Record Turnout For Tournament

Who says you have to catch the biggest fish to win a prize?

Not on Kaua’i, at least not at the annual North Shore Fishing Tournament. With categories such as “Opala,” “Hard Luck” and “The Puka Panty Award,” how can you go wrong?

More importantly, how can you not have fun?

“Our motto is put the fishermen first,” says tournament chairman Chad Pacheco. “We want them to feel good about their experience so they come back, and one way to do that is to reward as many people as possible. We don’t want you to think you have to catch the biggest marlin to get prizes.”

For the fourth consecutive year, some of Kaua’i’s top anglers took part in the fun-filled and prize-filled tournament.

This year a record 65 teams hit the ocean. Besides prizes for the biggest catch, the event featured several unique events aimed at keeping the tournament fun and fresh.

“We had an incredible turnout,” says Pacheco. “It was a little windy and a bit rough on the fishermen, but I think everyone had a good time.”

Once again, each crew received a prize before even leaving the harbor. Several years ago, every boat that checked in received either a pair of binoculars or a lure head courtesy of an anonymous donor.

Last year, crews received knives, and this year, every boat was given a hand gaff.

“The community really comes together and donates a lot of prizes for this tournament,” says Pacheco. “We have fishing reels, gift certificates, televisions, even chiropractor appointments. Everyone knows we’re going to give away prizes, and this year all 65 walked away with something.”

One of the fun categories is the “Opala.” Crews are asked to gather the marine debris they see while fishing. In order to qualify for a prize, crews must collect at least 10 pounds of debris.

“We want to hit this marine debris issue head-on,” says Pacheco. “Last year, one boat brought in a huge cargo net that was 71 pounds! Our goal is to help promote cleaning up our ocean and being better stewards. We say, let’s do something about it instead of just talking about it.”

This year’s winning crew hauled in 24 pounds of debris made up of buoys, netting and rope. The boat’s captain walked away with a brand-new 40-inch flat-screen television.

And speaking of buoys, several years ago crews were given the chance to go on a scavenger hunt in search of a missing buoy.

The buoy was signed by the tournament committee members and released in the ocean. The crew that found it earned a special prize.

“We know there’s a lot of down time during a tournament, so we decided to have them go on a scavenger hunt in the ocean,” says Pacheco. “First off, we wanted to see what the currents are doing around Kaua’i, and also it was something fun for them to do while they wait.”

This year the buoy was found outside Kilauea Lighthouse. The boat captain walked away with a GoPro camera.

Once again, in addition to prizes in several categories, the field competed in the Mike Sakamoto Challenge, a state tournament where the grand prize is a trip for four to Las Vegas.

Pacheco says the tournament also includes a “Hard Luck Category” for crews that experience mechanical problems with their boats. And there also are prizes for crews that come home completely empty.

“We call it the whitewash category for those who come back with no fish,” chuckles Pacheco. “For those crews, we give them $150 cash. We know fishing comes with costs. We have to take care of the brothers and sisters out here. We do that and they’ll come back!”