By now you no doubt know I have a real passion for one particular fish, the purple- and blue-striped speedster of the deep, Mr. Wahoo.
I know many of you have never had the opportunity to fish for wahoo, and chances are a good many of you have never even seen one, but coming up April 25-26 is your chance to get up close and personal with this fabulous fish in the 10th annual Hilton Head Harbor Wahoo ShootOut.
The brainchild of Capt. Marc Pincus, the shootout has grown year after year and, from experience, it's anybody's game. It used to be that there were several offshore tournaments a year on Hilton Head Island, but for some reason that number has dropped. There were marlin tournaments, dolphin (mahi-mahi) tournaments and king mackerel tournaments.
I guess with so many new folks around, the word hasn't gotten out about the offshore fishing here. Particularly during April and May, I would put our bluewater fishing up against the Florida Keys any day. There isn't anywhere near as much pressure put on the fish here. Even those of you with minimal bluewater experience are almost guaranteed to come home with a box full of fish. Mahi mahi are everywhere and the wahoo fishing is as good as you'll find anywhere. Add in the very real possibility of hooking into tuna (both blackfin and yellowfin), a sailfish or marlin, and you're talking nonstop action all day long.
As you can tell, it's easy for me to get off subject just imagining the ferocious strike of one of these pelagic species in the crystal clear, amazingly vibrant blue waters of the Gulf Stream. I figured maybe my description of the fishing out there would get you all fired up enough to pull together a team and enter the shootout. You don't need a 50-foot sport fishing boat to go after wahoo; any boat from around 26 feet on up can easily make the run if the conditions are right.
The beauty of this tournament is that you can pick one of two days to fish, which makes it easier for smaller boats to pick the right conditions. Second, so many prizes are awarded that nearly everyone is a winner. Of course, the big prize goes to the largest wahoo and that figure can be as high as $15,000. There is even a $20,000 prize if the state record is broken -- and from all the big "hoos" that have been lurking around in the past few years, this is but a matter of time. Hilton Head Harbor and other sponsors like the Hilton Head Boathouse put on an all-star event. Good food, lots of laughs and tons of prizes.
I really would like to see some new faces this year. Don't have a boat big enough to handle the trip? There are tons of charter boats on Hilton Head that would probably make deals just so they could fish this tournament. Or maybe you have a boat but don't feel like you have enough experience. That problem is easy to solve because between Marc Pincus and myself, we could hook you up with the know-how.
The deadline for early entries is April 9. The Captain's Meeting is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. April 23. If you enter today your name goes in the hat for a drawing, and the winner gets a $500 voucher for fuel. Now that's strong. For further information, go to www.islandshootout.com or contact Marc Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org or 843-298-0377.
So come on, talk it up and let's make this biggest shootout ever. The more boats that enter, the more money you'll win. Any way you look at it, you can't lose when you get to spend a day in the most beautiful waters you've ever seen with enough fish to pack your freezer for months to come.
One last thing: If you think tuna sushi is good, wahoo sushi puts it to shame. I'm drooling just thinking about it -- but then again, I drool all the time anyway.
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.