Coastal Conservation Association nets a large crowd at Annual Banquet

VERO BEACH – Sporting miles of coastal and inland waters, Florida is a fisherman’s paradise, and for 25 years the Coastal Conservation Association  Florida has been angling to keep it that way. 

At the 16th Annual Banquet and Auction to benefit the Treasure Coast Chapter of CCA Florida on Thursday evening, fishermen and conservationists gathered at the Vero Beach Museum of Art to support those efforts and to swap a few good fish tales with friends. “The money raised will be used for conservation efforts,” said Lange Sykes, Treasure Coast Chapter President, adding that the organization also works to keep recreational anglers’ interests in mind.

On a national and statewide level, the chapters are working to protect fisheries and marine habitats and to reduce the waste and abuse caused by illegal netting and fish trapping.

“CCA Florida is the voice of recreational anglers on a state level for salt water fishing’s advocacy and conservation,” explained Brian Gorski, Chief Operating Officer of CCA Florida, based in Orlando.

Locally, chapter members will soon be involved in a project with Florida Fish and Wildlife to replant 8,000 mangroves on area spoil islands.

By far the largest Treasure Coast Banquet to date, the sold-out event drew 300 people, attracted by a common cause as well as the huge number of silent and live auction items up for bid.  There was a little bit of everything, from must-have fishing gear and exotic getaways to unique jewelry and spectacular artwork.

Renowned marine artist Carey Chen had donated numerous paintings for the auctions, and also gathered a crowd during the cocktail hour, greeting guests and signing limited edition prints of his Majestic Gathering painting.

“Shooting, fishing, hunting; we do anything that has relaxation built into it,” laughed Richard Reittinger, one of the same fun-loving trio of Orchid Island friends I’d first met at the Ducks Unlimited Banquet.

Larry Timmerman was busy bidding on his silent auction find; a long pole called a ‘Stick It’ used, as the name implies, by sticking it in the mud to keep a boat from drifting.

“It’s also called a friend beater,” said Reittinger, ducking a good natured poke from Timmerman.

There were quite a number of father-son pairs, including Riverside Theatre’s Allen Cornell, taking a well-deserved night off from a spectacular season with his son Chase.

“Allen once caught a six-foot tarpon, about 100 pounds, on 12-pound test line off the Riomar Point. I think that’s got to be a record,” said Randy MacMillan of Cornell.

“I grew up on the river in Vero; used to take my boat to Beachland Elementary and park it behind the school. That only lasted until my mother caught on to me,” remembered MacMillan.  “I love fishing that’s for sure; I’ve always loved fishing.”Following dinner, several individuals were recognized, including Tim Miller as 2010 Officer of the Year.  A 30-year veteran with Fish and Wildlife in Indian River County, Miller serves as a member of the FWC K-9 program and has utilized his skills in numerous coastal resource cases.

The Environmentalist of the Year award was given to George Katilus, a 7th grader at Gifford Middle School (profiled in the Vero Beach 32963 Dec. 16, 2010 issue), who mounted strong support from the community in a project to combat the decline of vital oyster beds in the Indian River Lagoon.

A full listing of CCA Florida conservation advocacy accomplishments can be found at {igallery 365}

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