■ BY SUE ERWIN
The tarpon were rolling in every direction as the sun was setting on the day of Friday, May 13 … and they seemed hungry. There were 17 teams participating in the annual Howl at the Moon Tarpon Tournament that night, and the tarpon proved to be hungry.
The team aboard Capt. Waylon Mills’ boat Blaze took first at the end of the night with four good releases. Second place was taken by Capt. Tater Spinks’ team on Anejo with three releases and third place was taken by Capt. Willie Mills team on the Tracy Lynn for the last fish caught.
The rules for the tournament were designed to release the fish as quickly and healthy as possible, while showcasing the traditional methods that local fishing guides use in the Pass.
Miss Sarah had a fish on at 8:20 p.m. – the first one of the night. That catch was released at 8:31 p.m. Next up was Tracy Lynn with a fish on at 8:27 p.m., but that fish was lost three minutes later. Spook had a tarpon on at 8:45 p.m. and released it at 8:47 p.m.
Anger Stu Lewis Sr. on the Blaze hooked a big one at 8:54 p.m. and released it at 9:09 p.m. after a heck of a battle. The fish jumped twice about 20 yards from the boat, then ran out 60 feet of line not once, but twice before it was brought to the boat.
“She’s running from something at this point – the sharks are probably after her,” said Capt. Waylon Mills.
Lewis gave up his chair to his son, Stuart, after winning that battle with a feisty tarpon.
“All right boys, I got us started. Now you all get to work,” he said to his team.
The action on the water continued as the sky grew dark.
Boca Blue hooked one at 9:07 p.m.
Capt. Dave Chatham and his team on the Jill Marie had a fish on at 9:13 p.m., while Boca Blue was still fighting one. Boca Blue released two minutes later at 9:17 p.m., and Jill Marie released at 9:21 p.m.
Anejo got one at 10:17 p.m. and released it at 10:21 p.m., then got another one on at 10:26 p.m. They released at 10:29 p.m. It was that fish that got them second place, as they got their third release before the team on the Jill Marie did.
Capt. Tater Spinks aboard the Anejo said he has only fished in a couple of Howl at the Moon events. He took second place in the Ladies Howl tournament a couple of years ago.
“The first hour was slow, but we got lucky and caught a few fish during the last hour. We did lose one at the end, but that’s all part of the game,” Spinks said. “We had a real good observer on the boat also – local girl, Ashley Coleman.”
Jill Marie had their next fish on at 10:28 p.m. and released it at 10:31 p.m.
The last half-hour of the tournament was jam-packed with nonstop action. Lil Spook got one at 10:33 p.m. and released it at 10:46 p.m. Hey, Moma! had another at 10:34 p.m. and released at 10:45 p.m. Anejo got one at 10:36 p.m., but that one disappeared. Jill Marie got a bite at 10:38 p.m. and released at 10:43 p.m.
Spook hooked one at 10:43 p.m., but Smitty announced that one went “Buh Bye” two minutes later.
Searene snagged one at 10:46 p.m. and released at 10:51 p.m.
Miss Sarah and Lil Spook both had bites at 10:57 p.m. Miss Sarah released at 11:00 p.m., and Lil Spook released at 11:02 p.m.
Tracy Lynn got one at 10:58 p.m. and released at 10:59 p.m.
Angler Robert Cox aboard the Blaze had the final catch of the night at 10:59 p.m. and released it at 11:01 p.m. But because they were already in first place, according to tournament rules they could not win third as well. That was why Capt. Willie Mills and his team took third, with their fish hooked at 10:58 p.m. and released at 10:59 p.m.
After losing two tarpon earlier in the evening, Cox’s spirits were low, but what an incredible way to finish the tournament and take his team to first place with four tarpon.
“I really wasn’t expecting that; it was quite a lucky surprise,” Cox said.
“That last hour was really exciting,” Willie said. “We had a total of five fish. The people on the boat have been coming here to go tarpon fishing for more than 20 years. We got lucky and hooked that last one for third place.”