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It's time for the Chiefland Rotary Club Fishing Tournament and Calcutta party and the club has made big changes to this year's event. Hopes are high that anglers will turn out this year and fatten the prize pot that could go up to $7,500 — provided 100 boats and crews enter.
The boats will launch Saturday, May 24, at 7 a.m. at Cedar Key boat launch and at the launch by the No. 4 bridge. But before launching, officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will be on hand to inspect boats and ensure they have all the necessary safety and life-saving equipment on hand.
FWC Officers Robert Johnston and Paige Peska, addressed the club on April 9, and outlined how they will be handling the pre-launch inspections. Peska said the most important thing to have on board are personal flotation devices ? one for each person. And if there are inflatable PFDs on board, “They have to be worn to be effective.”
Peska and Johnson said boaters should check the fire extinguisher on board and if it is more than seven years old to get it checked and charged. Flares also need to be chacked that they are dry and have not expired. Peska said some boaters get fresh flares but also keep the old ones and that is OK. “You never know how many you will need in an emergency and they can be seen for up to 2 miles on the water.”
Johnson said, “It makes all the difference to have these flares. It really does.”
Once a boater has been inspected the FWC officers will provide a specially colored ribbon to be attached in a highly visible spot so FWC officers patrolling on the water know the boat has passed inspection and does not need to be checked on the water ? taking precious time away from competition.
Johnson said the inspection will not take long and should go quickly.
The FWC officers will also be available at the weigh-in when fish will be checked in and the winners determined.
Anglers will be casting for up to $1,000 in prize money for the biggest redfish ? by weight, up to $1,000 for the biggest trout ? by weight, and up to $2,000 for the Best Bag of two redfish and five trout.
The redfish with the most spots will win a $50 prize. There will also be monetary prizes for 2nd and 3rd place fish in each category. All fish must be of legal size. Redfish must be 18 to 20 inches, with only one over 20 inches, and are limited to 2 per person. Trout are limited to 15 to 20 inches with a limit of 5 per person.
The entry fee is $125 per boat which includes the captain and mate or two anglers, or $150 after Friday, May 2. . Each boat entry receives two tournament T-shirts and two tickets to the Calcutta. Extra anglers are $50 each.
There will be a Captain's Meeting and Calcutta (Levy County slang for "party") at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Cedar Key Community Center. This is one event where the seaworthy and seasick landlubbers can have a good time. Tickets for the Calcutta are included in the boat entry fee and for those not in the tournament, they are $15 per person.
The dinner party's big feature is a silent auction of fish-oriented gifts and goodies along with giveaways and prizes. The Captain's Meeting is at 6:30 p.m., which is also the social, and dinner is served at 7 p.m. A cash bar will be available.
While the fisherman have fun, the annual tournament is important to the Club's service mission as there is a huge list of charities and scholarships that are helped by the Chiefland Rotary Club throughout the year. This tournament is designed to generate that revenue for projects in Chiefland, Levy County and internationally. The money goes toward Rotary International projects like the International Shelter Box Project, Local and International Dental Clinics and the Rotary Foundation, which provides funding for the battle against polio and for clean water.
Locally, it helps provide college scholarships for Levy County high school graduates, and support the Chiefland Quarterback Club, Cub Scouts, Chiefland Area Athletic Association, Haven Hospice, Chiefland Hospital Fund, National Adult Education Honor Society, Levy ARC , Dictionaries for Third Graders, Chiefland Police Department K-9 Unit, Toys for Tots and Joy of Giving.
Entry forms and rules can be obtained by calling Robert or Jeff Beauchamp, at 352-493-4808, or by going to the Club's website at www.chieflandrotary.org/.