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Fishing tournament targets invasive species in Big Cypress

In addition to capturing fish, Team Jacob Osceola Jr. also captured first place May 21, 2021, in the first annual Invasive Species Fishing Tournament on the Big Cypress Reservation. (Photo courtesy Gordon “Ollie” Wareham)

Submitted by Gordon “Ollie” Wareham

BIG CYPRESS – By gig, pole or bow fishing, the first annual Invasive Species Fishing Tournament was held on the Big Cypress Reservation on May 22. Twelve teams comprised of three-person teams – one member of the team had to be a tribal member – gathered at the Big Shot’s docks on Northwest Canal Road. The tournament started at 7 p.m. and ran until 11 p.m. The teams could use boats to fish, or fish from the banks of the canals. Winners were awarded by total weight of fish caught at the end of the tournament.

The tournament focused on the removal of the invasive species that have been harming the natural ecosystem of the Florida Everglades. The variety of fish on the hit list included the oscar, armored catfish, peacock bass and tilapia. The tournament was a catch and keep, so no native fish species were allowed to be caught.

The tournament was hosted by outgoing Hollywood Board Representative Gordon “Ollie” Wareham, who donated the prize fund, and outgoing Big Cypress Board Representative Joe Frank, who donated the drinks and snacks for the employees and teams.

At left, outgoing Hollywood Board Rep. Gordon “Ollie” Wareham, Alice Sweat, James Sweat and, at right, outgoing Big Cypress Board Rep. Joe Frank at the first annual Invasive Species Fishing Tournament on May 21, 2021, in Big Cypress. (Photo courtesy Gordon “Ollie” Wareham)

First place winner was Team Jacob Osceola Jr. with a total weight of 18.46 pounds. Second place winner was Team Clinton Billie with a total weight of 17.82 pounds. Third place winner was Team Tristan Wilcox with a total weight of 13.90 pounds. The combined weight from all the fish caught that night was roughly 70 pounds.

“Thanks to all who helped to make this event a success; this includes BC Recreation, Buildings & Grounds, Housing and especially the tribal members, family and friends that showed up to fish,” said tribal member Jacob Osceola Jr. “Last but not least, I would like to thank the Board Representatives for hosting the event and the incoming BC Representative Nadine Bowers for stopping by and expressing interest in this event.”

There was plenty of positive comments and suggestions about the next invasive species tournament to be held. One comment was to start the tournament earlier – at 5 p.m. – and fish until 11 p.m. so there could be more fishing time.

“I would like to continue having invasive fishing tournaments and hopefully we can get more participants. I enjoyed the nice weather until mosquitoes came out,” said Incoming Board Rep. Bowers.

All of the fish were donated to Billie Swamp Safari to help feed the animals so none of the fish caught went to waste. Thank you to all the participants who came out to help protect the Big Cypress ecosystem.

Incoming Big Cypress Board Rep. Nadine Bowers and Cicero Osceola. (Photo courtesy Gordon “Ollie” Wareham)