It is a common practice in billfish tournaments for boats to display flsh flags reflecting the day’s catch from the outrigger halyards when returning to the marina. Local customs vary, but generally the rectangular pennants with the fish right-side up depict a boated fish, while inverted graphics designate releases. Along the Mid-Atlantic seaboard, a white billfish against a blue background depicts a white marlin, while a blue billfish on white equals a blue marlin.
Unfortunately, many of the halyards were sparse or empty as the PCBT fleet returned to the marina after the first day of fishing Tuesday. A few sported single flags, while others had pairs. Carolina Girl and Anticipation were two to feature three release flags.
“It was beautiful out there today, slick calm,” said Capt. Jordan Croswait, Carolina Girl’s skipper. The 54 Hatteras had thee white marlin releases to its credit. “It’s been consistently slow the last few weeks, but we got lucky today.”
A few slips down on the main dock, the Anticipation team is also among the early leaders with three whites as well. Justin Vayner of Ohio is fishing the PCBT for the first time on the 61 Spencer, run by veteran skipper Harvey Shiflet.
“It was really, really cool,” he said as he relaxed in the cockpit after the boat was secured. “It was gorgeous out there, like a pond, and we saw a lot of flying fish. We went north and there were a few other boats around. The plan now is to go back out there tomorrow.”
Although blue marlin weighing more than 400 pounds or exceeding 110 inches from the lower jaw to the fork of the tail can be boated, the PCBT is primarily a light tackle release format. Many of the teams fish 20- and 30-pound class tackle, with a heavier pitch-bait rod at the ready if a blue one does show up in the spread. Undersize blues documented by video score 250 points, while white marlin and sailfish count for 100. Ties are broken by time of release.
Alex Strangeways and his team mates on Fender Bender were hunting marlin when a yellowfin tuna ate a dink ballyhoo bait. Strangeways whipped that fish on 30-pound tackle and it weighed 58.2 pounds. Fender Bender also pulled off a white behind the boat, six feet away from the leader.
“Hopefully we leave the tunas alone and catch some billfish tomorrow,” he said with a grin afterwards.
Local angler Frank Adams is probably also wishing to leave the tuna alone the rest of the week. Competing on Anne Warrick, Adams hooked a monster tuna on a skirted ballyhoo and whipped it in 30 minutes on a 80 Wide outfit with 100-pound test leader. His bigeye tuna tipped the scales at 223.3 pounds.
“I was so glad to see that snap swivel,” he explained. “I was whipped. We had another hook-up at the same time on a light TLD rod that we thought was the same size fish. So we’re glad that one broke off.”
The 99 boats competing this week are allowed to fish three of four days, with the team choosing when to lay or stay at the dock. If the bite is hot, most want to keep after it while they can. If the pace is slower, the option to lay is tempting in hopes things will pick up later in the week.
Either way, the action resumes at 8:30 Wednesday morning. Will the halyards be more adorned at the next boat parade? Time will tell.