Friends of Lake Apopka recently honored two of its members with a special award.
The 'Jim Thomas Environmental Hero Award' honors recipients who exemplify the passion and commitment of founder, Jim Thomas, and who contribute to the continued restoration of Lake Apopka.
The 2021 award was presented to Scott Bisping and Daniel Whitehouse at the group's first in-person meeting in nearly two years, due to the coronavirus pandemic, on Tuesday, Dec. 7.
The award was especially poignant with Thomas' recent passing in September.
Although Bisping and Whitehouse are both relative newcomers to FOLA, they have made immediate, substantial, and lasting impacts.
Bisping, a dedicated Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist, and Whitehouse, an avid angler, partnered to create, organize, and run the first FOLA Fish Tag Challenge.
FOLA shared that Bisping and his colleagues at FWC came up with the idea to tag 500 fish for a five-month long contest, rather than overload existing boat ramps with a traditional fishing tournament.
The group generously tagged 200 Large Mouth Bass, 150 Crappie, and 150 Blue Gill.
They also tagged the “Jim Thomas” fish, a trophy bass worth $5,000 to the angler that caught it.
Daniel leveraged his extensive experience in major fishing tournaments and his considerable angler network to serve as tournament director.
He raised $10,000 in prizes to promote the Fish Tag Challenge, including substantial personal donations.
"Thanks to Scott and Daniel’s energy and dedication, the fishing effort on Lake Apopka was doubled from the previous year, even while the busiest boat ramp on the lake, Magnolia Park, was closed," FOLA said. "The entire region was abuzz about the '$5,000 fish."'
FOLA said there has not been a FOLA event in the past 10 years that has raised more awareness about the lake’s improving water quality than the challenge did.
For more information on FOLA, click here or email [email protected].