I haven’t posted anything in a very long time but, I really wanted to share my incredible experience and hopefully encourage other lady anglers to participate in Casting for Cats; a back country tournament in Islamorada, Florida next year.
A few years ago, Sug and I found out about Casting for Cats, a non-profit charity benefiting the feral cats in the upper Keys, through their Director Sharon Mahoney Ellenwood. The proceeds pay for the spay/neutering, fostering, adoption process, and clinical care through Upper Keys Veterinary Hospital. Along with providing much needed equipment to the Upper Keys Veterinary Hospital like a top of the line x-ray machine and kennels.
This ladies only tournament is held at the beautiful Guy Harvey Outpost in Islamorada. The tournament has a bait, artificial, and fly division that awards points for each species you catch out of Tarpon, Bonefish, Permit, Snook, Redfish, Trout, Jack Crevalle, and Catfish. Any lady angler that can catch all of the species has the potential to win a Hells Bay Professional Skiff. It hasn’t happened yet but, really I’m just getting started (wink wink). The first night kickoff party is how this event gets started and it is a blast! Sharon and her wonderful volunteers set up a huge a silent auction and a large display of all of the trophy paintings that many skilled lady anglers will be winning; not to mention the hilarious “Kitty Litter Dig” giving every attendee the chance to win some fun prizes!
The next morning all the anglers checked in across the street at the Lorelei Cabana Bar. The horn was blown and we were all off! Last year was my first time participating with Captain Mike O’Dell of Salt Water Experience, who so graciously offered his wisdom and experience for the event. This year we partnered up again and rounded out Team “Show Me Your Kitties” with a great friend Jason Fernandez who wanted to capture photographs of what was sure to be an incredible day!
I didn’t know it at the time but, I was about to have many first and a new personal best! Captain Mike decided Tarpon would be our first species, so off we went, and of course they were out and very hungry. I really wanted to attempt to fish this tournament on fly. I had been practicing my casting skills with a handy practice rod on loan from Captain Derek Rust. Unfortunately, the wind and rain had other ideas and we went for live bait. The tarpon were rolling all around us and at one point I had one chasing my line like he was a clumsy kid throwing popcorn in his mouth, he rolled over and over trying to eat. I flew a silver kite so close to the boat I thought Jason might have to brace himself for impact. The experiences play back in my head as I type this and I can’t stop smiling. I went one for six on Tarpon that morning and if that wasn’t enough I actually caught my personal best Jack Crevalle at 40 inches.
My life felt complete! I had accomplished something I didn’t think possible with the weather conditions so I suggested lunch and a beer to celebrate! Captain Mike had other plans though and we went for our next species, a Redfish, but they eluded us and time was running short so we hit one last spot to try for a Bonefish. With a half hour till my line had to be out of the water the unthinkable happens. A beautiful Bonefish! (Excuse the silly yikes face but, my RCI Sunglasses are on point!)
After successfully hooking two Bonefish the 3:00 o’clock bell rung and that was it! Our windy, rainy, incredible adventure on the most beautiful water Florida has to offer was over and back to the Lorelei we went to for check in. After a quick shower, I headed out to the Outpost pool to find my family laughing and playing in the water with skies that seemed to clear just in time for them to play.
Next came the awards ceremony and delicious prime rib dinner also held at the Outpost. All of the lady anglers being in one room, laughing and sharing stories about their day, made it the perfect ending.
As a woman who enjoys being on the water and attempting to catch fish I can honestly say there is not any other event quite like this. Sharon and her volunteers truly put their hearts into making this tournament so special for each and every participant. It’s a wonderful cause but, also a time for fellowship with like minded women. Huge thank you to my friend, Captain Mike O’Dell for taking me out on adventure I will never forget and sharing his experience and knowledge. Thank you to Jason Fernandez for coming out with us and sharing laughs, capturing moments, and doing a little found adrift clean up along the way.
True story that half a brink was attached to this big guy. Who felt a lot of relief swimming away without a brick anchor.
I really look forward to next years tournament and hopefully bringing home a category win! If you are interested make sure you check out Casting for Cats online or through their Facebook! Check out Captain Mike O’Dell too he is the best!
Skinny Water Culture Family