut bait. Kayaks by Bo in Titusville hosted the event, and we arrived there a little before the 5:30am check-in time. Once we completed our sign-in and received the photo tokens, we were off to our predetermined launch site in the famous Mosquito Lagoon.

It was still dark, and just before we stopped to unload our kayaks a large black creature walked in front of us on the dirt road. It was an 8’ alligator, and he was in no hurry. He was meandering towards our launch area - yikes! Little did we know this was the first of countless alligators we would see that day. We waited for the 6:30am start time, sitting in our kayaks and listening to the constant buzz of what gives this place its name: mosquitoes - millions of them.

Once we began, I scouted and finally found a school of redfish. I slid my Werner “Shuna” paddle quietly into its holder, and my anchor dropped. I starting tossing a topwater, but each cast came in with a bunch of weeds. I switched to my other Bull Bay Rods kayak rod with a weedless jig and a darker plastic tail. Success! I quietly followed the school until I put three slot redfish in pictures.

I moved out to deeper water to find trout, but only managed small ones under the 12”minimum. I watched as a large storm grew closer. I could see the gray line of pouring rain, and decided that my Native Watercraft “Ultimate” kayak and I were heading back to safety. I paddled a couple of miles back, unloaded everything, looked up…and the storm had split. Other than a little drizzle and high winds, the storm had missed me. So now I had to reload the kayak and paddle back to where I left off. It was a waste of an hour or so, but a worthwhile decision as I don’t take chances with potential lightning.

I spent more time scouting for areas that I thought would hold large trout. I saw manatees, dolphin, and lots of alligators. This is an ecosystem like no other. I managed to pick off a nice slot trout, then a 23”beauty, and finally my last needed trout. I sat back and took a deep breath - I had my limit!

We got to check in at 2:00pm and filled out the cards. I had my fish photos checked, and the total came to 117”. I knew I had a chance, but with 145 anglers you just never know what to expect. We walked around the tents set up for the raffle donations, talked to old friends, and met new ones. At 4:00pm they started the awards and raffles.

Steve Gibson came out on top with an impressive 133.25”for first place. I won third place for my trout, and ended up in second place overall.

Emily’s parents, Austin and Becca Rouse, are awesome people who had smiles on their faces all day. The total raised for Emily’s therapy was just under $10,000, and it felt good to be a part of it.

Please go to the “Help Emily stay in school” Facebook page and “like” so you can be notified of future events and next year’s tournament. You can read more and donate through their website - www.helpemilynow.org or http://helpemilynow.wix.com/main. Please take the time in your area to research benefit tournaments, and if you believe in the cause and the fund distribution, enter. These tournaments are competitive, but on the fun side, and the end result is you help someone in need. That’s something we all need to do!

Live life by the minute, and get outdoors and have some fun!


Last modified on Monday, 12 January 2015 12:43
Walt Palen

Walt Palen was raised on the Southwest Coast of Florida on the pristine waters of Charlotte Harbor. The endless miles of the mangrove back country were a perfect playground for a growing boy. At age sixteen Walt became a certified SCUBA diver. Boating, fishing, diving, spear fishing, and water skiing were all part of the routine. A passion for fresh and saltwater light tackle artificial expanded to fly fishing and fly tying. Walt enjoys travel and has fished throughout the United States and Canada for an assortment of species. Walts last two trips were to Nova Scotia and the upper reaches of Washington State hiking and targeting salmon and steelhead with the fly rod. Walt is an avid inshore kayak tournament fisherman and took second place in the 2014 Adventure Fishing World Championship in the Everglades paddling 23 miles in one day in his Native Ultimate 14.5. 

You can reach out to him on Facebook - ShallowFly Walt - or Instagram - Shallowfly_Walt.



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