Flats Invitational Benefits Captains for Clean Water
Mitch Williamson has been fishing local waters all his life. Thirteen years ago the Cape Coral native had a vision that catching redfish could mean more than just a day of fun on Pine Island Sound. Williamson thought the popular sport might also be able to fuel fund raising efforts for community causes. This idea led to the creation of The Flats Invitational, an annual charity fishing event that brings together people of all ages, a love for fishing, and the desire to make things better.
“It’s for charity 100%,” said Williamson, owner of SP Designs MFG in Cape Coral. “There are no paid employees. Nobody makes a dime off it when they walk away.”
Aside from prize money and tournament expenses, all proceeds go to local charities. For many years the event, hosted at Cape Harbour and Fathoms restaurant in Cape Coral, has benefited the Ronald McDonald House, but now rotates to support other causes like youth sports and this year’s beneficiary, Captains for Clean Water & Samaritan Health & Wellness.
“I grew up here and have been watching the Caloosahatchee River deteriorate in quality,” said Williamson as the tournament unfolded on Saturday, September 2. “It’s an asset we’re going to have for life and we need to protect it.”
Captains for Clean Water is a grassroots organization started by a couple of fishing guides frustrated with Lake Okeechobee water mismanagement and its devastating effects on the Everglades, coastal estuaries, and the waters of Florida Bay. They are currently fighting for the implementation of science based solutions through education and advocacy that they say can reverse the damage and restore health to these waters.
“We are working toward holding government accountable,” said Chris Wittman, a founding member of Captains for Clean Water, “to implement recent legislation, that we helped pass, to reduce harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges and restore Florida’s historic water flow.”
Tournament rules are simple. A 7:30am shotgun start sends anglers off to their favorite fishing holes. They must bring their catch back live for weigh-in at the Cape Harbour dock by 4pm. The highest combined weight of two slot redfish wins. At this year’s tournament, fifty-three fishing teams comprised of 147 anglers competed for a grand prize of $7,000. A second category gave a prize for the largest slot snook. Entrants and sponsors combined to make the 2017 Flats event the largest ever with about $75,000 in cash raised, according to Williamson. Team Purified Air won first place with two 27” reds that tipped the scales at 16.5 lbs.
“Every single fish has to come in alive,” Williamson insisted. “We support conservation and follow all laws from fishing licenses to measurements to caution with the fish. We specifically tell everybody, if your fish is dying do not bring it to our dock. That’s not what we do here.”
“This is one of the best tournaments,” said Mike Herzog, a member of the winning Purified Air 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.”
A second tournament took place at the docks for young anglers, the Little Captains tournament. Fishing tackle, bait, and guidance was provided at no charge for all participants. Ronald McDonald also made an appearance with a magic show and complimentary Happy Meals.
“It’s all free for the kids,” said Williamson. “They get a rod and reel. They learn how to tie knots and handle fish safely so it doesn’t hurt them or the fish. And then Ronald McDonald shows up on a sheriff’s boat.”
Wittman also used the Flats Invitational to stage another charity event. Captains for Clean Water rented a box truck and accepted donations for Hurricane Harvey victims ravaged by flooding in Houston. The response by attendees and area residents was overwhelming. First aid items, cleaning supplies, food, clothing, and other donations soon filled the truck to capacity. An additional trailer had to be rented to handle the overflow. The next day Wittman and co-founder Daniel Andrews drove the rig to Texas to deliver the relief supplies in person. They planned to stay on for a while to drive boats and help out anyway they could.
The Flats Invitational
To benefit Captains for Clean Water, Samaritan Health and Wellness, CCSA and The Bobby Holloway Memorial Fund
– Join us September 1st and 2nd for The Flats Charity Redfish Challenge to benefit Captains for Clean Water, Samaritan Health and Wellness, and The Bobby Holloway Memorial Fund. Formerly known as the McFlats Invitational Redfish Challenge, this tournament promises to bring together a group of great people, great fun and a mission to make an immediate and positive impact on as many children as possible.
The Flats Charity Redfish Challenge will be held at The Marina at Cape Harbour. The Captains Dinner on Friday night will be at Fathoms restaurant at Cape Harbor and will include live and silent auctions, raffles, open bar and entertainment.
Boats are in the water at 7:30 for a shotgun start on Saturday. Also, while the anglers are in the water feel free to invite the rest of your family & friends to come on over for the kids fishing tournament from 10:00am-12:00pm on the docks at RumRunners at Cape Harbour. Kids will have the opportunity to win great prizes; surely a must do event for all the Florida kids who love to fish or would love to learn how.
The weigh-in will be held at the docks at RumRunners and will close at 4:00pm giving everyone the opportunity to take some time to get their boats cleaned up and meet back at Fathoms at Cape Harbour.
Proceeds from The Flats Charity Redfish Challenge will benefit Captains for Clean Water and Samaritan Health and Wellness.
You can’t go wrong when you invite Florida anglers out to a fishing tournament that will be a memorable time and will help those who truly need it. This tournament is helping a cause that touches the heart of every man and woman in the world-our children. Thank you so much for your sponsorship, your participation and your continued support of Captains for Clean Water and Samaritan Health and Wellness.
For more information, contact Event Chair Mitch Williamson at Mitch@spdesignsmfg.com