Along the stretch of barrier islands that comprise the Outer Banks, rarely will you hear praise for a hurricane. Yet that was the case today as the 45 boats fishing (34 opted to lay) rode the big swells offshore, finding plenty of cooperative white and blue marlin, plus sailfish along the way. A total of 142 billfish were released on Tuesday, including 104 whites, 10 blue ones, 26 sails and two spearfish.
Hurricane Gert, a Category 1 storm well offshore of North Carolina and the Atlantic coast and thankfully veering north/northeast, brought some welcome change to the local waters. The swells stirred up the ocean with no damage ashore and the lower barometric pressure had ‘em chewin’. So naturally, you won’t get any complaints from this crowd.
Point Runner, a 60 Guthrie based at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center and run by Capt. Chris Kubik, took the top daily honors by racking up 1,100 points on 11 billfish released. Wave Paver, a 77 Bayliss with Capt. Russell Sinclair on the wheel, is in second. The team scored 1,050 points for 10 fish. Blue marlin releases verified by photo earn an extra 50 points. Haphazard was in third place by the end of the day and seven more boats were within striking distance with 500 to 600 points.
“It was a flat calm day with huge ground swells. The inlet wasn’t bad coming or going,” says Capt. Joey Bolton, Haphazard’s skipper. Water temperatures ranged between 78.2 and 78.4 degrees and was a clear emerald green color, according to Bolton. The team fished to the northeast near the tournament’s outer boundary.
“I marked a little bit of bait, but not much. We had one double and all the rest were singles on naked ballyhoo,” Bolton explained. “We were pulling two squid daisy chains, plus mullet and ballyhoo dredges. Fishing has been slow up until today. So we went as far as we could and found some. These are the best crews on the East Coast, no doubt about it. So when you have that many boats looking, you’re going to find some fish.”
The first day of the 2017 PCBT also included the obligatory tale of the big one that got away. Angler Frank Pohanka of Reedville, Virginia, was fishing with his team aboard Anticipation to the south this morning when one of the light rods went off. Pohanka grabbed the outfit, which was loaded with 30-pound-test line and 60-pound leader. Five and one-half hours later, the estimated 450- to 500-pound blue marlin decided she was through playing around and broke the line. The tired angler recalled the fight back at the slip on F Dock.
“I thought I’d get it in,” he said. “I wouldn’t have fought that fish for 5.5 hours otherwise. You’ve got to be positive, even though I was outgunned. That was close to the biggest fish I’ve ever caught. It was definitely the biggest fish on small tackle. But we’ve got the rest of the week to get more.”
The drama resumes Wednesday morning at 8:30. Will the boats that fished today opt to lay tomorrow? Will Gert still have the fish fired up and hungry? Dawn is a few short hours away and the leaderboard can change in a heartbeat when packs of doubles and triples appear in the spread.