Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Wednesday, July 27:
Tonight’s Captains’ Meeting marked the official start of the 42nd Annual White Marlin Invitational. The 8 p.m. sign-up deadline saw a few folks doing the last-minute shuffle (of hundred dollar bills) but not nearly as hectically as in recent years. Apparently, a very welcoming weather forecast had many entrants signing up early.
With that final show of contestants, the event reached 68 boats. This isn’t quite what the planners had hoped. However, in this day and age of tight money and mean-spirited fuel prices, it’s a damn decent showing. What’s more, the quality of the entrants assures serious world-class competition.
As things began to roll, director John Fitzgerald had a very calm demeanor, testimony to months (damn near a year) of preparation coming together as it should. The volunteer crew was in position and ready to rumble. We of media, photography and such were adjusting lenses and sharpening pens. Admittedly, it was one of those calm-before-the-storm things.
Eeks, I didn’t just say “storm” did I? Taboo. Let’s just pretend that’s an innocent segue to the weather.
During the meeting, calm seas and light winds all but called out. Despite some scattered T-storms possible, mainly Friday and Saturday, winds and waves will be fully conducive to big game fishing.
The huge majority of contestants implied (not everyone is willing to say for-sure) that they were picking Thursday as a go-day, a fishing day. A bit surprising, most captains said they wouldn’t take their second day until Saturday, a day with a slightly higher chance of some T-storms, mainly late-day. That Friday skip allows captains, crews and even the vessels to take a little rest. It makes the entire tourney more fun. Truth be told, it’s been many years since the weather has been so (seemingly) cooperative as to allow this strategic use of a breather. Obviously, there will still be heavy mulling over the weather maps tomorrow evening, just to make sure long-range strategies are still viable. I always envision the weather looking down at the best laid plans of mice and fishermen, chuckling and saying “Ya wanna bet?” (Hey, sometimes just voicing respect satisfies the skies.)
As to where tourney vessels will be heading, there was nary a peep about it. It’s not so much secrecy as superstition. You just don’t openly chat about such things -- though surely everyone has already mapped out game plans. The thing is you can’t let the ocean know what you’re thinking – even when your eating and drinking on bayside. The bay is a total blabbermouth.
I’m learning that the only thing appropriate to ask WMIT anglers-in-waiting is what boat they’re on. I once unthinkingly wondered out loud what type trolling gear a particular boat had on tap for the tourney. You’d think I had asked about their ATM card number and password. Of course, mariners are often a tad chattier after meeting with the cash bar.
Speaking of such things, this year’s captain’s meeting was highlighted by a stacked raw bar, filled by crowd favorite Skipper’s Seafood – that famed fishery which hides in the Outback, on Rte 72, west of the Rte 539 intersection. I can personally attest that raw bar was loaded for bear. Anyone who didn’t eat their absolute fill of colossal shrimp, topless oysters and clams, had simply chosen to tap into tray after tray of appetizers being served by this year’s WMIT caterer, Joey’s Pizza.
And all that appetizer-level munching was a mere lead-in to Joey’s top-shelf “hot” entrees. One pass through that line of steaming delectable left no doubt this year’s dining experience has been ratcheted way upward. Check this website for the events four days worth of menu items.
The gathered crowd of captains, crews, family members and public ticket-buyers was feeling quite fine when director John took over the microphone to go over some new rules. Per usual, all contestants also got elaborate paperwork with every rule and regulation.
The trickiest of the rule tweaks arose because of the concurrent timing of low tide (2 a.m.-ish) and the event’s allowable shove-off time (also 2 a.m.). That’s a tidal conflict for many a vessel. Be it the difficulty of getting dredging permits, the overall shallowing of the bay or simply bayside bottom quirks, many vessels have a helluva time getting safely out to channels at max low tide. This headache is a lot more common that many folks realize.
It’s best if I just reprint the verbiage concerning this rule modification:
Due to low tide at 2 a.m. Thursday morning, you are able to depart your slip at 11 p.m. Wednesday evening. You may not pass the LE Whistle Buoy before 2:30 a.m. If you are departing from a different inlet, and have draft constraints due to low water, you may depart at the same time as above, but may not break your inlet before 2:30 a.m.
If you do not have low water constraints, and do not need to use the “tide waiver” you may depart your dock at 2 a.m. and break your inlet at any time there after. These time adjustments apply for Thursday, Friday and Saturday fishing days.
The important thing is any one taking this waiver MUST hang outside the inlet until 2:30 a.m. – even if other boats, which didn’t use the waiver and left port at the assigned 2 a.m. timeframe, blow by. No biggy. In the long jaunt out to the canyons, and the fact that you can’t begin fishing until 7 a.m., that small lead by some boats over others is absolutely insignificant.
New weigh-in additions to this year’s event are two state-certified measuring boards, actually made of industrial-grade aluminum. One is machined to measure the legal minimum size of a white marlin. The other is for measuring a blue marlin. They’ll be most useful for getting a quick read on a fish that is oh-so-close to keepability. If the marlin exceeds the minimum-size bars, it’ll then be measured using certified tapes, then weighed. If there is even a hint of light (so to speak) between the fork in the tail and the measuring board below, the fish will not pass muster.
I didn’t get an exact number but there were folks signing up for the new white marlin release calcutta. I like this new addition, based on folks catching and releasing undersized white marlin. It shows fishing talent and adds some more much-needed attention to the namesake species of the WMIT. It is a polygraph segment, meaning the winner and crew will meet with the “polygraph guy” on Sunday.
As I cruised the action outside the clubhouse during the Captain’s Meeting, I stopped at the Shimano table and was introduced to its big game spinning reel. Yep, spinning reel. The Stella SW 2000SW is big and muscled and has a drag that can take just about anything big game-ish. It holds 300 yards of 100-pound-test designer line. It also has a manual bail. Since I always manually flip bails, I sure like that angle. An angle I had more trouble negotiating was the near $1,000 price tag. Still, this is meant for a pricey fishing sector. A number of vessels have these spinning reels on board. They’re usually coupled with short hyper-strong boat-sized rods -- with enough backbone they can do double duty as a spear for swordfishing (not serious). The reel can also be tweaked for casting – boat-style. Sadly, no surf fishing potential that I can see.