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Winners announced for 16th annual Calusa Blueway Kayak Fishing Tournament

December 4, 2019
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

The weather wasn't great and the numbers were down, but Bryan and Diana Stockbridge are satisfied with the results of this year's 16th annual Calusa Blueway Kayak Fishing Tournament.

"We're already discussing how we can increase participation in next year's tournament," Diana Stockbridge said.

"We only had 39 entries this year and what happens is we usually get 30 or 40 pre-registered and then on the day of the tournament we double that," Bryan Stockbridge said. "Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate this year so we didn't get that second bump."

Article Photos

David McCleaf, the first place winner of 2019 Calusa Blueway Kayak Fishing Tournament and Bryan Stockbridge, owner of Gulf Coast Kayak.


Due to the recent fishing restrictions, all fishing was catch, photo and release. Anglers were permitted to fish from paddle craft on Lee County waterways. The tournament began at safe light on Saturday, Nov. 9, and weigh-in ended at 3 p.m. at Olde Fish House Marina.

The 2019 winners are:

1st Place: $1,000 Prize: David McCleaf: 64.5-Inch Slam

2nd Place: $500 Prize: Daniel Carns: 61-Inch Slam

3rd Place: $250 Prize: Ed Clarke: 57-Inch Slam

Top Lady Angler: Annalisa Xioutas: 37 Inches

Top SUP Angler: Stephen Joy: 48.5-Inch Slam: New Inflatable SUP From Body Gove:

Mystery Fish Winner: Bri Andrassy: 16-Inch Sheepshead

Six years ago the Calusa Blueway Kayak Fishing Tournament was nearly discontinued when Lee County contacted the Stockbridges, the new owners of Gulf Coast Kayak, about sponsoring the tournament.

"There is a really strong kayak fishing community in this area and when the Calusa Blueway Fishing Tournament was on its last legs we were approached by the county," Bryan Stockbridge said. "For many locals who have been fishing in this tournament, this was a big loss and we thought it would be good for business. The tournament turned out to be a great way for us to get our name out there and save the tournament at the same time"

A big benefactor of the tournament is the Candlelighters organization. When Christine Strom, an advocate for the group, asked the Stockbridges if they would be willing to donate a guided tour to help raise funds for the Candlelighters. The Stockbridges thought they could offer more and invited 17 kids between the ages of 8 and 18 who had been diagnosed with cancer or a blood disorder to take them paddling.

"And the rest is history," Strom said. "This is the fifth year they have donated the proceeds to Candlelighters."

Candlelighters is an independent not for profit 501c3 charity founded by Klair Snellbaker in 1984. This year it celebrates 35 years supporting kids with cancer and their families.

Snellbaker founded Candlelighters after the loss of her daughter Erin, who was diagnosed with cancer at 2 1/2 years of age and died from the disease at age 4. The website has a page entitled "On Erin's Wings."

The mission statement of Candlelighters is "to provide support, education, and assistance to families of children with cancer or blood disorders and the professionals who care for them." Candlelighters serves over 550 families in a five county area Lee, Charlotte, Hendry, Glades and Collier.

"Lisa and the Olde Fish House Crew, as always, were amazing and we are very grateful that she donates her space, food, bingo sales, etc... to this event every year," Diana Stockbridge said. "A check presentation will be made to Candlelighters in December."

"I am very thankful," Snellbaker said. "Naming us as the beneficiaries of the tournament is a wonderful thing and we're very grateful for all Gulf Coast Kayak, Old Fish House Marina and all that the businesses, anglers, and volunteers do each year to make this tournament a success."



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