Body of missing angler found near Clewiston

CLEWISTON – The body of the fisherman lost on Lake Okeechobee during the first day of the Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) Costa tournament has been found.

The body of Nik Kayler was recovered Wednesday morning from the lake near Clewiston by a commercial vessel, according to the FLW press release.

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

Nik Kayler, 38, of Apopka, was an Army veteran, husband and father.

Mr. Kayler was reported missing on Lake Okeechobee Jan. 4, after he and professional angler Bill Kisiah did not show up for the day’s weigh-in.  Mr. Kisiah, of Slidell, Louisiana, was driving the boat with Mr. Kayler as coangler.

When tournament officials were unable to contact the anglers, a search was launched. They texted other fishermen to find out if anyone had seen them or knew where on the massive lake the pair planned to fish that day.  Apparently, when Mr. Kisiah and Mr. Kayler left the C. Scott Driver boat ramps early that morning,  the pair had planned to fish near South Bay.

Photos taken at the tournament launch showed Mr. Kayler was wearing a life jacket.

Mr. Kisiah was found alive the night of Jan. 4, around 11 p.m.  According to reports, he had floated to shore with the disabled boat, which was found near the Pahokee marina. He was transported to a hospital and treated for hypothermia.

FLW cancelled the final two days of the tournament and the anglers joined the search for Mr. Kayler.

Mr. Kayler had fished in 61 previous FLW events as a co-angler. Mr. Kisiah is a nine-year veteran boater of FLW Series competitions.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission released the following statement on Wednesday afternoon.

“On Thursday, January 4, William Kisiah (DOB 4/9/1966) of Slidell, LA and Nicolas Kayler (DOB 1/1/1980) of Apopka, FL departed the C. Scott Driver boat ramp located on the Kissimmee River in Okeechobee, Florida aboard a 21’ Ranger Bass Boat. Preliminary information indicates that the vessel encountered rough waters and struck a wave and Mr. Kayler was ejected from the vessel. Mr. Kisiah made landfall at the Pahokee Marina later that evening when he made contact with Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Numerous agencies, including the FWC, United States Coast Guard, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office and Okeechobee Sheriff’s Office were involved in the search for Mr. Kayler. 

“Mr. Kayler’s body was recovered on the morning of Jan. 10 by a commercial vessel in the vicinity of the Clewiston water tower on the lake.

“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. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. The FWC would like to take this opportunity to remind all boaters enjoying Florida’s beautiful waterways to do so safely. Please wear your life jacket and maintain 360-degree awareness at all times while boating. For boating safety tips, please visit MyFWC.com/boating. This incident is currently under investigation by the FWC.”

A GoFundMe page for the Kayler family was created Jan. 6.  As of noon Wednesday, it had raised more than $39,000.

A candlelight vigil for Mr. Kayler is planned tonight, Jan. 10, from 7 to 9 p.m. at C. Scott Driver Boat ramp, off State Road 78 in Okeechobee County on the Kissimmee River.

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