More than just a ‘fishing club’

Jeremy Legette wanted to see pirates and a mermaid, but the Atlantic Ocean was almost 250 miles away. Fortunately, the Hillsborough Sports fishing Club was determined to grant that wish.

Legette is one of several children who went deep-sea fishing for the first time last summer. Every year, the local group raises money to get underprivileged children out on the water, by organizing one of the largest sport fishing tournaments in the state.

“My favorite part was going up there and looking at where we were, and the fish on the radar and watching (the captain) drive,” Legette, 11, said in a phone interview. “We were where there were shipwrecks and stuff.”

Next event:
Greensboro Fishing Expo
on Feb. 24-26, 2012

Terry Rose:

Gregory Goines:

SOURCE: Hillsborough Sportfishing club website

A day on the water

Last spring, the tournament sponsored the Sons of Allen, a group from African Methodist Episcopal churches that encourages black adults to mentor kids who come from difficult family situations. The group brought some children to the tournament, and the Hillsborough Sports fishing Club provided them with access to a full day of fishing, lodging and food: all free of charge.

Most of the participants awoke before dawn to clear skies and calm water. As soon as the clock hit 5 a.m., the tournament began. The Sons of Allen group, including Legette, boarded the Mattie G II and set out for open waters.

“The captain was mentoring the young kids as they came on the boats,” said Gregory Goines, club vice president. “We try to educate kids about fishing conservation and understanding the restrictions and how to preserve our natural resources.”

Tony Legette, Jeremy and Kris’ adoptive father, said his boys talked to the captain, who was really involved in everything.

“It gave them a sense of freedom,” said Tony Legette. ” It was adventurous for them…They started asking about pirates and shipwrecks.”

The children watched the radars for fish, helped prepare the fishing rods and sat in the captain’s chair.

“They had fun,” Tony Legette said. “We even saw some porpoise and sailfish.”

Kris Legette said it was his first time being off land. He caught 14 fish that day, but didn’t get to catch the big dolphin, or “mahi mahi,” he was hoping for.

“For me, it was a relief to get away from home,” Tony Legette said. “When you’re out there, you just leave your troubles. That’s what made it so nice. Growing up in the city (Queens, N.Y.), you don’t get the chance to experience stuff like that. The smell of the saltwater in your nostrils, the wind: it was beautiful.

“We were hoping to see some mermaids, but that wasn’t going to happen.”

An impact that lasts

After the trip, the chaperones from the Sons of Allen said they were pleased with what the club had done for the kids.

“I appreciate the Hillsborough Sports fishing Club for allowing myself and those young men to get on the boat and go fishing…they’re still talking about it,” Sons of Allen member Alexis Caldwell said

Goines said a typical offshore fishing trip costs between $1,200 to $1,800 dollars.

“Some of these underprivileged kids will never have the chance to experience this in their whole life,” he said.

Club President Terry Rose said in a phone interview that the club’s mission is to be community-oriented and to provide access to an expensive hobby for children of average and below-average income families, most of whom have never seen or fished on the ocean before.

At the same time, the club provides a place for members to enjoy each other’s company and indulge in their passion—deep-sea fishing.

It all began when Terry, Mike and Bill Rose started taking their aging father on annual fishing trips with a couple of friends. In just a few years, the small gathering expanded rapidly.

“My dad was getting old and we’d been taking him on a few deep-sea fishing trips,” Rose said. “It went from six people to 96 people the year my dad passed away. So it made great sense to me to start this sport fishing club.”

Giving back to the community

Since its formation, club membership has grown to 150 members.

“I’ll be honest with you, it is a fishing club,” Goines said. “But we also give back to the community, and that’s one of the things that I really enjoy doing.”

In the past year, in addition to the annual tournament, the club participated in the Toys for Tots program, donated 25 turkeys to the Durham Rescue Mission and is working to find a way to get involved with the Oxford Orphanage.

This coming May, the group is taking 50 children from the Morehead City Boys and Girls Club out to fish on the continental shelf.

Running such a large group that provides service to the community brings its own challenges for Rose.

“We’re trying to convince the Internal Revenue Service that we are a 503c (nonprofit) group, but they refuse to acknowledge that,” Rose said. “They’re classifying us as a 507, a social club.

“I agree with them that we are a social club, but I think they got it wrong. We do a lot of charity work. If we’re not a 503c status, it is really difficult to fundraise.”

Instead of charging dues, the club raises money on its own, and that funds the charity work and the necessary fees that accompany planning a large tournament and enjoying an expensive hobby like deep-sea fishing. As a result, Rose spends much of his time traveling to secure sponsors and donations for the tournament.

“I usually stay so tied up trying to raise money for the tournament this year,” he said. “I get a lot of doors slammed in my face, but you got to do it.”

It takes a lot to plan a tournament the size of the J.W.R Gaffer Dolphin Tournament (a part of the North Carolina Offshore Inshore Challenge). “Before it was the J.W.R., my dad’s initials,” Rose said. After expanding, the club included the dolphin tournament in the larger North Carolina Offshore Inshore Challenge.

This year, the club is donating a portion of the tournament proceeds to Victory Junction, a camp out of Randleman that serves the needs of children with chronic medical conditions and serious illnesses.

The tournament will take place May 18-20, with locations in Morehead City and Cape Hatteras.

This article was reported as a part of the JOMC 256 Features course at UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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