Local CCA chapter raises $60,000 to preserve fisheries and take a kid fishing

Clayton Bonjean looks over the array of goodies up for auction.

The local chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association holds only one fundraiser annually to fund its mission of helping preserve recreational fishing opportunities. That fundraiser was held Dec. 6, and when the monies were tallied, the event had grossed $60,000.

That number, with a net showing of $32,000 after expenses, is more than double last year's numbers, said outgoing chapter president Andy McAlexander.

A sold-out crowd of 120 enjoyed hors d'oeuvres and wine while browsing among the 25 donated items up for bid in the silent auction that included 20 trips to locations from Ireland to Argentina, an electric golf cart valued at $4,300, a 12-piece cook set from Emeril, $1,200 worth of gift certificates from restaurants on 30A, and a Hobie Kayak from Yellowfin Oceansports.

The electric golf cart brought in the highest ticket amount at $2,800.

A sit-down buffet dinner followed the walkabout.

McAlexander, along with five others, founded the CCA chapter seven years ago.

"I wanted to be involved with CCA because it's a great organization that helps preserve recreational fishing opportunities for years to come," he said. "This is the group that got a ban put on gill net fishing that saved the red fish from extinction, and I am a father who enjoys fishing with my kids, so, it is a good fit for me."

Following last week's fundraiser, McAlexander is handing over the chapter's reins to incoming president Clayton Bonjean.

Bonjean is also an avid recreational fisherman and father of two children who he enjoys fishing with. He has been involved in CCA for four years.

Bonjean said he doesn't plan to deviate from the chapter's agenda, but rather just keep it between the lines.

"We will plan for next year's fundraiser banquet, have a couple of bonfires, and the kids' fishing tourney, probably in May again," he said. "The fishing tourney is a cool thing."

Besides helping fund lobbying efforts for recreational fishing, the CCA banquet provides funding for a kids' fishing tourney in May for children aged 15 and under. For the event, CCA gives up to 150 kids a free rod and reel and with supervision, they go out into the Gulf and fish to vie for medals, which are awarded to the top three girls and top three boys. The last tournament saw 115 kids from "all over," said McAlexander.

"It is well supported," he said.

The WaterColor venue proved to be a popular choice for last week's banquet and McAlexander said proudly that the organization has been invited back again next year.

For more information visit www.joincca.org.