While many anglers were taking advantage of the late July lull after ICAST before events resumed, the MLF Bass Pro Tour angler Cliff Hook of Pierre Part, Louisiana was hard at work. On July 28, at St. Joseph the Worker Parish Hall in Pierre Part, Crochet held the inaugural Every Fish Matters! fundraising banquet.
Crochet’s goal was simple: raise funds to purchase F1 largemouth bass fry for storage in 2023 in the Atchafalaya Basin and Lake Verret. What Hook didn’t expect, however, was that his event would turn out to be one of the biggest fundraisers in professional fishing history.
Prior to 2022, Hook was toying with the idea of giving back to his hometown and the fisheries that launched his career. At REDCREST 2022 earlier this year, he saw Kevin VanDam’s foundation donate $5,000 to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation as seed money for an F1 restocking program for the Grand Lake O ‘the Cherokees of Oklahoma. Every fish counts! banquet was born that day because Hook knew he could do the same and more for Lake Verret and the Atchafalaya Basin.
Crochet’s first step was to meet with MLF’s Fisheries Management Division and fisheries biologist Steven Bardin for help with the process of getting permission to restock fish. This process is unique in each state, but the State of Louisiana was grateful and more than willing to accommodate Crochet’s request, as well as provide other opportunities for future projects. Once approved for storage, Hook enlisted the help of the Major League Fishing Angler’s Association to organize the event. Hook then set to work on his own, enlisting his sponsors and friends and appealing to his vast network of anglers to do what they could to help him raise funds.
Local community support for the event was overwhelming with Pierre Part Store, Pelican Companies of America, American Telephone Services, Performance Auto Body Collision Center, Todd Murray, Cajun Tackle House, Pelican Advisory, the Ascension Area Anglers Bass Club, Cajun Outboards, Breaux & Daigle Marine & Trailer, Pipe and Steel Industrial, the Louisiana Sportsman Coalition, Singleton & Howard Cement, Riverside Specialiy Meats, Jamie Ponville Trucking, Steve Kent Services and Performance Contractors, all buying sponsors. Blanchard’s Cajun Cooking fed more than 275 banquet attendees fried fish and shrimp stew. The banquet included a live auction, raffles and a discussion of Lucas Ragusa’s public water access issues with the Louisiana Sportsman’s Coalition.
A fishing trip off Venice with Bass Pro Tour angler Gerald Spohrer, a guided Arkansas duck hunt, a guided trip to Grosse Savanne, and vacation packages to New Orleans, Destin, Florida, and Toledo Bend Reservoir headlined the live auction.
By the end of the evening, the banquet had raised an incredible total – over $84,000 to buy the F1 Fingerlings.
“I want everyone to know that by supporting, donating and participating, they made this event a success,” Hook said. “It shows how much our community cares about our fisheries and the region we live in, and I am humbled and honored to have been part of this event.”
Since the banquet, several matching fund opportunities have emerged that will contribute to the stocking of 2023 and the establishment of an emergency relief fund to replenish the Atchafalaya Basin in the event of a hurricane or other disaster. natural in the future. The 2023 restocking program will begin in March and will take place across the Atchafalaya Basin in multiple events.
Each event will provide an opportunity for youth and adults to release fish and watch the fry enter their local water bodies. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and MLF FMD will work closely together to carry out these stocking events, as well as provide opportunities for anglers to engage in other initiatives. conservation throughout the basin. Crochet plans to do Every Fish Matters! banquet an annual event to fund the program for generations to come.
Crochet wanted to send a special thank you to the MLFAA, auctioneers Dennis Landry and Jamie Ponville, as well as the Assumption High School Bass Club and volunteers who made this event possible. Partners who have contributed to the success of this event include Lake End Rentals, Cajun Breakers, K2 Coolers, The Bass University, Buzbe, Blazer Boats, Costa, Stazione Deli Market, Dylan Delcambre, Paizano’s, Spunkey Monkey, Suzie Sheets/ Simply Susan, Howard Hartley, Chris Lane, Tyler Rivet, Duck Commander, Teddy Mabile, Pipe and Steel Industrial, Erin Hebert Assumption Parish Clerk, TNT Gas and Supply, Power-Pole, Mike Iaconelli, KastKing, Avid Boats, Sportsman Fabricators, Leroy Blanchard Assumption Ward 7 Parish Police Jury, Greg Hackney, Gerald Spohrer, Mike Helpler Ralow Services, GH Builders, Buddy’s Drive Inn, Front to Back Boat Service, Shank Bait Co., Bayside Tackle, Stick’em Custom Rods, The House de Fleur, Todd Murray, Dominick and Renee Thompson, Patrick Skiles, Jamie and Shawncy Ponville and Brent Bonadona.
To find out when and where these storage events will take place, go to MLFAA.org or CliffCrochet.com.