More than 100 junior anglers caught and released several hundred fish during the sixth annual Lines in the Lagoon Tri-County Junior Fishing Tournament last Saturday.
Reeling in more than just the finny denizens of the deep, the participants demonstrated that they have also caught an affinity for the Indian River Lagoon.
“The tournament brings unity to youth anglers,” said Edie Collins, Lines in the Lagoon board president.
“This is the next generation, and they need to be cognizant of what’s happening in the Indian River Lagoon so that they can preserve and protect it.”
She noted that one teacher at Saint Edward’s School was even giving students extra credit for participating, recognizing that it promotes real-life applications of the scientific curricula they are learning in school.
“This is a fine example of youth taking part in their environment,” added Collins.
Mason Ehlers, who has fished the tournament for the past few years, enjoys fishing and is also eager to raise awareness about the health of the endangered Indian River Lagoon. Taking things to the next level, the 10-year-old’s science fair project involves creating a filter that will clean up the algae in the lagoon.
The tournament, which has grown steadily over the years, made the move to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit so that it could receive and funnel donations to support the work undertaken by the Ocean Research & Conservation Association, the Coastal Conservation Association and the Clean Water Coalition of Indian River County. Each of those nonprofits has missions aimed at preserving our natural resources.
Jackson Ehlers was the tournament’s Grand Champion, reeling in 21 trout measuring a combined 267 inches.
Other participants earned bragging rights for everything from snook and redfish to crevalle jack, catfish and puffer fish.
While each of these junior anglers relished reeling in the “catch of the day,” the purpose of the catch-and-release tournament (digital photos are taken of each catch) is to spread the word about the ecological importance of the Indian River Lagoon, one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in North America.
After a long day of fishing – on the river, along the shoreline and from docks and bridges – the young stewards of the environment gathered at Capt. Hiram’s Sandbar to celebrate, bid on various fishing paraphernalia and share stories of the big ones that got away.
For more information, visit linesinthelagoon.com.
Lines in the Lagoon Winners
- Grand Champion: Jackson Ehlers, 21 trout totaling 267 inches
- First-Place Snook: Jacob Robberts, 24.5-inches
- First-Place Redfish: Reef Blackman, 31-inches
- First-Place Trout: Cade Fallis,19.25-inches
- Largest Non-Premium Fish: Peyton Andrews, 27-inch crevalle jack
- First-Place Mystery Fish: Archie Challenor, puffer fish
- Ugliest Fish: Peyton Andrews, 27-inch crevalle jack
- Youngest Angler: 5-year-old Charlie Locke