Missing Pro Fisherman Found Dead in Florida Lake After Boating Accident During Tournament

PEOPLE.com Lifestyle 9 months ago

A professional fisherman was found dead in a Florida lake on Wednesday, nearly a week after he and his fishing partner went missing during a tournament, PEOPLE confirms.

Rescue teams found 38-year-old Nik Kayler’s body in Lake Okeechobee near the Clewiston water tower early Wednesday morning. His fishing partner, William Kisiah, 51, was rescued days earlier and recently released from a local hospital, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman tells PEOPLE.

“It’s been rough, but we got him home,” Phil Kayler told the Palm Beach Post of his brother. “It’s not what we would have liked. But we’re at ease right now.”

Kayler and Kisiah were competing in the Costa Fishing League Worldwide in a 21-foot Ranger bass boat on Jan. 4, when they “encountered rough waters and struck a wave” officials said in a statement to PEOPLE.

Kayler was thrown from the boat and though Kisiah managed to make it back to land, a search for Kayler ensued. Anthony Llanos, Kayler’s half-brother, said on Wednesday that he was amazed by the number of people who showed up to look for Kayler.

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“Anyone that knew Nik was out there,” he said. “There were so many people. Because he was such a good person and kept good people around him. Even people that didn’t know him knew about him. They were involved.”

Family and friends set up a GoFundMe page to benefit Kayler’s wife and young daughter.

“All of the members of the FWC want to express our sincere sympathies to the victims and families of the victims involved in this incident,” officials said in the statement.

After the men’s disappearance, officials with Fishing League Worldwide, who organized the tournament, canceled the event’s final two days to help with the search., according to the Orlando Sentinel.

“Our prayers are with Nik’s family during this time of unimaginable tragedy,” FLW President of Operations Kathy Fennel said in a statement posted on the FLW website. “The loss of his life touches the entire fishing community.”

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