Sizzling Sunday

Manteo, North Carolina:

By Capt. Dave Lear

It’s extremely difficult to conduct a highly social event like the Alice Kelly Memorial Ladies Only Billfish Tournament in a necessary social-distancing environment. Yet even with health restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 31st annual Alice Kelly is once again underway and making a difference. The fleet of 120 boats competing are not only fishing for bragging rights and a five-figure dolphin payout, they are ultimately supporting a great cause.

A total of 71 billfish were released by the lady anglers on Sunday. Blue marlin count for 150 points, while white marlin, sailfish, spearfish and swordfish score 100 points apiece. By the time scorecards were tallied Sunday evening, Maggie led the pack with 450 points. The 60 Hatteras is run by Capt. Randy Bryant, Jr. Bench Mark was second with 400 points, followed by Sandra D with 350. Several other boats were tied with identical scores, which are settled by the time of the releases.

“This year we had a new team with girls from Virginia and North Carolina,” says Lauren Collier, one of Maggie’s group of anglers. “We released one blue marlin and two whites, then three minutes before lines out, we added one more white. It was absolutely beautiful out there. You couldn’t ask for a better day. The water was smooth, the sun was out and it was beautiful.”

“I’ve been waiting nine long years to catch a marlin,” says Kelly Houck, who was fishing aboard Bench Mark, a 58 Buddy Cannady run by Capt. Bobby Garmany. This is the second time Houck has fished the Alice Kelly. “It was an awesome, awesome trip and I have the utmost respect for our captain. We had six team members and four of us caught white marlin. We all got soaked from a bucket of water in the cockpit rather than take a chance swimming with the sharks around.” Valerie Rutherford also released her first marlin and Karen Guinn and Cristen Connell added to the boat’s tally. Lucy Taffoni and Heather Simmons were also part of the Bench Mark team.

“All of us on the boat fished in honor of family members impacted by cancer. So we try to support tournaments like this one anyway we can,” Houck added.

“I have been fishing a lot, but this is the first year I’ve done so competitively in tournaments,“ Guinn says. “We love to support a great cause like this one. It builds camaraderie among strong women and it’s a proud moment to support each other and lift us up. The tournament also could not be better run, even with the pandemic. It’s a testament to the organizers as well as the cause.”

In typical years, the Alice Kelly schedule features a single day of fishing. However, with a weather delay for the preceding White Marlin Open, Tournament Director Heather Maxwell allowed a two-day window this time. So boats that didn’t fish the Alice Kelly yesterday are on the rip on Monday. Lines are out by 3:30 pm.

In addition to trophies for the top five boats, teams had the chance to enter the optional winner-take-all dolphin jackpot. The largest dolphin weighed will earn $36,125 in prize money. The awards will be presented Monday evening at the host Pirate’s Cove Marina in Manteo. From safe, social distances while wearing protective masks, of course.