Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bluefishers happy despite weather, low catch figures

Gloucester Daily Times

Ebb & Flow
Peter K. Prybot

September 11, 2009 10:08 pm

"There weren't a lot of fish caught, and the weather drove a lot of people away."

So explained Don Peavey, one of the annual Lane's Cove Bluefish Tournament's officials and founders.

But despite those negatives, participants did leave last weekend's 21st annual tournament happy, especially for winning a prize or just getting their feet back on solid ground, and everyone was grateful for this tournament and to the people —-Don and Brandon Peavey, David, Jen and Christy Grace, Kendra Hardy, Brian Cusick, Russell Haselgard and Joe Parady — who made it happen.

By the 9 a.m. tournament registration cut-off at Lane's Cove, 438 people signed on, paid their $10 entry fee and received their raffle ticket, down from 585 last year and 2007's record 597. Scott Amero was the first contestant in line, while James Bennett was the last.

A naughty east wind up to 25 miles per hour woke up early that clear, cool Sunday before Labor Day, and already riled three-to-five-foot white-capped waves by daybreak. These simple harmonic motions continued racing towards and self-destructing at the shore most of the morning, still leaving behind a sloppy ocean surface by afternoon. The bluefish hunt took place all around Cape Ann, including within Gloucester Harbor, to as far south as Boston Harbor.

Around 2:30, a fleet of tournament boats, including Capt. Mark Byard's 56-foot gillnetter S.S. Melon III and Capt. Ryan Drohan's 38-foot lobster boat Katlyn D, docked at the Cove's float and continued their on-board barbecues on an even keel. Fish talk flowed from the site as well as from the crowd on the east wharf.

"We had 15 people aboard, including 7 girls (young ladies). We caught just one fish. It was pretty rough out there. We were in the tournament for fun," said Drohan, of Rockport.

Mark Luzzio, one of 12 guests aboard the S.S. Melon III, gave his account for the day:

"We did a little trolling," he said. "We got one hit and lost him. We had some seasick people aboard."

Capt. Dean Horn of the vessel Split the Difference and his crew of Chris Smith, Bob Orlando, vessel owner, Guy Cloutman, Brian Watson and Paul Boudreau "... went all the way to Salem Sound."

"You had to; the fish were pretty scarce everywhere," said Horn. "We got two here."

Fishermen ever so slowly began bringing their largest fish to the well-run weigh-out station, complete with a digital scale, from 2:30 p.m. onward to see if they had a winner.

"Bring them up, bring them up," Cusick regularly broadcast to a growing, well-behaved crowd.

"Two years back, Grace and his Beacon Roofing Supply Company in Peabody donated the digital scale," Peavey explained.

"We're down to five minutes on the tournament," Peavey soon announced. By then most of the approximately 60 fish weighed fell within the 8 to 11-pound range.

"This is the smallest amount of fish I've ever seen weighed," remarked David Grace.

One of the bluefish, transported in a cooler, was still flapping during its weigh-in. Soon, deemed not a prize winner, the fish's owner then no longer wanted it, tournament officials returned it to the Cove, and the fish swam away. Other bluefish drop-offs were picked up by different people for food.

Peavey promptly terminated the tournament at 4 p.m.

Brothers Chris and Zach Jewell snagged the 11.8-pound $1,350 first prize fish trolling a lure aboard Chris' 34-foot lobster boat McKenzie Rose.

"We got him around 8 a.m. right off the bell buoy (at the mouth of the Annisquam River). We got three fish with three losses," said Zach.

"I got him in Boston Harbor around 10:30 a.m. just using some herring (as hook bait and chum)," said Mike Gingras. He's talking about his 11.5-pound second prize, fish worth $700. Gingras fished off his boat, Naughty Boy. Although Gingras resides in Nashua, N.H., "I still come up for the tournament," he said.

Brian Cusick has officiated and also participated in all 21 tournaments "... and haven't won a damn thing," he said.

That changed this year. Cusick and his crew aboard the Ellie Mae — Don and Brandon Peavey, Butch Oliver of Mesa, Ariz., and Carl Brown from Danvers — snagged the $500 third-prize bluefish also near the red bell buoy at the mouth of the Annisquam River.

"It was just before lunch. We'll split it (the prize money) five ways," said Cusick.

Their fish weighed 11.26 pounds, and Cusick and crew had several close elimination calls right up to 4 p.m.

Raffle prizes were also awarded. Capt. B.G. Brown and Andrew Moulton each pocketed $50, while Ken Marshall and George Ketchopulos did the same with the $100 prizes. Daryl Seppala won a deep-sea fishing trip for two. Furthermore, Sean Cranston's, Tony Crystal's and Scott Russell's winning raffle ticket numbers got them each a rod and reel.

A most generous and kind-hearted Cranston, owner of Cranston Electric Co., donated his over $100 rod and reel to Sky Foote. The young girl was sitting on Peavey's truck from which he stood and called out names and handed out prizes.

Cranston "... did that all on his own," said Jen Grace, who, along with the rest of the crowd, was clearly touched by his kind move.

Gloucester Harbor Yankee Fleet donated the fishing trip. The Fishermen's Outfitter, Winchester Fishing Company and Three Lanterns Ship Supply kicked in the rods and reels. The tournament also donated a rod and reel.

The tournament officials ended the event by hurling hats into the crowd and by a final announcement from Peavey.

"That's another year, folks. I hope everyone had fun."

Gloucester lobsterman Peter K. Prybot writes weekly about the fishing industry and related issues for the Times.

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