Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Fishing tournament looks to land the little ones

Colin Vaughn and his sister Kayla Suchier, 3, wait while Colin’s cousin Evan Rodriguez, 4, fishes at the Pier on Saturday morning.


Colin Vaughn and his sister Kayla Suchier, 3, wait while Colin’s cousin Evan Rodriguez, 4, fishes at the Pier on Saturday morning.

St. Petersburg — Nineteen years ago, a 10-year-old girl named Karen Rodriguez fished the inaugural Pier Aquarium Kid's Fishing Tournament.

"I was hooked," said Rodriguez, now 29. "My dad and I had so much fun."

Her father, Craig Rodriguez, is hearing impaired. And although she is proficient in sign language, they did most of their communicating that day with a rod

and reel.

"I love to teach kids how to fish," he said through his daughter. "I want them to know so they can do it on their own and teach others to fish."

Rodriguez did his work well. His daughter brought four children with her to Saturday's 19th running of this popular kid's fishing tournament.

"My son has been dying to go fishing," she said. "This year, he was finally old enough. I don't think he will want to go home."

Four-year-old Evan proved he had the discipline and patience to be a tournament-winning angler. The youngster's 9-ounce ladyfish was first in its division and earned the boy his first fishing trophy.

"He is so proud," Karen said after her son accepted his award. "He will remember this."

Lifelong lessons

The Pier Aquarium, a nonprofit marine education center on the second floor of the Pier in downtown St. Petersburg, works to make youngsters stewards of the environment, said Howard Rutherford, the aquarium's executive director.

"This tournament helps teach ethical angling," he said. "We are trying to lay a good foundation for the future and show these kids that they have to do their share to help protect the environment."

This year's tournament broke all previous participation records, thanks in part to 300 free rods and reels donated by the Fish Florida Foundation.

"Registration started at 8:30 a.m. and by 9:05, we had handed out all the rods and reels," said Emily Stehle, the Pier's marketing director. "By 9:45, we had 565 participants signed up."

That is 200 more than last year, Rutherford said.

"We were very fortunate this year to have the Glazer Family Foundation step up and help us expand," Rutherford said. "As you can see by this turnout, there are a lot of kids who want to go fishing."

Beginners and experts

When it comes to angling, St. Petersburg's Keith Dudley is a purest. He fishes exclusively with a fly rod and loves to catch snook and tarpon within sight of the city's skyline.

But on Saturday, Dudley and his daughter, Lila, 7, and Luke, 2, were trying to master the finer points of a customized SpongeBob push-button rod and reel.

"We are out here for nothing but fun," he said. "I don't think they really care if they catch anything or not."

Dudley hopes his daughter will catch the fishing bug. But he added, "Right now, she is more interested in being pulled in an inner tube behind a boat than she is in fishing out of one."

Gray Maloney, 7, loves to fish with his mom, Eileen. "There is a video of him fighting a pinfish off the Skyway," she said. "You should check it out. It gets a lot of hits."

Fishing with 7-year-old Hanlin Majewski and her father, Billy, Gray refused to put his rod down even when the other kids went in search of snacks.

His persistence paid off in the form of a 12-ounce flounder, which was good for second place.

"What a fisherman," his Uncle Billy said, congratulating the boy. "Wait till next year."

Counting fish

The tournament coincided with the opening of the Pier's new sport fish exhibit, Counting on Fish, which shows how Tampa Bay's marine science community helps preserve our valuable recreational and commercial fisheries.

The exhibit features a 352-gallon sport fish aquarium stocked with snook, red drum, black drum, spotted sea trout, gag and red grouper, which is then linked to a smart pad touch screen that gives background information on each species.

"It is great that we have a facility like this in downtown St. Petersburg," said Tommy Workinger, who brought his 11-year-old son Jacob to the tournament and new exhibit.

"We are a big outdoors family. Anytime you can get a kid outside doing something like this instead of sitting around playing video games, it is a step in the right direction."

For information on the Pier Aquarium and its ongoing educational programs and summer camps, go to

. Results

Pier Aquarium Kid's Fishing Tournament


1. Nicholas Stepp, age 9, 46.5 oz.

2. Mat Stepp, age 9, 30 oz.

Green mussel

1. Patrick Climo, age 11, 67 oz.

2. Lily Bonbrast, age 6, 51.5 oz.

3. Adam Robinson, age 8, 22 oz.

Gag grouper

1. Alex Metcalf, age 12, 21 oz.

2. Karimar Pretto, age 5, 19.5 oz.


1. Mat Stepp, age 9, 10.5 oz.


1. Ricky Eicher, age 5, 4.5 oz.

2. Donny Eicher, age 7, 4.5 oz.

3. Jenna West, age 3, 2.5 oz.


1. Evan Rodriguez, age 4, 9 oz.


1. Jaina Swann, age 3, 10 oz.

2. Justin LeCompte, age 3, 5 oz.


1. Zachary Taylor, age 12, 7.5 oz.

2. Clay Cottri, age 11, 6.5 oz.

3. Nevaeh Moldovan, age 3, 6.5 oz.


1. Luke Sorrell, age 12, 12 oz.

2. Dillon Stepp, age 12, 10.5 oz.


1. Seatbelt: Jordan Presley, age 7, 6.5 oz.

2. Camera: Amaro Royal, age 7, 4 oz.

Biggest fish

Guitarfish: Nicholas Stepp, age 9, 48.5 oz.

Smallest fish

Tie: Toadfish: Sydney Reitz, age 10, 5 oz.

Eric Wright, age 8, 5 oz.

Fishing tournament looks to land the little ones 05/20/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 22, 2008 8:34am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Chris Archer knocked out early as Rays lose to Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Another short outing by Chris Archer led to another long afternoon for the Rays in a 9-4 loss to the Orioles on Sunday.

  2. Bucs-Vikings report card: Where's this explosive offense we heard about all offseason?


    O NO

    True, the Bucs defense looked pretty leaky in the 34-17 loss to the Vikings. But you know what needs to happen when the defense is getting torched? The offense needs to step up. In games such as these, with defensive players seemingly getting hurt every play, the offense needs to outscore the other …

    Minnesota Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes (26) intercepts a Jameis Winston pass intended for wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  3. Bucs-Vikings: Instant analysis from Tampa Bay's 34-17 loss


    MINNEAPOLIS — Here's Rick Stroud and Tom Jones' instant analysis from the Bucs' 34-17 loss at Minnesota Sunday. More to come from Rick & Tom — and Greg Auman —- from Minneapolis later today.

    Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jarius Wright (17) dives over the pylon for a touchdown as  Bucs cornerback Ryan Smith (29) defends. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Worst-Case scenario: Case Keenum, Vikings hand Bucs 34-17 loss


    MINNEAPOLIS — With key defensive starters out with injury, the Bucs were dominated by the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, with fill-in quarterback Case Keenum beating Tampa Bay for the third year in a row, …

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (3) is sacked by Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen (97) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. Bucs-Vikings: A by-the-numbers look at the Bucs' 34-17 loss


    Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (98) hits Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum (7) as he passes during the first half of an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn., on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times