Presented by Southeastern Honda
Since 1983, The Great Optimist Fishout has given Space Coast kids and their parents or guardians an opportunity to spend a day fishing together at Port Canaveral.
Living so connected to the water as we do here, fishing is an activity kids love to engage in, and fishing with one’s family can offer priceless experiences that last a lifetime. The Cocoa Beach Optimist Club helps foster those experiences through events like The Great Optimist Fishout.
On Saturday, April 25, 2015, hundreds of kids and their families will come out to the Port to drop a line in the water and hope for the best. There will be $600 of prize money awarded in four age categories – 5-7, 8-10, 11-13, and 14-16 – which will be given to the catcher of the top-three biggest fish by weight in each age group. One lucky kid and his family could win the great $10,000 catch, a specially tagged fish insured by the Cocoa Beach Optimist Club (CBOC).
Presenting sponsor Southeastern Honda of Palm Bay and dozens of other local businesses have partnered together to make sure there is enough bait for everyone, so no need to bring a bucket of shrimp. Families bring chairs or blankets to sit on, sunscreen, fishing poles, and some tackle. It might also be a good idea to bring some snacks and something to drink, but each registered kid will get a free lunch provided by Sonny’s BBQ in Cocoa Beach. Lunch is also available for purchase throughout the day, as well as snow cones and additional drinks.
Optimist International’s mission is to provide hope and positive vision to bring out the best in kids. Fishing is a great way to teach kids how to be patient, persevere, and wait for the reward by putting in the time. The CBOC and the Fishout sponsors have made it as easy as possible for kids to go fishing by providing free bait, lunches, and some tackle to every kid that enters the contest. A limited number of children who register early online have the opportunity to receive a free fishing pole, thanks to fundraising by the CBOC and Fish Florida, a non-profit that helps both adults and children learn about fishing and Florida’s environment.
On the day of the Fishout, registration starts promptly at 8 a.m. Contestants who have been coming for years know to get there early so you can get checked in, find a place to set up, and start fishing right at 9 a.m. Registration is open until 11 a.m. though, so if it takes a while to get the kids in the car‚ don’t worry. When you arrive, you’ll be directed by a friendly volunteer to get in line based on your last name to receive an ID that will be used to register each fish your child catches. You could be given a ticket for a free fishing pole if you’ve registered early enough to qualify on www.optimistfishout.com, and while some kids will use their new pole at the event, most come prepared with their own tackle and extra hooks and weights. They’re the ones who know that every minute with your hook in the water counts. Keep in mind, each contestant may use only one pole during the event.
Through the Terminal entrance families are directed out to the dock area. There is plenty of space to spread out and find a great spot, but only fish caught in the designated area will qualify. Sheepshead like to hang out near the pylons, and some fish like trout prefer to swim up top, others on the bottom like flounder. There will be plenty of volunteers walking around to assist families with tips and tricks for catching the big one, and hopefully this year (the Club is always optimistic), someone will catch the $10,000 fish.
When a contestant lands a fish they’ll bring it to the judging booth located in the middle of the dock area. The catch must be on the hook and alive to qualify. There’s nothing more exciting than watching a kid walk swiftly to the judging booth with their prize catch, and when that big fish gets paraded down the dock, everyone clamors to see the event.
One of the big rules to be aware of is that kids must be accompanied by an adult at all times, but a parent or guardian can assist the child fishing only when he or she cannot control their catch. Additionally, if this happens the child must still have at least one hand on the pole at all times. Also be aware that if a fish bites the line of a unmanned fishing pole, the contestant must be the one that gets it out of the water.
Once the contest is over, everyone is invited inside the Terminal to witness the final tally to determine the winners for each age group. There will be some prizes given out and raffled off before the winners are announced.
At the Fishout’s inception 32 years ago, there weren’t as many other fishing activities for kids to engage in. The Cocoa Beach Optimist Club began the Fishout with the intention of allowing children to catch the fishing bug all and spend time with their families all in one go. It has become an event teens look forward to competing in, and younger kids enjoy the chance to learn the tricks of the fishing trade, all while waiting on the great $10,000 fish to take their bait.
The Great Optimist Fishout takes place April 25 at Port Canaveral. Rules and conditions apply for catching the award-winning fish, and will be posted only at the event. Fish must be caught on a line with one barbed hook or lure (no multiple hooks) and no nets, traps, spears, or snagging are allowed. A landing net may be used. Be sure to register online at www.optimistfishout.com early to qualify for the free fishing pole to speed up your setup time the day of the event, however the Cocoa Beach Optimist Club will be happy to register anyone that shows up until 11 a.m. All decisions of the judges as to the weight and condition of the fish will be final and binding.