Quite a catch

Krystle Wagner • Jul 27, 2018 at 7:00 AM

Upon returning to shore, 7-year-old J.D. Sypniewski shared the story of reeling in a large sheepshead.

J.D. spent the morning fishing alongside his grandfather, John Van Tubergen, on the Reel Action charter fishing boat. J.D. was among 17 patients from Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and Mary Free Bed who participated in the Tri-Cities Kiwanis Salmon Tournament on Thursday.

Twice a year, the local Kiwanians work with sponsors to provide children with the opportunity to go fishing and raise funds to support pediatric care at North Ottawa Community Hospital, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and other children’s hospitals such as Spectrum Health’s Helen DeVos.

The events have raised more than $750,000 in the past 14 years. 

J.D. said he typically fishes for bluegills with his grandfather. On Thursday, he caught the sheepshead within the first five minutes that the group was 20 yards out of the Grand Haven channel.

“I felt pretty good,” the young boy said of his catch.

Thursday’s rough waters caused some of the charter boats participating in the tournament to return early and find calmer waters in places such as the Grand River and Spring Lake.

Early in the weigh-in, 10-year-old Cohen Klukowski was in the lead for the smallest fish, a lake trout weighing 2.15 pounds. He and his parents, Paul and Sandra Klukowski, spent the morning aboard the charter boat Hot Spot.

Cohen said it was his first time on a charter boat and catching fish that large. He usually catches bluegills and panfish.

About a year ago, Cohen was diagnosed with Langerhans cell histiocytosis cancer. He recently completed his final round of chemotherapy at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and told he is in remission.

Although last summer was “horrible,” Sandra Klukowski said this year has been “incredible” for Cohen.

Also aboard Reel Action were Jack Buckmaster and his grandfather, Don Buckmaster. Jack, a patient at DeVos Children’s Hospital, caught one fish.

“They had fun,” Don said.

Andrew Mathews, 7, relaxed in a chair as the final charter boat weighed its catch. The boy’s 26.8-pound king salmon was on the board for the largest fish caught. Andrew said he managed to reel in the fish with a “little help.”

After facing rough waters on Lake Michigan, Andrew and the crew aboard Addiction IV fished the Grand River. A patient at Mary Free Bed, Andrew said he also caught a “decent-size” catfish that weighed 25 pounds.

Andrew fished Thursday with his dad, Tom Mathews, and grandfather, Tom Mathews Sr. 

Tom Mathews thanked the charter boat captain and the Tri-Cities Kiwanis for the tournament.

“It’s a great opportunity to do something like this,” he said. “We appreciate it very much.”

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