ENGLEWOOD — Red tide has claimed another casualty in Englewood.
The Pioneer Days Committee has canceled the ninth-annual Michael O’Donnell Memorial Fish-A-Thon.
Organizers had scheduled the free kids fishing tournament for Aug. 26, a week before many of the Pioneer Days Labor Day weekend events. The catch-and-release tournament is traditionally held at the Anger fishing pier at Tom Adams Bridge.
Committee chairperson Chris Phelps said the decision to cancel was difficult, but necessary, due to the conditions in Lemon Bay.
“We don’t want anything to impact in any way the families or children of the community,” Phelps said. “Even if the red tide clears up by then, we don’t want to put the pressure on the fish population.”
The red tide bloom that’s been plaguing Southwest Florida has been around since November 2017, according to state wildlife officials. But since late June, it’s darkened the Gulf and bay waters around Englewood and Boca Grande, killing tons of fish and marine animals and causing respiratory irritation for people who get a whiff of the toxins released by the bacteria.
“This breaks my heart,” said Fish-A-Thon co-chair Cathy Redman in a press release. “But I don’t want to risk anyone’s health — especially the kids.”
Cathy and her husband Roger Redman have organized the tournament for nine years, in honor of Cathy’s late son, Michael O’Donnell, an avid fisherman who died while spearfishing with his brother and friends in 2010 near Boca Grande. It usually draws more than a hundred children and their families who fish from the pier.
“We might be weeks away, but this has been going on for too long,” Redman explained. “Not knowing for sure what the conditions will be — we’d rather be safe than sorry.”
The Pioneer Days Committee has not canceled any other events, although Phelps said she is working on a “plan B” for the Cardboard Boat Race, set for Sept. 1 at Indian Mound Park, in case the organizers have to move it.
More information and a full schedule of events planned for Pioneer Days is available at: www.englewoodpioneerdays.com.