Outdoors | Crosthwait splits offshore division to even playing field

Special to the HeraldApril 27, 2014 

Danny Pool of Team Seaveeche caught this snowy grouper this past week fishing in deep water. PROVIDED PHOTO

This week was by far the nicest week of weather we've had this year. Anglers inshore and off are taking advantage of hungry fish.

Anglers fishing inshore have seen redfish, snook and trout feasting on whitebait that cast netters have had an easier time finding with the warming water temperatures.

Those fishing offshore have seen kingfish over artificial reefs and hard-bottom areas along with grouper, snapper, cobia and more.

With such beautiful and calm weather, hardcore anglers like fishing team Seaveeche have been able to venture even further offshore. On Thursday night, the team ventured out to as deep as 800 feet of water, where they encountered tuna, grouper, tilefish, snapper, grouper and more.

In past years, the team has participated in the Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament, where they have targeted fish such as cubera snapper, warsaw grouper and swordfish at night. For the Crosthwait tournament this year, those will be off the table with the introduction of a new division to parallel the current Bradenton Yacht Club-based fishing derby.

"Over recent years, participation in the offshore division of the tournament has declined due to the perception of many anglers that it was impossible to compete with some teams who seemed to have an advantage due to their unlimited range, equipment and resources," tournament board of directors member Wade Thompson said. "Very good, conventional offshore fisherman were discouraged by boats that could quickly and easily travel hundreds of miles to reach fishing grounds which were out of reach to the average team."

As a result, the Crosthwait has modified the current offshore rules, while introducing the Extreme Offshore Division that will fish May 15-18.

The new Crosthwait Extreme Offshore Division will be part of the Florida West Coast Triple Crown Billfish Series, where points are awarded for the catch and release of blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish. Anglers can fish it individually or as part of the series that includes the Sarasota Suncoast Shootout and Old Salt Loop Tournament.

Included will be a fun fish division awarding points for tuna, wahoo, dolphin and swordfish. The weigh-in for those will be taking place alongside the current offshore division weigh-in May 18. That should provide some thrills for those who love the tradition of the Crosthwait weigh-in.

The current offshore division will exclude the weigh-in of marlin, swordfish, warsaw grouper and cubera snapper, but "a special cash prize of $1,500 will be given to the first marlin on an offshore division boat to present, in person, proper proof of catching one to the committee," Thompson said. The normal cash prize of $5,000 to first place is still guaranteed.

These changes should encourage more participation from anglers who are a bit star struck by the bigger boats. The point schedule for the offshore fish is very balanced, meaning any variety of fish could win the tournament.

Now all we need is to carry over the weather from this week to the Crosthwait weekend, and anglers everywhere will be happy.

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