See the big fish at The Wharf this weekend
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach
May 17 at The Wharf Marina marks the beginning of the 2017 Gulf of Mexico big-game fishing tournament season. The Orange Beach Billfish Classic will feature the largest fleet in the 19 years of the tournament. Crews will compete for hundreds of thousands of dollars while raising money for The Billfish Foundation.
“We have 55 boats registered for the tournament, which is a sell-out,” Kate Dorland of the OBBC said. “And that is also 24 more than fished our event last year.”
A portion of every entry fee is donated to The Billfish Foundation. At the awards breakfast on Sunday morning, Ellen Peel, President of The Billfish Foundation, will receive the non-profit's largest donation from a single tournament.
“The Billfish Foundation has always been a charitable recipient of this tournament because they are the biggest advocate for marlin and other pelagic species,” Dorland said. “It's our duty to financially support them for their steadfast work to protect big-game fishing, especially in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Big-game tournaments are not only for tournament participants, but they are also great, no charge spectator events for the entire family. A real treat takes place Thursday when the entire OBBC fleet departs, most through Perdido Pass. All 50-plus boats will leave at the same time, a site to behold. Tens of millions of dollars of sportfishing yachts will stream past. The public beach around the pass is a great spot to watch as is the Gulf restaurant. Between 11am and noon is the time to be in your preferred viewing location.
Once the tournament begins, boats will fish Thursday afternoon, all day Friday and Saturday. Teams must return to Perdido Pass or Sailboat Bay in Bon Secour by 7pm on Saturday night to weigh their catch at Marlin Circle on Main Street at The Wharf. The scales are open from 6-10pm Saturday. Bring the kids to see blue marlin, tuna, mahi-mahi and wahoo hit the scales. It's a rare chance for most people to be able to see and touch some of the biggest fish in the Gulf of Mexico.
Following the OBBC, another chance to see big fish takes place on Memorial Day weekend at the Mobile Big Game Fishing Club's 40th annual Memorial Day Tournament. The MBGFC clubhouse at Orange Beach Marina is a great place to spend a late Sunday afternoon, May 28, watching huge boats back into the weigh dock to unload fish. If an angler tops the Alabama blue marlin state record in the MBGFC Memorial Day tournament, it'll be worth $1 million.
The fishing the past few weeks in blue water has been phenomenal, to say the least. The team of You Never Know based in Destin, who will fish both the OBBC and MBGFC tournaments, caught an 825-pound bluefin tuna on May 7. Once certified, that fish will be the new Florida state bluefin tuna record. I really hope someone brings a bluefin into one of the two upcoming tournaments. Getting a chance to see a “Wicked Tuna” is not something that happens along the Gulf Coast very often and you can bet if one is headed to the dock, you'll know about it via social media.
I fished Tuesday and Wednesday and was fortunate enough to be part of an epic trip. I was fishing on Skin Deep, a local Orange Beach boat with owner Chris Haley, Capt. Destin “Chili” Williams, first mate Drew Holk and a few friends. We caught and released three Blue Marlin before noon on Wednesday ranging from 250 to close to 500 pounds about a hundred miles offshore. I hope the fishing stays hot for all the teams and spectators during the next two weekends.