CLEARWATER BEACH - Only a handful of the youngsters taking part in the annual fishing tournament at the Clearwater Beach Recreation Complex on July 19 had the thrill of catching a fish, but there were some exciting moments for all of the 28 participants when a large dolphin surfaced, not once but several times, near the seawall in Clearwater Harbor where they had cast their lines. "Awesome!" was the word most used to describe the sighting.
The fishing contest for children ages 6-12 is an annual event which goes back over 20 years, according to organizer J.P. Atherholt, recreation supervisor at the complex. Recreation leaders Alisa Castagna, Marty Bell and Kattrina Dowd and volunteers David Bell, Jr. and Don Kiceina were on hand to assist the children, who were provided a block of wood to which fishing line was attached. Hooks were baited with chunks of squid. More than one child was dismayed to see a fish get away with the bait while escaping the hook.
It was Erin O'Brien, 11, who had the honor of catching the biggest fish that day. She snagged a trout measuring 10 1/2 inches. Malek Brown, 9, was rewarded for his efforts when he pulled in a five-inch pinfish. Erin was later presented the trophy for "biggest fish caught" and Malek received the trophy awarded for "smallest fish caught". All of the fish caught were released back into the water.
A two-foot high trophy which was to be presented to the individual who brought in the most fish could not be awarded. That's because there was a five-way tie. Erin, Malek, Emily Spiller, Amira Brown and Helena Heuberger all caught one fish each. No one could recall a year when at least one person didn't hook three or more fish to win the trophy. Emily, 11, said it took her 45 minutes into the contest to hook her one fish.
Jackie Slettvet and Jessica Andolino were among those who didn't catch anything but were happy for one of their fellow fishermen who did. They quickly ran over to take a closer look at the 7 1/2-inch fish dangling from Amira Brown's line. Amira, who had cast her line off the seawall near the boat ramp by the complex, was all smiles for the rest of the day.
The Clearwater Beach Recreation Complex is located at 69 Bay Esplanade. A fitness center, game room, art room and social hall can be found there along with three lighted tennis courts and two lighted basketball courts. For information on upcoming programs and activities, you may call 462-6138.