Don’t expect a hurricane, Cat 5 or not, to deter the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association (MBARA).
The non-profit has served as a fiscal agent for donations to the city of Mexico Beach since shortly after Michael roared ashore with the city in its crosshairs.
The organization recently handed over another $100,000 in donations to the city and to date has been a pass-through for more than $175,000 in restoration funds destined for the city.
The organization’s researchers have also documented, in extraordinary detail, the impacts of Michael at the bottom of the ocean floor, where so much of the organization’s work is located.
For more than two decades, the MBARA has been actively building a large system of artificial reefs second to none off the coast of Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe. In 22 years, the organization has built over 350 reefs in nine different permitted areas in the Gulf of Mexico.
This has made the fishing and diving some of the best in Florida.
The organization’s most important fundraiser each year is its annual Kingfish Tournament held each year on the weekend prior to the long Labor Day weekend.
Given the damage from Michael, no real surprise that some have wondered if the MBARA would be able to have the tournament this year.
But, Tournament Director Ron Childs recently announced that the tournament is on, modified in a few ways, but will be just as fun as every other tournament.
“The Board of Directors of the MBARA talked this over and decided that we needed to have this tournament to tell the world that Mexico Beach is alive and well and coming back as strong as ever” Childs said.
“The Panhandle took a big blow and the damage has been unbelievable, but Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe, and Panama City are all getting back together, and we are going to come back stronger than ever.”
One significant change is the usual sponsorship that supported the tournament.
“We usually have a magazine with all of the ads from our sponsors who help us put on the tournament, but many of them are down, destroyed, or damaged, so we decided not to have a magazine to try and help out our sponsors who right now do not have extra money they can give to us to help out with the tournament,” Childs said.
“The MBARA will fund the tournament without our usual sponsor group. Some people have made donations to us just to help out and that has really been helpful.”
The tournament will be a one-day format as usual, scheduled for Saturday Aug. 24.
The Captains’ Party will be held 5 p.m. ET the day before, Aug. 23, Veterans Memorial Park at Beacon Hill.
The party will include the famous sausages, door prizes, and good music and, as Childs said, “good times for old friends.”
Anglers can also register at the Captain’s Party or pre-register online at the MBARA website at www.mbara.org.
More information about the tournament can be found on the website and on the MBARA’s Facebook page.
Postings of available housing are on Facebook as well.
“We have a professional division and a recreational division,” Childs said.
This year, the prize structure will be another significant change.
Instead of cash prizes, prizes awarded will include an electronics boating package from SIMRAD worth $6,750, a $3,000 gift certificate from Bluewater Outrigger and a Browning Citori 16 gauge White Lightning over/under shotgun with a $2,300 value also from Bluewater Outrigger in Port St. Joe.
“We hope these prizes will generate some real competition this year,” Childs said. “These prizes are the best we have ever had.”
At the Captain’s Party tournament officials will also determine a slot fish to a cash prize of $1,000 paid by Tow Boat U.S.
“That (slot weight) will be somewhere between 10 and 20 pounds,” Childs said. “This means even a small king mackerel can win big money.”
An angler does not have to b1e a member of the MBARA to fish the tournament, but Childs encouraged all to join the organization and help fund reef building in the Gulf of Mexico.