Anglers and fishermen have geared up this weekend for the area’s largest fishing tournament to date, the Fourth Annual Rocktober Fishing Tournament and Festival on October 19, 20 and 21 at the Indian River Marina. Over $24,000 will be given away in cash and prizes, including a $9,000 cash award to the person who brings in the largest rockfish.
Prize money is awarded to the runners-up in the rockfish division ($3,000 for second and $2,000 for third), as well as top three tautog (1st place - $4,500, 2nd place - $2,000 and 3rd place - $1,000) and heaviest flounder ($2,000). A youth prize is also awarded to the younger anglers casting their lines in the rockfish division, set at $1,000. Complete with chili cook-off, pie baking contest, live music and a Toyota truck show and a boat show provided by Short’s Marine and Bombardier Recreational Products, there is just as much for the public to enjoy as there is for the participants. There will be plenty of children’s activities, as well. Local area restaurants, including Dewey Beach’s The Starboard, will provide food for the festival. The all-weekend event will benefit the Horsey Family Youth Foundation and Sussex County Land Trust.
Entrants will get the chance on Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. to fish and on Sunday, from 7 until 11 a.m. Weigh-ins will be at the Indian River Marina located at the north side of the inlet at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 1 p.m. on Sunday, with prizes following on Sunday. The tournament will even award a brand new boat to the fisherman who is able to break the rockfish state record of 51 pounds, 8 ounces, which has held firm since 1978. Registered boats will leave the marina each day, carrying no more than seven anglers and the captain. Tournaments within the tournament (TWT) will also be held, consisting of $50 entry fees in each of the rockfish and toutog categories and $25 in the flounder division. Half of the earnings on the rock and tautog TWT will go to the heaviest fish reeled in by an entrant, with 20 percent for second, 10 percent for third and the remaining 20 percent going to charity. Eighty percent of the entrance fees in the flounder TWT will be paid to the fisherman with the heaviest flounder, with 20 percent being retained for charity.
“It’s a great feeling to win,” said Daniel Baldwin, a Lewes native who took home first and second place last year in the tautog division, totaling $6,500 in prize money. His top-placing fish weighed 9.6 and 8.1 pounds. “We always have a good time, and learn something new each time you go out,” said Baldwin, who has been fishing his whole life and participated in each of the tournaments since their start in 2004. “I’d caught fish in the other tournaments but nothing that placed or won until last year,” he said. Baldwin and his brother will head out again this weekend aboard his boat, Zephyrus, but he doesn’t know what to anticipate this year. “I think people have to have low expectations,” he said. “The water temperature has been high, and it’ll be hard to find some of these fish. It will probably be tough fishing for everybody.”