By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
It’s pretty hard to miss the signs. There’s been an increase in boats docked around the area. Everyone seems to be wearing vented fishing shirts in pastel shades of blues, greens and oranges. And if you needed anymore clues about what time of year it is, the City of Port Isabel has placed a banner at the entrance to town welcoming anglers for the 76th Annual Texas International Fishing Tournament (TIFT).
Three-quarters of a century is a long time, but there’s no wondering why the tourney has remained such a popular one throughout the decades. It’s a time for families, weekend warriors and amateur competitive fishermen and women to put their skills to the test, both out on the bay and offshore in the Gulf. Anglers of all ages can participate, and you don’t need a fancy boat, either. Dock fishing is welcome, too.
I remember the first time I attended a TIFT tournament. The crowds swelled at Southpoint Marina as the weigh-in deadline approached. With a hum of anticipation and excitement, spectators waited for the offshore competitors to come in. As boats and yachts entered the channel, people would squint to see what flags they flew. Some had blue and white flags signifying blue marlins, others signifying sailfish or tuna.
Eventually, so many anglers had returned that there was a line of vessels waiting to come dockside to offload their catches. Whether on shore or aboard ship, there was no shortage of smiles. Spectators would cheer at the sight of yellowfin tuna which would clearly weigh in at over 100 pounds. One angler beamed as his sailfish was hung from the scale, its weight written in shaving cream along the fish’s sides. As a photographer vied for his attention, he extended the fan of the dorsal fin which shone with midnight shades of sapphire and inky blacks.
Soon after, a murmur ran through the crowd. There was rumor of an angler who had caught a blue marlin. Sure enough, a boat could be seen making its way through the channel. Flapping in the breeze, barely visible in the distance, was the telltale flag that indicated a marlin.
The catch did not disappoint. As the boat sidled up to the dock, a tailfin could be seen poking out the stern. The boat wasn’t a small boat, but neither was the fish a small fish. The animal was magnificent, and it lay across the entire deck, almost into the wheelhouse. It took half a dozen people to maneuver it onto the dock and then onto the scale.
The can of shaving cream came out and a dock volunteer wrote three numbers along the side of the fish: six -seven-zero. The crowd broke into a cheer. The marlin weighed in at 670 pounds.
I didn’t grow up along the coast, and I’ve never been offshore fishing, so it took a moment to take in just how huge the marlin was. In that instant, I could see exactly why TIFT is so popular.
Last year’s tourney saw more than 1,200 anglers participate. This year, registration has already been intense. It’s shaping up to be a good tournament. So come on out to Port Isabel and South Padre Island and feel that exhilaration for yourself. Come on out, and come early. And of course, don’t forget to visit us online at www.portisabelsouthpadre.com.
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