Sparse ‘Riggers

Manteo, North Carolina:

In tournament venues, boats like to show others what they accomplished that day. In big-game circles, that’s done by flying capture flags off the outrigger lanyards as they return to their slips to indicate how many fish were caught. For sailfish, it’s a white flag with the distinctive silhouette of the sail upright. White marlin are depicted with a white fish against a blue backdrop, while blue marlin are blue on white. Flags flying upside down represent released fish, while one displayed upright means there’s a boated fish on board. In uncharacteristic PCBT fashion, those flags were few and far between after the first day of fishing Tuesday. A local “ringer” did rise to the top, however.

Desperado (NC), a 52 Taylor Harrison that calls Pirate’s Cove Marina home, took the top daily honors by racking up 550 points. The team released three sailfish and a blue marlin and lost another sail on trolled dead ballyhoo. Capt. Rob Barker is the skipper of the local charter boat.

“It was a beautiful day, really nice,” the tired waterman recalled back at the slip. “We marked a little bit of bait but didn’t see any grass all day long. We were by ourselves for a little while then the crowd showed up.” Desperado was fishing east of Oregon Inlet and plans to take its mandatory lay day on Wednesday.

Goombay and The General are in second and third place, respectively, with 350 points each separated by time of release. Several other boats had single flags flying, but many outriggers were devoid of fluttering nylon. In past years, it wasn’t uncommon to have multiple boats with five or six daily releases. The Outer Banks billfish bite has been slower than normal this summer, but hopes rose after 50 billfish were recorded during the single day in the Alice Kelly Memorial on Sunday. The approaching full moon and a forecast cool front could turn the fish on, though.

Hector Torres, from Cancun, Mexico, is one of the mates aboard Viking 72, the factory demo boat with Viking Yachts President Pat Healy aboard as one of the anglers. The team released one blue marlin on the first day of the contest.

“It was a little slow, only one bite,” Torres said. He and his fellow mate, Chris Pakarine from Fort Pierce, Florida, were busy rigging mullet for the next round. Viking 72 pulls a typical spread for the white and smaller blue marlin that usually frequent the Gulf Stream in early August. Four small naked or skirted ballyhoo are trolled behind the boat, with two lures in the short outrigger clips on each side. Two squid daisy chains in green and blue help draw the fish into the pattern. The team’s main arsenal is 30-pound class outfits spooled with 30-pound test main line and 60-pound leaders. Two 50s and an 80-pound outfit are in standby mode for pitching large mullet to bigger blue marlin that rise into the boat’s wake.

The Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament is mostly a release format with an emphasis on dead-bait, light-tackle finesse fishing. Each successful billfish release scores 100 points, although blue marlin verified by digital proof add an extra 150 points. The top daily boat entered in all categories wins $29,899, while the first billfish each day earns $5 grand.

There is an allowance for big blue marlin to be weighed. Eligible fish must exceed 400 pounds or measure at least 110 inches from the lower jaw to the fork of the tail. The first place blue marlin, if one is weighed, would be worth $83,300 to a team across the board in all optional entry categories.

There are 71 boats competing in this year’s tournament. Each is required to declare a mandatory lay day or refrain from fishing one day out of the designated four. More than half the fleet has already elected to lay on Wednesday, so it will be interesting to see what the remaining contestants do. The fish flags may be whipping in the breeze tomorrow from every single outrigger. This is the Outer Banks, after all, and marlin have their own agenda.