Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kingfish Tourney Gets People Hooked on Nature

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kingfish Tourney Gets People Hooked on Nature

Article excerpt

Byline: Quinton White

The First Coast has an abundance of natural resources that we enjoy and maybe too often take for granted. I was reminded of this earlier this month during the 35th annual Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament.

I have been working with the tournament for 33 of those years as their marine biologist. The organizers and volunteers spend many hours working to make the tournament a success. The tournament is part of Jacksonville Marine Charities, which in turn contribute to a number of marine conservation and educational efforts in our community.

All the activities are held at Jim King Park and Boat Ramp at Sisters Creek. The late Sen. King was the longtime voice of the tournament and was an avid sportsman. The facilities at the marina are the result of the partnership between the city of Jacksonville and Jacksonville Marine Charities.

My role is to ensure the fish caught are, in fact, kingfish, and that they were caught on the day of the tournament. I also weigh in on any injured fish as to whether it is still able to fight and is not mutilated. Fish can be attacked by sharks and barracuda just as they are about to be boated. We often see only the head of the fish.

The first point may seem obvious, that you should catch only kingfish during a kingfish tournament.

Kingfish are also known as king mackerel, and there are some other similar species. Spanish mackerel, wahoo and barracuda have all been brought into the weigh-in station by fishermen who mistakenly identified their fish. This happened more frequently during the early days of the tournament when up to 1,000 boats participated. Some of those fishermen had limited experience with kingfish but were drawn to the large prizes being offered. Winning a new boat, motor and trailer was tempting to many. People came from far and wide to fish our waters. The tournament has always had an "anyone can win" kind of atmosphere.

My real role for the tournament was to encourage honesty among the fishermen. There just might be some who would catch a very large kingfish while practicing their techniques, or scouting the best locations, and try to freeze it, or keep it on ice for a few days. …

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