Reel Time: Compete in the Waterman Fly Fishing Tournament

Compete in the Waterman Fly Fishing Tournament
Long Beach Village resident Benny Parrish prepares to release a redfish during last year's tournament. Parrish and his team won second prize, narrowly missing the first-place award. – Rusty Chinnis | Sun

No one has more vested interest in water quality and the protection of our local marine habitat than anglers. That fact is clearly evident for those that make a living from the bays and estuaries that define the Suncoast, making it one of the country’s most desirable locations to visit and live. It’s easy to understand that fishing guides, waterfront restaurants, marinas and resort accommodations like hotels, motels and marinas, benefit from a robust and sustainable environment. What’s less well appreciated by the public at large is the impact of a healthy environment on the economy at large.

Fortunately, local anglers, through advocacy groups like Suncoast Waterkeeper and Tampa Bay Waterkeeper, are getting that message to a wider audience through the media, legal actions and events like this week’s Third Annual Waterman Fly Fishing Tournament. The event, a sellout this year, is a two-day, fly fishing-only, catch-and-release redfish tournament with an optional Snook Calcutta that awards the winner a 50/50 cash payout. The event will be held on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 4-5. The tournament has a full field of 50 teams with 100 anglers.

All proceeds from the photo submission, all release formats including entry fees, 50% of the Snook Calcutta and raffle ticket purchases directly benefit Tampa Bay Waterkeeper, a 501(c)(3) non-profit. The fishing boundaries are the west coast of Florida from the southern tip of Sanibel Island to the southern edge of the Crystal River Power Plant main channel. The target species are snook and redfish. The Waterman tournament culminates on Feb. 5 with an awards banquet at the Bradenton Yacht Club and features a raffle made possible by our generous sponsors. A limited amount of guest tickets to the awards banquet are available for purchase for $50.

Locally, we are blessed to receive the benefit of two Waterkeeper groups. Suncoast Waterkeeper concentrates its efforts on the waters of Manatee County and Sarasota County, primarily Sarasota Bay. Tampa Bay Waterkeeper focuses its efforts on the waters of Tampa Bay and its surrounding estuaries. Local anglers know that there are no distinct boundaries between these areas and both organizations work together on broader issues, like Piney Point and the proposed fish farm off New Pass. While the tournament is sold out this year, I’ll report back on the results and would encourage everyone to support these groups’ advocacy efforts through donations, advocacy and volunteerism. Their work supports everything we value locally.