Triumph and Tragedy

A brief snippet of radio chatter on the booming Tournament Control VHF channel after lines out summed up the last day in the 2016 PCBT perfectly:

Tournament Control (Capt. Marty Brill): “I wonder what the record is for overall fish for Pirate’s Cove?”
First boat answer: “I can’t remember yesterday.”
Second boat answer: “I want to forget about today!”

It was that kind of day and certainly that kind of week. Multiple boats found willing pods of sails (South) or white marlin (North) and whacked ‘em relentlessly while others had to contend with simply a teaser fish or two. And one boat found THE fish only to lose it after a bruising battle. When it was all said and done, the 68 boats fishing Friday had logged another impressive 140 billfish releases.

Once the daily scorecards were tallied Anticipation (Capt. Harvey Shiflet) was named as the top daily winner with eight fish. Anticipation is a 61 Paul Spencer. Hammer Time was right behind with seven billfish releases for the day. Capt. Austin Eubank runs the 54 Paul Spencer.

Capt. Dan Spencer on Bullwinkle (57 Paul Spencer) was also in the thick of things, releasing five sails and two whites on the last day of competition.

“We were close all week. The guys did good,” Spencer says. “We lost a few and caught a few, all on dink ballyhoo. The white marlin water went away, so we went on a sailfish hunt instead. It was definitely a nail-biter at the end. We had 30 seconds to go and had one come after us. Fishing was certainly good this year and the inlet was good. That always helps.”

Capt. Jack Mahoney on Jack Pot, a 63 Ricky Scarborough, and his team had a productive last day as well, releasing three white marlin and four sailfish.

“We had 14 bites, so it was a good fishing day,” Mahoney recalled. “We were Northeast, around the mid 930 in 60 to 100 fathoms. It was slick calm out there, with a little bit of bait and a little bit of fish.”

Other boats making a late run towards the top of the leaderboard included Lo Que Sea (600 points), Uno Mas (500 points) and Sea Toy (400 points).

The biggest buzz on Friday revolved around a first-time participant, though. Sea Monkey, a 40 Gamefisherman, hooked a blue marlin mid-morning and fought it for hours, only to have the fish surge away every time it was brought close to gaffing range. With the deadline clock ticking and a long run ahead, the crew made the decision to increase the pressure. Unfortunately, that plan backfired when the determined blue marlin broke off. Bill Ohly of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was on the rod for the eight-plus hour fight.

“We were trying to get the first bite of the day and it turned out to be an epic battle,” an obviously tired Ohly said afterwards. “I’ve been fishing for a long time and that was really a hard fight.” Ohly fought the fish on 20-pound test monofilament with 60-pound leader. The bait was circle-hooked ballyhoo behind a chugger head.

“At least every hour on the hour we had that fish within 10 feet of the transom only to have it surge off again. I was mentally shot when that line broke,” he added. “That fish was definitely long enough and it was a butterball. We had a lot of hopes and expectations coming into this tournament, but I never expected the longest fight of my life. It was unbelievable.”