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Children’s fishing tournament Saturday at Bonita Bill’s

Catch and release tournament runs from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Fort Myers Beach

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Jul 1, 2021

Four-year-old Alivia Gran, of LaBelle, had a hot hand in last year's annual children's fishing tournament at Bonita Bill's Waterfront Cafe. The catch-and-release tournament, organized by Ostego Bay Foundation, returns Saturday, July 3 to Fishermans Wharf in Fort Myers Beach. The tournament returns this Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to noon at Bonita Bill's. / File photo by Nathan Mayberg

This Saturday will feature the annual children’s fishing tournament on the public fishing pier and docks outside Bonita Bill’s Waterfront Cafe and Tiki Bar on Fishermans Wharf.

The free catch-and-release tournament has been presented the past 29 years by the Ostego Bay Foundation Marine Science Center at Bonita Bill’s.

Registration to the contest begins at 8:30 a.m. and will run from 9 a.m. to noon. Children between the ages of 3-15 are eligible. There will be prizes, including trophies for those who catch the most fish, the longest fish, heaviest fish and for the first fish caught. Fishing poles, nets, bait and tackle boxes are among the other prizes.

Last year’s catch and release tournament drew approximately 50 contestants despite the pandemic.

Ostego Bay Foundation President Joanne Semmer is expecting more than 100 children to enter this year. Semmer said the rules to the contest are “one pole per child, one hook per pole, have fun.”

Entrants are required to bring their own fishing poles. There will be shrimp bait provided to those who don’t have it. If a line or hook breaks, there will be volunteers with tackle boxes to help replace them. The Tarpon Hunters Club will be roaming around and providing educational tips on safe and sustainable fishing.

All of the catches will be measured and weighed and quickly returned to the water. Some unique catches may be transferred to the Ostego Bay Foundation Marine Science Center to be placed in the tanks for observation. Catches have ranged from snappers to catfish, grouper and even an occasional shark or tarpon. In past years, manatees and dolphins have been spotted nearby. Before its current incarnation, the contest used to be held in conjunction with the Shrimp Festival.

Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. with the contest kicking off at 9 a.m. and running through noon. Lunch and refreshments will be served afterwards. There will be hot dogs as well as ” a lot of watermelon,” Semmer said. The watermelon is courtesy of Mom’s Restaurant. The awards will be presented at noon.

“Come and have a great time,” Semmer said.

For those wishing to support the tournament, or make a tax deductible donation, contact Joanne Semmer at 239-470-4993 or send to:

Ostego Bay Foundation

702 Fisherman’s Wharf

Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931

Sponsors for the tournament include:

Ostego Bay Foundation Marine Science Center, Bonita Bill’s Waterfront Cafe, Semmer Electric, Gore Seafood, Inc., Mom’s Restaurant, Tarpon Hunters Club, Pete’s Time Out, Sanibel Seafood, Haley Ward Inc., First Citizen’s Bank, Snug Harbor Restaurant, Dixie Fish Co., Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grill, Loffreno Real Estate, Inc., Red Coconut RV Park, and other local community partners for the enjoyment and education of our children.