A fisherman’s sudden disappearance during a bass fishing tournament has ended in tragedy

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The body of an Apopka fisherman who went missing on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee has been found, closing the story of his nearly week-long disappearance.

Nik Kayler, a bass fisherman and Army veteran, went missing on the first day of a three-day bass fishing tournament put on by the Fishing League Worldwide, according to reporting from the Palm Beach Post.


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An email from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed that Kayler’s body was found by searchers in “the vicinity of the Clewiston water tower on the lake.” Fish and Wildlife officials say that Kayler and partner Bill Kisiah, a Louisiana professional fisherman, hit a patch of rough water after launching on the first day of the tournament last week.

In a statement, the FWC wrote:

Preliminary information indicates that the vessel encountered rough waters and struck a wave and Mr. Kayler was ejected from the vessel.

Kisiah was reportedly unable to bring Kayler aboard, citing engine trouble and choppy conditions on the lake. As soon as Kayler was reported missing, the remainder of the tournament was called off.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, US Coast Guard, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, and Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office mounted a joint search effort for Kayler; the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stopped flights directly over Lake Okeechobee to permit searchers to look for Kayler.

Kayler’s family offered a $10,000 reward for finding Kayler; a former competitor in the bass fishing tournament set up a fundraising page to add to that sum, raising another $38,000.

Phil Kayler, the brother of the deceased, is happy to have a conclusion to the search, though it’s not the conclusion he would like.

“It’s been rough, but we got him home… It’s not what we would have liked,” said Kayler.

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