10.1-pound bluefish reaps $2,200 in Cove tourney
Gloucester Daily Times
September 08, 2007 11:57 am
The Mary Parisi 19th annual Lane's Cove Bluefish Tournament shattered records. But its committee had to make some tough calls and realized improvements are needed.
'Shocked at the number'
"We arrived at 5:30 a.m. and a long line of contestants already waited to sign in," said Jenn Grace. She and committee members Gregg Marchant and Don Peavey were in charge of registration on the cove's east wharf near the public float. The 597 people who signed in between 6 and 9 a.m. and paid a $10 entry fee topped the previous record set in 2005 of 529.
"We were shocked at the number," Grace said.
Brian Thibodeau registered as No. 1, while Ross Eastman was No. 597; both are of Gloucester. The entry fee kitty is later divvied up as the top three prizes and as $100 and $50 raffle prizes. Each entrant is given a raffle ticket. The tournament occurs the Sunday before Labor Day.
Many contestants took to the hunt, with a fallish feel in the 55-degree air, a dawn with some black and blush scribbled into its eastern horizon, and a northerly wind that breathed just hard enough to stir a bump-de-bump-bump-bump ocean surface.
By 1 p.m., the nearly cloudless sky was an October blue, and the wind, which gave out by mid-morning and let the ocean flatten, began to respire out of the southwest and push the air temperature up to the mid-70s. The weather, contrary to last year's rain, wind and waves, helped bring out the crowd.
Much of the event's bluefish trolling and bait fishing occurred off Halibut Point, the Rockport breakwater and the Londoner. The quarry tended to run in the 7- to 10-pound range. The fish bit best around 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. for many.
Dogfish posed a problem to lots of the bait-fishing anglers. Some contestants, such as Mark and Ross Eastman and Andrew and Lucas McRobb, who fished together in one boat from Rockport to Norman's Woe, caught no bluefish.
"We marked fish all day," Andrew McRobb said."There was a lot of feed. We trolled; we chummed; and we couldn't get a bluefish. Every time we chummed, we got the dogs."
By 3 p.m., contestants began arriving by boat and motor vehicle to weigh out their biggest fish at the traditional station site on the west wharf. Two fishing vessels, Capt. Jimmy Santapaola Jr.'s 42-foot Amanda Leigh and Capt. Toby O'Connell's approximately 35-foot Drift Away, raced neck and neck full bore from the fishing banks to Lane's Cove. Both vessels are powered by approximately 300-horsepower diesels.
"The Drift Away got it by half a knot. He barely got me," said Santapaola, who won second prize in last year's tournament.
Jenn and Christy Grace, Kendra Hardy, Brian Cusick and Don Peavey and his son Brandon, a Gloucester High School student, conducted the 3 to 4 p.m. weigh-out again, with changes in place from last year. They worked within a rectangle enclosed by wire lobster traps stacked three high and required contestants to form a single line and place their fish one at a time on a designated spot. Fish unwanted after the weighing were placed in the back of a pick-up truck. Officials told the top contenders to hold onto their fish. Entries were still weighed from a hanging scale.
The officials soon found themselves faced with two first-of-a-kind dilemmas: the potential winning fishes fell within the same weight, and one fish with roughed up gills and an extended belly raised red flags with the officials, who soon disqualified it. Although this fish was the same length as many of those eliminated, it weighed out at 10.25 lbs.
Anguish and re-weighing
After experiencing lots of anguish and having to re-weigh the heaviest fish over and over, Don Peavey officially ended the tournament just after 4 p.m., announced the winners and handed out the prizes, which included canned goods donated by Myron Lapine. Lapine, who works at Cape Seafoods in Gloucester, has a green thumb and regularly enters his canned goods in the Topsfield Fair.
The crew of the Reel Trouble out of Gloucester - John Hale, Ralph Martin Jr., Stan MacLean, Scott Amero and Paul "The Cat" Movalli - split the $2,200 first prize for their 10.1-pound fish. John Sykora and Roger Trabucco each pocketed $1,150 for their identical 10-pound blues.
"We had to combine and split the second and third prizes. The top three fish should win," explained Jenn Grace.
Several in the crowd of over a thousand suggested replacing the hanging scale with a digital one for next year, and if the weights still come out identical, using overall length as the next criterion.
Last year's winning fish were an 11.4-pounder worth $1,400, a 10.12-pound fish good for a $700 second prize and a 10.4-pound bluefish worth $400 as third prize.
Don Peavey added badly needed humor at the end of the tense weigh-out by holding up Nick Parisi's entry.
"This bluefish measures at 62 inches and weighs over 40 pounds. It could be a world record," Peavey said.
The fish then fell apart. Parisi, a regular contestant of the tournament, which was recently named in part after his late wife, put this bluefish together by stuffing around five fish into a plastic sleeve with the head of one sticking out at one end and the tail of another at the opposite end.
The Reel Trouble crew attribute their first prize to "rock 'n' roll fishing."
"It was the music. This is a rocking roll fishing boat," Movalli said.
In addition to attracting the fish with music, the gang used herring for bait and chum. They hooked the winner around 8:30 a.m. off the Rockport breakwater.
"We caught fish all day. We also threw away an easy 50 fish," Movalli said.
Picking out the raffle winners and awarding their prizes ended the tournament. Winners had to be present and provide their tickets to claim prizes. This policy drew out the event, since many potential winners weren't present, and new tickets had to be repeatedly drawn. The committee will work on improving the raffle drawing, possibly by taking down entrants' telephone numbers during the sign-in and simply contacting them later.
Here is a list of the donors, raffle prizes and some of the winners (I did my best):
Fishermen's Outfitters - Custom rod and reel.
Yankee Fleet - Rod and reel.
Connolly's Seafood - $25 gift certificate.
Cape Seafood - $100 gift bait.
Willow Rest - two $50 gift cards.
Lanesville Package Store - $25 gift card, won by Charlie Williams.
Lanesville Package Store - Provided two portable toilets for the event.
Winchester Fishing Gear - Rod and reel.
Burbank & Lucas Auto Repair - Oil change and lube, won by Dickie Crowell.
Portside Chowder House - $25 gift card, won by Billy Jewell.
Sea Breeze Liquors - $25 gift card, won by Jenn Murphy.
F/V Tanya L. - Six lobsters.
Ellen's Harborside - $20 gift card.
Molly's Sweet Tooth - $20 gift card.
The Fish Shack - $50 gift card.
Burrhead Oil - 100 gallons of oil.
In addition, Paul Martin, Camm Jamieson and Bryan Church were three of the many $100 and $50 cash prize winners.
Kudos to the committee
The newest committee member, Steve Silva from Rockport, "made all of the Rockport donations happen," said Gregg Marchant, who also did up the tournament's signs.
"Donny Peavey (assisted by son Brandon) busted his butt again to make this tournament happen," said Jenn Grace.
The Graces, Hardy and Cusick also deserve credit.
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