The Gulf Stream off North Carolina’s Outer Banks in August typically means lots of opportunities for white marlin on “dink” ballyhoo pulled behind dredges and teasers. But this is not a typical August, at least so far.
The 86 boats in the 39th annual Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament are competing for $1,045,000 in prize money. Past winners often have a dozen released billfish on the scorecard, many of them white marlin on light tackle. Apparently, the white marlin failed to read the memo from Tournament Director Heather Maxwell about the mandatory meeting. Only 39 billfish were tallied on the first day of fishing and not a single one was a white. Sailfish dominated to the tune of 30 fish, supplemented by nine small blues.
Trophy Hunter, a 55 Buddy Cannady based at Oregon Inlet, was the top daily winner with two blues, good for 500 points. Kenneth Brown is the boat’s skipper. Bill Collector, a 52 Jarrett Bay run by Capt. Stephen Draughon, was the other daily top boat with four sails, worth 400 points. Annie O, Country Girl and Re-Leased were the other boats atop the leaderboard, all with 350 points each (one blue and one sail apiece).
“We got lucky right at the end of the day,” says Capt. Brian Allen on Wall Hanger (63 Spencer). “We had two sailfish eat circle-hook ballyhoo back to back. It took us all day to find ‘em and I wish we would have had another hour to fish.” The boat also saw some wahoo and tuna. Allen said they were still trying to decide whether to fish Wednesday or take their lay day.
Marsh Madness, a 65 Island Boatworks, was just off the fleet about 35 miles offshore. Mate Hunter Brafford was pulling the usual four small ballyhoo and two plugs intended for big marlin.
“There wasn’t much life out there,” he said. We had one sail up but missed it. Hopefully the bite will pick up later in the week as we move away from that full moon.”
In the gamefish categories, 15-year-old Mason Griffin was the top stick with his 57.1-pound wahoo. That fish hit the dink ballyhoo bait run off the right long outrigger on Teaz’Em. Eric Barnwell, fishing on Due South, boated the heaviest tuna that registered 53 pounds, while Lee Tiller on Stream Weaver scored the top dolphin of the day at 23.3 pounds.
The search continues at 8:30 am on Wednesday. Will Whitey show up for work or will it be another substitute sail day? The answer will be known soon enough.