Oceanside Anglers of Hatteras win Ocracoke surf fishing tournament again
By CONNIE LEINBACH
There was a
of serious fun at the 28th Annual Ocracoke Invitational Surf Fishing
Tournament, which concluded Friday, May 6.
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The Oceanside Anglers team of Hatteras was the overall winner with 12
fish caught and 110 points. This team won last year, and this
year’s win gave one of the team members, Newt Sharber, the most wins –
four -- of any individual in the tournament.
Sixty-eight teams competed in four sessions May 5 and 6.
It was this reporter’s first time attending a surf fishing tournament
of any kind.
I rode with tournament co-chairman Woody Billings for two of the four
sessions as he traveled the beach checking on the 69 teams vying for
the biggest and most fish.
A popular tournament, and the first one of the season, the OISFT allows
only 70 teams to participate and has many teams on a waiting list to
Each team has six members and may have one alternate, for a total of
more than 450 fishermen and women participating at assigned stations
along 13 miles of the beach.
The (serious) humor of the teams is evident in their names: the Fish
Lips, the Pheasant Pluckers, the Stormy Gales, Reality Strikes, Team
ECB Profishionals, the OBX-Rays, to name a few.
Some even have their own slogans, such as the Ocrajokers, from Ohio,
whose motto on the back of their black sweatshirts is “Fresh bait;
“Size Matters,” is a slogan on the judges’ T-shirts.
Many teams have their own color-coordinated or team shirts or
sweatshirts. Many have been in the tournament since it began in 1983 as
an event to bring tourists to the island in the off-season.
“Now it’s a tradition,” Woody said.
Woody has been the volunteer tournament director for 18 of the
tournament’s 28 years.
“I like the office,” he said about the beach. “And I get paid in
The beach was packed as Woody’s truck made its way among the teams and
checked in with the 17 pairs of judges.
All fish caught are released. So, the judges have to be vigilant and be
ready to dash to a team to measure fish as they’re hauled out of the
We were lucky to witness two of the three largest fish that were caught.
The first one was Thursday afternoon when Emery Pajer, of the
Ocrajokers from Ohio, reeled in a 35-inch bluefish. Pajer’s fish was
the largest in the tournament and the largest among the male
On Friday afternoon, rookie fisherwoman Vera Attaway of Ocracoke, a
member of a local women’s team, the Misfit Mermaids, reeled in a 33
½-inch bluefish. Participating in the tournament was the
time Attaway had ever fished.
She held onto that lead, besting a 33 ¼-inch blue caught later in the
day by Virginia Perlot of the Showstoppers.
We got there after Virginia released it, but she was interviewed by
Dave and Bill of Ocracoke community radio station WOVV 90.1 FM, who
traveled up and down the beach both days capturing the action as it
As we rode along, Woody related the latest size news to the judges and
some of the teams.
“He’s the right man in the right place,” noted Joe Hardman, a
tournament board member, who rode with Woody, along with Jennifer
Kidwell, event photographer, and Terry Billings, Woody’s wife. “He
knows everyone on the beach,” Joe added.
Woody likes to put his “beach music” on his CD player as he drives
“It’s also a tradition,” he said about the bands he listens to, such as
The Embers and the Chairmen of the Board.
“These are bands from around Myrtle Beach and the southern North
Carolina beaches,” Woody said. “You danced ‘The Shag’ to
Whatever that was.
We make it a point to stop at The Pubettes location—the Howard’s Pub
team. Howard’s Pub and Raw Bar and East Carolina Bank are the two major
sponsors of the tournament, and the teams were stationed right beside
each other on Friday.
Apparently, Howard’s has the best food spread of the teams, with a
table-cloth covered banquet table holding chips, dip, crudités, fruit
Thursday was sunny with little wind and a calm sea. Despite the
beautiful weather, the fishing was not very productive with many
catching dogfish and skates.
The poor fishing was evident in the overall numbers. Team
of Nags Head, the second-place overall winner, caught 10 fish for 84
points. The Ocracoke Internationals, overall third-place
caught six fish for 69 points.
Total fish caught this year was 175 for 1,058 points. Last year, the
catch was 668 total fish caught.
Friday, while it was sunny, the wind was much stronger, making fishing
“The last few years, the fishing has not been that great,” Woody said.
“It’s springtime and the water is still cold. Fishing in the fall is
Wind didn’t matter to the anglers, many of whom waded out into the
water to cast their lines farther out. Others were content to plant
their poles in the sand and take a seat.
Women’s team the Outcasters from Nags Head never sit down, said Ginger
Wojciechowski, who had the most fish caught (four) of the women anglers.
John McGee, of the winning Oceanside Anglers, had the most fish caught
(five) among the males.
By late Friday afternoon, one women’s team had discarded their bras
(retaining their shirts) and flew them from a fishing pole.
Everyone wondered what happened to The Fish Lips, a woman’s team from
Nags Head that is arguably the most colorful of the women teams.
“Our SUV for the beach broke down,” said Rae Eley, one of the members.
Nonetheless, the team members had remained on the island, and four of
the six attended the Friday night banquet, dressed up in black outfits
with sparkly aprons and black hats with red trim. They proceeded to
give red lip stickers to everyone attending.
“We just love this event,” noted Rae, who’s also on the board of
They love to make a splash. “One year, we arrived in a limo,”
The Fish Lips had a final ranking of 59.
“I don’t know why,” team member Mary Simpson said. “We never got onto
Woody explained that all of the teams who scored zero, such as Fish
Lips, were randomly placed on the ranking board after the teams who did
have scores. Twelve teams had zero and one team no score
they were not able to attend the tournament.
The Rod Runners of Frisco included mother-daughter team of Bev Harding,
81, and her daughter Kim Wines, from Maryland.
“We’re not doing too well, but we’re having fun,” Bev said, adding that
she’s been “surf fishing forever.”
“We work hard to have fun,” added Sue Garrett of Hatteras. “It’s a
mini-vacation one island down.”
Of the female teams, the Misfit Mermaids and the Showstoppers tied for
first place, each with one fish caught and 49 points. The Showstoppers
captured first place in a coin toss, making the Mermaids second.
The Fishin’ Pelicans of Hatteras placed third with three fish caught
and 25 points.
Session winners were Cape Hatteras Anglers (first session), the
Ocrajokers (second session), Oceanside Anglers (third session), and
Team Daiwa (fourth session).
Cash and goods sponsors included East Carolina Bank, Howard’s Pub,
Budweiser, Daiwa, Scot Rogers of Rogers Southeast Associates, Inc., Sea
Striker, Dick Henry, Igloo, Pepsi Cola, Dan Vinent with Pure Fishing,
Anglers Fish-n-Mate, Hopkins Lures, Lamiglas Fishing Rods, and Ocracoke
Trophy sponsors included Tradewinds Bait and Tackle, Gaffer’s Sports
Pub, Howard’s Pub, Harborside Motel, Pony Island Motel, Variety Store,
Ocracoke Island Realty, Smacnally’s, Mickey’s Sales & Service,
Midgett Realty, Ocracoke Harbor Inn, Coastal Impressions, Jewelry by
Gail, and Gray’s Family Department Store.
A 16-member volunteer board of directors organizes the event each year.
Proceeds of about $5,000 from the tournament (after expenses) are
divided among four Ocracoke non-profits -- the Volunteer Fire
Department, the Ocracoke Youth Center, Ocracoke Child Care, and the
Sigma Willis Memorial Scholarship Fund at the Ocracoke School.