PALMETTO – The Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament has had scheduling conflicts with its mid-May placement on the calendar.
Sometimes prom has cut into some of the numbers Crosthwait officials know the tournament can draw from.
Other times, the Golden Herald Awards, an award program organized by the Herald, has kept some other high school students from getting on the water.
Sometimes, spring football has posed conflicts.
This year, however, the conflict is graduation.
“We’ve never had this before,” board member Joe Kennedy said, “so who knows how it’s going to affect the tournament.”
The Crosthwait will begin on May 19 this year, putting it up against graduation weekend for a number of Manatee County schools. That is forcing the 34-year-old tournament to make some significant changes for the first time in years.
The biggest is the addition of two starting locations outside the county: Marina Jack in Sarasota and St. Petersburg Yacht Club.
It’s a change that would make sense for the Crosthwait even without concerns about turnout from its usual area base. Social media has drawn the region’s fishing community closer, and anglers from neighboring counties have expressed interest in the annual tournament. About 10 percent of last year’s field, Kennedy estimates, was from outside Bradenton and Palmetto.
“We’re trying to increase that,” Kennedy said. “There are so many more tournaments, so many more things going on that time of year that we felt like, ‘You know, hey, maybe that would help.’ The way social media is, people from St. Pete, Sarasota are good friends with people from the Bradenton-Palmetto area.”
Of course, teams still have the option of starting the offshore competition May 20 at the mouth of the Manatee River by Bradenton Yacht Club in Palmetto, has been the traditional starting point.
The changes also give teams more flexibility, since some participants may have to miss part of the weekend for graduation obligations at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School, Palmetto High School, Lakewood Ranch, Southeast or Manatee. Teams will be allowed to swap out anglers at the dock, effectively having a stable of reserve anglers in case someone can only be out on the water for part of the day.
“We’re going to have a liberal policy of allowing other people to fish and check in with us,” Kennedy said.
Smaller changes this year including a move away from the releasing fish at the dock policy and additional prizes for specific fish, allowing those without the equipment to haul in a full load in the Gulf of Mexico to come away with some sort of prize.
Proof of catch for snook, redfish and trout will now come from photos, and the group of target fish will include a 15-pound red grouper, a 5-pound mangrove snapper, a 3-pound flounder and a 4-pound sheepshead. The grouper and snapper will be available to those fishing offshore, and the flounder and sheepsheads will give inshore fishers a chance to win prize money. The closest to the weight will get $1,000.
This article originally appeared in the Bradenton Herald on April 12, 2017.