May 7, 2012

Some big fish and great weather make anglers happy at Ocracoke tournament
….WITH SLIDE SHOW

By CONNIE LEINBACH


The fish may have been fewer, but fun and summer-like weather was in abundance at the 29th annual Ocracoke Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament Thursday and Friday, May 3 and 4.

The Stop-N-Shop Hotliners of Nags Head were the first-place winners with 168 points won from just eight fish caught.

“We have team members up to 70 years old with lots of experience,” said Cecil Duke, team captain, about his team’s win, their first ever in this tournament.  He thought that the low number of fish caught was because there was not a lot of bait fish in the water to attract the big fish.

“They may not have had a lot of fish, but they had big fish,” said Woody Billings, head judge and tournament director.  As the slogan on the judges’ T-shirts notes, “Size Matters.”

The biggest fish of the tournament was attracted to Ginger Wojciechowski’s line Friday afternoon.

“That was awesome,” she gushed after a several-minute battle with a 37-inch bluefish, the largest fish caught. “The fish gods have blessed me.”

Wojciechowski, of Buxton, was on the women’s team, the Nags Head Outcasters, which also won first-place among the women’s teams with 118 points caught from nine fish.  They also were the Fourth Session winners.

“She’s out here fishing every chance she can get,” noted teammate Angela Gaskins of Wojciechowski’s fishing ethic.

Another of her teammates, Jean Flanigan, was honored with the most fish caught – three -- by a female.

Flanigan’s husband, Dave, fishing with the Stop-N-Shop Hotliners of Nags Head, had the largest fish caught by a male at 37 inches.

Garry Oliver, with Team Diawa, had the most fish for males with six fish.

“He fishes harder than anyone I know,” Billings announced during the awards ceremony.

Sixty-nine teams competed in the invitational for which there are 70 spots.  One team did not show.

The contestants fish in four sessions over two days.  All fish are caught and released. Only fish 11 inches or more count for points.

Billings, who as a volunteer, has run the nonprofit tournament for 20 of its 29 years, explained that, after expenses, the tournament is a fundraiser for the community.

“We gave out $6,000 to community organizations last year,” he said. 

Groups benefitting are the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department, Ocracoke Day Care, Ocracoke Youth Center, a $500 memorial scholarship fund to Ocracoke School in Sigma Willis’ name and Ocracoke School Athletic Booster Club.

He expects to increase the total donated this year, but that won’t be known until this fall after the books are closed. 

However, during the tournament, Billings made an early gift of $500 to the Methodist Youth Group’s mission trip in September to Washington, D.C.

Finishing third in the tournament were the Raleigh Saltwater Surf Fishing Club with 109 points from three fish.

Out of the 69 teams, 14 caught no reportable fish.

One of those was the Pubettes of Ocracoke, the Howard’s Pub team.

“We caught a plastic bag, a carcass, and fishing gear,” said Daphne Bennink, one of the team members on Friday.

She explained that her rod was in the sand and her line out when it came loose and got sucked into the surf.

“Then somebody’s line hooked it and we reeled it in,” Bennink said.

Among the folks on the beach were two groups of women who arrive on the island specifically to hang with the folks in the tourney.

The Maryland Girls are Kim Holloway, Debbie Widgeon, Amy Williams and Carol Johnson.

“We’re the cheerleaders,” said Holloway at the group’s beach outpost, noting that this was the 10th time they’ve attended the tournament.  “We were just on a girls’ trip and happened upon it.  Now we re-book every year at this time.”

Another group of non-fishing women are the Rhode Island Girls.

Edean Mendonsa explained that they, too, stumbled up the tournament four years ago.

“Last year we were walking along the beach and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a truck,’” added Maria Stallings.

Right after that statement, along came one of the tournament judges, Les Wooten, in his truck, who gave them a ride.  This year, they again found Wooten and his truck.

“It’s the start of our summer,” noted Mendonsa.  “It’s much colder up north now.”

The other Rhode Island Girls are Lora Haire and Judy Szak.

While many of the teams casting their lines noted the lack of bites on Friday, they were enjoying the Ocracoke beach and the excellent weather.

“I don’t think we’ve caught a fish all day,” said George Stronach of the Inland Anglers.  “But it’s real pretty out here and that’s the main thing.”

Team winners were as follows:

Men’s teams: first place—Stop-N-Shop Hot Liners, Nags Head, 168 points; second place—Raleigh Saltwater Surf Fishing Club, 109 points; third place—Nags Head Surf Fishing Club, 81 points.

Women’s teams:  first place—Nags Head Outcasters, 118 points; second place—Hattersakals, 60 points; third place--Different Drummers, 12 points.

Session winners were:

First session: Nags Head Surf Fishing Club, 19 points; second session: Stop-N-Shop Hot Liners, 162 points; third session: Virginia Beach Anglers Club, 10 points; fourth session: Nags Head Outcasters, 61 points.

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