By Dave Rogers

For The Record

The 30th annual OCARC Fishing Tournament, Friday, Aug. 4 and Saturday, Aug. 5, is open to anglers of all ages.

But forgive John Thomas if he sees Orange County’s longest running rod and reel rodeo as more Opie Taylor than Todd Faircloth.

“My tournament is more of a kids’ tournament,” said the director of OCARC, who has been with that organization for 43 years.

“I’ve got some kids who fished in my tournament who are bringing their kids now. I usually have 30 to 50 kids bring fish to be weighed. It’s not a serious fishing tournament, but a fun thing to do.”

The amateurs-only event which begins and ends at the City of Orange Boat Ramp boasts free admission to fisherman aged 16 and under.

All others pay a $30 entry fee.

And Thomas expects up to 300 fishermen to chase total prize money of $2,950 for the top three finishers in 12 categories.

“It’s once a year and it lets everybody know we’re still in business,” Thomas said. “We’ve got probably 80 sponsors and co-sponsors. We’ve raised some pretty good money.

“The main thing is to let people know we’re still in business.”

OCARC, a non-profit organization founded in 1956, offers vocational training for special needs adults, currently serving daily about 55 clients. The tournament raises funds for the facility located at 905 West Park, Orange.

“We’ve been doing it for 30 years,” Thomas said of the tournament. “It’s gone flying by.”

There have been a few changes this year, the most prominent of which is moving the weigh-in ahead an hour to start at 5 p.m. Aug. 5. That means shifting ahead fish certifications to begin at 3 p.m.

The entry fee has gone up to $30. All contestants, regardless of age, must register to compete for prizes, and those 16 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

Bass must be alive to be weighed.

The tournament will begin, as traditional, at 5 p.m. Friday (Aug. 4). While online and mail entries make up the bulk of the tourney’s registration, OCARC will remain open until 5 p.m. Aug. 4 for last-minute entrants.

A trophy and $250 prize will be go for the fisher who catches the biggest speck, bass, flounder and redfish. First place winners catching the biggest white perch, catfish, croaker, grinnel, black drum and perch will receive $100.

Second place for the speckled trout, red fish, flounder, and bass pays $100 and third place for these fish pays $50.

Participants with a second place win after catching white perch, catfish, croaker, grinnel, black drum and perch will win $50 and those winning third place for these type of fish will win $25.

Red fish must be between 20 to 27 inches in length while black drums must be 14 to 29 inches long.

Gopher Industrial is sponsoring an added category of the appaloosa red with a $250 prize. However, this one is different. It is not for the biggest fish, but for the one with the most spots.

In order to be eligible, the fish must be between 20 to 27 inches in length. The fish can also be entered in one of the 12 categories.

In addition to providing vocational training, the “day rehab” type facility helps the mentally challenged students with life skills and socialization.

Since 1971, OCARC has expanded with other workshop extensions. OCARC has now been in the industrial engraving sign business for over 20 years, and makes all types of signs, desk sets, name pins both in plastic and metal, and a number of other products.

In the spirit of trying to be totally self-supporting, other products have been included in the workshop business, such as: trophies, plaques, and industrial signs. The goal is to make the clients as self-sufficient as possible.

For more information on the tournament or tournament rules call 409-886-1363.