WEEKI WACHEE — It’s the Weeki Wachee Anglers big event of the year, but thanks to the COVID-19, the 2020 editions of its youth fishing event is cancelled.
That’s a disappointment, but the Kids Fishing Extravaganza likely won’t return until spring 2021. Shirley Jacques, club secretary, said the event is popular and an average of 250 to 300 young anglers and their parents attend. The event also is a great way to publicize what the still-growing group of angling enthusiasts is all about, she said.
Weeki Wachee Anglers was formed five years ago by its president, Ron Auger, as a fishing and social organization. It has about 250 members, including couples, singles and families with children. Annual dues are $45 for a family or $30 for singles.
The club meets the first Wednesday of the month at 5 p.m. at the Glen Lakes Country Club, in Weeki Wachee. The group’s website is www.weekiwacheeanglersinc.com.
Auger said the idea was for form a family- and female-friendly group that would help people new to the area or state learn about Florida fishing.
“Fishing here isn’t like anywhere out west or up north,” said Auger, who when he moved here found it hard to get the information he needed from other fishing groups.
“So, I decided to start my own,” he said. “People come here and need to know where to fish, how to fish; everything is different here and they need that information.”
Guest speakers are part of the group’s monthly meetings, and while fishing is the usual topic, sometimes the speaker gives a talk on another subject of interest. The most recent speaker was Keith Kolasa, manager of Hernando County Aquatic Services. He spoke on the county’s plans to improve boat ramps and parking at county launch sites.
The group also has organized fishing trips, where non-boaters are matched with boat owners for a day on the water. Many members don’t have boats, said Jacques, so being part of the club is a good way for them to experience the fishing waters only accessible by boat. The club is focused on fresh and saltwater fishing.
In addition, the club organizes group trips on the Thunder party boat out of Hernando Beach. A group of 24 members will head out on the Thunder April 17. Member dues are used to subsidize the trips at reduced rates, and other events, including holiday gatherings like an annual picnic and Christmas party.
“We try to make things more affordable through use of the group’s money whenever we can,” said Jacques.
The Kids Fishing Extravaganza had been scheduled for April 4. A new date has not been set. The free event offers several fishing clinics, including knot tying and tackle care. When kids complete all the clinics, they receive a free fishing rod and reel. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sponsors the event and the Anglers club supports it with manpower.
The Anglers also run a monthly “big fish” contest for fresh and saltwater. At the end of the year, the biggest fish logged wins a trophy.
As much as it’s for anglers, Jacques said the club is just as much a “social organization.” Some members don’t even fish, she said, which is why the group works on non-fishing outings, as well as fishing trips. The club is talking to Capt. Bob Hubbard of Island Paradise Charters about a trip to Anclote Key for a day of relaxing and exploring the island off Tarpon Springs. The club also has kayaking events and participates in the annual Weeki Wachee River cleanup event.
“We try to support any activity that makes fishing better,” said Jacques.
The Anglers also support worth causes in the community, donating to food and clothing pantries and groups like the ARC Nature Coast, which support people with disabilities.
Auger said another local event that has been canceled is one many have been looking forward to: the Central Florida Sportsman Expo, organized by himself and two other members of the Anglers Inc. club. It was set for this month but due to caution over the virus, has been rescheduled for Sept. 26-27. It will be held at Tom Varn Park, in Brooksville, and will feature fishing, camping, hunting and off-road vehicles from some 100 vendors. The website for the event is at www.centralfloridasportsmansexpo.com.