Lanes Cove Bluefish Tournament
Gloucester Daily Times
Big blues made bad weather bearable
Ebb & Flow
Peter K. Prybot
Bad weather was the big story for the Mary Parisi 18th annual Lane's Cove Bluefish Tournament, started by the Peavey boys, Bob and Don. No records were set this year, but three contestants walked away with good chunks of change in their pockets, while others took home many smaller prizes.
Kaarl Waalewyn from Rockport was already down the Cove at 4:45 a.m. waiting to sign in, said Jenn Grace, who officiates the 6 to 9 a.m. registration and collects the $10 entry fee with Gregg Marchant and Don Peavey. Each entrant is also given a raffle ticket. The entry fee kitty is later divvied into prizes. The contest always takes place the Sunday before Labor Day.
While Waalewyn, a regular contestant, had the distinction of being entrant No. 1, "Big Ken," as he signed in, was last at No. 301, down significantly from 2005's record 529 contestants who experienced sunny, warm and calm conditions.
Nature flipped her calm-to-rough switch about a week before the tournament and, worst of all, kept it going even on the big day, giving light to moderate, mainly easterly component winds during the time frame that also got much of the shoreline and the outer ledges white and the ocean surface lumpy with seas and waves that often had the tide going into them.
"I'd have to say there was a 10-foot-high swell with 7-foot-high breaking waves in back of Thacher's (on tournament day)," reported Bryan Church, who trolled there aboard his 22-foot-long lobster boat with his son, Caleb, and friend Avery Barry.
Wind and rain
Fourteen-year-olds Sean Ellis and Dominic Novello hunted bluefish in a 14-foot skiff with Ellis's father, David, off Halibut Point and Andrew's Cove. "Once you made the turn (off Halibut Point), it was rough; there were big waves," Sean said.
Fortunately, the upper Ipswich Bay, especially off Lane's Cove is not too bad in a southeast wind, and there were bluefish to be caught in the area on tournament day.
If the wind and riled sea weren't bad enough, rain clouds also took over, but not before that morning's rising sun briefly won out over them and gilded the horizon just before 7 a.m. The clouds dropped their wet and chilling cargo in earnest from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. while the sky and sea kept mirroring each other like the air and water temperatures.
"It was the weather that killed the tournament numbers this year," said contestant Steve Silva of Rockport.
The week-long rough spell had already beaten down many potential contenders, especially commercial fishermen who had been out and knew what was there on tournament day. The water was the last place they wanted to be again.
Many other contestants adopted a different philosophy to deal with the bad weather.
"You just go," reasoned Silva, who rocked and rolled in rain gear off Halibut Point much of the day on his approximately 30-foot-long wooden lobster boat with friends Dan Rapp, Brock Currier, Ken Porter and Dan Levesque.
Cam and Nick DeCoste and Peter Mondello, 10 and 11 years old, respectively, even liked the challenge the rough weather presented while bluefishing off Rockport aboard the 20-foot boat owned by their fathers, Dean DeCoste and Frank Mondello Jr.
"It was fun," Peter said.
Additional commercial fishermen contestants, such as gillnet skippers Jimmy Santapaola Jr. and Mark Byard, who also enjoyed the comforts of their over 40-foot-long fishing vessels, weren't bothered at all by the poor fishing conditions. "It was just another day," Santapaola explained.
Weigh-out and winners
Tournament officials Jenn and Christy Grace, Kendra Hardy, Brian Cusick and Don Peavey and his son, Brendan, began weighing out fish by 2:45 p.m. A huge umbrella helped shelter them from the light precipitation at this time. Some fish came in around 6 pounds, while many were in the 9-pound range. A few contestants found fish, while most happened upon just a scattered one here and here.
As always, the 2-to-4 p.m. weigh-out raced by, and the tournament adhered to its sharp 4 p.m. cut-off time.
"It's over," Peavey then announced over a bullhorn to the soggy crowd.
Squammer David "Dirt" Murray and crew Ari Knowlton Miller from Lanesville and Steve Seward from Nantucket pocketed the $1,400 first prize for their 11.4-pound fish.
Jimmy Santapaola Jr., captain of the 42-foot Gloucester gillnetter Amanda Leigh, along with crew Jack Carrancho, Mike Goodwin, Nat Smith and Matt Hewett, earned $700 for their second-place 10-pound, 12-ounce bluefish, while Dan Rapp's 10-pound, 4-ounce fish took the $400 third prize.
Murray and crew's fish was hooked trolling in Ipswich Bay off the Essex bell buoy around 10 a.m.
"The plug was a deep diver. We trolled and trolled and only caught one fish at a time. Most of our fish were hooked in the morning," said Murray.
Seward added, "I brought along Nantucket bluefish-catching know-how."
Santapaola and gang snagged their fish while fishing baited hooks and chumming "right outside Lane's Cove around 11 a.m. That fish looked good compared to the others that were little," the captain said.
These fishermen had previously tried their former hot spots off Kettle Island and the back shore to no avail before traveling through the river and into the bay.
Dan Rapp landed his fish around 10 a.m. right off Halibut Point after chumming and bait-fishing for it. He and the crew aboard Silva's lobster boat "had about 28 fish for the day," Rapp said.
And Nick Parisi, whose late wife Mary, for whom the tournament was named after last year, had a fish story, too. Parisi swears he had caught what would have undoubtedly been the top-prize fish, but lost it alongside his boat while attempting to immobilize and net it aboard.
Once again, Don Peavey rounded up raffle items from generous companies. Here is a list of the raffle prizes, donors and winners:
* Custom rod and 6500 Shimano Bait Runner, Fisherman's Outfitter: Butch Oliver
* Penn Slammer Rod and 460 Penn Slammer Reel, Yankee Fleet: Scott Bickle
* Tiger Ugly Stik and Penn 320 G+2 Reel, Winchester Fishing Co.: Nate Pistenmaa
* New England rain gear, New England Marine & Industrial: Lucas McRobb
* Igloo coolers and three-piece Winchester gift sets, West Marine: Peter Mondello, Jim Wonson and Kaarl and Jan Waalewyn
* Eight pounds of Hi Catch and Illusion Monofilament, Fisherman's Outfitters and Momois Monofilament: Ericka Baert, Eric Josephine, Ed Catto, Ross Eastman, Rory Higgins and Phil Laidlaw
* Two $50-apiece Citgo gift cards, Willow Rest: Matt Murray and unidentified.
* $100 cash prizes from tournament entry fee money: Brett Smith, Paul Martell and Mary Pickernello
* $50 cash prize from tournament entry fee money: Rocco Pitts
The Willow Rest also supplied the Jiffy John on site. Just as nice, Butch Oliver, winner of the Fisherman's Outfitters rod and reel, graciously handed his prize over to young angler Cam DeCoste.
"Thank you all for showing up. Despite the weather, we had a good time," Don Peavey told the crowd in farewell.
And, no, the bad weather didn't dampen the traditional happy hour that immediately follows the tournament.
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