Leon Youngblood | The Seward Phoenix LOG
Enlisted military personnel hauled in a boatload of fish in last week’s Combat Fishing Derby.
Since its inception in 2007 the Combat Fishing Tournament held in Seward has focused on providing enlisted military members, E1 through E5, returning from a deployment overseas or soon to ship off, with a dream day of Alaska halibut fishing.
Last Thursday the event provided an experience they’ll never forget.
“These guys don’t forget anything,” said event co-founder Keith Manternach of Armed Services YMCA of Alaska. “I mean, I have these guys coming around all year long that have been on this trip and they stop to do nothing but say, hi.”
“This year it’s not going to be a largest fish prize,” said Manternach before the event. “We’re trying to get on the fish conservation bandwagon – which I think is important to do — and we’re going to discourage the guys from doing a lot of catch and release and keeping more than one fish. We’d like them to catch a fish and then let’s go home and have a banquet.”
Fish weights were registered, then during the banquet weights were pulled at random with the first weight pulled winning the grand prize.
Everyone walks away a winner from the Combat Fishing Tournament and the event has been met with admiration and interest.
“I think we’re getting lots of people’s attention as far as different ways you can do things to show the guys you appreciate what you do,” says Manternach. “It’s getting national attention and people are calling asking how it is we put on the event.”
Manternach is proud to be spreading the idea around the country and being associated with other similar programs that provide fishing experiences in Naknek for wounded warriors or on the Kenai River for veterans in wheelchairs.
The Combat Fishing event honors, for lack of better words, the average Joe.
Average Joes and Janes interested in attending next year’s Combat Fishing can check with the Armed Services YMCA of Alaska. Other information can be obtained first by visiting www.thankthem.org. Other inquiries such as donations and charter volunteers can be directed to Keith Manternach, 907-244-6231 or Mary Jo Imig, 907-552-9622.