Today's registration for the ninth annual Mid-Atlantic Rockfish Shootout could be a busy affair.
Weather forecasts and catches from previous days determine interest, with many potential competitors waiting until the last minute to register. Bad weather and no fish usually mean a small field.
That shouldn't be the case for this year's event, which features a registration and captains' meeting today, and fishing Thursday through Sunday.
Catches have been on the rise since last week, with several fish topping 40 pounds landed. Coastal forecasts are favorable.
Frigid temperatures the past month had forced fish into deeper waters past the 3-mile legal line off the coast.
Many more fish had migrated as much as 100 miles south, where deeper, warmer waters run inside 3 miles.
In the past week, though, more striper have moved north and back into legal waters.
"I caught 21 in about 18 minutes this morning, and I didn't have to travel very far," Mike Standing, tournament founder and director, said Tuesday.
"It's been fantastic here lately, and that bodes well for the tournament."
Standing founded the event with several goals in mind.
The biggest, he said, was to bring attention to Virginia's outstanding year-long fisheries - especially the winter rockfish action.
"We've gotten world-wide attention from the white marlin fishery we've had the last couple of years," Standing said. "And our striper fishing is the best in the world this time of year."
His tournament's efforts have been a booming success.
Heading into this year's event, the shootout has paid out more than $1 million in prize money. Gannet 1, with Capt. Mike Romeo, captured $60,000 last year, which featured a total payout of more than $135,000.
Anglers won $209,000 in 2009.
Thousands of dollars also have been paid to local charities, with the Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters benefitting the most.
"And we've fed more than 30,000 homeless and underprivileged families the rockfish that we weigh in," Standing said.
Standing has been able to keep his teams honest with the use of hand-held GPS units provided by Garmin. Winning teams are subject to a polygraph.
"It's a pain, but we have a team of people who look at the chart line of every GPS to make sure they stayed within the 3-mile limit," Standing said. "Garmin's sponsorship has been major for us."
So was the arrival last year of title sponsor Bass Pro Shops - whose founder and owner, Johnny Morris, will join bass fishing icon Bill Dance on Standing's team this year.
"We've done about eight television shows with Bill so far," Standing said. "And you can't underestimate the value that had in bringing attention to Virginia's fishing opportunities.
"This tournament has gone a long way in helping, too. We are, by far, the highest-paying and largest rockfish tournament in the country."
Lee Tolliver, (757) 222-5844, firstname.lastname@example.org
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