PALMETTO -- The 32nd annual Crosthwait Memorial Fishing Tournament presented by Yellowfin Yachts came to a conclusion Sunday, and judging by the catches turned in across all divisions, the state of the fishery looks to be in great shape.
Early in the week it appeared that weather would be a concern with a windy and rainy forecast. Conditions proved better than expected apart from a late afternoon thunderstorm that hovered over Sarasota and Tampa Bay on Saturday.
Sunny skies and light winds prevailed into Sunday as boats lined up early in the afternoon at the Bradenton Yacht Club docks. It was apparent big catches were going to be needed to bring home the title.
The second of nine boats in the offshore division to weigh in was team Jumbo Shrimp with Capt. Nathan Dahlman and anglers Paul Christie, Brian Bower, Anthony Panipinto and Greg Brown. The crew spoke of relatively average seas after leaving Friday afternoon, but they picked up to larger 4- to 6-foot swells early Saturday morning that calmed for the ride home by the Sunday weigh in.
As their catch unloaded to the scales, the crowd was soon wowed by a massive 116-pound warsaw grouper. Team Capt. Dahlman was rather hush-hush about the details of the massive fish, but no doubt it came from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico as the team covered nearly 550 miles aboard Christie's 36-foot Contender.
Along with the warsaw the team weighed in a 10-pound black grouper, 21- and 19-pound blackfin tuna, while also photo releasing a 100-point swordfish and 100-point sailfish for a total of 470 points. The total held up for 1st place, earning the team its second victory in the offshore division. The win netted the team $5,000.
The inshore division saw a large number of tarpon weighed in with plenty of big snook bringing huge points for the placing teams. Each of the top three squads had a tarpon, and the smallest of the six snook weighed among them was 36 inches.
At the top of the 63-inshore boats was team Precision Land Management and Capt. Kane Hannaford.
"We fished south," the Palmetto resident Hannaford said. "Most of the fish we caught were at night in the early morning."
Most inshore teams lost prime fishing time as they dodged Saturday evening's storms. The same applied to Hannaford's team. "We lost probably an hour of fishing time," he noted. "To get out from the storm, we hid under a bridge while it passed over us."
The lost fishing time didn't hurt the team's total catch, as they fished through Saturday night instead of sleeping. Along with Hannaford, anglers Travis Sherman, Cory Raburn, Brian Peacock, Brooks McAlister and David Sandoff weighed in a tarpon for 75-points, a 42- and 40-inch snook, a 24- and 23-inch trout and a 32-inch redfish for a total of 408 points. That was enough to earn them $5,000 and first place in the inshore division.
Winners of the under-19 division was team Big Johnson Bail Bonds and Capt. Wyatt Walker. The perennial tournament contenders once again turned in a catch worthy of the adult division with 37- and 35-inch snook, two 24-inch trout, and 29- and 28-inch redfish for 320 points.
"We caught most of our fish on the negative low tide Saturday evening," Walker said. "We had all of our fish by 7 p.m. We went back out tarpon fishing and lost one in the morning."
The 16-year-old team Capt. fished with 16-year-olds Matt Seth, Ryan Andress, and Seth Miller and 15-year-old Jordan Moden, meaning they will be back next year to defend their crown.
The under-16 division crown was won by all-female team Bowes Imaging 4 A Cause with Capt. Chasten Whitfield and anglers Aaliyah Rudrud, Sami Costello, Olivia Glavan, and Emma Moneuse.
Their catch included 27- and 24-inch snook, an 18-inch trout, a 32-inch redfish, and a pair of 2-pound flounder for 209 points. The generous Whitfield donated her team's $750 in winnings back to the Crosthwait Memorial Fund.
Second place in the offshore division was claimed by team SeaVeeChe and Capt. Danny Pool along with angler Jay Travis. The duo weighed in a huge 35-pound blackfin tuna along with a 22-pound blackfin, an 8-pound mahi, a 34-pound wahoo, a 39-pound warsaw grouper and a 51-pound amberjack that netted them 399 points.
Second place in the inshore went to FL Fishing Team -- Tweeshaka and Capt. James Kitchens. They picture released a tarpon for 75 points, a 42- and 36-inch snook, a 25- and 24-inch trout, and a 30-inch redfish to earn 394 points.
Third place in the inshore was team Robalo, only 3 points behind with 391. Capt. Justin Teachey's team landed a 26- and 19-pound permit, 20-inch trout, 37- and 36-inch snook and a 75-point tarpon.
Second place in the under-19 division went to Capt. Austin Goncalve's team 503 after landing a 27-inch snook, a 26- and 24-inch trout, a 29- and 27-inch redfish and a 1-pound flounder for 245 points.
Only one point separated second and third place in the under-16 division. Second went to team Runnin' Skinny and Capt. Lane Bowers, while third went to team Here Comes Trouble and Capt. Trevor Meek.