2009 ‘Howl at the Moon” Invitational Tarpon Tournament


Blaze wins!

As 12 fishing teams descended on Boca Grande Pass in the moonlight hours of Saturday, May 30, they found that because of a low pressure weather system there weren’t as many fish in the water as they would have liked.

The ones that Capt. Waylon Mills found, though, were very hungry, and the eight tarpon that found their way onto the poles of Mills’ team won him the first place spot in the 2009 Howl at the Moon Tarpon Tournament.

“The thing was, it started out fast for us,” he said. “Once we got the jump on the other boats in the tournament, all I had to do was kind of catch fish for fish. We got pressured from Boca Blue and Hey, Moma! and Faithful II, they sure got within striking range. But we kept getting lucky and pulling away.”

Mills said that one particular fish tried to give them some problems by swimming underneath another boat with a fish on.

“I thought it was going to be gone and that would have set us back,” he said. “It would have made those other boats to press us that much harder, too. How it didn’t break the line and come off I’ll never know.”

Mills and his team on Blaze, which included anglers Michael and Nico Pecoraro, walked away with $13,500 in prize money.

The second place team, taking $8,100 in prize money for five releases, was led by Capt. Sandy Melvin aboard Boca Blue. Melvin and his business, Gasparilla Outfitters, have coordinated and sponsored all of the tournaments in the series since its inception.

“Things got started quickly, and the action wasn’t super hot but it was steady,” Melvin said. “Waylon just stood above the rest of us that whole night. At one point we caught up with him in numbers, tied five to five, but he just kept catching them and we kind of went cold. The battle for second and third was pretty heated, though. It was a shoot-out.”

Melvin’s team included Bob Melvin, Michael Vaughn, Chad Price and Ron Walker.

That third place team, led by Capt. Wayne Joiner aboard Hey, Moma!, had five releases as well. The team also included Joiner, Danielle Zipay, David Campo, Frank Rippa and Tom McKenzie, who took home a check for $5,400.

Capt. Matt Coleman and his team on Faithful II got $1,200 for the first tarpon release of the tournament.

In all, there were 41 releases recorded by the teams during the tournament, which is the only competitive nighttime fishing event of its kind.

Other releases included: Faithful II, Capt. Matt Coleman, five releases; Shooter II, Capt. J.B. Baldwin, four releases; Spooked Again, Capt. Steve Ahlers, four releases; Casuarina, Capt. Charlie Coleman, four releases.

Also: Savannah, Capt. Steve Futch, three releases; Spellbound, Capt. Jackie Bylaska, one release; Searene, Capt. Lamar Joiner Jr., one release; Tracy Lynn, Capt. Willie Mills, one release.

“We were very happy with the way the event went,” Melvin said. “The Useppa Island Club was great, they made sure everyone had a good party to go to and put a lot of money and dedication into underwriting it.”

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