NEW PORT RICHEY — Fishing is a common and recreational sport in Florida. People of all age groups enjoy the activity.
Last Saturday, though, James P. Gills Family Branch YMCA held a Kids Fishing Festival for children from ages 5 to 12 in Sims Park.
Participants lined up along the downtown riverbank, with their reels and tackle ready, waiting to get a bite.
The Trinity-area unit of the YMCA of the Suncoast has put on this festival for the last 11 years, with the biggest turnout yet recorded this year. There were 273 youngsters who participated, and a total of 588 people who came to enjoy the event.
The festival was put on with help from the Fish On! Club and the state Division of Marine Fisheries. Volunteers came from YMCA, as well as the Reserve Officer Training Corps programs from Anclote and Gulf high schools.
The festival had several sponsors, including Wells Fargo, Fish Florida, Anclote Restoration and Trinity Spine Center. Thanks to these sponsors, the participants received a rod and reel, tackle, a T-shirt, and lunch from Pit Boss Bar-B-Q and Beef O’ Brady’s, all for a $10 donation.
In a tent, children could show their creativity by painting their own fish on fabric.
Julio Vega, district vice president of the Clearwater-based YMCA of the Suncoast, said that the festival isn’t only about the youngsters, but their families as well.
“The overall objective is family time,” Vega commented. “Giving an opportunity for families to come together and do something they may not be used to doing. The biggest benefit for the kids is they get the opportunity to try something new.”
Jenn Quijada, aquatics director at the Gills YMCA, said the association puts on the festival to contribute to Pasco and help to bring families together. “We try to be there for the community.” Quijada said.
Cody Streeter took home three out of four of the awards for boys. He took home trophies for first fish, smallest fish, and most fish. Mason Christian won the award for biggest fish.
The winners for the girls were Olivia Hill, Hannah Morales, and Ally Carlucci. Olivia took home the trophy for first fish and most fish. Hannah won her trophy for biggest fish, while Ally won for smallest fish.
With more than 200 participants, and only four award categories, most of the children were at the festival just to have fun and see if they could catch anything. One boy who was happy just to catch a fish was Tyler Hancock, who caught a mullet more than 16 inches long.
Carrie Esposito signed up her daughter, Katy, just because she enjoyed the activity. “She just wanted to fish,” Esposito said with a laugh.
Tracey Scott was another parent who came to share a day with his sons, Caleb and Connor. They are members of the YMCA and thought that it would be a chance to have a fun day out by the water. “It’s a good chance to go out and go fishing.” Scott said. “We don’t get to do it often.”
The James P. Gills Family Branch of the YMCA is at 8411 Photonics Drive, Trinity. Its telephone number is (727) 375-9622.