It’s not too late to shop for DAD! We’re offering our Father’s Day Special- 2 for 1 subscriptions. Our latest June issue is hitting the docks now. Everybody loves fishing with Dad. Give him a year’s subscription on us! Happy Father’s Day from InTheBite.
Captain Ann Johnston is something of a legend on the Texas sportfishing landscape. As Capt. Kerry Fritz puts it, “Everybody knows Ann.” In 1971, Johnston was just the second woman ever to be commissioned captain in the State of Texas. Since that time Ann has run charters out of Freeport, Texas and fished the Texas tournament scene for more than four decades. She fished Poco Bueno every year from 1972 to 2017 – an incredible streak of some 45 years.
While her dedication and love for fishing speak for themselves, were you to have guessed, she would have been one of the least likely people around to become a renowned saltwater captain. Growing up in the Texas panhandle outside of Amarillo, Johnston was raised driving wheat trucks and combines. “The first time I came to Houston it was with a friend who had breast cancer. She went to MD Anderson Medical Center. My husband and his friend decided they wanted to go fishing in the Gulf, so I came along. I grew up catching catfish in Lake Texoma,” Johnston recalls.
The experience made a lasting impact and soon Ann and her husband, Doug, moved to the Gulf Coast with their boat in tow. “The boat was 32’ long. I tell everybody that I fell in love with the boat and then I fell in love with him. On January 4th, we’ll be married 50 years,” Johnston relates. Upon moving to the Gulf coast, both Ann and her husband obtained their captain’s licenses. “Admiral Welty commissioned me. He must have been 90 years old at the time. I was sure he would faint and fall on me before we were through,” Johnston says with a laugh.
As a charter boat on the upper coast of Texas, much of Jonhston’s business was directed toward red snapper and king fish, with species like cobia (ling if you speak Texan), grouper and dolphinfish mixed in. In most years, she’d run three or four marlin trips. “We commercial snapper fished for a long time. We sold our permits about 15 years ago,” Johnston recalls. “When we started out there were no electronics or GPS like there are now – just the old Lowrance units you had to stick your head into. Boats used to follow us around because they thought we had the snappers numbers… and we did. We got our first snapper numbers from the shrimpers. We’d bring them out food and things and they’d tell us where the snags were.”
In describing her career, Captain Ann Johnston expresses the characteristic humility known to folks from west Texas. While she might not say it, her career leaves a legacy that influenced many on the Texas coast. Captain Kerry Fritz runs the Sea Dog, a 60-foot Hatteras, out of Galveston. He grew up in Freeport and has known Johnston for years. “Did she tell you about the time she was pulled over by a wahoo? She was fighting a big wahoo and the gaff man missed it and she was pulled over. She went down about 100-feet before she got out of the rod harness.”
“There are not too many lady captains as salty as her. Through the years, she’d run five or six days per week. One year at Poco, she had what could have been the winning marlin sharked at the boat. They brought in just the head,” Fritz says. Another year, Johnston finished fourth at Poco Bueno, weighing a whole fish on that occasion. More than just a great captain, Johnston is known for her generosity. “She’d help anybody… She has shown a lot of people the ropes.”
Captain Ann’s generosity and caring nature is reflected in her customer base as well. “The oldest customer I have has been fishing with me for 30 years. We have a lot of them who have fished with us for 15 years,” Johnston says. “Being a lady captain was tough at first. I’d have to keep the guests from jumping off the boat because they weren’t used to fishing with a lady captain. But once they fish with me, they stayed with me. I take really good care of my people. I can usually tell who’s going to get sick and who won’t when they get on the boat. If someone looks like they will get sick, I’ll bring them up on the bridge to sit with me. If someone does get sick, I’ll take them down and wash their face with cold water and let them sleep in the master bedroom. We also help our customers with their fishing technique.”
While any captain who spends more than four decades on the water has seen a prank or two, Johnston’s relationship to dock pranks is unique. “For the first few years, they were always pranking me! We’ve always had to park in the shed, so we’d have to raise and lower the outriggers to get in and out. They’d always tell me something was sticking up or a rope was hanging off, just to see if I’d get mad,” Johnston recalls of her early years on the helm. Even now, after boat deliveries to Mexico and fishing more than most will ever do, Johnston still gets a bit of skepticism about her being a lady boat captain. “The number one thing, every day, someone always says, ‘Let’s see how she does putting the boat in the slip.’”
As for a fishing story? When asked about her best day on the water, Captain Ann’s response is telling. “Every day is a good day as far as you get to fish.” This sentiment is one shared by Captain Ann’s family as well. “We are just a family that loves to fish.” In addition to Ann and her husband each holding captain’s licenses, their son and two of their grand daughters also hold their tickets. “My son runs a 110’ yacht between Florida and New York. He doesn’t fish as much as he used to, but he really loves it,” she says.
The latest iteration of Ann’s Dream is a 54-foot Hatteras. Ann ran the previous edition, a 46-foot Hatteras, for 32 years. She has caught her share of fish, but one trip stands out. “One time we had a two-day marlin charter. The guys didn’t show up with any food, so before we left the dock, I had to get groceries,” she recalls. Once offshore, Johnston and crew trolled around one of Texas’ most productive rigs.
“We were circling the buoys around Cerveza and hooked a 219-pound and a 515-pound blue marlin and caught them both in about an hour. The first one (the 219-pounder) was gut hooked so we brought it onboard. The second one, the guy hollered so much that we brought it in, too. I really didn’t want to, but he said he wanted to get it mounted. He sent the head off to Pflueger but he didn’t pay for it. That’s how I got stuck with a marlin!”
LINES ARE IN THE WATER FOR DAY 4!
61st Annual Big Rock Tournament- There’s a total of 184 boats entered and the 2019 overall purse is a record-breaking $2.86 million!
Good luck to all the participants! Check back to InTheBite for updates or follow the tournament live through Reel Time Apps.
Day 4, June 13- Updated as of 11:40a.m.
UPDATE: There is 1 boat fishing today, Paved For, tight lines guys!
Day 3, June 12
1 of 3 blue marlin releases ANNIE O has racked up so far this week- putting them 1st in the Release Division
Day 2, June 11th
DAY 1 , JUNE 10TH
June means summer. Summer means tournaments. Nothing says tournaments quite like InTheBite.
Grab a copy of the latest June Issue, hitting the docks now!
Release Ruler introduces its Billfish line of weight estimating boat decals and demonstrates how to apply them. Could be a great tool for tournament season.
(George Town, Cayman Islands) The Cayman Islands’ first-ever Cayman Billfish Rundown awarded more than US$260,000 in cash prizes to 14 teams hailing from both local and international shores. Held May 14-17 on Grand Cayman, 41 teams registered in the sportfishing tournament, presented by Hurley’s Media Ltd., Dart Enterprises and The Residences at Seafire.
Managing Director of Hurley’s Media Ltd. Randy Merren said he was pleased with the outcome of the tournament. “It’s incredible to see Cayman Billfish Rundown come to life after a year of planning and preparations. We are grateful for the support from the local and international participants, and based on the feedback received, we expect even higher numbers next year,” Mr. Merren said.
Carey Chen brought his experience and expertise as the Official Artist and Tournament Ambassador, taking news of the tournament to global waters. “I’ve been fishing the Cayman Islands since Million Dollar month in the 80s. The offshore fishing is less than a mile from land in the clearest water you can imagine,” Mr. Chen said. “Cayman Billfish Rundown in its debut is one of the most organized tournaments I have been to and this will only get better,” he said.
The winning team, ‘Uno Mas’ from Florida, captained by Brooks Smith, released three billfish to win the top prize of US$100,000 for the Most Billfish Release Points and the Captain’s Award of US$10,000 presented to the Captain of the Boat with the Most Release Points. The team also entered seven additional categories that flexed its billfish skills and rewarded Uno Mas with additional payouts of more than US$16,000, making its total winnings for the tournament close to US$130,000.
In second place, ‘Happy Days’ from the Cayman Islands, took home US$35,000 for the second most billfish releases, as well as an additional US$2,250 for the smallest boat with the most billfish releases. Small boats were considered under 36 feet Length Over All (LOA).
Third place for most billfish release was tied, with seven teams earning equal points through catching and releasing a Blue Marlin. Down to time stamps, ‘Suntide’ took home third place and US$20,000, inching ahead of ‘Lazy Lady’ and ‘Trading Time’ by releasing their Marlin 10 and 20 minutes earlier respectively.
Angler Shaun Bodden from ‘Cool Change’ hooked the heaviest yellowfin tuna, weighing 77.2 lbs., which awarded his team US$10,000 from the guaranteed payout and an additional US$10,000 for entering and winning the ‘Tuna Doubler’ category.
The heaviest wahoo was caught by Baron Jacob from ‘Ecks-Change’ weighing 39.2 lbs. The heaviest dolphinfish was caught by Nathan Ebanks from ‘Reeladdiction’. Both teams won US$10,000 and each team kindly donated U$1,500 to the Alex Panton Foundation, the charity the tournament chose to support. Anglers were encouraged to donate a portion of their winnings to the Alex Panton Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to improve the mental health of the Cayman Islands’ children and young adults.
Forty-one boats entered the tournament with 230 registered anglers, including 41 international anglers and 28 females. Between them, they released twelve Blue Marlins, one White Marlin and one sailfish. A total of 14 yellowfin tuna, five wahoo and six dolphinfish were brought to the scale.
“The Cayman Islands as a jurisdiction of choice has so much to offer, and this tournament is no different as it highlights the high professional standard of sport fishing,” said Mr. Merren. “Billfish in particular hold a special place in Cayman Islands sportfishing and for me personally, it was great to bring the action so close to our shores,” he continued.
The tournament also supports responsible fishing and teamed up with Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, the School of Marine Sciences at University of Maine, and The Gulf of Maine Research Institute in a Tag and Release Program. Mr. Chen said, “Of all the islands I have travelled to, Cayman takes the most pride in its reefs and ocean by protecting it from pollution and overfishing.” The tag and release programme encourages participants to tag and release undersized dolphinfish, yellowfin tuna, skipjack and bigeye tuna, and ocean whitetip sharks. ‘Conched Out’, captained by Colin Wilson earned the most release points and were awarded with an Ulysse Nardin CI Limited Edition Watch valued at US$10,000.
The awards dinner and closing ceremony took place on Friday evening at The Crescent in Camana Bay and included a live performance and an impressive display of fireworks. Sponsors, including: Dart Enterprises, Esso, Ulysse Nardin and Island Heritage handed out trophies and checks to winning teams. During the closing ceremony other sponsors were also thanked for their involvement in the tournament including: Chivas Regal; Michelob Ultra; Parkers; Automotive Art; Suzuki; Mikes Ice; Ogier; Shipping Registry and Pro Yacht.
Helping with the presentation of awards, Nicole Spenc, a sportfishing icon from Florida, also thanked sponsors and tournament organizers for welcoming her to the Cayman Islands. “The people, the island, everything is so welcoming and I am just blown away! I can’t wait to come back!” she said. Nicole writes an adventure blog and is popular across YouTube and Instagram.
Reflecting on the tournament, Mr. Merren expressed gratitude to participants and sponsors. “Thank you to those who participated and to the team at Hurley’s Media, Dart Enterprises and The Residences at Seafire for a successful inaugural event. My hope is that next year we have even more participants, increase the prize pools, and perhaps even can break the Blue Marlin record,” he said.
Mr. Chen also said he’s excited for next year’s event. “Looking forward to next year with more boats and even bigger jackpots. I am proud to call Cayman my second home.”
In this Dock Talk edition, President Doug Miller of St. Lucie Battery & Tire, showcases their line and services for marine batteries. Whatever your needs are, St. Lucie Battery & Tire has the marine batteries you need! Providing professional installation, dock side delivery, same or next service across Florida.
The 23rd Annual Orange Beach Billfish Classic (OBBC), kicked off the 2019 Gulf Coast Tournament Season with 48 boats chasing Blue Marlin and more than a $1M in prize money.
Relentless Pursuit, a 95′ Jim Smith, caught the winning fish shortly after the fleet departed Orange Beach on Thursday, May 16th. “We didn’t have a chance to do any pre-fishing before the tournament,” said Captain Robbie Doggett. “But we hadn’t been on the troll all that long when we got the bite we needed. What a way to start the season!”
Angler Dennis Pasentine, Jr. brought the fish to the boat in less than two hours and the crew started heading for Orange Beach to weigh their fish early the next morning. The team celebrated both the 116″ fish that weighed 658.2 pounds and team owner Dennis Pasentine’s birthday before a nice early morning crowd at The Wharf. The Blue Marlin would still be atop the leaderboard when the scales closed on Saturday night.
No other fish were weighed on Friday, but Saturday night saw two more Blue Marlin come to scales. Double J, a 42′ Freeman, saw their fish measure 107″ and 399.4 pounds. Current Alabama State Record holder for Blue Marlin, Chris Ferrara on the 70′ Viking Reel Fire, claimed third place with his 376 pound Blue Marlin which measured 108″.
Mollie the 66′ G & S from Destin, won Catch and Release and will have their name added to the Johnny Johnson Memorial Trophy, by releasing three Blue Marlin. Reel Fire also placed in the Catch and Release category with a second place finish by releasing two Blue Marlin.
Born 2 Run, a 72′ Viking from Pensacola finished in third place in Catch and Release by also releasing two Blue Marlin.
One of the highlights of this year’s tournament was the weighing in of two giant Bluefin Tuna. Hot Rod, a 56′ Viking from Sasser, GA, brought their 107″ fish in early on Saturday night to the delight of the crowd as the scale read 735 pounds. That fish was bumped to second place as the final fish of the night brought huge roars from the fans in attendance and those watching online.
Crawgator, a 61′ Viking from Venice, LA, caught their 110″ Bluefin late on Saturday and just missed setting a new Alabama state record with an 825-pound giant tuna. Tireless, a 44′ Cabo from Orange Beach, finished third with a 172.4-pound Yellowfin Tuna.
CE, a 65′ Hatteras from Point Clear, AL won the Wahoo division with a 58.0-pound fish. Crawgator also placed in the Wahoo division with a second place fish that weighed 45.2 lbs. and Relentless Pursuit also placed in multiple categories with a third-place finish in Wahoo at 40.2 lbs.
It was good to again see big Dolphin coming to the scales as a new tournament year begins. Lucky Dog, a 57 Bayliss from Destin, took first place with a 46.2 lbs. Mahi-Mahi. Second place went to A Team, a 43′ Viking from Galveston, Texas and third place was won by Breathe Reel Deep, a 52 Ocean from Orange Beach. Both fish weighed an identical 36.6 lbs.
The Top Lady Angler was Katie Gonsoulin on Done Deal as she released two Blue Marlin.
Thirty-Six Blue Marlin and three White Marlin were released in the 2019 Orange Beach Billfish Classic.
Official 2019 Orange Beach Billfish Classic Results
1st- 658.2 lbs. Relentless Purist- Angler Dennis Pasentine
2nd- 399.4 lbs. Double J- Angler Greg Gaubert
3rd- 376 lbs. Reel Fire- Angler Nathan Neames
Catch and Release
2nd- Reel Fire
3rd- Born 2 Run
1st- 825.6 lbs. Crawgator- Angler Bill Butler
2nd- 735 lbs. Hot Rod – Angler Stewart Fickel
3rd- 172.4 lbs. Tireless – Angler Gregg Trenor
1st – 58 lbs. CE – Angler Scott Cooper
2nd- 45.2 lbs. Crawgator – Angler Bill Butler
3rd- 40.2 lbs. Relentless Pursuit- Angler Johnny Pasentine
1st- 46.2 lbs. Lucky Dog – Angler Jarrett Johnson
2nd- 36.6 lbs. A Team – Angler Robert Sanderson
3rd- 36.6 lbs. Breathe Reel Deep – JC Jacobs
Top Lady Angler
Katie Gonsoulin on the Done Deal
AIRMAR Technology Corporation, the leader in the manufacture of transducers, is a proud sponsor of the Captain of the Year East Coast Division.
When it comes to transducers, there is much more to it than meets the eye. In this edition of InTheBite Dock Talk, Airmar’s Marketing Director Craig Cushman provides an overview of how to determine the best package of transducers for your sportfishing program.
InTheBite presented the AIRMAR East Coast Division Captain of the Year award at the Bohicket Billfish Tournament captains meeting. Congratulations to Captain Alan Neiford and crew aboard Mister Pete, they had an awesome year! In addition to the recognition he receives from InTheBite, AIRMAR rewarded an additional prize of $2,000 because the boat was equipped with an AIRMAR transducer.