November 10, 2011

Annual Anglers Club Tournament yielded few fish….WITH SLIDE SHOW


Participants in the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club 54th Annual Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament on Nov. 3-5 faced difficult weather conditions as severe wind and waves battered the coast from a deepening low pressure system that eventually became Tropical Storm Sean.

“The east facing beaches were just awful for catching fish,” said Larry Hardham, president of the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club.  He described the waters as angry and dirty, not the ideal fishing conditions.

The storm system gave contestants every weather condition possible during the three-day competition -- huge waves, ocean overwash, gale force winds, strong undertow, torrential rain, and lightning. 

The tournament wasn’t suspended at any time, but participants fished at their own risk.  Only once since 1957 has the tournament been called off and that was in 1990 when part of the Bonner Bridge collapsed after it was hit by a dredge.

Ocean overwash forced tournament organizers to move 12 stations at Ramp 27 during the very first fishing session of the tournament.  More were moved on the second day

The undertow was so powerful that many contestants spent their sessions casting lines with 8- and 10-ounce weights in the water and following them down the beach a couple of miles, only to reel it in, walk back up the beach, and repeat.

The fallout from the weather conditions was devastating for participating fisherman. 

According to Hardham, “This year had the fewest scoreable fish and the fewest points in the last 18 years.  This is two years in a row of stinking weather.”

There were only 437 fish caught that scored a recent tournament low 1,036 points.  Last year, which also had bad weather, there were 597 fish caught that added up to 1,324 points.  This is in stark contrast to 2004 when there were 8,277 scoreable fish that added up to a total of 26,799 points.

The first two days of the tournament are team competition with 120 six-person teams participating, and the third day is an individual event.  There were 21 teams that didn’t score a single fish in any session. 

The winning fish for the team event was hooked with only 45 minutes remaining in the final session.  The Roanoke Surf Fishing Club won the event at the last minute by hooking only two fish and scoring a mere 90 points.  They hadn’t scored a single point in the previous three sessions.  To see all the scores, go to

“The lesson here is to never give up,” says Hardham.  “They got a 46-inch red drum that scored 88 points with 45 minutes left that won the tournament.”

The tournament teams fished at all the beach accesses on Hatteras, starting at Ramp 23, which is near Salvo, all the way down to Hatteras village at Ramp 55 -- with the exception of Ramp 45 which is at the campground.  Fishing stations were spaced one-tenth of a mile apart.  Organizers used a GPS in setting up the stations, making the distances as uniform as possible. 

The team event is comprised of four sessions in four different areas over two days, with each team required to fish a high tide and a low tide on both the east facing and south facing beaches.  Morning sessions ran from 8 to 11 a.m. Then teams changed locations for the afternoon session that lasted for 3 hours, beginning at 1:30 p.m. 

The site selections for the fishing teams were computer generated, and this is the only fishing tournament that does it, says Hardham. 

Rules require that each angler has to bait, cast, and land the fish without any help from anyone else, no matter the age or any circumstance. 

Scoring is done by a point system.  Fish must be a minimum of 11 inches in length or the minimum size requirement for that species. As an example, a 14-inch flounder is not scoreable because the state requirement is 15 inches.

Each catch gets a point for being 11inches and a point for every additional inch up to 20 inches.  Three points are awarded for every inch beyond 20.

There are 20 species of fish that can be scored during the competition.  Red Drum, Spanish mackerel, striped bass, blues, sea mullet, and gray trout are common catches.  Trash fish, such as sharks and rays, do not count.

Thirty-one sets of judges worked the beaches with a minimum of two people in each set for a total of 67 judges for this year.  Some, but not all, are club members. New judges were teamed with experienced ones.  No set of judges had to cover more than four stations. 

There was a diverse collection of people who judged the tournament -- from husbands and wives, grandmothers and grandkids, retirees to college students.  Some judge in the local tournaments, while others judge in several states.  One married couple who judged celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary during the tournament.

The individual segment, which was held on the last day of the tournament requires fish to be brought into the clubhouse and weighed, which frees the judges so they can compete.  Contestants under age 16 could enter for free.  Winners are judged by weight, not length.

The Anglers Club Tournament is the largest on the Outer Banks with 720 entrants.  According to the club’s president, it is the largest in the world but hasn’t been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records that lists the largest ocean-fishing tournament with 697 anglers.

There are 50 fishing teams on a waiting list trying to get into this annual tournament, which is limited to the 120 teams that are allowed by the National Park Service’s tournament permit.  This limit was increased about five years ago from 100 teams. 

The last new team that got into the Angler’s Club event waited for 17 years to get invited.  The Anglers Club plans to notify everyone on the waiting list by certified mail to confirm that they are still interested.

Entrants do not need to be a member of the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club to be invited to fish in the tournament.  This year, the judges and anglers came from seven states.

Of the 120 teams who participated in the 2011 invitational, 16 were all female teams.

Proceeds from the 50/50 raffle, which was held during the open house at the beginning of the event, were donated to the Cape Hatteras United Methodist Men to help local victims from Hurricane Irene.

CLICK HERE FOR SLIDE SHOW (IPad, IPhone and other non-flash compatible device users)

 Comments are always welcomed!

     Subject :

     Name :  (required)

     Email :  (required, will not be published)

     City :   (required)    State :   (required)

     Your Comments:

May be posted on the Letters to the Editor page at the discretion of the editor.