Because of the coronavirus pandemic, we've had NASCAR races and professional golf tournaments without spectators. When the South Carolina Governor's Cup Billfishing Series gets underway in a few weeks, you can add fishing tournament weigh-ins without spectators to the list.
New rules will be in place when the Carolina Billfish Classic, the first of what will be three Governor's Cup tournaments this season, is fished June 17-20 out of Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina. Spectator plans have not been announced for the Bohicket Marina Invitational Billfish Tournament, postponed from May 6-9 until July 29-Aug. 1, and the Georgetown Blue Marlin, delayed from May 20-23 until Aug. 12-15. The Edisto tournament, originally set for July 15-18, was canceled.
Weigh-ins for Governor's Cup tournaments usually draw large crowds hoping to catch a glimpse of blue marlin, tuna, dolphin and wahoo, species seldom seen unless you are an offshore angler. And the docks are usually crowded with anglers and others associated with the fishing boats.
But no spectators will be allowed and only boat crews will be on the docks at the Carolina Billfish Classic. For anglers waiting to weigh a fish, there will be signs posted on the dock to indicate proper social distancing. And to help with social distancing, there will be an empty slip between each of the participating boats. All registration will be online, and the captain's meeting as well as the awards ceremony will be held on Facebook Live. There will be no social events. Tournament updates will be available at the Governor's Cup website, govcup.dnr.sc.gov.
During last year's Carolina Billfish Classic, 42 boats participated and released 11 blue marlin and 40 sailfish. Big Sky, owned by Greg Smith and captained by Jay Weaver, won by releasing two blue marlin and three sailfish. No blue marlin were brought to the dock during 2019 Governor's Cup tournaments, but should one be caught and meet the 105-inch minimum length standard, only the crew of that boat will be allowed to bring the fish to the scales for weighing.
Wally Jenkins, program coordinator for the S.C. Governor's Cup Billfishing Series, noted that offshore fishing has been extremely good in recent weeks with numerous blue marlin being released and lots of dolphin landed. There also have been a number of yellowfin tuna catches.
"I don't know what the bite is going to be going forward, but it's been really good, and people have been catching yellowfin tuna for the first time in 15 years and in fairly decent numbers," Jenkins said.
"People are out fishing. They're not concerned about being on a boat with five or six other people who are, for the most part, close friends anyway. I'm hoping the people will come out and fish. The CBC folks are doing a lot to try and make the tournament as safe as possible."
Jenkins said he and tournament coordinator Amy Dukes will be following S.C. Department of Natural Resources guidelines for marine biologists interacting with the public "which at that time likely will still include face masks." Kayla Rudnay will likely be posting catch and hookup reports from home. Cameron Rhodes, the social media coordinator and photographer, also will be working the event.
The recreational survey that SCDNR normally does to monitor catch per unit effort during tournaments, in which anglers are interviewed and fish measured, will not be done in person. Instead, the information will be shared by participating boat captains. Jenkins said the validation of releases can be done by phone with the caveat that the top three boats for releases will have to be examined and reviewed in person.
"Yellowfin tuna are being landed for the first time since 2006, and it's a shame we won't get length on them," he said. "We have a program where we were trying to get samples from small yellowfin and use an analysis of the fish to determine where they were from based on pesticides and other things they had been exposed to. We only needed 10 samples and in 10 years we had only gotten three yellowfins. This might have been a good opportunity to get some, and we still might get some where people bring fish and drop them off."
Creekside Spring/Summer Fling
The Creekside Bassmasters 12th annual Spring/Summer Fling Bass Tournament will be fished June 13 out of Black's Fish Camp on the Santee Cooper Lakes. First place is guaranteed $5,000. To preregister contact Brian Crenshaw at 843-509-2942.