It’s twenty-nine years later and the excitement is still present in the Pirates Cove Billfish Tournaments. Will there be another fantastic finish? Well, in 1990 there was. Here is my take on that exciting day 29 years ago.
Fishing tournaments can be very unpredictable. The winners can be determined by either the last fish caught or maybe a last minute weigh-in finish. In the case of the 1990 Pirate Cove Billfish tournament, the winning boat was going to end up with both.
It was a warm day
for the 7th Annual
Pirate Cove Billfish tournament in August 1990. The previous six tournaments
were exciting events but for some reason this one just felt a little different.
My love for
fishing and boating brought me to North Carolina as a visitor at a young age
and ultimately a resident. Those early years, our family would walk the docks
at the various fishing centers to admire the boats and the catch of the day.
And attending the annual tournaments were always a highlight of our summer
The first three
days of the 1990 tournament appeared like any normal competitive event. Boats
crews were boasting and bragging about their catches and admiring each other’s
flags. The crowds seemed to grow larger each day with the increased catches and
excitement of crowning the winning boat.
On the fourth day
of the tournament, we arrived early afternoon at the marina. Unlike the other
previous afternoons, the marina docks appeared to be even more crowded than
before. Most of the boats had already recorded their scores. And people milling
around waiting to see the winning boat and crew.
the tournament ended and lines out of the water, a rumor began to spread that a
tournament boat had just hooked up with a possible record blue marlin and they
were still fighting it. And then several minutes later the rumor was confirmed
that in fact the Sea Toy was fighting what may not only be the winning fish but
could be a tournament record.
The next report,
almost thirty minutes later, indicated that the fish had been landed and the
Sea Toy was headed in. With less than two and a half hours until the weigh-in
closes, Sea Toy had no time to waste. It would be full throttle and the engines
wide open from the Gulf Stream through the inlet and up the sound into the
narrow channel leading to the Pirates Cove marina.
deliver this fish on time? Would the boat hold up with this beating? Time and
equipment were now becoming a major factor.
On the docks, excitement
continued to build at the thought of this record finish. But also you could
feel this strange awe overcoming everyone. The thought of being a part of this
tournament with a trophy marlin and a last minute finish was just fascinating.
It was still
early and the thought of this full size charter boat steaming full throttle
into the narrow Pirate Cove creek to the hoist and scale with hundreds of
spectators standing within feet of the water was not a concern – no not YET.
Time was running
out when the Sea Toy radioed in that they crossed the bar and passed Oregon
Inlet. They were now heading full throttle into the shallow waters of the
Roanoke Sound and a marina full of expensive yachts and hundreds of spectators.
Sea Toy called ahead and asked that all yachts be double tied and all
spectators are aware of the huge bow wave from the approach to his berth.
As the huge
vessel made the left turn into the creek, the huge hull seemed to be completely
out of the water. The double secured yachts seemed to disappear behind the wall
of water. Spectators were amazed at the sight – even ignoring twelve inches of
water pouring over the docks and covering their feet.
The Sea Toy sped
toward the head of the creek and with one quick turn she was backed into the
slip. Within seconds, the mate grabbed the hoist line, fastened it to the tail
and hoisted the 654 pound Blue Marlin to first place finish!! And a mere 60
seconds to spare!!
It’s been twenty
five years since I witnessed this amazing event. And I still get a chill just
thinking how special this event was for me. Remember tournaments are
unpredictable – just because you don’t fish it does not mean you can’t enjoy to
The next 32nd Annual Billfish Tournament is being
held on August 11-14, 2015 at the Pirates Cove Marina in Manteo, NC.
Will you be there
to witness history?
Until next time –
Tightlines – Capt. Tony