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Record Your Catch!
A fact of matter that separates winners from losers is keeping records of when, where and how big fish were caught.
When asked the one single factor that helped “Fish Fever” win 2002 “Angler of the Year” and the 2002 “SKA Open National Championship”, team Captain Ed Mecchella was quick to reply, “Keeping good records!”
Can you imagine winning two major fishing crowns in one tournament! The Georgia based SKA fishing team, “Fish Fever” recently accomplished this incredible feat while sitting in 7th place in the “Angler of the Year” race prior to the start of the 2002 SKA National Championship.
However deep trolling five-pound blue runners next to a Gulf Coast oilrig, stacked with 30-60 pound king mackerel, netted a 63.51-pound king mackerel during the first day of competition.
“We had located the large school of king mackerel during pre-fishing and hoped they stayed there during the tournament competition,” Mecchella said. “Naturally we headed to the tournament scales after our big catch, excited that we had landed such a huge kingfish, we also had enough of those 5-6 foot seas!”
The fishing team including Jim Conway, Ed Mecchella and son, Shawn jumped into the tournament lead in the Angler of the Year race and also stood atop the leader board for the first day of competition in the SKA National Championship.
“On the final day of the tournament, we dared not to go back to the same oil rig in fear that the whole tournament fleet would follow us,” Mecchella said! “However while fishing that morning, Dan Upton called us and said that we better get there in a hurry because a big bite was going on.”
“Upon arrival, we saw the oil rig surrounded by the entire fleet of kingfish boats! King mackerel ranging from 30-50 pounds, were sky rocketing everywhere, in the midst of the battle, fishing lines tangled, kingfish ran over and under boats and into the oilrig too! It was definitely the best bite of kingfish that we had ever scene.”
Luckily, “Fish Fever landed a 38-pound king mackerel, winning both top honors in the SKA National Championship and the coveted Angler of the Year award as well! Reeling in two of the highest achievements in SKA history has never before been accomplished in the same tournament season.
I have been a personal fishing friend of the Fish Fever fishing team since 1980 and first of all was very excited to learn about their great accomplishments. My son Terry David and I have shared kingfish holes with both Ed and son Shawn for many kingfish seasons and ironically sold chum to fellow king mackerel teams. The Mecchalla’s sold packaged pellets that were pre soaked in menhaden oil, while Terry David and I sold a concentrated menhaden oil. We were also on the same Wendy’s fishing team.
We both had kingfish tricks up our sleeves at all times, naturally chumming up kingfish in a wide variety of ways to stink up a money kingfish at the tournament scales was our number one kingfish tactic. However “Fish Fever” used one fishing tactic that won them over $200,000.00 during the 2002 SKA National Championship.
“If I had to put my finger on one fishing tactic that has won our fishing team these two great awards, it would have to be recording each and every kingfish catch,” remarks Mecchella. “When our fishing team first began to competitively fish for king mackerel, we recorded each and every significant catch and we still have all of this information today, which dates back to the early 1980’s.”
“In fact when returning to Biloxi this fall, our fishing team already had a note book full of kingfish numbers! Included were locations where we had caught kingfish previously, the depth of water that kingfish were hooked in, water temperature, weather conditions, time of day, tides and the bait and tackle that we caught them on.”
Keeping records of catches is not new to the fishing world; most of us hard core fishermen will never forget when, where and how we landed a particularly large game fish. I can remember waiting all winter for the beginning of trout season on my favorite Vermont rainbow stream. During those cold winter nights while tying salmon egg bags, I would contemplate my fishing strategy for the opening day by going over in my mind where some of the largest trout were taken from the river during the previous opening day of fishing and how the fish were caught. Finally during the opening day of trout fishing season, I would take all of this previous knowledge and pick a trout hole at 4:30 AM in the morning and wait for sunrise. Needless to say everyone else had the same intentions and if you did not get there long before sunrise, you were simply crowded out of your trout hole.
More importantly, keeping good records of every significant catch can be a lot more involved than most fishermen would believe. And there is good reason.
“I have found that big fish often return to many of the kingfish holes each year to feed on a particular specie of bait-fish,” instructs Mecchella. “With this in mind, you have to keep records of which bait-fish are holding in all of your kingfish locations and which kingfish baits have produced the best king mackerel catches.”
“For example when fishing in the Gulf Coast and around the bait-fish laden oil rigs, large schools of big blue runners to over five-pounds school down deep and are the main menu for tournament winning king mackerel. Keeping records of how deep these large blue runners are holding, which oil rigs have the best concentrations of big runners and how to catch them is critical to weighing in a tournament money fish.”
Keeping in mind, many king mackerel fishermen will store one size sabiki rig, while the “Fish Fever” fishing team knows by keeping past records, a custom bait-fish jig is needed and cut bait to lure a five-pound blue runner for a kingfish bait. Besides several style and size sabiki rigs are stored on their Wellcraft fishing boat as well as records to guide them to exactly which baitfish rig will be needed for a variety of fishing conditions.
“I can remember several past late spring kingfish tournaments ago, while fishing the Georgia SKA division events when Shawn, Jim and me would scout the close to shore live bottoms for greenies,” remembers Ed Mecchella. “We had found that early in the kingfish season that greenies were both numerous in close to shore and were a prime forage food for king mackerel as well. Some of these live bottom areas were also pretty small, but held large pods of nice size “Green Backs”. Obviously our key to filling our boat’s live well with large greenies, was keeping a record of these live bottom areas so that our fishing team could navigate right to them in coming fishing seasons.”
“And in some cases, the larger live bottom areas produced late spring king mackerel bites when they were stacked up with live bait. Other areas of live bottoms were simply a waste of time to fish. Keeping a record of which live bottoms produced the best catches was a key to our fishing team placing in the money!”
Obviously there are numerous reasons why fishermen should keep a good log on where, when and how they have successfully caught both game fish and bait-fish as well. Fishing is like putting a thousand piece jig saw puzzle together. However if your fishing team keeps good records, your jig saw puzzle may well be reduced to a small twenty-piece puzzle.
In the early years of competitive king mackerel fishing, “Fish Fever” would also keep good records of the tidal stages and when and where big kings could be found according to the tide.
“Tides move massive amounts of forage foods for inlet kingfish to ambush,” Ed Mecchella says. “Here it is extremely important to record where you have caught good catches of inlet king mackerel, their location to the inlet and the stage of the tide. Water clarity, water temperature, depth of water and kingfish baits that were successful were also logged into our boat’s records.”
You can be sure that the SKA 2003 Angler of the Year Team will keep good records in order to top the ever growing field of competitive king mackerel boats. I know Ed Mecchella, son Shawn and Jim Conway are extremely excited over their recent SKA championship wins. Because they kept excellent records!