Fishing has long been a unifying, bond-building activity; and it’s this theme that made the 13th Annual Flats Invitational Redfish Challenge, held Sept. 1-2 out of Cape Harbour Marina, a tremendous success.

Local angler and SP Designs owner Mitch Williamson, founded the event as a way to leverage the unifying joy of sport fishing and use this connection to raise funds for community causes.

“It’s for charity 100%,” Williamson said. “There are no paid employees. Nobody makes a dime off this event.”

After prize money and tournament expenses, net proceeds go to local charities. Williamson said this year’s beneficiary, Captains for Clean Water, was an easy choice because this grassroots organization stands committed to a cause that’s close to his heart.

“I grew up here and have been watching the Caloosahatchee River deteriorate in quality,” said Williamson. “It’s an asset we’re going to have for life and we need to protect it.”

The Flats Invitational Redfish Challenge raised over $30K for CFCW to help fund their continued efforts to fix Florida’s water management issues. Teams competed to find the heaviest two legal redfish and Team Purified Air took home the $7,000 top prize.

“This is one of the best tournaments,” said Mike Herzog of the winning team. “I’ve been trying to win this tournament for six years. I’ve got a lot of seconds and thirds but this is my first time winning it. I just got lucky. Found a school that wanted to eat.”

This year’s event also included a dockside Little Captains tournament hosted by Captains for Clean Water. Fishing tackle, bait and guidance was provided and Ronald McDonald also made an appearance with a magic show and complimentary Happy Meals.

An event of this scope requires a tremendous commitment of time and effort. The dozens of volunteers and hundreds of man hours devoted to making Flats Invitational Redfish Challenge a success bears testament to the community’s support for CFCW and an ongoing desire to fix our state’s water management issues.

Captains for Clean Water coordinated with the event to stage a collection campaign for Hurricane Harvey relief. Overwhelming response from tournament participants and area residents filled a large box truck beyond capacity and actually required us to rent an additional trailer to transport the load of food, clothing, first aid items, cleaning supplies and more. The day after the event CFCW founders Chris Wittman and Daniel Andrews drove the rig to Texas and delivered 17,000 pounds of supplies. They were joined by fellow fishing guides Josh Greer and Ethan Hanson

This is how the fishing community responds to friends in need.