Lexington, SC (Connor Radtke) – A whopping 272 fish were caught out of Lake Murray this past Wednesday as the Troop Appreciation Foundation held their seventh annual fishing derby. The event was hosted at SCE&G’s Pine Island Club. There were over 60 vets and current soldiers who went out on 24 specialized fishing boats piloted by expert captains to compete in this fishing tournament. Approximately 50 sponsors, most from South Carolina but some from Illinois, one from Maryland, and one from Pennsylvania, all helped to make the day a roaring success. One of the vets in attendance, Fireman 2nd Class Thomas Ryan, was a Pearl Harbor survivor.
Boat 10 caught the most fish overall reeling in a total of 30 stripers. Boat 21, captained by Lee Thomas, brought two of the top three biggest fish in the tournament onto their boat including the biggest overall fish which was caught by Joseph Martin and weighed in at 9.35 lbs. When asked what it was like reeling in his fish, Martin responded, “I wasn’t sure if it was a fish or a boat when I was reeling it in.” The smallest fish caught weighed in at 1.75 lbs. and was otherwise known as “bait”.
The troops all arrived between 5:00 and 5:30 am to board their boats and get out on the water to begin fishing. Each captain donated the use of their boats, gear, but most importantly, their expertise. I arrived around 7:30 where I was able to board a chase boat captained by Bryan Warman. This allowed me to ride several hours on the lake taking pictures and getting to see how the fishermen were doing. It seemed that the most success were the boats that were fishing in between the condos at Land’s End and Sandy Beach on either side of the sunken island. The fishermen were fishing in around 80 ft of water and just letting their bait sit on the bottom. The fish were biting slow, but at depth, the fishermen were reeling in some pretty big fish. The water was beautiful so early in the morning, but as the day continued, the heat started to rise and take its toll.
After I got off the water, I waited for the boats to finish fishing. Each boat had until either 11:30 am or until they caught 15 fish to get back to the launch. As each slowly worked their way back to base, I was able to meet a lot of the veterans. I enjoyed talking to each one of them and was blessed to meet such amazing people. I took pictures of all the teams and their fish as they made it back onto land.
After each team made it back to Pine Island, the feasting started. Hudson’s BBQ of Lexington catered the food, and it was exceptionally good barbecue. After everyone’s stomachs were full, the door prizes were handed out by members of the University of South Carolina men’s basketball team and a girl scout troop who had been helping. Every single vet/soldier that attended the event received something. The value of the prizes ranged from $150 all the way up to Mr. Martin’s $1,500 Honda generator. Some of the other prizes included Yetis, Rtic coolers, fishing rods, Harley Davidson gift cards, and much more.
It was apparent that the vets and the soldiers loved their day. They offered a standing ovation to thank the people at Pine Island for allowing the event to take place in some nice air conditioning. This was at the suggestion of those who had participated the year before. In their comment cards under "what could we do better?” portion, they strongly recommended getting out of the heat after coming off the water.
I spoke to Mike Glover, president of the Troop Appreciation Foundation, after everything was said and done and I asked him what this event meant to him. Glover responded, “I’ve been doing this for seven years, and I think I get more out of it than we give away. It means the world to me. I am a person of faith to whom much is given, much is expected, and I believe that.” Glover is also excited for his next event coming up in September which will be held for first responders that includes firefighters, EMT's, and 911 operators.
Overall, I felt blessed to be able to take part in such an amazing event held for the men and women who keep us safe every day. These vets and soldiers fought and continue to fight every day for the rights and freedoms we receive as Americans. Thank you to every person who has fought and still fights in our armed forces, you all deserve an event like this.