Kirk Slam lands big catch

One boat, the aptly named Business Trip, separated itself from the pack at the seventh annual Kirk Slam Dolphin Tournament held at Barcadere Marina over the weekend.

Business Trip, captained by Justin Thompson, brought in seven dolphin (mahi mahi) during the first act of the two-day tournament and cruised to an easy victory in the total combined weight category.

Thompson and company’s best five fish weighed a combined total of 117.7 pounds, besting the second place team by nearly 40 pounds and waltzing away with the grand prize of $5,000 and a Tudor watch. Nuttin Honey, the second place team, brought in three fish at 77.8 pounds.

Thompson credited his teammate Jack Hunter for being the team’s good luck charm.

“What’s the secret? Bring Jack along, man,” Mr. Thompson said on Saturday. “We were planning on killing and that’s what we did …. We had everything in the boat by 10:30 a.m.”

Justin Thompson, Rob Hurlston and Jack Hunter on the ‘Business Trip’ team with their winning mahi mahi catch. – PHOTO: ALVARO SEREY

Thirty-nine teams registered for this year’s tournament, but only three of them managed to bring home more than two fish that weighed in excess of 15 pounds. Annette Stalmach won both the Heaviest Dolphin Overall and the Lady Angler Heaviest Dolphin with a 41.5-pound specimen.

Mr. Hunter, who flew in from Cayman Brac for the competition, was thrilled with the results.

“Basically, what we do is search for the bird,” said Mr. Hunter of his team’s methodology.

“The bird puts us on the fish, and it just so happens that the tide and everything was just perfect. It was one of those days where you’re in the right place at the right time.”

The Barcadere Marina hosted a bumper crop of fishermen and curious onlookers both Saturday and Sunday, and the daily weighings took place between 4-6 p.m. on both days. The first team to reach the scale on Saturday was Blood, Sweat & Beers, captained by Wayne Cloete.

Jack Hunter weighs one of the dolphin from boat Business Trip’s winning catch.

That crew came in with one fish, an 18.9-pound specimen caught by J.B. Hawkes, and then watched as the rest of the boats trickled in with their own haul of mahi mahi.

“We went through a lot of squalls and got very wet,” said Mr. Hawkes. “We found a bird and followed it and we got a hook-up. We had lines in at 7 a.m., so we left the dock at about 6:30. We probably got the fish in about an hour. It was rough out there today. We went into the waves and back again.”

Mr. Cloete said they had another fish on the line before losing it, and he said he hoped they’d have better fortune on Sunday. But Blood, Sweat & Beers would not score another catch.

“You can go south if you’re calmer, and north if you’re braver,” said Mr. Cloete. “We braved it today and got pounded. We caught one fish and lost one …. Fishing, right? It’s called fishing, not catching.”

Ms. Stalmach won $1,000 for the heaviest fish, and the captain of her boat was awarded a Tudor watch. Each boat paid a $250 entry fee for a team of four anglers, and additional fishermen could buy in to a team for an additional $50 fee.

Barry Dre Tibbetts, right, pictured here with his brother Xavi, won the junior angler category on board Fish-A-Holic, captained by his father Barry Tibbetts. – PHOTOs: ALVARO SEREY

Chris Kirkconnell, the tournament’s organizer, said that he was thrilled with the turnout, and he detailed a new facet of the competition that involved Oceanic whitetip sharks. Mr. Kirkconnell said that any boat that caught a whitetip would receive $1,000 for tagging and releasing it back into the ocean.

“We’ve done a lot of work with Guy Harvey,” he said. “We’ve joined forces with him with a lot of fundraising and he’s always been a great family friend. This tournament lends itself to finding whitetip sharks, so he asked us right when we started the tournament, would we be willing to partner with him and help to get more tagging out there to help them with their conservation efforts? It’s a perfect fit.”

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