The 19th annual Fishing For Miracles tournament, run by the Coastal Conservation Association of South Carolina as a benefit for the local children’s hospital, is a Lowcountry tradition that draws a large number of boats. In a near perfect script, the captain who brought the winning king mackerel to the scale is a CCA life member.
The Day One weigh-in on Aug. 17 began at 2 p.m. and the first boat to weigh a king was the Freeman 33 Ripple Effect. Angler Trent Calder tested the scales with a 43.24-pound king, a fish that weighed more than the 2011 winner. But Capt. Nick Russell’s Key West 23 Sweet Sarah IV was next in line and made a splash that caused far more than a ripple.
It was 72-year old angler Ellis Hamm who boated a 43.93-pound king aboard Sweet Sarah IV, giving the Beaufort, S.C. team the first place position. After two days of competition, Capt. Russell and his crew of Hamm, Tom Ogle and Shelly Smith held on to win the top prize money of $16,250. Russell and Hamm fished all but one of the previous Fishing For Miracles tournaments and had never won before.
“We left the dock on Day One at 5:30 a.m. and ran out to an ocean formation known as the Garden,” said Hamm. “It’s about a 30-mile run ESE out of Charleston to the Garden, which holds live bottom with a 15-foot ledge. We started fishing by 7:15 and Capt. Russell marked a formation of bait that looked like a Christmas tree about 8. We were one of about 10 boats fishing in this location.
“I had just checked the bait on the way back line, adding a fresh menhaden before letting it out 150-feet,” Hamm recalled. “The fish struck at 8:15 a.m. We cleared the lines, and I managed to bring the king to the gaff. I have been fishing for kings long enough to know that this was a money fish, so we iced it down and talked about a plan to be at the weigh-in when the scales opened.”
Ripple Effect held onto second place, claiming the $4,875 prize. Out of 152 entries in the tournament, these were the only two teams to bring a 40-pound class king to the scales, and then it was only a matter of ounces that decided this contest. Sweet Sarah IV also won first place in the 23-feet and under category, and made event sponsor Key West Boats proud.
On Day Two, team No Patience from Moncks Corner brought a 38.11-pound king mackerel to the docks at Ripley Light Yacht Club. Their fish was good for $3,250 and third place overall, with lady angler Courtney Taylor reeling in the Top Lady Angler award with her big king.
“The fish ate a double menhaden rig fished right behind the boat at 10:45 while fishing in 140-feet of water,” said Taylor. Other crew included Capt. Shannon and Leia Elias and Bryan Taylor.
Team Reelin’ from Hilton Head finished in fourth place with their Day One king. Angler Zack Lynam reeled in the 37.56-pounder for a $1,300 payday. The fifth place fish was weighed-in by Lowcountry Native on Day Two, earning $650 for their 35.18-pound smoker king. The youth angler award went to E.J. Nettles for his 29.94-pound king caught from the Charleston boat Solid Surface.
Jeff Dennis is an outdoor writer and photographer who grew up on a creek in Charleston loving the saltwater, and contributes regularly to All At Sea Southeast. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com