Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sheepshead Pull Wool over Anglers' Eyes; Big Fish Were Hard to Find, but El Cheapo Still Big Success

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sheepshead Pull Wool over Anglers' Eyes; Big Fish Were Hard to Find, but El Cheapo Still Big Success

Article excerpt

Byline: JIM SUTTON

A record number of anglers fished the El Cheapo Sheepshead Tournament on Saturday.

And a record number of sheepshead might have ignored them.

Of 305 entrants in the eighth annual event, just 102 fish were weighed in.

On the Mayport Jetties, fishermen sipped cool drinks with their feet on the gunnels. Rods stayed in rod holders. Many of the anglers ran to Fernandina Beach looking for fish, but the St. Mary's Inlet was no less generous.

Some tried small pieces of structure offshore. Same luck.

And while lots of anglers fiddled with their fiddler crabs, those few who went south to St. Augustine found the inlet "on fire," according to one who made the run. "There were five boats on the rocks down there. It was amazing."

But biggest number of fish didn't translate to the biggest fish.

And in the end it was Jacksonville's James Traylor and his father, Paul, who brought a 10.7-pounder to the scales, winning the event and a 16-foot boat, motor and trailer combo.

Traylor was as tight-mouthed as the sheepshead Saturday about where his fish was caught. "Up the river a ways," was all he would say. But the father and son team also had an 8-pounder and a couple of 6 pound-plus fish in the box and "never pulled the anchor." They baited with halved blue crabs for all their fish, Traylor said.

The tournament featured a Junior Angler division for the first time this year, and 12-year-old Samuel Mankins became the inaugural champ with a 7.4-pound fish.

Alton Robey and his father, Buddy, took second place in the open division with a 10-pound fish. They did find a spot at the St. Mary's Inlet and had a limit of "big fish" using fiddler crabs for bait.

The El Cheapo Tournament is billed as the biggest sheepshead tournament in the world. The Jacksonville Offshore Sport Fishing Club puts on the event. It's meant to be an inexpensive tournament aimed at families and fun. …

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