Catch and release fishing
The Old Salt King of the Beach tournament played host to a massive field of 681 boats last weekend out of John’s Pass. Up for grabs was the title of 2019 Spring King and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
After spending the prior weekend running nearly to Key West for the Wild West Kingfish Tournament, Kyle Nifong and team Single Source Insurance/Don Ray Gear had to change game plans with the rules keeping anglers closer to home.
“We could go a maximum of 30 miles west with boundaries to the north and south,” said Nifong, who also runs charters and commercial fishes. “We went pretty far south and fished in about 100 feet of water. We knew that big fish were caught in that area the week before.”
Starting the day early, the team made adjustments when the fish they were looking for hadn’t been caught.
“We eventually found the bait that would hold fish around and just sat,” Nifong said. “We knew the major feeding period was from 1 to 3 p.m.., and if we were going to get a big one, it was going to be during that.”
As tournament time began to wind down, the team kept trolling big baits like blue runners and mullet. At 2:30, drag started to scream as line emptied at a high rate. It was the fish they were looking for.
Kyle Nifong was on the rod as teammate Zach Riley, Kyle’s brother Taylor and their dad Ronnie watched anxiously.
“I knew it was a big fish, big kingfish by the way it was running,” Nifong said. “It had to be over 40 pounds how it was fighting.”
Fifteen minutes into the fight, they could see color about 30 feet below the boat.
“We knew it was over 40 when we could see it,” Nifong said. “When we finally got the gaff in it and it was in the boat, I’m pretty sure we all lost our voices from screaming. We knew that fish was going to be in the top three.”
They immediately headed to the weigh in. The teammates started making phone calls to find out what fish other boats were weighing in. With many teams in front of them, they waited fifth from the end of the line. After hundreds of fish hit the scales, team Kingsmen and Capt. Jack Vasilaros were on top with a 46.73-pound fish.
Nifong’s fish hit the scale and lit up to 52.67 pounds. Knowing the remaining fish weren’t going to top theirs, the celebration began. With all their winnings, they would take home $106,320.
“We’re going to pay for the fishing season, leave some for future tournaments and split the rest,” Nifong said of the huge payday.
For second place, Kingsmen collected $40,298. Third place went to team James Gang and Capt. Jesse Mayer. Their 46.29-pound kingfish brought home $28,527.
The Spanish mackerel division was won by team El Segundo’s Retreat with a 5.12-pounder for $5,000. Full results can be viewed here.
33rd Annual Jerry Hill Kids Fishing Tournament: Saturday was the annual tournament named after the late Bradenton Herald outdoors writer.
Here are the winners of the 2019 event, held at the Green Bridge Fishing Pier:
5-year-olds: 1. Michael Youngblood, 25.5-inch shark; 2. Randy Macomson, 18-inch skate; 3. Tate Albritton, 11-inch puffer; 3. Braxton McClain, 11-inch snapper.
6-year-olds: 1. Anderson Miller, 14-inch flounder; 2. Isabell Roberts, 12-inch stingray; 2. Rhea Macomson, 12-inch stingray.
7-year-olds: 1. Liam Sapuppo, 16-inch jack; 2. Jorden Lawrence, 12.625-inch skate; 3. Graeson Wagner, 11.75-inch skate; 3. Benjamin Scherback, 11.75-inch puffer.
8-year-olds: 1. Cooper Bener, 13.125-inch needle fish; 2. Emily Presutto, 12-inch snapper; 3. Landon Perez, 10-inch stingray.
9-year-olds: 1. Layla Akers, 16.625-inch skate; 2. Wyatt Revels 16-inch snook; 3. Gabriella Youngblood, 13-inch lady fish; 3. Forest Cothran 13.5-inch puffer.
10-year-olds: 1. Abigail Hill 16.5-inch stingray; 2. Ella Maria 13.5-inch stingray; 3. Timothy Bisbey 11-inch puffer.
11-year-olds: 1. Cohen Fry, 11-inch snapper; 2. Natalie Andrews, 17-inch stingray; 3. Conner Furman, 10.875-inch puffer.
12-year-olds: 1. Tracarty Clark, 14.5-inch catfish, 2. Nick White, 12-inch angelfish; 3. Adison Johnson, 11.5-inch puffer.
13-year-olds: 1. Jlynn Moore, 7.375-inch snapper; 2. Reagan Gross, 7.125-inch snapper.
14-year-olds: 1. Quincy Jones, 15.5-inch needlefish; 2. Lenoris Dawes, 15.5-inch needlefish; 3. Zion Trobaugh, 11.25 inch snapper.