By Captain Kevin Deerman
It’s always been amazing to me to see what kind of creatures show up in the lights around the boat at night when tuna fishing off the Texas coast. Over the years we’ve encountered many different types of fish. These nocturnal visitors are welcome entertainment for the crew on the long nights in the Gulf of Mexico. We are always on the lookout for flying fish to use for live bait.
Over the years, we have also scooped up our share of juvenile dorado, wahoo and even different billfish species. Hanging around a lit-up spar rig in 5,000 feet of water is not a very safe environment for these smaller fish when the tuna start feeding at night.
A few years back, Captain Kirk Elliott told me about a juvenile sail that his mate had dipped up in his net and had swimming around in a five-gallon bucket on deck. After watching the little sailfish swim around the bucket for a few minutes, Kirk asked his mate if he would dump the baby sail back overboard and let it free before they hurt the little thing. The mate had no sooner complied with Kirk’s request, than the sailfish was gobbled up by a big tuna as it slowly swam away from the boat.
As we tuna fished for a few hours on a July night a few years ago, we netted and released a couple of juvenile sails and spotted around a half dozen more swimming around in the lights. I’m sure most of the boats that frequent the deepwater spar rigs have experienced similar sightings of juveniles while tuna fishing also. The Billfish Foundation recently announced a pretty cool new program called the Juvenile Billfish Project. TBF is asking for help from all of us to get more information on these young billfish to get a better understanding of their habitats and distribution.
This information not only helps provide data on juvenile billfish, but is useful in determining where the big ones spawn. To help out, all anglers need to do is email a photo of a juvenile billfish that they have caught with as much information as they can provide. Pertinent facts include the approximate location, date, time of day, weather conditions, size of fish, and the like. Snap the picture, jot down the details and email them to email@example.com.
While it might not seem like a few photos with information would accomplish too much, widespread participation in the program can provide scientists with a wealth of data through time. Not only could this help to more understand the habits of juvenile billfish (and the species as a whole), but it makes netting up all the small marlin and sailfish that swim into your lights even that much more fun… Just try not to feed them to the tuna!
– That’s the report from Texas!
As we near the end of our fishing season in the Texas Gulf, I began to reflect back on the incredible marlin fishing our tournament fleet has experienced in the previous few years. This year, on the other hand, has been a little off in comparison. While the bulk of the season hasn’t lived up to the previous few years, it seems to picking up here towards the end.
Have you ever wanted to know the most popular lures used around the Bahamas, the Gulf of Mexico and the Mid-Atlantic? Take a minute and listen in to Grand Slam Sportfishing Supply owner Jim McGrath as he showcases the best lures for 2019. Lures include the recent World Cup and the Mid-Atlantic winner. Don’t wait and order yours today!
Miramar Beach, Florida –It was the blue-water version of David vs. Goliath. A group of high school buddies competing aboard a loaner boat topped 90 other professional teams by landing the largest blue marlin in the 2018 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic. Angler Will Beard boated the 699.2-pound blue marlin after a nearly two-hour fight. Beard, of Fairhope, Alabama, and Todd Terreson, Mac Waller, Ritchie Prince and Pete VanLingen comprised the rest of the crew aboard Can’t Deny It, run by Capt. Bo Keough. Doug Terreson owns the 48-foot Viking based on Ono Island, Alabama. Beard was named top angler and the team is splitting $131,040 in prize money for its efforts. The backstory is even more incredible.
Beard, Terreson and the rest of the team wanted to fish the Classic after graduating from high school this spring. Doug Terreson agreed to loan his boat with fuel and gear, provided the teenagers paid the $6,000 base entry fee. Todd Terreson would act as mate and veteran skipper Keough was a late addition. The team managed to scrap together the entry fee but couldn’t afford any of the optional jackpots that would have boosted their overall winnings considerably.
Trolling a weed line 120 miles south of Destin, Can’t Deny It hooked the winning fish on a chugger lure, the only blue boated on a lure during the 2018 contest. The other four weighed fish were taken on live bait. The team also released another blue and a white marlin and boated qualifying tuna, dolphin and wahoo during the trip.
“Nobody slept much last night,” Beard said before Sunday’s awards ceremony. “It’s finally sinking in what we accomplished. I’m very grateful to Mr. Terreson for giving us this opportunity.”
“I asked them if they knew they had gone up against the best pro crews in the Gulf and won and they all looked at me with wide open eyes,” Keough added with a laugh. “Doug and I stayed up on the bridge and the boys did it all from the cockpit. It really was something.”
The field of 91 boats, with an average size of nearly 60 feet, was vying for $2,040,200 in overall prize money. In addition to the tournament cash awards, teams could enter optional jackpots at various levels up to $10,000 in the blue marlin and release categories. This scenario contributed to the other historic news of the 2018 contest.
Owner/angler Dana Foster, Capt. Myles Colley and the rest of the team aboard Born2Run, a 72 Viking based in Pensacola, Florida, was named the Top Release Team and Crew after releasing four blue marlin. Born2Run won the biggest check of the tournament, $328,885, demonstrating the skill required in catching multiple billfish and the intrinsic value in releasing them unharmed. Born2Run’s payout is the largest ever in the Gulf of Mexico for an all-release score. The other team members included mates Robert Bonifay and Tyler Maxwell, plus anglers Doug Franklin, Lisa Foster and Bryan Paul, all of Pensacola. The prize money included first place in every release division jackpot. Dana Foster was also awarded the Top Release Angler trophy.
Reel Fire, owned by Chris Ferrara was a late arrival to the scales Saturday night. Angler Connor Ferrara whipped a 665.2-pound blue marlin to capture second-place honors. Capt. Chris Blanchet was at the helm of the dark blue 70-foot Viking convertible. Reel Fire won $308,124 for their fish.
Sydney Turner-Bankston, fishing aboard her father’s 72 F&S, You Never Know!, captured the third-largest blue marlin of the week at 640.8 pounds. Thomas Turner, Sydney, Capt. Joey Birbeck and the team earned a payout of $264,407 for that fish and two blue marlin releases. Sydney was named the Top Lady Angler for 2018 and You Never Know! was the second-place Release Team.
Breathe Easy (Capt. Patrick Ivie and owner Matt McDonald) and angler Rick Olsen didn’t go home empty-handed after catching a 518-pound blue on a live tuna. The Orange Beach-based team won $201,375 in jackpots. Chef Emeril Lagasse, Capt. Brad Benton and the crew aboard Aldente, a 70 Viking based at the Baytowne Marina in Sandestin, weighed the fifth blue marlin of the tournament. Lagasse’s blue tipped the scales at 475.7 pounds. Nick Diblasio added the second-largest tuna at 168.6 pounds and Aldente won second in the Top Crew division.
Past ECBC champion Done Deal, a 70 Viking owned by Jon Gonsoulin and run by Capt. Jason Buck, narrowly missed setting the new tournament record in the tuna category. Katie Gonsoulin whipped a 190.2-pound yellowfin, off the all-time mark by less than 1/2 pound. She also released two blues, good for third place in the Release Division, for an overall payout of $131,703. Angler Will Kaelin, fishing aboard Donny D III (Capt. CJ Pinney) landed the third-largest tuna at 168.4 pounds, which was worth $16,148.
Wes Kennedy captured the largest dolphin at 42.9 pounds. Kennedy was fishing on Ultimate Lure (Capt. Dusty Parrish), to earn $68,540. Nick Jusko on Pullin’ Wire (Capt. Steven Gay) came in second in the dolphin division with a 39.8-pound bull, while Chad Wandrick on Soggy Dollar (Capt. BJ Teems) was third with a 39.1-pound fish.
Seth McGonigal was the top wahoo angler at 63.8 pounds. McGonigal was fishing aboard Jubilee (Capt. Joe Morgan), earning the team $41,405. Tom Horstman was right behind with 60.1 pounds on BackDown2 with Capt. Gary Jarvis, while Neil Foster, owner and angler aboard Intense rounded out the division with a 56.4-pound wahoo.
Brothers Houston and Clark Adams were named the Top Junior Anglers for billfish and gamefish, respectively. The two were competing aboard Gunnslinger, a 60 Hatteras run by Capt. PeeWee Moore. In addition to the five weighed blue marlin, another 43 were released, along with 12 white marlin and one sailfish. The 54 game fish boated included 22 dolphin, 20 yellowfin tuna, 11 wahoo and one big-eye tuna.
“What an absolutely incredible week,” said ECBC Tournament Director Adam Alfonso. “We had two great stories with Can’t Deny It and Born2Run, nearly broke the tuna record and did set new tournament records with 91 boats and more than $2 million in prize money. I’d like to thank all the teams for fishing with us again this year, our fantastic sponsors and the entire staff for making our 16th year such a memorable success. We look forward to welcoming everyone back June 19-23, 2019, here at the Baytowne Marina at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.”
Appomattox is Coming!
An update from Hilton’s Realtime-Navigator
Shell’s largest floating platform in the Gulf of Mexico will be arriving on site sometime in May 2018 in Mississippi Canyon Block 392. This is about 18 nm
ENE of NaKika and about 30 nm inshore of Independence Hub in about 7,400′ water depth.
Balder is currently onsite setting up the mooring spread in anticipation of Appomattox’ arrival next month. This structure is certainly a heck of a destination in itself to go fish!
To give you an idea of the size of Appomattox….