Friday, September 05, 2008

Bluefish tourney hooks pleasant memories

Ebb & Flow
Peter K. Prybot

September 05, 2008 09:52 pm

Although the 20th annual Lane's Cove Bluefish Tournament tired legs, tested tenacity, and didn't break records, it was well-attended by well-behaved participants and well-executed by officials who learned from last year. Furthermore, a new piece of equipment proved critical, the top bluefish yielded its harvester nearly $200 a pound, and a rescue off of Gloucester also resulted from the tournament.

"Contestants were here by 5 a.m.," reports veteran official Jen Grace, who helped with the sign-in near the public float at Lane's Cove's east wharf. Sympathetic to the long line that had already formed by then, she and fellow tournament officials Don Peavey and Russell Haselgard let people register before the official 6 a.m. opening. "By 7 a.m. we had the line thinned out, and it was steady after that," Grace reported.

By the 9 a.m. registration cut-off, 585 contestants signed in, paid the $10 entry fee, and received a raffle ticket. Mike Appleton was first to register, while Claire Driscoll, a native New Zealander living in Gloucester, was number 585. This year's total ebbed slightly from 2007's record 597.

An invigorating clear sky with an approximately 60-degree temperature, and for a change, a wind out of the northwest, soon greeted contestants as they invaded their favorite fishing areas around Cape Ann. The 10- to 20-mph wind's 2- to 4-foot chop exacerbated by a slight swell and, at times, the tide going into it, endlessly tired boaters' legs. The wind rested briefly by late morning, only to exercise again moderately by mid-afternoon when the air temperature rose to the high 70s below a well-lit, cheery blue ceiling punctuated by fragments of puffy white clouds.

The bluefish catch rate and size, especially inshore, also tested contenders' resolves. The fish generally ran small, in the 6- to 9-pound range, and many anglers only caught four fish throughout the tournament.

Most of the fish were snagged by trolling lures.

Unlike last year, this tournament's 3 to 4 p.m. weigh-in proceeded in an orderly way and ended without controversy thanks largely to a more sagacious team of tournament officials and a digital scale donated by Beacon Roofing Supply Inc.'s finance department. The hanging scale used by past tournaments lacked the precision to definitively pin-point 2007's winning bluefish, which all weighed approximately 10 pounds each.

By 3 p.m. some contenders already began delivering their biggest fish by land and sea to the weigh-in station at the cove's east wharf. Jen Grace, who accepted each fish entry one at a time, weighers Brandon Peavey, a Gloucester High School junior, and Brian Cusick, and clerk Kendra Hardy, who verified each entrant and also recorded their fishes' weights, manned the station. Don Peavy, master of ceremonies, worked from the back of his nearby pick-up truck, often with the use of a bullhorn.

The weigh-in station came equipped with a used sink and long counter top. Potential winning fish were placed here along with unwanted ones.

The latter were either given away to anyone who wanted one to eat, like Ray and Sheila Bentley, or placed in a series of coolers with ice for use as bait for a future shark tournament in Portland, Maine. Jean Baulu drove down from Portland with the coolers. He also made a donation to Lane's Cove bluefish tournament officials for the fish. The Lane's Cove group plans to donate that money to Cape Ann Animal Aid.

Capt. Mark Byard's boating prowess awed many of the approximately 1,000 spectators ashore at the start of the weigh-in as he successfully maneuvered his people-packed 56-foot gillnetter, SS Melon III, to the float despite a moderate wind and cramped space and moored it stern first there. Other commercial and recreational craft soon rafted alongside one another in the Cove, and their crews enjoyed cook-outs and socializing.

For the first time, the Bay View Brotherhood ran a concession serving food and cold drinks set up at the cove throughout most of the tournament. "You have to feed those hungry fishermen," explained Kathy Silva, who ran it with Rick Pino Jr.

Peavey brought the tournament to an abrupt end at 4 p.m. "It's the same thing every year — 4 p.m., and that's it," he soon announced.

The digital scale proved critical deciding this year's winners. The crew of the 35-foot Knotty Boy — Jason Katzopoulas, Capt. Michael Gingros and Brian Painter, all of Gloucester — snagged the $2,000 top prize with their 11.02-pound fish. Jason Landry from Swampscott and Brian Silva from Gloucester pocketed $1,500 for their 10.96-pound bluefish. A 10.22-pound fish earned the third prize of $1,000 for the Pisces' crew — Maureen Vion, Mark Sully, Peter Amaral, and Robert Curley, all of Gloucester. Note how close in weights the fish were.

The top fish was snagged with a lure at 8:15 a.m. off Gloucester. "We were fishing big tackle; we hauled him right in. There were some big blues off of Gloucester. We were hoping the hooked fish was a tuna," Hatzopoulas said.

Landry's and Silva's second-place fish was "... hooked trolling around 1:30 p.m. in back of the cemetery (in Lanesville). We got him real deep. We had to get him in quickly, since we were right amongst the lobster buoys," said Landry.

Robby Curley further stated his 10.22-pound fish "... was caught around 9 a.m. with a plug off of Andrews Point."

While observing the weigh-in, long-time tournament participant Bruce Van Stight commented, "Everyone is catching the same fish. They are all minnows. There are no more big fish. When I first participated in the tournament, there were only eight of us, and we landed some 19-pounders."

Sums of $100 and $50 and gifts were raffled off in addition to the three top fish awards. Here is a list of donors and their gifts and a nearly complete list of the recipients and what they won:

Fisherman's Outfitter — rod and reel

Three Lanterns Ship Supply, Inc. — Polartec fishing jacket

Winchester Fishing Co. Inc. — rod and reel, won by Capt. Mark Byard and Bob Gross

Seabreeze Liquors — $25 gift

Roy Moore Lobster Co. — $50 gift certificate won by Brent Currier

Ellen's Harborside — $25 gift certificate, won by Ari Knowlton Miller

Ma & Pa Lapine's — two gift baskets won by Robin Smith

Cape Seafoods Inc. — 250 pounds of bait

While receiving his gift certificate, Knowlton Miller made a toast to friend and longtime tournament participant Jason Tibbetts, who recently died. Dave Leaver and Pete Decareau were also raffle winners. This reporter failed to record what they won. Tim Movalli, James Oliver, Dan Roach, Tim Silva and John McCarthy each won $50. The $100 raffle winners were Adam Hardy, Bob Peavey, Dan Green, Charles Gillman and John Porter.

Raffle winners had to be present with the appropriate raffle ticket to receive their gifts.

The Lanesville Package Store and Clayton family donated the use of a Porta-potty as well as numerous Lane's Cove Bluefish Tournament T-shirts and sweatshirts. Speaking of the Claytons, Capt. Brett and his son, Ross, a sophomore at the University of Rhode Island, helped rescue a pair of canoers and their dog who had flipped over a half-mile off Eastern Point. The Claytons were returning from bluefishing at the groaner off of Gloucester in their 24-foot boat. "The wind was blowing 25 mph northwest; they had no business being out there. The man, about 65, and the woman in her late 50s, were clueless. Fortunately, they all had life preservers on, even the dog; otherwise, they would have died," said Brett. The Claytons later transported the stricken sailors, their pet and approximately 20-foot canoe to where they launched it SEmD Norman's Woe. "I gave them a good lecturing on the way in," Brett said.

The Claytons didn't even get a "thank you" from the pair once they were safely dropped off.

While bringing the tournament to a conclusion, Peavey announced to the crowd, "That's it. See you next year."

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O'Maley School students Allie McKay and Zoe Muller enter their largest fish in the tournament. Special to the Times

Tournament winners and officials: Jason Hatzopoulos, Robby Curley, Jason Landry, Jen Grace, Don and Brandon Peavey, Kendra Hardy and Joe Parady pose at the end of the tournament. Special to the Times directory