Gary Hurley

Tidelines – October 27, 2016

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This year the North End and South End weigh stations were a tale of two cities.

I’m referring to the two weigh stations that are located out on the 4wd access beaches and open around the clock for our annual Pleasure Island Surf Fishing Challenge.

Or I guess I could also pitch the theme as youth vs. experience.

This year the South End weigh station went just as it has for each of the ten years that Fisherman’s Post has been running this event. The station was manned once again by Nick Miller, and as you can imagine, after 10 years Nick comes prepared and takes full advantage of camping on the beach for the 36+ hours of the event.

For example, this year Nick’s traditional Saturday evening weigh station meal consisted of a low country shrimp boil, complete with potatoes, onions, corn, sausage, and some of the biggest shrimp that have recently come through Motts Channel Seafood (his new place of employment).

Nick’s dinner, just like last year when he brought out the smoker and served ribs and lobster/prosciutto-stuffed flounder, was a hit with the collection of friends that had come out to keep him company through the day and into the night.

Nick, at the South End, would be experience, so that brings us to youth—Christian Wolfe, our UNCW intern this semester, at the North End.

Christian may be one of the better young fishing guides in the area, growing up under the tutelage of his father Jeff and helping grow the Seahawk Inshore Fishing Charters business, but for all that time on the water, apparently camping on the beach never really came into play.

“I’m just going to make a bunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” he explained to the Fish Post staff in one of our meetings leading up to the event.

We pushed him to put more thought into food and drink for the weekend, explaining that once committed to being out on the beach for the 36+ hours, the fifth peanut butter and jelly wouldn’t taste near as good as the first—he was going to want something more.

Sometimes, though, youth just doesn’t want to listen to advice, so there was Christian just a few hours after the start of fishing on Friday at midnight, snacking on a handful of peanuts and some candy ropes and thinking out loud on the phone with Nick, “Man, I am so unprepared.”

Nick always brings a few surf rods to pass the time between anglers coming up to weigh in, and this year he was rewarded well. Around 9:30 on Saturday morning, a fish slammed a spot head he had sitting on the bottom. It was dead low tide, and he caught a glimpse of the tail of a big red drum breaking the surface.

Nick Miller, the experienced South End weigh master of the annual Pleasure Island Surf Fishing Challenge, with a 44” red drum caught and released from the Fort Fisher surf on Saturday morning.

Nick Miller, the experienced South End weigh master of the annual Pleasure Island Surf Fishing Challenge, with a 44” red drum caught and released from the Fort Fisher surf on Saturday morning.

Christian Wolfe, the young North End weigh master, shows off his out-of-the-wind system for weighing in fish inside the cab of his new $35,000+ Silverado LT1500 (bucket sold separately).

Christian Wolfe, the young North End weigh master, shows off his out-of-the-wind system for weighing in fish inside the cab of his new $35,000+ Silverado LT1500 (bucket sold separately).

Seeing anglers with fish and wrist bands walking in his direction, Nick tightened the drag, and within 5 minutes or so he had a 44” red drum on the beach for a quick photo before releasing.

Experience helped produce a great weigh station memory.

Christian didn’t bring any rods, and since he didn’t have anything to do to keep busy, that made him an easy target for an estranged woman camping on the beach beside him. She shared her life story, offered advice to Christian on how to improve his love life, begged for money, and then borrowed one of his blankets for the night. When the morning came, it seems the lady got sick just outside her tent, but her dog didn’t make it out.

“That’s okay,” Christian told her. “You can just keep the blanket.”

Youth lent itself to a not-so-great weigh station memory.

There are other points of comparison I could bring up, like the not knowing there’s a vent on the gas cap of the Honda generator or setting up the scale to weigh fish inside the cab of his $50,000 truck, but I prefer to end this tale with the recognition of Christian’s learning curve.

Christian started the weekend drinking one Red Bull and then chasing it with two waters, but after about the fourth round when the headache settled in, Christian was smart enough to get away from the energy drinks.

And when he was relieved of duty Saturday afternoon for about two hours, he managed to get in both a shower and a pickup of 24 wings from Buffalo Wild Wings, successfully putting to rest the need for the fourth and fifth peanut butter and jelly.

Christian, Nick, and Island Tackle & Hardware (our third weigh station location) ultimately were all successful at weighing in a bunch of fish for the event, and all of those fish went to a good cause two times over.

First the fish were used by NCDMF to fill the data cap they have for recreational fisheries. NCDMF doesn’t get a lot of recreational fish data, especially from the ocean, so the tournament’s fish helps generate information that they will use to better manage stock assessment and fisheries management plans.

After the otoliths and other measurements are taken, the NCDMF delivers the fish to First Fruit Ministries, a local food bank that delivers over 80,000 plates each year to more than 25,000 people. Half of the fish, Rick Stoker told me, would go to Hurricane Matthew victims in our state that are still struggling in the wake of the storm.

And that’s something that both youth and experience can feel good about.