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Fishing Community Gives Back to Military

By Airman 1st Class Christopher Gross/3rd Wing Public Affairs

SEWARD , Alaska, June 2, 2009 - Active-duty, Guard and Reserve servicemembers from each branch competed in the third annual combat fishing tournament here May 21. 

The tournament has grown from 66 servicememebers in 2007 to nearly 300 in 2009.  

Taking this many people out wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for the 30 boat captains from Seward Charter Association who volunteered their day and equipment to take the troops out fishing for a day, said Bob Candopoulis, from Saltwater Safari and the tournament co-organizer.

Not only did the charter companies help, but also many organizations and individuals donated to this event including Mr. Candopoulis, Keith Manternach with Specialty Truck and Auto, and the Armed Services YMCA of Alaska put in countless hours, headed up the event, said Mari Jo Imig, the deputy director Armed Services YMCA of Alaska at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.

The troops boarded busses at Fort Richardson, Alaska, at approximately 12:30 a.m. and headed out on the nearly three hour drive to Seward. Once the busses arrived and everyone unloaded, they found and went to their assigned charter captains, who then led them to their boats. Once aboard, the group tain sailed a few hours on their way to the fishing grounds.

Anthony Orme of the 3rd Medical Support Squadron from Elmendorf AFB said he enjoyed and appreciated the day of fishing. 

After several hours of fishing and a lunch donated by several Anchorage restaurants and businesses, the captains steered their boats back toward shore. Once they arrived to shore, the troops picked a fish they caught to be weighed and entered into the prized drawings. Many servicemembers caught two fish or more and more than 3,000 pounds of filleted fish were brought in.

Following the weigh-ins, the fish were processed and packed while servicemembers attended a banquet. During the banquet three major cash prizes were awarded. Reeling in the largest fish was Brent Johnson from the 3rd Security Forces Squadron at Elmendorf AFB who earned $10,000 for his 183-pound halibut.

This year a mystery fish prize of $5,000 was given away in two pieces: half went to Rock William of Fort Richardson, and the other to Francesca Popp of the 3rd Wing Public Affairs Office at Elmendorf AFB for each having 6-pound fish. The mystery fish is any fish 40 pounds or lighter and a number was drawn from a jar from 1 ounce to 40 pounds to determine the winner.

The third cash prize of $2,500 went to Daryl Shoup of the Alaska Army National Guard for catching the second largest fish of the day.

Mr. Candopoulis and Mr. Manternach said they wanted to do something to give back to the military community and especially those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's when they came up with the fishing tournament. The first year they only had 66 people and was put together in just four weeks. They said they just wanted to set it up and go through it to see how smoothly everything ran. They decided to keep it up and have upsized the past two years to about 300 veterans each year.

Mr. Candopoulis and his team hopes to keep this up and make it a continuous occurrence. He said the planning for next year's trip will be shortly under way before the end of summer.

"This little day of taking (these guys) fishing, is the least that we could do in comparison to what (they) do for all of us, and are willing to do for all of us," Mr. Candopoulis said.