A smooth tide and a calm, sunny day greeted the 42 fishermen who participated in “The Rappahannock River Rockfish Open” last Saturday benefitting Aylett Country Day School, a private school in Millers Tavern.
Competing fishermen pushed off from Garrett’s Marina as early as 7 a.m. to fish for a grand prize of $3,000. Mark Barnette claimed the prize with the winning rockfish that tipped the scales at 6 pounds and 12 ounces and measured 25.5 inches in length.
The event was the third annual rockfish tournament held by the Board of Directors at Aylett to raise funds for capital improvements to the school. Rick Garrett, a member of the board and President of Garrett’s Marina’s partner facility Harborside Storage, discussed the board’s role in raising funds for Aylett.
“With Aylett Country Day being a private school, it’s independent of state funding, so we raise all of our money on our own, and the economy being kind of rough right now makes it a little more difficult for us,” Garrett said.
While the parents of students attending Aylett comprise a “parents’ league” that oversees fundraisers on school grounds and in surrounding communities, Board of Directors Chair George Longest spoke of the board’s commitment to draw on resources outside the area.
“Our school community is small, so from the school’s perspective, the board was looking for another method for raising funds,” Longest said. “Rick was the one who came up with the idea [for the rockfish tournament]. He’s been the key to our success.”
Garrett described the conditions that culminated into the board’s decision to host the tournament.
“I had the marina and thought it was a great area for hosting the tournament,” Garrett explained. “There are no other rockfish tournaments on the Rappahannock River that I know of, and rock fishing has become a big part of our local economy. It’s why people visit our area, why people build houses here. It’s grown to become a big sport in our region.”
Longest agreed. “The rockfish tournament is an event that fits right within our community, and it’s been successful so far.”
Garrett added: “The tournament allows us to draw in fishermen from Richmond and Fredericksburg. People even travel down here from Washington, D.C. to come fish.”
Longest was particularly pleased with this most recent tournament. “It’s been great,” he praised. “We’ve had a great day with great weather. The turnout’s been consistent with our sponsors generously supporting us, and Rick has been very kind to let us use his facility.”
Forty-two boats entered the tournament, up from 36 in 2011 and 32 in 2010. 35 sponsors pledged their support to the event. Sponsors included individuals as well as major business such as McDonald’s of the Northern Neck, Virginia Building Solutions, EVB, and Virginia Motor Speedway.
Aylett Country Day School is an independent coeducational facility serving pre-K to 8th grade students from all over the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsulas, as well as Hanover County. Aylett’s Director of Admissions and Development Robin Taylor commented on the opportunities that the rockfish benefit brings to the school.
“The tournament benefits the students by raising funds that allow the school to offer special programs,” Taylor said. “These supplemental programs enhance the education of each one of our students.”
Taylor encourages all parents of students, both current and prospective, to visit Aylett Country Day School. Information on Aylett’s future events and fundraisers can be found at www.acdspatriots.net.