Started 22 years ago in Avalon, the Church Mouse Marlin Invitational Tournament became the largest release tournament on the West Coast in 2004, when organizers Bob and Carol Butte decided to change the format of the event.
The change to a catch-and-release format, along with the event’s success of raising money for the youth of Catalina, have kept the tournament going strong over the years. “The object of the Church Mouse is to bring good people together for great fun and fishing, while helping Catalina Island youth groups at the same time,” Carol Butte said.
The event is nonprofit, and all cash donations from participants and outside donors go toward total donations benefiting Catalina youth, with only the direct expenses of operating the tournament being withheld. Bob and Carol Butte receive no compensation from the organization. Over the years, the tournament has donated in excess of $886,000 to Catalina Island youth groups.
Along with providing donations, the tournament also offers prizes for all winning boats — such as rods and reels, outboard engines and marine equipment. In addition, raffle prizes donated in the past have included a two-night stay at Hamilton Cove Villas, a night at the Inn at Mt. Ada, rods and reels, and many other items.
Last year’s tournament was expanded to include yellowtail, white seabass and halibut — in addition to marlin — to create more fishing opportunities for participants. While only 18 boats participated in the event’s first year, the tournament now regularly attracts about 70 boats to Avalon for the tournament weekend.
“The names of our sponsors and their charitable contributions are broadcast during the two tournament days, as well as being displayed at the various events leading up to the gala banquet at the world-famous Casino Ballroom,” Carol Butte said. “These donations both increase raffle ticket sales and give donors tax-deductible advertising to their respective target audience.”
Boats participating in this year’s event will pay a $700 entry fee. Last year, there were two marlin caught and released that took first and second prize. Third and fourth places went to teams that caught the largest halibut. More than $60,000 was raised in the 2011 event, and 60 boats participated.
Sponsors interested in having their company added to the list for the 2012 Church Mouse Invitational can contact Bob and Carol Butte at (310) 467-2317 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.