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Fish from Poco Bueno tournament help feed charities

By Elena Watts
July 21, 2013 at 2:21 a.m.
Updated July 22, 2013 at 2:22 a.m.

Erny McDonough, left, helps Poco Bueno fishing tournament personnel hitch up a trailer containing coolers full of fish to a cart.

THE FISHERMAN's CHAPEL

The Fisherman's Chapel is an interdenominational church in Port O'Connor

Pastors are Erny and Joane McDonough.

For more information, call 361-983-4240 or visit their website fishermanschapel.wordpress.com

PORT O'CONNOR - For 19 years, Erny McDonough, pastor of Fisherman's Chapel, has helped put the blue marlin caught during Poco Bueno and other tournaments into the hands of those who need it.

This year, the filets will be donated to Christian Temple Church in southeast Houston, which has a huge feeding program. They sent members of their congregation to help process the meat.

McDonough talks to the boat captains to learn what parts of the billfish they want returned, if any. For mounting purposes, the real bill and tail are typically added to a fiberglass body to preserve the uniqueness of the fish. Fins are also occasionally added.

"Fishermen are generous," he said. "They trust us even though they don't know us and we don't know them. It's an honor."

An average of five or six billfish are donated during Poco Bueno each year, McDonough said. Members of the congregation skin the fish, cut the filets into chunks and deliver the iced meat to an agency. Fifty percent of the weight of the fish is edible.

Personal taste and preparation make the fish more or less palatable. McDonough prefers it slow-cooked on a pit like a roast. Others like it thinly sliced and grilled, he said.

A children's home that received the donation one year ground the meat for patties because it would last longer.

In past years, McDonough has donated the fish to rehabilitation centers and Mexican orphanages, among other agencies.

He said he stopped smuggling the meat and other donations such as baby clothes across the border after he was detained for five hours on one trip.

"The border guards are so corrupt that when they see something they want, they tell you it's contraband so they can impound it and use or sell it," he said.

One-fifth to one-fourth of the bay fish caught during the competition are donated to the chapel as well. The meat is packaged and distributed in the area to families in need.

The chapel serves as a distribution point for all donations. In addition to food, they hand out furniture, electronics and homes.

"We even donated a couple of RVs," he said. "A single mom living in extreme substandard housing has a safer, better, drier place to live and raise her sons."

Leftovers from each dinner during Poco Bueno are also donated to the chapel. The food, which included fajitas and fried chicken this year, is packaged and passed out locally.

"We are extremely appreciative of Poco and other tournaments," McDonough said. "If they did not open their doors, we could not do nearly what we do."

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