All hopes that a missing fisherman would be found alive were dashed Wednesday morning with the discovery of Nik Kayler’s body on Lake Okeechobee.
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed in an email to The Palm Beach Post that Kayler’s body was found near the Clewiston water tower in Pahokee, about 50 miles from where the veteran angler, 38, first set out with fellow angler Bill Kisiah, 51, Thursday morning.
The two men were competing in the Fishing League Worldwide’s three-day Costa Series bass fishing tournament. According to the tournament’s website, they departed the C. Scott Driver boat ramp on the Kissimmee River in Okeechobee, aboard a 21-foot Ranger Bass Boat, headed southeast. The lake is massive, covering a total area of 730 square miles.
When they failed to check in Thursday afternoon at a designated weigh-in location, officials delayed the tournament and a search party was launched.
Around 11 p.m., crews found Kisiah, clinging to the boat, in Pahokee, about 50 miles from where the duo first started out. There was no sign of Kayler, an Army veteran from the Central Florida city of Apopka. He was an experienced fisherman, having reportedly competed in 61 FLW events as a co-angler.
Kisiah, who was taken to the hospital suffering from hypothermia, reported that the boat capsized amid rough waves.
On Friday, the tournament was canceled.
A candlelight vigil for Kayler, a married father of one, was set for Wednesday night at Scott Driver Park.
“Our prayers are with Nik’s family during this time of unimaginable tragedy,” said FLW President of Operations Kathy Fennel in an official statement. “The loss of his life touches the entire fishing community.”
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up benefiting the victim’s wife, Kelly, and daughter, Caralee.
By Wednesday afternoon. $43,849, well past the $15,000 goal.