PORT O’CONNOR – A crowd gathered at Caracol about 4 p.m. Saturday as dozens of vessels trickled in for the Lone Star Shootout weigh-in.
“Look at that big boat with all the flags,” someone hollered from the sea of more than 100 locals and visitors.
Jeremy Edison and Peg Guhiln relaxed in their ATV near the dock and watched, admiring each vessel upon arrival. Edison, who lives in Louisville, Ky. and Guhiln, who lives in Pasadena, said they plan a long trip to their vacation home in Port O’Connor annually to watch the tournament.
“We love seeing all the boats going out, coming in and the weigh-in – all of it,” Guhiln said. “I came out last night to watch the first weigh-in of the tournament.”
The Bimini Babe hauled in a 109-inch blue marlin about 10:30 p.m. Friday.
“I had a friend with me and she had never seen that, so it was really cool for her to be able to watch with me,” Guhiln said.
Fish that are not brought ashore for weigh-in are noted by upside down flags blowing from outriggers on the back of each vessel during the catch-and-release offshore tournament.
While teams on multiple boats caught and released both blue and white marlins for big points, Bimini Babe and Mechanical Man were the only two teams to bring blue marlins ashore, respectively weighing 514.5 and 412 pounds.
“A lot of these guys never want to kill a blue marlin, which is the point of catch-and-release,” said Randy Bright, volunteer tournament director.
While the weigh-in ended about 6 p.m., the final results were not available by 9 p.m. because all catch-and-release video footage has to be closely reviewed, said Laurie Bass, a tournament assistant who works for the Houston Big Game Fishing Club nonprofit.
“We have an object of the day, which is a colored bandanna that they have to hold with the fish,” she said. ”The video has to show several things, very specifically, and then they have to show the fish swimming away and the species very clearly.”
For some observers, the excitement of the weigh-in crowd is the best part. Kenneth Klimitchek, of Cuero, drove down to Port O’Connor for the weekend to experience his first Lone Star Shootout and to fish Sunday on the Mechanical Man with his friends after the tournament ends. The Mechanical Man team won the tournament last year.
“I love how all the people gather here on golf carts, Mules, everything,” he said. “The whole community comes out; it is really entertaining to see.”
Many families were among that crowded, including Nina Skinner, of Houston, who brought her three children down for the action.
“The kids love to watch the boats come in and see the fish,” she said. “It is very family-friendly; the kids can run around, it is safe and they get to see some good fishing.”
In addition to raising funds for charities, the tournament, which is put on by the Houston Big Game Fishing Club, gives teams the option to donate fish to Fisherman’s Chapel, operated by the Revs. Erny and Joanne McDonough.
“He (Erny) does this for several tournaments,” Bass said. “People will donate their fish ... the blue marlin, for sure. We try to donate every blue marlin, and then he takes them to feed those who are less fortunate.
“It is pretty special because nothing goes to waste.”