Capt. Patrick Kelly’s summer camp vision has come to fruition.
A year ago, Kelly, owner/operator of Captain Smiley Fishing Charters in Little River, had the idea of founding a camp designed to teach youngsters the intricacies of boating and fishing, and respecting the environment along the Carolina coast.
So last summer Kelly invited about a dozen youngsters on a fishing trip that was essentially a test run for his fishing camp concept.
“We took that group of kids out to see how we’d do it, then we organized it this winter and put it together,” said Kelly. “It’s definitely in the building phase - there’s been an extreme amount of interest in this.”
This summer, Kelly’s Palmetto Kids Fishing Camp for ages 9 to 17 was born, based out of Cricket Cove Marina.
Kelly and his group of captains, all who have completed South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ Fishing Instructor certification, finished the fifth of six sessions of the camp this week.
“I love it,” said Kelly. “I’ve been in the charter business for 18 years and this has by far been the highlight of my fishing charter business. I thought it was about taking people to catch as many fish as possible. I think taking these kids out has been the most humbling and rewarding experience to me. I can’t wait to do it again next summer.”
Kelly still has one session of camp left this summer, set for August 7-10.
Each session consists of four-hour trips each morning for four straight days (7-11 a.m. Tuesday through Friday).
Kelly’s classroom is the saltwater estuaries around Little River and southern Brunswick County, N.C., including areas such as the Intracoastal Waterway, Dunn Sound and Tubbs Inlet.
One of the main focuses is to teach camp attendees the intricacies of catching fish such as red drum, spotted seatrout, black drum and flounder.
Campers learn much more, though, as they receive expert instruction on subjects such as fish identification, knot tying, basic boating rules and safety and catching bait with a cast net.
In the age where it can be difficult to pry youngsters away from smart phones, computers or video games, Kelly’s camp offers an excellent diversion.
“I took a kid last week, his father said he had a bad addiction to video games and it was hard to get him to do anything,” said Kelly. “He caught his first fish at the camp - he caught a bunch of fish. Now he’s hooked on fishing.
“I think we can make a difference in getting kids off the computers, off the video games and get them outside.”
The marine environment on the entire globe is being threatened by trash in the water - especially the massive amount of plastic that makes its way into the waterways.
Disposing of trash in an ethical manner and helping clean up the waterways are key points Kelly and his cohorts drive home with the youngsters.
“We try to pick up trash on every day of camp but on the last day, we take an extra 45 minutes and pick up trash,” said Kelly. “We tell them, you’ve got to give to get. It’s funny, it seems like on the last day we have the best fishing. You take care of (the environment), it’ll take care of you.”
S.C. Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series
The fifth and final stop in the 2018 series is under way with the Edisto Invitational Billfish Tournament out of The Marina at Edisto Beach.
The tournament opened on Thursday with all 36 boats declaring a fishing day. The field had a fantastic day with sailfish, releasing 64 with two blue marlin also released.
Only two of the 36 boats, DayMaker and El Tejano, opted to fish during what wound up being a deluge of rain on Friday. The remaining 34 boats will fish their second day on Saturday, the final day of fishing in the tournament and the series.
Syked Out released eight sailfish for 1600 points on Thursday and holds the lead entering Saturday’s final day of fishing. Lady S and Reel Passion are tied for second place with 1,000 points.
The series is finishing with a flurry, with tournaments on back-to-back weekends.
A week ago, Georgetown Landing Marina entry Rascal held the lead with 1,100 points entering the final day of fishing last Saturday in the Megadock Billfishing Tournament at City Marina in Charleston.
But, while Rascal added one sailfish release to finish with 1,300 points, the crew of Man Cave released four sailfish to earn the victory with 1,800 points.
Sara Gressette, wife of Man Cave owner/captain Billy Gressette, was the superstar angler of the tournament, serving as the angler on all seven billfish (one blue marlin, six sailfish) the crew released.
Two boats will be in a battle on the final day to earn the title of top boat in the overall series standings. In unofficial point totals, Mister Pete enters the final day with 6,475 points ahead of Sportin’ Life with 6,075.