Supplied photo courtesy of Al Baird
About 95 anglers with 123 rods participated in the Dogfish Tournament at Johnnie Mercer’s Pier on Saturday, Jan. 25.
Fishermen and fisherwomen began lining the edges of Johnnie Mercer’s Pier for the Ninth Annual Dogfish Tournament on Saturday, Jan. 25, settling in for a full day’s angling.
With temperatures in the low 40s combining with strong gusting winds, multi-layered clothing and beer were prevalent. In shorter supply was the dogfish, a small shark that is said to be caught most easily around dusk with a number of baits including shrimp, squid, cut mullet and finger mullet.
“It’s all about the bait. I’m just going to stick with what I’ve got in there now and hope it works out,” said Frank Cobb of Gastonia, N.C., who fished the tournament for the fourth time.
Cobb and others found that they were reeling in and releasing types of fish other than the desired dogfish early in the day.
“I’ve caught one skate so far; the dogfish start biting about an hour before dark, that’s what happened last year and the year before,” Cobb said.
Those present included some pier regulars, among whom there is a preexisting sense of camaraderie, and folks who made the trip to join in the fun for the day.
“It’s a fun thing to do in the winter time, come down and throw out a line,” said Darren Eyster of Chapel Hill, N.C.
Having a strategy for staying warm proved equally as important as having a fishing strategy.
“I’m using mostly shrimp, but it’s my first time here so we’ll see,” said Jeff Hunter of Raeford, N.C. “… I’ve got four layers of clothes on up top and hand warmers in my pockets and gloves.”
The tournament has become a family tradition for some, like Jessica Kielmeyer, who said the conditions have been worse in previous years.
“Every year my father and I come down from Columbus, Ohio. He fishes and I work the registration table,” Kielmeyer said. “I think there may be fewer people here than usual just because it’s a little colder than some people want to put up with. But we’ve been down here when it’s windy and rainy, so at least it’s dry.”
Al Baird, tournament director and author of “North Carolina’s Ocean Fishing Piers: From Kitty Hawk to Sunset Beach,” embraces the task of carrying on the tradition.
“Next year is the 10th anniversary. We have to do something big,” Baird said.
Dusk arrived without dogfish, save for the one caught by David Lynn of Rockingham, N.C., that earned him a first-place cash prize of $307.50.
“My buddy and I fished the last couple years and won with the same rod both years,” Lynn said. “I almost didn’t come down because of the weather.”
At 8 p.m. the pier house was abuzz with story swapping and excitement as participants enjoyed refreshments and the heat of indoors. Raffle items that included a Linden custom rod, hats, spinning reels and golf balls were given away based on participants’ individually numbered buttons.
“Seventy-one caught the only fish, so everybody else tied for second,” Baird said.