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Poco Bueno helps Port O'Connor businesses survive lull of winter months

By BY J.R. ORTEGA
July 13, 2010 at 2:13 a.m.
Updated July 14, 2010 at 2:14 a.m.

A man hoses off the first Blue Marlin caught at the 2009 Poco Bueno Tournament in Port O'Connor.

IF YOU GOWHAT: Inshore Weigh-ins

WHERE: The Fishing Center, corner of Water and 13th streets in Port O'Connor

WHEN: Friday

TIME: 4 p.m. - midnight

IF YOU GOWHAT: Offshore Weigh-ins

WHERE: The Fishing Center, corner of Water and 13th Street in Port O'Connor

WHEN: Saturday

TIME: 4 - 8 p.m.

PORT O'CONNOR - It's the calm before the storm, and a Gulf Coast breeze gently thrashes a standing American flag along the stretch of Highway 185 in Port O'Connor.

No, it's not a hurricane; it's pre-Poco Bueno, the annual invitational fishing tournament that helps increase the tourist population and strengthen the economy of the small fishing community.

On Wednesday, the intensity will pick up until the end of the weekend, when thousands of participants, their families and spectators zero in for the tournament's 41st year.

"The entire community prospers," said Elton Albert, a San Antonio resident who fishes in Port O'Connor at least two dozen times a year. "It's everything."

Albert is not part of the tournament, but has witnessed the mayhem that comes with it, he said.

It's a week where million-dollar yachts, private parties, a steak dinner, offshore and inshore fishing and weigh-ins flood the community with one common goal: hooking the heaviest blue marlin and taking home the calcutta pot, which last year was just $150,000 shy of a million dollars.

"It's the best fishing on the Texas Gulf Coast," said Albert.

This year, the private portion of the tournament was moved from the Alligator Head near The Fishing Center to Caracol, a recently developed waterfront community with a larger outdoor pavilion.

The weigh-ins will continue to be at The Fishing Center for the public, said Rob Fondren, who, along with his siblings, helps organize the tournament.

"That's been the basis of Poco Bueno," said Fondren, whose father Walter Fondren III, started the tournament.

Fondred III passed away earlier this year, but the legacy of keeping Poco Bueno available to the community will continue, his son said.

"It was developed to benefit the economy," he said.

The benefit is obvious, said Eloisa Newsome, owner of Josie's Mexican Food and Cantina.

Not only will the town's only gas station experience a never-ending line of customers, but lodges and motels will have their vacant signs off and restaurants will have a constant business flow.

Newsome's 27-year-old family-owned restaurant has seen firsthand the business the tournament's followers bring.

Since the restaurant is the only one in Port O'Connor to serve breakfast, it sees a high customer volume Thursday morning, before the boats heads out and Sunday, when everyone leaves, she said.

"That's business that we normally wouldn't get," said Newsome after a busy lunch rush.

Though the restaurant has its regulars, September through March is one of the hardest economically for the community, she added.

"It gives us a boost to get us through the wintertime until summer kicks back around," she said.

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