Saturday produces top wahoo for Gautier angler at Billfish Classic

 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic crew work to unload a blue marlin from the Cotton Patch on Friday, June 10, 2016, in Biloxi. The marlin, caught by angler Clint Herring, weighed in at 633 pounds.
AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALD Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic crew work to unload a blue marlin from the Cotton Patch on Friday, June 10, 2016, in Biloxi. The marlin, caught by angler Clint Herring, weighed in at 633 pounds. SUN HERALD

BILOXI - Fuel and motor engines cut short the tournament of Ocean Springs skipper Kendall Sauls and the crew of The Kraken, but not before they almost set a Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic record for largest wahoo.

Low on fuel, Sauls made the decision early Saturday to head back to Biloxi. However, when they crossed the continental shelf, they decided to see if they could make one last cast for wahoo.

Gautier angler Alec Newton, who was on the reel, said he knew it was a big fish as he was reeling it in. "I knew when it came out the water, it was really big," he said. "We were lucky in how we caught it. That was one of the biggest wahoos I've ever seen."

"We immediately put the fish in the ice box," Sauls said.

However, before they could make another run, one of the engines in the boat stopped. Sauls said when they managed to get the engine restarted, they immediately headed back for port and weighed their fish.

The wahoo was 96.6 pounds, just an ounce off the record set in 2002 by Kenneth Walker fishing aboard First Pipe Dream.

"If I knew it was an ounce off, I would have spent on it," Newton said after weighing the wahoo.

Two of the winning fish were weighed Friday and two Saturday. Clint Herring, fishing from the Cotton Patch, saw his 633-pound marlin hold up through Saturday's weigh-in for first in the marlin category, winning over $235,000. J.W. Catt of the Peace Keeper weighed a tuna of 179.6 Friday, which was still the largest tuna when the final boat weighed at 10 p.m. Saturday.

Peace Keeper Capt. Peace Marvel said he "made all the wrong decisions" Saturday, but added Friday's decision to come in and weigh the tuna was one of his better decisions.

"We won because we hustled in Friday," he said. By weighing the fish Friday, he said, they were able to keep the fish at maximum weight. If they had put the fish on ice and stayed in the Gulf fishing, he said Friday's marlin would have lost five-to-seven pounds, possibly pushing the catch down to third place.

"The (second place marlin caught by Sawyer Brown and weighing 178.3 pounds) was probably larger than ours when they caught it," Marvel said.

Marvel's decision to come in Friday and go back out Saturday allowed Catt and the crew to take home a check of around $139,000.

Friday closed with Sawyer Henderson leading the wahoo category with a fish of 73.4 pounds. He would finish third as Newton took first-place honors with his catch and Neal Foster, fishing from Intense, weighed an 86 pound wahoo. Last year's winner, Stephen Chapman, would have finished fifth in 2016.

The leaderboard for the dolphin category changed often Saturday. Ed Brown led after Friday with a catch of 30.3 pounds. Brown fell steadily down the leaderboard as seven anglers weighed larger dolphins Saturday. J.J. Tabor weighed in late in the evening and edged second-place Jerry Long by eight ounces 41.7 pounds to 40.9. Hawaiian angler Mike Akui finished third with a catch of 39.9 pounds. Like the wahoo category, the top three 2016 dolphin anglers finished with a larger fish than 2015 winner Lee Norris, who weighed a dolphin of 39.6 pounds.

In fact, all of the winners were larger this year than last year. Kate Gonsoulin's 2015 winning 587-pound marlin would have taken third in 2016 and Dan St. Germain's 161.6-pound tuna would have taken fourth in 2016.

"Fishing was great and the weather was perfect," said FM Capt. Steven Carter, who sails out of Ocean Springs. "It was non-stop action the whole time."

Bobby Carter, executive director and co-founder of the tournament, said the weekend event went "better than I expected."

"We could not have asked for better weather. It was perfect for fishing. The storm cleared out early in the week and made the fish hungry for us."

"It was awesome," he said. "We had a lot of fish weighed in. There were a lot of big fish."

Last year, tournament anglers brought 85 fish to port to weigh. This year, the 81 boat field brought in 101 fish.

"A lot of boats caught fish they did not feel were large enough to bring in to weigh," Carter said.

Newton said Friday was a little slow after a fast start Thursday. "Things really picked up Saturday," he said. "Today was really full of action."

While Marvel said he made several bad decisions Saturday that cost his crew big fish, he said fish were biting Saturday after calling Friday's action slow.

"We caught a ton of fish," he said, but said most of what they caught Saturday was too small to weigh.

A Work of Art Capt. Ron Woodruff said he and his crew looked forward to the yearly billfish tournament, which had 81 boats and a purse of $1.7 million this year.

"It's a great venue," Woodruff said. "You have great people and a lot of good places to go."

Bobby Carter said Biloxi and the Point Cadet Pier came through for the tournament. "I would like to thank them for all the hard work and support for this event," he said.

Top finishers at the Billfish Classic

Blue Marlin

Angler - Boat - Weight (pounds)

1. Clint Herring - Cotton Patch - 633.0

2. Jeffrey Spangler - Insetta Boatworks - 597.4

3. Carrie Gerber - Cut N Run - 506.3

4. Matt McDonald - Breathe Easy - 416.5

5. Ryan Long - Mollie - 398.2

6. Colin Mayo - One More - 384.4

7. Marty Griffith - Over Ride - 377.5

8. David Rich - Hatterascal - 336.8

Catch and Release

Boat - Points

1. Born2Run - 1800

1. Mongo Chongo - 1800

1. Pour Intentions - 1800

1. Sea Mixer - 1800

5. Dirt Pit - 1700

6. A Work of Art - 1200

6. Cajun Queen - 1200

6. Done Deal - 1200

6. Snafu - 1200

10. Tailwalker - 850


Angler - Boat - Weight (pounds)

1. J.W. Catt - Peace Keeper - 179.6

2. Sawyer York - First Choice - 178.3

3. Josh Goodson - You Never Know - 172.3

4. Jeff Beck - OIFC - 157.7

5. Michael Champagne - Contrapption - 156.2

6. Mark Seymour - Southern Miss - 150.0

7. Kate Ferrara - Reel Fire - 145.4

7. Chip Stiebing - Relentless Pursuit - 145.4

9. Lisa Krake - Team Supreme - 140.7

10. Jeff Beck - OIFC - 135.6


Angler - Boat - Weight (pounds)

1. Alec Newton- The Kraken - 96.6

2. Neal Foster - Intense - 86.0

3. Sawyer Henderson - Nicki Bella - 73.4

4. Neal Foster - Intense - 70.8

5. Robert Ashler - Black Tip - 59.5

6. J.D. Hebert - Geaux Deep - 49.7

7. Neal Foster - Intense - 49.0

8. Jack Gumm - Spare Clip - 45.5

9. Cole Warner - Lolita - 43.3

10. David Decourt - Havana Run - 42.5


Angler - Boat - Weight (pounds)

1. J.J. Tabor - Double J - 41.7

2. Jerry Long - Mollie - 40.9

3. Mike Akui - Relentless Pursuit - 39.9

4. Jordan Womac - Lolita - 34.9

5. Nathan LeBlanc - Tailwalker - 31.1

6. Chip Stiebing - Relentless Pursuit - 31.0

7. Ralph Morton - Relentless Pursuit - 30.4

8. Ed Brown - Peace Keeper - 30.3

9. Justin Riendeau - Amnesia - 30.1

10. Daniel Hawkins - Amnesia - 29.2