HOLIDAY — The splash of the lure and excitement of the catch attracted more than 75 kids to Anclote Gulf Park on Saturday for the 23rd annual Anclote Kids Fishing Tournament.
A light morning rain brought fish to the surface of the water near the park pier, fueling a plentiful competition with kids catching a variety of snapper, puffer fish and pin fish. Contest organizers provided stingray wings for bait and based the contest both on the amount and size of fish caught.
"Generally, the kids are catching fish that are 6 to 10 inches in length," contest organizer Don Keesler said. "The rain helped a bit this year. Last year it was just hot and brutal out here on the pier. The kids didn't catch nearly as many fish as we're getting this year, but it's not just about the number of fish; it's about the kids coming out and enjoying themselves at the park."
The contest is a well-established tradition at Pasco Parks and Recreation, with sponsors donating reels, line and bait, but a contest that once jammed more than 150 kids on the pier now boasts half of what it once did. That is something that Keesler is hoping to change.
"We have the volunteers and never have any troubles getting sponsors and donations for this event," Keesler said. "We try to make sure that every kid gets something. In years past, the tournament was even bigger, so we're trying to build it back up. It's a nice family event and it's free, so I think with the framework we have we'll get it back to where it was."
The competitors' fishing experiencing varied across the field. Some, like New Port Richey's Jason Martin, have fishing in their blood. Coming from a family of Boston anglers, he was joined by his grandmother Rose Zarazinska and father, Jay, on the pier for the competition.
"He likes this better than playing baseball," Zarazinska said. "I can't get over what this kid can catch with a hot dog. He loves to fish and I think this tournament is something he is really enjoying. It's a way for him to show his skills with a reel in his hand, and it's good for all of them if they let it be relaxing."
On the other end of the spectrum is Jason Richardson, a 9-year old from Holiday whose fishing experience is limited primarily to the contest. He has enjoyed the tournament with his dad the past two years, but changed his approach this year by catching smaller fish and aiming for quantity rather than casting his line deep off the end of the pier and going for fewer, bigger fish.
"We learned our lesson last year as far as how to fish for this tournament," said Jason's father, Joe Richardson. "I'm no more of a fisherman than the average guy, so this event is teaching us both something. We've caught a lot more fish this year than we did last year."