June 9, 2010; Biloxi, Mississippi
By Capt. Dave Lear
The entries are all in, the boats are all fueled and now it’s just a matter of watching the clock. The 2011 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic kicked off in a festive mood last night as tournament officials explained the rules and answered last-minute questions at the host facility, the Isle Hotel and Casino. Sitting in nearby slips at the recently-rebuilt Point Cadet Marina, the fleet of 60 gleaming sportfishers is more than ready for the start of this 15th annual sportfishing event.
“The anglers and crews can’t hardly wait for the action to begin,” Tournament Director Bobby Carter said afterward the lavish seafood banquet “This is the first time since Hurricane Katrina that everyone will be leaving from Biloxi and after last year’s cancellation due to the oil spill, the mood is amped up. Everyone is excited about being here and can’t wait to fish.”
Contestants will be targeting blue marlin, tuna, dolphin, and wahoo in the cobalt-blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The stakes are high, with more than $1 million in prize money on the line. On top of that, the Classic is known to produce record-breaking fish that qualify for additional prizes. A 1,054-pound blue marlin was weighed in 2002 and tuna pushing the “grander” mark are often brought to the scales, so anything is possible. In its brief history more than $550,000 in supplemental prizes has been paid out to anglers landing state record fish.
The boats will be allowed to leave the docks at noon today for the run into the Gulf. Many will travel nearly 100 miles to the deep canyons and other structure that attract bait and game fish. Fishing begins at 12:01 Friday morning and the scales will open at 4 p.m. Some boats will opt to stay out and continue fishing until the lines-out deadline of 6 p.m. Saturday.
To be eligible, blue marlin must measure at least 100 inches long from the lower jaw to the fork of the tail. Undersized blues, along with white marlin, sailfish, and spearfish successfully brought boat-side score in the release division. Tuna, dolphin, and wahoo have to weigh at least 20 pounds to qualify.
“With the forecast for beautiful weather and ideal conditions out there, the bite is going to be on and we’re going to see a lot of big fish come to the scales,” Carter said. “I predict we’ll see at least one state record broken this weekend and maybe some more.”
Will that prediction come true? Like a roll of the dice at the nearby casino tables, anything is possible. So stayed tuned…everything is just getting started.