Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kids Start Fish Stories Early Fort Clinch Tournament Had Young Participants

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kids Start Fish Stories Early Fort Clinch Tournament Had Young Participants

Article excerpt

Yulee resident Kyle Fullwood says it took him "five minutes and 20 seconds -- or maybe about 22 seconds" of pure struggle to land the prizewinner in Saturday's fishing tournament at Fort Clinch State Park.

And judging by the 6-year-old's ability to embellish, the 1-pound, 8-ounce stingray he hauled in will be the topic of discussion at more than one family get-together.

"It had a big fight with me, but I pulled him up," Kyle said. "I didn't care if he was mad or not. I just wanted to get him up on the pier."

Make that a she. Seems the stingray gave birth to a pair of babies moments after Kyle placed the creature in a plastic bucket.

"He's got his first fish story now," said tournament organizer Desiree Rubio of Fernandina Beach. "That fish story will be told for years to come."

Kyle and his father, Gene Fullwood, put the stingray and its babies back into the ocean after the fish was weighed, then continued having fun with about 260 other kids, ages 6 to 14, taking part in the fourth annual Youth Fishing Tournament sponsored by the Nassau Sport Fishing Association.

Last weekend's event, held on the park's half-mile-long pier, was organized in conjunction with the Florida Park Service, a division of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Tournament chairman Perry Kingery said he was very pleased with the event, despite threatening skies that he thinks kept the numbers well below last year's draw of 380 entrants.

"It's keeping kids away from the bad things in life," he said.

Fishing association member Mary Steinkamp said the 200-member group worked hard to get 47 area businesses and civic organizations to help sponsor the event, which enabled them to provide a free rod and reel to each participant.

"The kids are always surprised that they can keep the rods," Steinkamp said. "We have a couple of fund-raisers each year, like the kingfish tournament and the shrimp festival, so this is a way of giving back to the community."

Park ranger Diana Donaghy said the tournament helps give Fort Clinch exposure to nearby residents, many of whom have never been to the 1,163-acre park that features 62 campsites with water and electricity.

"It was an easy-going day," Donaghy said. "It worked out very, very nicely."

For many boys and girls, who caught everything from a 3-ounce sinker to a 14-ounce baby shark to stone crabs and tiny flounders and whiting, it was a day to remember.

Here's a look at some of the participants:

-- Best friends Emma Dobrie and Brittany Beavers, both 6 and both of Yulee, said they had fun despite the fish "taking all the sushi" they used as bait. "I think they mean shrimp," said Emma's mother, Valerie Dobrie.

-- Four-year-old Kelsey Greathouse of Fernandina Beach burst into tears when tournament officials placed a weigh-in hook inside the gill of the 6-ounce whiting he had caught. …

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