Anglers will take the local shores again this weekend, with more on their minds than just tall fish tales or a leisurely day on the beach.
The proof will be in the presentation Saturday, May 7, when participants in the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Spring Surf-fishing Tournament will aim for their best catch and prizes as big as the fish those tall tales describe — a total of $5,000 in cash and prizes, plus an elusive $25,000 special prize.
The payoffs fall into three categories this year, with a new women’s division prize for the female angler with the most points ($250) and children’s prizes in two age categories (10 to 14, and 9 or younger), ranging from tackle boxes to rods and reels for the top three finishers. (Children’s prizes are being donated by a memorial fund established in memory of Edward J. McHale Jr.)
That’s in addition to cash prizes of $150, $350, $500 and $750 for the most points overall.
Those points will be tallied by judges who will patrol the beach during fishing hours on tournament day (7 a.m. to 4 p.m.), measuring and recording all catches. Points will be totaled on the length of the fish, measured from tip of the snout to tip of the tail. After a fish is measured, a segment of the tail will be cut off, to declare it ineligible for future tallies.
The angler reeling in the largest fish will take home $1,000, while a tantalizing $25,000 prize is being posted for the lucky fisherman (or woman) who can land a state record-breaking bluefish.
In the case of any ties, the angler who caught the most fish will win out. If that fails to net a clear winner, points for the largest fish will be totaled, with prize money divided if no winner emerges at that point.
(Children and families are being encouraged to participate.)
The rules for the event are simple: All anglers must check in at the Chamber visitors’ center, on May 6, between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., or on May 7 (tournament day) between 6 and 7 a.m.
Interested fisherfolk can sign up for the Calcutta for the biggest bluefish when they check in. And all registered anglers will receive a score sheet and a list of beach and scoring rules.
A map will be also available to indicate walk-on and drive-on fishing areas for the tourney. Locations include areas from the north side of the Indian River Inlet to the south end of Fenwick Island (fishing inside towns is limited to walk-ons). Note: some areas may be off-limits due to nesting or endangered birds.
There are no restrictions on bait, but anglers must furnish their own. Artificial lures are permitted. Linen, nylon, Dacron or micro-filament line is permitted. Allowed rods include surf or spinning tackle only, with no more than two rods per person permitted — each with no more than two hooks.
There is no weight limit on sinkers, but anglers should be prepared to judge their catches by Delaware state (DNREC) size limits and the tournament rules.
Buckets are a plus, as the tourney includes a release incentive of one point for each good release (as determined by a judge), and those fish should be kept alive in a bucket until they can be measured and released.
The beach rules include a requirement for all four-wheeled vehicles at drive-on locations to have a Delaware surf-fishing tag (three-day permits available at the Chamber on Friday and Saturday morning, prior to the tournament start).
Fishing for the tournament is restricted to designated times and areas, with no wet lines permitted prior to the starting time.
Anglers must bait and cast their own rods and remove their own fish. All fish must be caught on hook or lure and be landed on the beach. Any anglers hooking fish while standing in surf or on an outer bar must bring the fish to the beach. If gaffing is required, assistance may be used, provided the fish is fully visible from the beach.
Castnets are not permitted, and unsportsmanlike conduct will result in disqualification.
When fishing winds down at 4 p.m. on Saturday, anglers will have a half-hour to turn their score sheets in at the Chamber. Prizes will then be distributed, starting at 5:30 p.m. Winners must be present to receive their prizes.
The early bird gets the worm, but early-registering anglers got a small discount on their registration fee, ranging from $25 for an individual to $35 for a family (including angler, spouse and unmarried children younger than 17).
However, there’s still an opportunity to join in, for those ready to take on the challenge of the annual tournament or just eager to savor the competitive spirit of having their catches measured against the best on the beach this Saturday.
For more information, contact the Chamber at (800) 962-SURF or visit the Web site at www.delawaresurffishing.com. A registration form is also available on the Web site.