I have been lucky enough to have my name on the masthead of this magazine – in some capacity – for 15 years now and, for most of that time, my title was Connecticut Field Editor. I took over writing the Connecticut Report from Tim Coleman in 2009 and finally handed it off to Aaron Swanson last spring.
Writing that report for 12 years means that I have covered fishing in Long Island Sound for more than a dozen summers and one of the biggest annual summer events is the WICC Greatest Bluefish Tournament on Earth. The prospect of catching a $25,000 bluefish sends anglers in the region into hysteria, thousands of boats converge on Long Island Sound and set their sights on the biggest blues it has to offer.
Poll 100 anglers and you’re going to get 100 different opinions about the tourney that range from glowing reviews that tout the WICC as the unofficial end of summer, to those that despise the event for reasons that range from it being wasteful to the fact that it just puts too many boats in the water on that weekend before Labor Day each season.
One thing the Greatest Bluefish Tournament on Earth does is it creates business for local tackle shops and charter captains. Many tackle shops post special extended hours on the weekend of the WICC and some stay open all hours of the day and night during the event. Charter captains often fill their trips on the weekend of the WICC months, if not a full year in advance.
It is great to see so many anglers putting their ‘all’ into fishing for a weekend and it’s impossible not to love the fact that so many kids are entered and getting out there to enjoy the outdoors. The organizers do a great job spreading the love, with dozens of cash prizes that range from the $25,000 grand prize to $100 port prizes for the largest bluefish weighed at each official weigh station.
But the tournament does have an ugly side. In all of these years covering the event, the most common question asked at the weigh stations after seeing that their fish didn’t make the leaderboard is, “Where can I get rid of this thing?” And many shop owners have told me stories of finding dozens of bluefish stuffed into their dumpsters with a tornado of flies buzzing overhead. With the August sun beating down day after day until the truck finally comes to empty it, the shameful smell of those wasted bluefish can be detected at least a half-mile away.
There is no excuse for this practice, especially in the day and age where nearly every person with a pocket or purse is carrying a sophisticated minicomputer on their person at all times. The WICC posts regular updates on their Facebook Page and anglers fishing the tournament should absolutely be following along the entire time. If you can’t be bothered to refresh their Facebook Page, you can tune in on the radio (107.3 FM or 600 AM) to hear the latest weigh-ins as well. With the advancements in the delivery of information and the fact that we are all trained in how to access this information, there is no reason to weigh a 9-pounder when the smallest fish on the board is 11 and you can know that within 30 seconds of catching your fish.
Furthermore, if you are not prepared to deal with keeping and eating that fish, then you absolutely should not be participating in this event. That practice is not any different than walking out into the woods, shooting a deer and leaving it there to rot. Be honest with yourself, if you have no intentions of taking that fish home for the table, have a little dignity, show some restraint, and don’t participate.
It’s important to remember, it’s not the tournament that wastes the fish, it’s those who participate knowing full-well that they have no intentions of respecting their catch. The WICC has several tried and true bluefish recipes posted on their website and there are many more on TheFisherman.com, sign up, have some fun, maybe win a cash prize and enjoy some family time preparing a meal at home. That’s how this tournament is supposed to be enjoyed and there’s nothing wrong with that!