Annual fall surf-fishing tourney nears

Anglers have just a few more days to register for the Annual Fall Surf-fishing Tournament sponsored by the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce at early-bird rates.

The 26th edition of the popular fishing tourney is set for Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 8 and 9, along the beaches from the Indian River Inlet to Fenwick Island. Already some 150 anglers have registered for the 2005 tournament, with final numbers expected to reach 300 to 400 fisherfolk by the time the tournament kicks off.

Amy Tingle, events coordinator for the Chamber, said the number of registrants typically doubles on the day before and first day of the tournament, as anglers judge the weather and decide whether the fishing will be good — and comfortable — enough for their liking.

But early registration will close with applications postmarked Oct. 3, registering individuals for $25 or families for $35 — a $5 savings off the full registration rate.

The tournament is popular with families, according to Tingle. A family registration allows an angler, his or her spouse and any unmarried children younger than 17 to participate in the tournament and compete for a variety of prizes.

While adults can reel in big fish and potentially thousands of dollars in prizes, children casting their lines into the surf compete for prizes in two age categories, for those ages 10 to 14 and those age 9 or younger, on the basis of points accumulated during the tournament.

Each age group will aim to take home a surf rod and reel, a spinning rod and reel or a tackle box for first, second and third places in each of the two categories. Kids’ prizes are being donated by a memorial fund established in memory of Edward J. McHale Jr.

The highlight of the adult prize pool is always the $25,000 prize for the angler who reels in a bluefish that beats the Delaware state record.

Tingle said the record currently stands at about 21 inches and 15 ounces worth of bluefish. It’s a hefty challenge and one never successfully met during the history of the prize. Tingle said the typical bluefish caught during the tourney is about 14 to 15 inches — a full half-foot smaller than the record.

But those inches do add up, and even if the record-breaking fish isn’t on the end of anglers’ lines this year, cash prizes range up to $1,000. That will go to the angler bringing in the largest fish of the tournament, while $750 will be the prize for the person reeling in the most points.

Other cash prizes are $500, $350, $150, for second- through fourth-most points, respectively.

New this year is a special women’s division prize of $250 for the female angler bringing in the most points in the tournament. Tingle said the addition of the new division was in the wake of a similar and successful move in the Chamber’s spring tournament this year.

Both tourneys have brought in a sizeable number of female anglers but the additional prize could reel in even more.

“It’s a nice new incentive,” Tingle said of the prize.

Thoughts of big cash prizes are enticing, but when it comes time to put a line in the water, the practicalities are paramount.

Fishing is restricted to beaches running from the north side of Indian River Inlet to the south end of Fenwick Island. All anglers must check in at the Chamber Visitors Center on Oct. 7, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., or on Oct. 8, from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Sign-up for the Calcutta for biggest bluefish will also be available when they check in and a map will be available outlining walk-on and drive-on fishing areas.

All four-wheel-drive vehicles must have Delaware surf-fishing tags. Three-day permits will be available for purchase at the Chamber during the day on Friday and Saturday morning before the tournament begins.

No lines are allowed to be wet before starting time and there is no fishing other than at designated times (7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, and 7 a.m. to noon on Sunday) and areas. Anglers must bait and cast their own rods and remove their own fish.

All fish must be caught on a hook or lure and landed on the beach. A person hooking fish while standing in the surf or on an outer bar must bring the fish to the beach. If gaffing is required to beach a fish, assistance may be used provide the fish is fully visible from beach.

Unsportsmanlike conduct will result in disqualification. A final ruling will be made by the tournament committee.

Castnets are not permitted during tournament hours. There are no restrictions on bait, but the angler furnishes his or her own bait. Artificial lures are permitted. Line can be linen, nylon, dacron or micro-filament.

A release incentive means judges will add one point for good release as determined by the judge. Anglers should bring a big bucket to keep fish alive until a judge measures them.

Surf or spinning tackle are the only rods allowed. No more than two rods per person are permitted, each equipped with no more than two hooks. There is no weight limit on sinkers.

Size requirements are in accordance with the Delaware State (DNREC) size limit requirements and tournament rules.

Once those legal fish are landed, anglers will start adding up their points. At registration, each angler will receive a score sheet and list of beach and scoring rules.

Points are awarded to the individual who catches the fish. Judges will be patrolling the beach during fishing hours to measure and record catches. Any disputes will be resolved by the judges. Total points determine the winners. All points will be totaled based on the length of the fish measured from tip of snout to tip of tail.

After fish are measured, a section of the tail will be cut off, and the fish will no longer be eligible. In the case of a tie, the angler who caught the most fish will win. If the tie continues, points for largest fish will be totaled. If tie is still not broken, prize money will be divided.

Score sheets must be turned in at the Chamber no later than noon on Sunday.

Once those sheets are in and the scores tallied, prizes will be awarded at Chamber headquarters on Sunday, Oct. 9, at 2 p.m. Winners must be present to receive prizes.

For more information on the tournament, contact the Chamber at (800) 962-SURF or visit the Chamber Web site at