Reeling in a good time at disabled sportsman’s fishing tournament

Updated: May. 10, 2019 at 4:35 PM EDT
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KURE BEACH, NC (WECT) - If you were able to find an empty space Friday morning on the Kure Beach Pier, there was a better than average chance you’d be standing close a person grinning from ear to ear.

The pier hosted more than 400 special needs anglers, their caregivers, family members and volunteers for the 21st annual Cape Fear Disabled Sportsman's Fishing Tournament. Whether they were catching fish or not, fishermen and women of all ages seemed to enjoy their day on the pier, and those smiles were contagious, spreading onto the faces of volunteers, passersby and others.

"My face hurts for about a week after this event," said Mark LeBlanc, co-chair of the tournament along with his wife, Luanne. "You can't stop smiling when you see all these kids smiling."

The LeBlancs stayed busy all morning. Luanne worked mainly at the registration area — which was quite a task with 400-plus participants coming in — while Mark must have logged several miles walking up and down the pier baiting hooks, casting and untangling lines, answering questions and more.

Despite the heavy workload, Luanne said she wouldn't mind holding multiple tournaments per year.

"I almost wish we could figure out a way to do it more than just one day so we could get more people," she said. "We have to turn people away, some of the larger groups that don't get registered in time. But I always put them first for the next year."

Prizes and gift certificates were awarded for the biggest fish caught and other criteria. Spot, pompano, flounder, mullet and bluefish were among the species reeled in Friday morning.

Breakfast, lunch, snacks and beverages were provided for participants, as well as tournament T-shirts and goodie bags.

Fishing equipment was also provided and put to good use by fishermen like Emanuel Brown, who had already caught a mullet and a sting ray by 10 a.m.

"I'm gonna catch two more," Brown said shortly after reeling in the mullet. "I fish a couple times a week if I can. It's fun. I enjoy it."

The tournament is held the second Friday in May each year. Email for more information.

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