Backcountry Adventure Kids: Konnor and Emily Williams
Konnor Williams was learning to cast a line at the age of two and has not stopped since then. In 2011 at the age of nine Konnor earned two Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Inshore Grand Slams in a single day. There were eight (8) persons to record the West Coast Grand Slam catching a snook, red drum, and tarpon in one day. But, he did not stop there. The same day he went on to earn one of four (4) honors for East Coast Grand Slams consisting of catching a red drum, spotted sea trout and tarpon in one day.
The competition included winners from California and West Hanningfield Essex, UK. Konnor loves camping, fishing and taking photos. He will be included in the October edition of Ranger Rick Magazine in 2011. Konnor has also earned his Junior Ranger Badges for Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. He enjoys playing baseball, served on his School’s Student Council and maintains A’s and B’s for his grades at school.
Emily has been casting a line since she was three years old. She has been catching Spotted SeaTrout out of Florida Bay since she was five (5) years of age. Also, among other Everglades species she has landed include snook, redfish, and mangrove snapper at the age of seven. She loves to keep an “on board bait shop” to ensure the fish have plenty to eat. On one fishing trip she told her Father she stopped fishing because her arm hurt from reeling in so many fish. Emily then proceeded to set up her onboard bait shop that included live shrimp.
Emily landed her first Snook and Red Drum / Redfish this year and is looking forward to landing her first Tarpon. She has camped in the 10,000 Islands of Florida’s west coast as well as the wilderness backcountry chickees in Everglades National Park. Also, Emily has earned her Junior Ranger Badges for Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. Emily loves her classical ballet class where she has been performing in her dance school’s annual recital for the past four years. She has also earned the Superintendant’s Honor Role for literature at her school.
An Adventure of a Lifetime
Mgrm Ken Williams documents his recent Backcountry Adventure with his seven year old daughter and nine year old son in the backcountry of Everglades National Park.
More than a “Double Grand Slam”
Kids: The New Generation of Florida Anglers and Outdoorsmen
By Ken Williams, Mgrm
Photos by Ken and Konnor Williams
Memories by Dad, Konnor and Emily Williams
The newest generation of Florida Anglers and Outdoorsmen offer far more benefits to us “old salts” than we might imagine. During a recent camping and fishing trip to the backcountry of Everglades National Park my nine year old son earned two (2) Inshore Grand Slams in a single day, my seven year old daughter landed her first backcountry snook and God smiled upon their Dad.
At the ripe old age of nine my son earned two Florida Inshore Grand Slams in one day. His adventure of a lifetime started with the launching of our 16 foot flats skiff in Everglades National Park. On our journey to the camp site located on a chickee in Whitewater Bay we stopped to drop our lines in the water. He cast his line and landed his first ever “silver king” tarpon. I instructed him how to obtain DNA from his tarpon and encouraged him to participate in Florida Fish and Wildlife’s (FWC) Tarpon Genetic Recapture Program. Once the DNA kit was complete and his tarpon was successfully released he immediately cast his line again. Within minutes he landed a nice tanic stained backcountry snook. I explained to him what a “Grand Slam” was and that he was well on his way to accomplishing this inshore angling milestone; it was 10:30 a.m.
We proceeded north in Whitewater Bay and made a quick stop at a mangrove island surrounded by what appeared to be promising waters. Again, within minutes, his rod was bent and he landed a spotted sea trout (Grand Slam #1, FWC’s Florida East Coast Grand Slam of tarpon, snook and spotted sea trout landed in a single day). I explained to him that all he needed now was a Red Drum and he would earn a second Inshore Grand Slam (FWC’s Florida West Coast Grand Slam of tarpon, snook and Red Drum). I knew we had to set up camp soon as strong winds were forecast, heading our way and due in the afternoon. We needed to secure shelter and set up camp on our chickee. The surrounding mangroves would provide a wind break and the chickee also provided a roof over our tent. Together we completed this task and went in search of Mr. Red Drum. Within a few casts of his bait my son reeled in and landed a small red drum. This completed his second Inshore Grand Slam in a single day. I did not know what a Grand Slam Dance was until I saw my nine year old son up on the platform of our flats skiff showing off moves that I didn’t know existed in human form. This was accompanied by a “ginormous smile” as he describes his elated feeling of success through a series of high pitched screams.
Even though my nine year old son accomplished his inshore milestone (twice in one day) my seven year old daughter is right on his heels. She has been camping in the 10,000 Islands, on backcountry chickees in Everglades National park and hauling in spotted sea trout out of Florida Bay since she was five years old. During this trip my “old salt” cast her way to land her first backcountry snook. She also landed spotted sea trout, mangrove snapper and a few ladyfish. I noticed that she stopped fishing and related that her casting arm was sore from reeling in so many fish. Then she proceeded to set up an onboard shrimp store where my son and I would ask her for more bait when we needed it. I have hope that my daughter will remember her sore arm and onboard bait store for the rest of her life as I know I will.
As their dad, and parent, I am extremely proud of these young kids who have developed a passion for angling and camping in the wilderness areas of Florida. They have encountered and photographed wading birds, endangered wildlife, wild dolphins and learned the important lessons of preserving and protecting our precious natural resources. Both kids have completed Jr. Ranger programs at Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. They have participated in FWC’s DNA Tarpon Recapturing Program and learned that preserving our natural environment is crucial to our survival on this planet. Later that evening while on our chickee my kids gave me the gift of a lifetime. They both laid on top of me, gave me hugs, kisses and told me they loved me. At that moment I felt God looking down on me smiling and knew I was the luckiest dad on planet earth.
These stories will last a lifetime through the hearts and soul of a nine year boy and seven year old girl. The rewards of this trip are far more reaching than I could have ever imagined. Memories of family, childhood dreams coming true and a foundation built that ensures the next generation of Florida’s anglers and outdoorsmen are here to stay.