One of the mainstays of the summer fishing season will be calling it quits after this year's event.
Organizers of the Fishing for Miracles King Mackerel Tournament have announced that the 2018 event will be the last after a highly successful 25-year run that has raised nearly $1 million for its two charities — Medical University of South Carolina's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina.
The 25th Fishing for Miracles King Mackerel Tournament presented by Hanckel Marine (fishingformiracles.org) will be fished Aug. 16-18 out of Ripley Light Yacht Club. Anglers will be fishing for a $15,000 top prize based on 125 paid entries. The entry fee is $350 per boat. There also is an inshore division with a $50 per angler registration fee.
Tournament chairman John Gourdin said the event is a time-consuming labor of love. And he hopes people will step forward and participate either as anglers or sponsors for the tournament's swan song.
"I started probably sometime in 1998, 1999 showing up and helping on the dock every year. My wife and kids, all four of us did it," Gourdin said.
"My fondest memories are the people you meet and see year after year. You see them around town. We would go to all the local captain's meetings and recruit people. A lot of people who fish this tournament do so because of where the charity goes, to MUSC and to support CCA."
Dan Muckenfuss, an avid king mackerel tournament angler, and offshore fisherman Dennis Lee are credited with starting the event that quickly grew into one of the top tournaments on the Southeast coast. Both Muckenfuss and Lee have passed away but the tournament continued to thrive.
In 2005 a record 288 boats fished the tournament but participation has dwindled in recent years. The lowest number of boats was 2014 when 114 boats fished. The largest payout to anglers was last year's when 118 boats fished for $109,204. The 2017 event was won with a 52.8-pound catch that helped Capt. Marc Pincus and angler Chris Prince win $46,214.
“I, like so many, was privileged to have known both Dan and Dennis and worked with both of them via CCA SC and this tournament, so I got to hear and see first-hand what their intentions were,” said Scott Whitaker, executive director for CCA SC. “This is the start of my 19th year with CCA SC, and I know that they both would be very proud of how this event has impacted so many lives, young and old, as well as the marine resources they both were so fond of."
Rob Donlan, who preceded Gourdin as tournament chairman, said he remembered the long hours of putting together a successful tournament and the special times spent on the docks for tournament weigh-ins.
"I remember the good ol' days with Dan Muckenfuss and Cheshire Rhett (another former tournament director) and Jamie Westendorf doing the cooking all the time," Donlan said.
"I remember Dan just wanting to put on a great tournament. That was always his aim. It was a real community then, a tight-knit bunch of guys who all knew each other and all fished together. Dan saw an opportunity to raise some money for MUSC and CCA and that's the legacy that will always live."
“For us, it has been an important way to raise both awareness and funds for our pediatric intensive care unit, which houses some of our most vulnerable patients," said Dr. Andy Atz, Chairman, Department of Pediatrics at MUSC Children’s Hospital. "Over the past 25 years, this event has raised more than $450,000 for that unit. I can’t begin to guess how many lives have been changed, saved or in some way touched by that support. We are incredibly grateful for each and everyone involved in making that possible.”