Guy Harvey Magazine

SPR 2017

Guy Harvey Magazine is focused on fishing, boating, scuba diving, and marine conservation. Portfolios from the world's best fishing photographers, articles on gear, travel, tournaments, apparel, lifestyle, seafood recipes, sustainable fisheries.

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22 | www.GuyHarveyMagazine.com NEWS, NOTES & GEAR South Carolina anglers are gearing up for this year's Governor's Cup—a series of five billfish tournaments that will be held May through July. The series, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year, is an official program of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and a tremendous example of the conservation impact that can come from competitive fishing. In fact, the tournament series has been so successful it has inspired similar events in neighboring states and helped spawn a multi-state event called the Carolinas' Shootout. The five tournaments in the Governor's Cup all offer their own prizes and cash payouts, and awards reach into the tens of thousands of dollars based on participation and "tournament-within-the-tournament" money. But the Governor's Cup awards are focused on a different goal. "Back in the late 1980s, the Governor's Cup was started as an effort to reduce the number of fish that were being landed," says program coordinator Wally Jenkins. "People were bringing small sailfish and white marlin to the dock. But to encourage catch and release, we award a prize to the boat for the most release points over all the events. All white marlin and sailfish are released, and we have a minimum size of 105 inches for blue marlin." Jenkins says the minimum size for blue marlin—which is six inches longer than the federal limit—means only one or two fish are landed each year, but also allows anglers an opportunity to land a record fish. The current state record was landed during the Governor's Cup aboard the Rascal, fishing out of Georgetown. It weighed 881 lbs. and measured 134 in. Of course, any blue marlin that is landed is examined by researchers, who sample its DNA, stomach contents and collect other data. Unlike most other tournaments, the Governor's Cup also requires any marlin that is landed be processed within three hours of inspection and be used for food. "That's part of our conservation message," says Tournament Director Amy Dukes. "We want people to respect these fish. They are cooled down by the teams as they come back to the dock and then we display the fish on ice. It's pretty amazing to see one of these fish and we want people to have that experience, but we also want to communicate that they are a valuable resource." Of course, anglers can keep other species that are common table fare, such as dolphin and wahoo. And the Governor's Cup also awards prizes for the largest fish in these categories and has special divisions for top youth and lady anglers. But the emphasis on catch and release has had a significant impact. Over its history, the Governor's Cup is credited with helping change billfish statistics in South Carolina from 90% mortality to 90% catch-and-release. "The Governor's Cup participants are really conservation-minded," says Jenkins, who also points out that a number of big research and conservation projects have been made possible through the cooperation—and generous contributions—of the anglers. In the mid-2000s, many Governor's Cup participants hosted SCDNR biologists on their boats as part of the tagging project. In all, more than 100 billfish were tagged with satellite tracking tags. "Having researchers on those boats was a tremendous cost savings to us," says Jenkins, "and it produced an incredible amount of data that we're still in the process of fully analyzing." One marlin tagged from those events was recaptured off Brazil. It had traveled 4,320 nautical miles and provided the first known evidence of a trans- equatorial crossing by a billfish. In more recent years, the Governor's Cup has funded the deployment of deepwater reefs. In 2014, two massive barges, loaded with other materials such as truck chassis and shipping containers, were sunk in about 350 ft. of water some 50 miles offshore from Charleston. The structure is in a Type 2 Marine Protected Area, which means it's closed to bottom fishing, and it was placed in an effort to help the recovery of a number of imperiled deepwater grouper species. It's already producing results. "After two years, ROVs have gone down and documented warsaw grouper, misty grouper and other species," says Jenkins. "And higher up in the water column, we're seeing an increase in pelagic species. Many of the tournament fish caught last year were in the same area as the reef." The deepwater reef project cost $450,000 dollars, all private money and the bulk of that coming from the Governor's Cup and donations from the anglers who participate in it. This year, a bridge structure is going to be added to the sight and will provide nearly 50 ft. of relief. More than half of the $180,000 needed is already committed to the project. For information on the South Carolina Governor's Cup and to find event links, visit http://govcup.dnr.sc.gov/. It's about more than just catching fish. South Carolina Governor's Cup

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