Food pantry benefits from walleye tournament

GREEN BAY – A major fishing tournament in Green Bay is making a difference. The 13th annual Cabela’s National Team Championship started Thursday and will wrap up Saturday.

The goal is to return all fish that are caught to the water, but the ones that die after they’re weighed are being donated to Paul’s Pantry in Green Bay.

“Walleye’s always good to eat,” said Jon Ryan of Green Bay.

Ryan uses the pantry each week.

“It’s a true blessing that people have the heart to help out other people that are really in need,” he said.

There are nearly 500 people participating in this weekend’s tournament. They’re in search of walleye 15 inches or bigger.

Teams are allowed to weigh-in five fish back at Lambeau Field. As the fish are reeled in, stored in the live well, and then moved to bags and bins, some don’t survive.

“We’re doing our best to save every one we can to swim again, but the ones that don’t make it, they’re going to a good home,” said Chad Schilling, a fisherman from Akaska, South Dakota.

“It’s sort of bittersweet because we don’t like to see a whole lot of dead walleye, but it’s part of the deal with fishing tournaments,” said Jonathan Hansen, a fish biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR is also using the opportunity to do some research.

“We like to collect a bunch of biological data that we normally don’t get a chance to get because we don’t like to kill the fish ourselves,” said Hansen. “Any dead fish we take advantage of. We get a length, a sex, a weight and take an age estimate.”

“The fact that they get to go the food pantry is such a great thing,” said Schilling. “The research is just an extra bonus on top of an already cool deal.”

Craig Robbins, the director of Paul’s Pantry, says the fish went fast.

“It’s fantastic that people when they are putting on a big event like this remember those who are in need,” said Robbins.

Nearly 500 fish were cleaned and handed out to people like Ryan.

“It’ll feed a lot of people,” he said.

Paul’s Pantry serves about 200 families each day, Monday through Friday.

The walleye tournament concludes Saturday with the final weigh-ins beginning at 4 p.m. in the southeast corner of the Lambeau parking lot.

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