So we all know what an Inshore Fishing Tournament is and for the most part how it works. You buy in, go fishing, hope for the big catch, hit the weigh-in and hope for a check and trophy at the end. The biggest lure for fishing the tournament is having fun with your friends and/or family and hitting the water in hopes of tight lines with some nice fish. It seems not to many anglers know the history of some of our Old Salt events and why we do them. The Old Salt has a story for almost every tournament and event they have and yes, it usually starts with a line in the water.
The Johnny Kellar Inshore Tournament has quite a story that started 26 years ago. Some of the players responsible for the start of the event are no longer with us, but the legacy and story will live on. In 1990, Capt. Al Autenrieth and Dave Zalewski of the Old Salt Fishing Club took a little boy fishing. The 9-year-old hemophiliac, who had tested positive for HIV after a receiving blood transfusion, was having a hard time fitting in. “He felt alone and isolated,” his mother Margie Kellar recalled. “All he wanted to do was go catch some fish.” Johnny got his wish.
Autenrieth and Zalewski turned this boys fishing wish into a fundraiser. The first year was small but the Old Salt Fishing club was determined to help Johnny out, not just once, but for a lifetime. For more than a decade, until Johnny’s death from AIDS in April 2003, these Old Salts took the Palm Harbor boy fishing every chance they got. “It wasn’t a one-time deal,” Margie Kellar said. “They were his friends when nobody else wanted to be.” Al and Dave made sure he got on the water as much as possible.
A couple of years into the event Johnny decided that he no longer needed any financial assistance and wanted the proceeds from the tournament to benefit All Children’s Hospital Hemophiliac division. We are now proud to say that we have donated over $80,000 in Johnny’s name from this event.
So when you fish the Old Salt Johnny Kellar Inshore Fishing Tournament take some pride to know that you are helping keep a 9 year old boys fishing wish a dream come true.
Quick Info on the Event
Johnny Kellar Inshore Fishing Tournament
Entry fee: $25 per angler ($35 for non Old Salt Members)
Species: Trout, flounder, sheepshead, black drum and redfish
(all fish must be caught inside the passes)
Captains’ meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, Gator’s on the Pass, Treasure Island, Jan. 28th, 2016
Fishing: 6:00 a.m. to 4 p.m., Jan. 30, 2016
Weigh-in: 3-4 p.m. held at Gator’s on the Pass
Excerpts from this article were taken from an article that writer Terry Tomalin of the St. Pete Times wrote in 2010.