Palm Coast, FL – Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
It’s a timeless proverb often repeated, and can be interpreted in more ways than one. Beyond food, it can be about feeding the soul by doing an activity that teaches patience, an appreciation for nature, conservation and environmental stewardship.
It may even help pick up a $5,000 scholarship for college.
Since discovering a passion for fishing alongside his mom after a trip to Washington Oaks Gardens State Park during a holiday event, Luke Thomas began to feed his soul with catch and release trips. The eight-year old isn’t squeamish about the sport and neither is his mom Deb, who after the first few excursions is now a pro at baiting the hook.
“I fish at Washington Oaks and use live shrimp for bait,” declared Luke who says they usually catch mangrove snappers and reds. “I love fishing because it’s peace and quiet, and you can read a book or something. It’s just nice.”
“We started about two and a half years ago and we thought we’d try it,” Deb shared. “We’ve gotten very good learning what bait to use, to watch the tides. We’ve been very successful and we have a great time doing it together – we spend a lot of quality time and truly enjoy it.”
Entering the 2020 STAR (Statewide Tournament and Anglers Rodeo) Coastal Conservation Association Florida Tournament, a ‘catch, photo and release’ annual competition, Luke was thrilled to learn he’d been selected as the 2020 youth division winner.
Presented with a $5,000 scholarship on Tuesday evening during the Flagler Sportfishing Club meeting, it was a milestone moment for young man who stood on stage proudly.
“(The scholarship) is important because I’ve always wanted to go to college. It will help me out a lot,” said the future game warden.
On hand to congratulate Luke, STAR Tournament Director Captain Leiza Fitzgerald said over the past several years the Coastal Conservation Association has awarded $600,000 to youth scholarship recipients across Florida.
“It’s critical to have young people getting engaged in the sport of fishing,” she said. “It is such a great way to build self-confidence, to learn about conservation and possibly find a career or future in the industry.”
“Because he won a $5,000 scholarship, he still has the opportunity to fish every year and he can win up to $25,000,” said Fitzgerald.
Wearing custom masks with photos of Luke’s big catches, mom Deb Thomas said that while her son may not comprehend the magnitude of the youth scholarship win this year, he will as he gets older. They’ve already signed up for next season’s tournament which runs from May 29 – September 6, 2021.
“This is a great way to earn a scholarship doing something we love to do and just being together,” she said.
Combining fishing elements and a trash collection element, the tournament is teaching more than conservation, it’s creating awareness for environmental responsibility for participants of all ages.
Flagler Sportfishing Club president Chris Christian said the club is proud to support CCA and the scholarship for young anglers in the community.
“The kids need to be tuned in, we all need to be tuned in,” he said. “The environment’s a big deal.”
For more information on the STAR Tournament and CCA Florida, visit www.ccaflorida.org.