It Is Tournament Time On The South Fork

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It’s tournament time, folks. Whether you spend your time in Montauk or Shinnecock, inshore or offshore, this weekend will be the time to put your fishing skills—and luck—to the test against others, and collect your trophies and prize money.For the inshore gang, there are two fantastic local tournaments going on this weekend:

Saturday is the 22nd annual Molnar’s Landing Fluke Shootout in the Shinnecock Bay area. Based at Molnar’s Landing in Hampton Bays, this tournament always attracts the sharpest of the sharpies who will be searching for the largest fluke from Rampasture Point to “The Basket” to the Atlantic outside Shinnecock Inlet. Call Lanny at Molnar’s Landing, 728-1860, for information on signing up your crew for the tournament. Captains’ meeting is Friday night; weigh-in is 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, with an always-raucous barbecue and awards ceremony—with cash, tackle prizes and trophies for the top three biggest fluke by both adults and juniors—taking place that evening on the deck at Molnar’s.

Out in Montauk, the Montauk Mercury Grand Slam Tournament will take place on Saturday and Sunday. The Grand Slam will award prizes for the biggest fish in each of four species—fluke, striped bass, bluefish and black sea bass—and for the most total combined weight for all four species. The tournament proceeds go to benefit the Friends of Erin and the East Hampton Kiwanis Club, and this year is being held in special memory of longtime Montauk captain Ken Bouse.

Fishing will begin at 5 a.m. on Saturday, and final weigh-in will be at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Only anglers in the party boat category are permitted to fish at night. To sign up for the Grand Slam, visit www.montaukgrandslam.org, or call (631) 561-9135.

For those in the big leagues of the local fishing scene, this weekend also marks the kick off of what has become the East End’s premier big-game fishing tournament: the Shinnecock Marlin & Tuna Club’s Hamptons Offshore Invitational at Oakland’s Marina in Hampton Bays. If you fancy yourself a big-game sharpie, this is the week when you can test yourself against a lot of the best captains and crews on Long Island.

The tournament starts Saturday—there’s a mandatory captains’ meeting on Friday night to go over the rules—and runs through Sunday, August 25. During those eight days, each boat may fish up to four day-trips or two overnighters. Prizes will be given out for bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna, longfin albacore, mahi mahi, wahoo, thresher or mako shark, and bluefish (that’s kind of the booby prize), as well as for the release of white and blue marlin.

Since we in the Northeast are far more concerned with putting big tuna on the dock than we are with the rigors of battling large marlin, the bigeye tuna trophy is always the most coveted prize in the HOI. It usually takes a bigeye topping 250 pounds to capture the top honors, and with the extraordinary number of them being caught this year, much like last year, the competition is certain to be tight.

Beyond the true test of a big-game crew, the HOI is also a wonderful charity event. Over the last 13 years, the tournament and its main cheerleader, longtime SMTC President Scott Horowitz, have raised nearly $1.5 million for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island. It is one of the organization’s key sources of funding, and after its building was completely destroyed during Superstorm Sandy last fall, funding needs are at a premium.

There can be some taking with the giving, also: Raffle tickets are for sale for the sexy 24-foot center console donated by White Water Custom Sportfish Boats. For a hundred bucks, you’ve got a chance at winning a $100,000 boat. There’s also a Zodiac dingy and a ton of great raffle and auction stuff on the block as well at the awards gala at Oakland’s Restaurant on Sunday.

To sign up for HOI ’13, visit HamptonsOffshore.com. Raffle tickets are available at White Water Outfitters on the Shinnecock Canal in Hampton Bays.

In the run-up to all these tournaments, the fishing has been spectacular the last week. The offshore gang has been going gangbusters on another week of amazing fishing for bigeyes from 150 to over 250 pounds. The best bite seems to have shifted from the eastern canyons to the Hudson area this week, though some heavy loads were still hitting the dock from the east as well.

Fluke fishing off Montauk has lit up, limits are easy to come by, and there are plenty of doormats topping 5 pounds in the mix as well. In Shinnecock Bay, the fishing is red hot, but the ratio of keepers to throw-backs is climbing, as it typically does this time of year. The ocean has a slightly better ratio of big fish but fewer bites.

Striped bass fishing is pretty much a Montauk game only, now, but the fishing has been superb. Lots of big fish are falling to wire-line trolling right off the lighthouse and to eels drifted in the eastern rips at night.

Snappers are getting thicker for those fishing from shore and should be big enough to start filling buckets this week.

Catch ’em up. See you out there.

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