OCARC Fishing Tournament will be first weekend of August
Last updated 8/1/2023 at 3:31pm
Hopefully, the fish will be biting when the 35th annual OCARC Fishing Tournament is held the first weekend of August in Orange County. The tournament will give 32 fishermen cash prizes while also helping the clients of the OCARC.
The tournament will include door prizes for participants and cash awards for those anglers catching the largest fish in twelve different types. The OCARC Fishing Tournament starts Friday, August 4, with the weigh in at 5:00 PM on Saturday, August 5, at the Riverside Pavilion off of Simmons Drive.
The fishing tournament started 36 years ago in 1987 and has been conducted every year except the year of the pandemic. Usually 200 to 250 local fishermen enter the popular event.
John Thomas the director of OCARC said they originally started with producing fishing tackle specializing in spinner baits which led to the fishing tournament being created. The spinner baits are no longer produced, but the popular fishing tournament has continued instead every year.
The OCARC Fishing Tournament has Thomas excited about the first weekend in August. "It's just a great time. There should be a great amount of fish caught this year because the Sabine River is salty and there was actually a sting ray caught a mile from Niblett's Bluff. That salt water has gone all the way up the river which means there are all sorts of salt water species of fish in the river," Thomas exclaimed.
After 49 years with OCARC, Thomas indicated the fishing tournament is a once a year event that let's everyone know they are still working to help their clients have a better life. Thomas reminded, "Our tournament is not a serious tournament. We want you to get out on the water, have a good time catching some fish, come to the weigh-in, and meet everybody."
Cash prizes and trophies are awarded in 12 fish categories with second and third place awards in ten of those categories. Twenty-eight sponsors and thirty-one co-sponsors help with the over four thousand dollars in prize money and raffle door prizes.
The four big prizes are awarded for bass, speckled trout, redfish, and flounder each carrying $750 for first place, $100 for second place and $50 for third. Those fish must be brought alive to the weigh-in on Friday or Saturday to be eligible for the prize money.
The "Tom Windham" Bass category is sponsored by Gopher Industrial. The Big Speckled Trout category is sponsored by DOW. The "Stan Armstrong" Redfish is sponsored by International Paper. The Redfish must measure between 20 to 27 inches to be eligible. The Flounder category has the Special Angels Rodeo as its sponsor.
Other fish categories are "Sarge's" Catfish, White Perch, Sunfish or Perch, Croaker, Black Drum (must be 14 to 29 inches), and "Jane Borel" Grinnel. The cash prizes for these fish are $100 for first place, $50 for second place, and $25 for third place in each category of fish.
Two special categories are the "Don Hubbard" Mudcat and the "Gopher" Appaloosa Red which both offer a first prize only. The biggest "Don Hubbard" Mudcat wins $50 for the fisherman that catches it. The "Gopher" Appaloosa Red prize is $250 and goes for the Red Fish with the most spots on it. The record is 31 spots on the fish caught.
Door prizes for a raffle include a large capacity Igloo cooler. Other raffle entrees will win a Milwaukee deluxe drill set and gift baskets from local sponsors.
Children under the age of 16 may enter but must be signed up by an adult for the minor to be eligible to fish. Normally about 50 to 60 young people compete in the OCARC Fishing Tournament.
Gopher Industrial is sponsoring a free rod and reel for all the young people that certify a fish during the weigh in. Gopher Industrial is also sponsoring a rod and reel for each participant that weighs in a fish during the tournament.
Souvenirs will be for sale at the OCARC offices located at 905 West Park or during the tournament at the Riverfront Pavilion. T-Shirts with this year's official logo and hats will be sold for $20 apiece.
The artwork of Tom Windham is once again featured on the T-Shirt. "Tom was just a fantastic artist. He's been doing T-Shirts for OCARC all this time. The image on the T-Shirt this year is his last painting, and I think it turned out great," Thomas observed. Windham passed away before last year's fishing tournament, and he drew the logos for each year's tournament.
Clients of the OCARC will be selling $250 gift cards to the public. The top four clients that sell the most gift cards will be awarded gift cards themselves.
OCARC began in 1956 with the Day Hab workshop starting in 1960. The original location was in the Thomen Center the former hospital on Park Avenue at Twentieth Street before moving to the current location on Park Avenue at Eighth Street in Orange.
Initially, the fishing tournament had twenty types of fish. Thomas explained, "That was way too many fish to try to determine categories. We had all of your salt water fish as well."
Thomas added, "Everybody has a good time by getting out to fish. The main thing is we're trying to get young people to fish and that's why we want to give them a rod and reel."
Registration for the OCARC Fishing can be done online at ocarc.com or in person at the OCARC offices at 905 West Park Avenue. The entry fee is $30 a person. The office is open Monday through Friday from 7:00 AM to 2:00 PM.
The fishing officially starts at 5:00 PM on Friday, August 4. Participants may fish within a 40-mile radius of Orange. The tournament ends on Saturday, August 5, with the certification of fish starting at 3:00 PM and the weigh-in to follow at 5:00 PM in the Riverside Pavilion off of Simmons Drive where trophies, cash awards, door prizes, and rods and reels will be presented to participants in the OCARC Fishing Tournament.