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By Staff | Sep 26, 2014

A unique fishing tournament to benefit local child care is drawing anglers from all walks of life.

Fish36 is a 36-hour, non-competitive fishing event, with no first place winner. Teams of up to four people will take photographs of their catches, then trade the pictures for points, which are redeemed for raffle tickets. At the end of the tourney, the participants can win various items during a giant raffle.

A captain’s meeting will take place Friday, Oct. 3, at 6 p.m., at The Boat House at Cape Harbour. The teams can start fishing immediately afterward and do so until the final check-in on Oct. 5 at The Boat House.

“The attraction is there is no competition. There’s no challenging each other,” Jim Griffiths, the event coordinator, said. “It’s something professionals and families can do equally and share in the prizes.”

Points are earned for multiple types of fish, including freshwater, saltwater, inshore and offshore.

“This is a system where it’s point-based and you can catch anything to earn prizes,” he said. “I’ve been telling people, ‘Your catfish could win a television.'”

Teams also have the freedom to pick where and for how long they fish.

“They can fish for one hour off their dock or fish for 36 hours straight out on the water if they’d like to,” Griffiths said. “It’s different from any other event that’s been done here locally.”

The proceeds from the tournament will benefit Child Care of Southwest Florida, which operates six childcare centers in Lee County and Henry County. Griffiths explained that he decided to organize the fund-raiser after visiting one of the centers and learning about the focus on early learning and family.

“I couldn’t believe what they were doing for kids at such a young age,” he said.

Child Care of Southwest Florida’s slogan is “Kindergarten is too late.”

“It made me think,” Griffiths said. “These kids are being affected by so many things in our society today – it’s just a huge foundational jump that they get in life (at Child Care of Southwest Florida).”

“There’s hundreds of things they want to do that grants don’t cover,” he added.

The entry fee for the tournament is $100 per team and includes lunch at the wrap-up raffle. As of Thursday, about 20 teams had signed up. Because it’s the first year, the goal was to hit 10 teams.

“This first year has took off so much. We raised over $20,000 in sponsors in the first week,” Griffiths said. “I can’t believe how much the community will pull together when something new shows up.”

As of Thursday, close to $30,000 worth of raffle items had been accumulated.

Some of the raffle items include a $2,500 boat trailer, Key West Express tickets, a paddleboard, $500 worth of scratch-off lottery tickets and furniture, along with gift certificates to local restaurants.

“There’s artwork and clothing,” he said. “A lot of fishing tackle, and charter fishing trips.”

Teams can register in advance by going online or day of at the captain’s meeting.

“At these events, nobody signs up until that day,” Griffiths said.

He is expecting the final tally of participants to be between 50 and 70 teams.

At least one member of each team must attend the captain’s meeting to represent the team. The teams will receive the points list and items that must be in each picture taken for their catch to be valid.

“Those items have to appear in the photos,” Griffiths said.

The first 100 teams will receive a goody bag, which includes event T-shirts and such.

“Then everybody can start fishing that night after the meeting,” he said.

The final check-in will take place on Oct. 5 from 8 to 11 a.m.

“We’ll have live music,” Griffiths said.

Local guitarist Steve Chadbourne will perform.

At 11 a.m., lunch will be served by five vendors, including Smoke’n Pit BBQ, Ceno Grille, The Joint, Lelulo’s Pizzeria and Lobster Lady Seafood Market & Bistro. A sixth food vendor may be added.

“Each one’s going to serve something different,” he said.

For $10, spectators can buy a wristband to enjoy lunch, and it comes with 10 raffle tickets.

The giant raffle will start at noon, with local deejay Gentry Thomas serving as the host.

“We’re expecting the raffle to last about two hours,” Griffiths said.

For additional information about Fish36 or to register online, visit: www.fishthe36.com. People can also contact Jim Griffiths at (239) 980-5803 or via email at thenauticalmile@gmail.com.

For information on Child Care of Southwest Florida, visit: www.ccswfl.org.

The Boat House at Cape Harbour is at 5703 Cape Harbour Drive.