LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

In prehistoric times, fishing was a necessity of life. It was a way to provide food for yourself and loved ones.

Although fishing has evolved over thousands of years and has become a sport, the core purpose of the activity remains at its roots: food.

Since 2006, the Reel Knights, UCF's fishing club, has been trolling the waters up and down Florida in search of sport and food.

"A lot of us will stock the fridge and stock the freezer over the summers and bring it up to school, and we'll have cookouts and fish fries," said Ryan Hullihan, club president and senior mechanical engineering major. "We look forward to them. We usually have a good cookout."

Hullihan said the club's members rose to a total of 155 this year, a new record. He said that it is geared toward anglers of all calibers and open to both men and women.

"It's an awesome community that we have," said Jeff Dubs, club treasurer and senior mechanical engineering major. "You say, 'Hey, I want to go fishing. I don't want to go alone. Who wants to go with me?' You always get a bunch of people who want to go out and have the free time to do it."

With such a large population of students at UCF, there is an assorted amount of fishing that members are exposed to around the state that they may not have been without the club.

"Whether it was West Coast redfishing, East Coast sailfishing, tarpon in the Keys or redfishing up in Jacksonville, you just get a very diverse crowd of people fishing all over the state of Florida that grew up doing something that you didn't grow up doing," Hullihan said.

Fishing in different situations seems to be paying off for Hullihan as he and a few club members placed third in the Palm Beach County Kingfish, Dolphin, Wahoo Classic on May 30.

"We caught two kingfish, one weighed in at 37 pounds — that was the one that got us third place. We caught a couple sailfish, those aren't targets in the tournament, but they're always fun to catch," he said. "This one was a good highlight for us."

Like most sports, though, it is about more than just the game. And fishing is no different.

"I've made a lot of connections through the team that have helped get me into the career path that I want to be in," said Sandy Leaf, a senior criminal justice major and five-year veteran of the club.

Leaf landed a job with the Coastal Conservation Association, a non-profit organization that strives to conserve marine resources through educating the public. He said he could not have gotten the job without the help of a few club members.

A few of Florida's free fishing days — allowing anglers to fish public waters with no fishing license — for saltwater are Saturday and Sunday, and freshwater is on June 13 and June 14. With National Fishing and Boating Week falling Saturday through June 14, some members of the club think there is no better time to grab a rod and reel, hit the water and hook some fish.

"If people are skeptical at first, I usually tell them to come out. Everything we do is welcome to the public. If they like it, they like it and stick around. If not, no worries," Dubs said.

-----

Jarrod Heil is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @JHeil11 or email him at JarrodH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE