Wilmington Spearfishing hosted its fifth annual Wrightsville Beach Spearfishing Tournament the weekend of June 22 at Seapath Yacht Club and it was bigger and better than preceding years, said Ryan McInnis, an officer of the tournament.
“As far as sponsorship goes, participation and the feedback from the competitors, we get better and better at streamlining it and making it a more enjoyable time, not just for the competitors but for the community,” McInnis said.
The tournament’s structure was modified somewhat to be species-based and all-inclusive as opposed to being category-based with regard to methods of fishing and areas to be fished. Free divers and scuba divers may previously have been subdivided as would in-shore and offshore fishing.
“There are nine different species divisions,” McInnis said. “Species range from stuff you can find under a dock in Banks Channel all the way out to the Gulf Stream. It allows for every type of diver to participate.”
Among the species being gunned for were sheepshead, flounder, toutog, grouper, hog, cobia, pompano, bluewater and lionfish. The lionfish is an invasive species that negatively affects indigenous fish populations. It was added this year as a category to combat its growing numbers.
With uncooperative weather limiting the number of offshore fish that came in, spear fishermen stayed close to shore, some by preference.
“It just wasn’t safe on Friday and Saturday to go very far out,” McInnis said. The group of eager spear-wielding underwater hunters were further incentivized by an array of prizes and prize money.
“We charge an entry fee; we use those funds for the T-shirts, the band and the cookout,” McInnis said. The rest of the funds were redistributed to the competitors. Each divisional winner won 10 percent of the cash purse that was accumulated via contributions from a broad base of sponsors.
“Every divisional winner walked away with between probably $500 and $1,000 worth of merchandise,” he said. “We award all the way down to third in each division.”
In addition, each competitor received a gift bag containing koozies, gift cards, magazines and a poster.
Chris Fertig was declared Master Hunter by virtue of the number of his speared fish times their individual weights earning him the highest point total.