The sails were unfurling Sunday as the 500 lady anglers competing in the Alice Kelly Memorial Ladies Only Billfish Tournament churned through Oregon Inlet on their way offshore. By the stroke of 3 p.m. a total of 61sailfish had been brought to the transoms and let go. Nine white and seven blue marlin were also released by the 92-boat fleet competing in this 27th annual memorial event.
Once the final points were tallied, Lo Que Sea, a 56 Paul Mann run by Capt. Keven Paul, had racked up five sailfish releases, good for 500 points. Lora Whitehurst and Karen Kremser scored two apiece, while Amy McGurk added the kicker. Andrew Brady and Lenny Schelin are the Lo Que Sea’s mates.
Capt. Jordan Croswait and his team on Legacy, a 58 Bobby Sullivan, earned bragging rights and the second-place trophy for releasing three sails and a blue marlin (good for 150 points). The catch was evenly split amongst Amy Forrester, Elizabeth Seigler, Julie Carrier and Leslie Franklin.
Capt. Dennis Endee guided owner Cheryl Russell and her family team aboard A-Salt Weapon to a third-place finish. Cheryl coaxed two sails to the boat, while her 14-year-old daughter Allyson wound in two more. Lori Landstrom also boated a dolphin.
“We started off to the East/Northeast and worked our way back into the shallows and got wacked,” Russell said back at the host Pirate’s Cove Marina. “The action started about noon and we had all our bites within an hour on circle-hooked ballyhoo. My daughter Allyson loves to fish, so this was partly a family outing and partly to support a worthwhile charity. It was very exciting to be competing against this many teams.” A portion of the tournament proceeds goes to the Outer Banks Cancer Support Group.
Krista Barnes and Kaitlyn Meyer combined their talents to log four sailfish releases aboard Byte Me, a local 52 Brownell. Capt. Patrick Heretick of Manteo was at the helm.
“The seas were three to four feet and we fished dirty green water,” Heretick explained. “Once we found the bait, we found the fish, but they were hard to see. Each angler caught two sails though, so we had a good day.” Byte Me earned fourth-place honors for the tournament.
Sandra D, a 58 Hudson run by Capt. Mike Merritt, rounded out fifth place with 350 points. Sandra Inchaustegui and Sharon Aldridge each released a sailfish, while Ann Newcomb scored a blue marlin.
The Alice Kelly optional jackpot money is a take-all contest for the boat landing the largest dolphin. This year’s winner of $14,875 was Sniper, a 58-foot Paul Mann run by Capt. Jimmy Bayne. Diane “Super D” Steyn captured that 17.7-pound winning fish and she also earned the Paula Stanski Award for Angling Excellence as the top angler for two sailfish releases, plus the dolphin.
Twelve-year-old Emily Bracher, competing aboard Pelican, a 56 Paul Mann (Capt. Arch Bracher) earned the trophy as the Top Junior Angler after releasing a blue and white marlin. Mary-Jo Harrell was recognized for landing the largest tuna of the day, a 63.6-pound yellowfin aboard Trophy Hunter (Capt. Kenneth Brown), while Sarah Rollason whipped the largest wahoo, a 45.3-pounder on Sea Horse (Capt. Chris Coleman). The remainder of the fleet tallied 13 dolphin, four wahoo and five yellowfins.
“You ladies did an awesome job today,” Tournament Director Heather Maxwell said before the trophies were handed out. “We planned for 75 teams and we topped that by nearly 20 boats. The final tally isn’t done yet, but we far exceeded our goal of $30,000 for the Outer Banks Cancer Support Group. That’s fantastic and I congratulate you all for putting up some very impressive numbers. Lady anglers rock!”