Cast & Blast

Thirty boats. $20,000. What are the odds in Hilton Head mahi tournament?

3 fish fun to catch off Hilton Head Island for sport

Capt. Brian Vaughn of "Off the Hook Fishing Charters" offers these three fish that are fun to catch for sport off Hilton Head Island.
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Capt. Brian Vaughn of "Off the Hook Fishing Charters" offers these three fish that are fun to catch for sport off Hilton Head Island.

By this time next week, the Second Annual “Run For The Bulls” dolphin tournament will be history.

Dolphin you say? Like Flipper?

No, no, I’m talking mahi-mahi.

Because I am most definitely from the old school, we never referred to dolphin fish as mahi but somewhere along the line the name was changed to mahi because people were aghast thinking us fisherman were harvesting the beloved dolphin mammals and actually eating them.

Looking nothing like one another, I can remember several instances where I was filleting mahi we had caught and tourists would come up and say “what kind of fish is that?” When I would casually reply “it’s a dolphin” their eyes would get big and, even though they were looking right at a fish that was obviously not the loveable mammal, they would recoil and with tears in their eyes say something like, “How could you do that, you heathen!”

It was only then that I would say, “Yes ma’am, we harpooned it this afternoon and it gave us one heck of a Nantucket Sleighride.” For me it’s hard to resist an opportunity for humor.

So now that you know the difference between the two dolphins, the “Run For The Bulls” tournament is one heck of a production and, for me, a labor of love.

Limited to only the first 30 boats to enter, the boat with the largest dolphin walks away with $20,000.

But more importantly, the tournament was created to raise money and awareness for the Waddell Mariculture Center in Bluffton, which I regard as the jewel of our community.

For years, I have been privy to the work they do to keep our waters healthy through research while raising fish, such as trout, redfish and cobia, for restocking and, most importantly, educating school groups and organizations so that future generations realize their role in protecting our unique and diverse ecosystem we call the Lowcountry.

If the tournament name has you stumped, male dolphin are called “bulls” while females are called “cows.”

Usually much larger, a bull dolphin has a head that looks like it ran into a wall that flattened its face, while a cow has a more gently curved feminine-like appearance.

Extremely fast-growing fish, dolphin wander up the Gulf Stream feeding on just about anything that swims, particularly small fish and such that hide in “weed lines.” Under the right conditions, prevailing winds stack up Sargasso weed into massive weed lines that can run for miles. Some are 50 feet wide, some 20 feet wide and, on occasion, I have found patches of Sargasso weed acres wide. And when you find these weed lines you can bet dolphin will be there.

This year’s “Run For The Bulls” is being held on Saturday, May 11, at the Harbour Town Yacht Basin in Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island.

The weigh-in is from 4 to 6 p.m. and it’s a hoot to watch the boats and fish coming to the scales under the Liberty Oak, followed by numerous awards presented to the winners, a big feed, libations and, this year, the introduction of Waddell’s new director, Erin Levesque, and her staff to the community.

If all goes well, Erin will also receive a nice fat check as an appreciation for all they do for this community.

When I came up with the idea for this event, little did I know how much work is involved. Quite frankly, I am exhausted and just pray I can make it to tournament day and, most importantly, the weather allows things to go off without a hitch.

Every boat will win something, thanks to our major sponsors, like Bass Pro Shops, the Hilton Head Boathouse, Bud Mingledorff and the Harbour Town Yacht Basin, along with dozens of local businesses.

We also have a female angler prize, a youth angler prize and even $300 to the kid under 16 who catches the largest fish. Priming the next generation of anglers and watermen to take the reigns of keeping our pristine waters clean and healthy is worth its weight in gold.

I encourage any of you who love the water to come out and support this great event. There will be lots of fish and lots of fun.

Extra meal tickets along with libations will be available and, most importantly, show Waddell’s new director and her staff that we have their back. The party really gets started one minute after 6 p.m. so hopefully we’ll see you there.