Laneau is on a singular mission: to provide fishing equipment to kids with no father living at home. Under Laneau’s program, kids between the ages of 8 and 17 receive a rod, reel and tackle box. All reels are cleaned and oiled, and the rods are repaired when necessary before they are donated.
“Kids who keep busy fishing stay out of trouble,” Laneau said. “Sometimes I meet young kids who live with their mother or with their grandparents if both parents are out of the picture.”
An antique wooden fishing lure collector for over 50 years, Laneau is a charter member of the Florida Antique Tackle Collectors Association and has won many awards at quarterly tackle shows throughout the state. For many years, he bought used fishing equipment to sell at weekly auctions in Okeechobee, taking out the lures he wanted to keep, then filling up the tackle boxes with hooks, sinkers, lures and bobbers to sell.
One night, about 10 years ago, the auction began with 10 tackle boxes Laneau filled with items worth over $50 apiece.
“The auction regulars know that when there is more than one of an article for sale and the auctioneer says ‘sold,’ similar articles will be sold for the same price,” said Laneau. “They thought they were in for a bargain when the first bidder only bid two dollars.”
The initial bidder walked away with about $700 worth of tackle for $20. That was the last night Laneau sold his fishing tackle at auction, and began his ministry of giving surplus fishing equipment to kids who don’t have a father living at home.
At the time, there was a summer program at the St. Petersburg YMCA that bused kids to Freedom Lake for day trips. Laneau donated 40 filled tackle boxes to the YMCA and to the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranches, who still benefit from his generosity. To date, 174 kids with no father living at home have received rods, reels and filled tackle boxes that also include a spark plug, Laneau’s surefire way of ensuring a hook doesn’t get stuck on the bottom.
Laneau is well-known at local flea markets, where vendors give him a discount or donate fishing equipment for his ministry. He still cruises yard sales on the weekends, and donations are always welcome. Those who wish to donate fishing equipment to the program can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 727-345-4323.