CORTEZ — Laughter, socializing and upbeat attitudes.
These are things expected at a charity fishing tournament, and they were on hand Sunday as the Cortez Yacht Club and Edison Academics’ Inaugural Hook’em and Cook’em Tournament went off without a hitch amid the swirling uncertainty with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Some fishermen expressed worry over the future with the oil spill, while others were optimistic and participated in the event for fun.
“It’s a big concern for us,” Team Hathaway Capt. Duane Hathaway said. “We are sport fishermen naturally. ... I’m a transplant like everyone else. I’m from New England, and I chose to live here on the Gulf, and the reason I chose this area is because of its beauty and the opportunity to do a lot of things. And fishing offshore is just terrific here, or fishing inshore — the intercoastal still yields a lot of fish.”
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Team Just Reel member Bob Slicker said his team wasn’t concerned at all with the spill.
“We know its not there because look at all the fish we caught,” said Slicker, who joined forces with friends Greg Koeper and Scott O’Brien for the stress-free tournament. “We’re concerned about the future, possibly, but I have a strong faith in Mother Nature protecting this area for us.”
The tournament helped raise money for a pair of scholarships awarded to Ryan Pearce and Kimberly Welch, said Edison Academics director Randy Stewart.
The amount of those scholarships were not decided at press time.
Hathaway was just one of the anglers at the tourney who donated his winnings back to the school.
“We’re proud to be able to help the school out, because the school is worth it,” said Hathaway, who owns a small business and fishes more as a hobby. “And also, donating the money is still going towards that cause.”
The same was true for Team Just Reel, as Capt. Mark Johnston said the idea Sunday was to catch as many fish as possible to give back to the cause.
They ended up winning the most fish award during the ceremony that preceded an auction of several donated items, as local band Swamp Donkie awaited to resume playing in the hot and humid conditions.
The turnout — Stewart said 48 fishermen took part — means him and fellow tournament coordinator Joe Garbus said they expect the event to become an annual tourney.
“The oil spill could have been a detriment and kept people from entering not knowing the certainty of whether the tournament would close,” Stewart said. “We were kind of focused more inshore and nearshore than we did far out into the current where the problems are.”
But the people did come out, and the fishing wasn’t hampered.
“We were waiting to see what happened, and it held off,” said Garbus, a commodore for the Cortez Yacht Club about the oil spill catastrophe. “So luckily, we got it in. And we are able to have it.”