by Capt. Steve Byrne
Sitting at the scoring table with Manhattan Cup creator Dave Fallon, I couldn't help but compare myself to a clown sitting in a dunk tank at the Fair. The entire fleet of 41 boats managed to return to Chelsea Piers nearly simultaneously, just minutes before the 4PM tournament deadline. Score sheets shot at us like paintballs, with everyone clamoring, "Who won?"
I figured the late return indicated one of two things: a slow day on the water, or a late bite. Looking at the results, both assumptions were accurate.
Of the 41 boats entered in the Cup, only 26 turned in score sheets with fish. Three boats were used for camera crews, so there were a dozen boats that either got skunked or simply felt they had no contending fish so they didn't turn in their score sheet. These are some of the best charter captains around; if they had a hard time finding fish, it was a tough day on the water.
Of the 85 striped bass entered on the score sheets, 51 of them were caught after 1PM. A handful of stripers were caught during the final hour of the tournament - most years the majority of captains are back at the dock by then.
The overall winner of the 2013 FCA Manhattan Cup
was, appropriately, one of our honored Wounded Warriors. Looking at Army Specialist James O'Leary, you would never know he was gravely injured during a 2003 mortar attack in Iraq. Powerfully built, James lost part of his left lung and shoulder in the attack. The injuries that left him near death could not prevent him from landing a 33.20-pound striped bass and taking home the Cup.
NOAA Fisheries Northeast Regional Administrator, John Bullard, fished with Capt. Tony DiLernia and proved he knows his way around a rod and reel. John caught the heaviest striper on artificial in the celebrity division with a 5.91-pound fish and just missed the top striped bass on bait in the celebrity division with an 18.74-pound fish.
I took advantage of the opportunity to grab John and express to him FCA's support for "regional management" of fisheries. Those bodies of water bordered by more than one State, that currently have multiple sets of regulations, are a constant problem, with anglers crossing State boundaries for fish that are short or out of season, frustrating anglers from the more restrictive side of the water and making them more likely to ignore regulations.
The 15th Manhattan Cup was a resounding success, with 85 striped bass and hundreds of bluefish caught - and all released alive! With the support of a team of volunteers dedicated to the resource, we proved again that New York City is home to a vibrant fishing community and that we don't have to kill hundreds of fish to have a successful tournament.
Congratulations to the winners, and heartfelt thanks to all of those volunteers who gave their time and energy to make the Manhattan Cup possible - it wouldn't happen without you!
The FCA Manhattan Cup raises money for a variety of programs.
The Hooked for a Lifetime children's program takes groups of underprivileged and autistic children out to the pier and shows them, and their families, the where, when and how to catch a fish. The children also receive rods, reels and tackle boxes so they can come back and do it again.
FCA hosts Veteran's fishing trips to honor both our Wounded Warriors and our Veterans. The Manhattan Cup features a few boats that have Wounded Warriors on board as anglers. These guys are the best, and everyone wants to fish with them. During the summer, FCA typically hosts a Veterans fishing trip on one of our local party boats to honor our Veterans and give back a little bit to those who gave so much.
The organization conducts beach clean ups throughout the year, and is active in fisheries management, advocating positions that protect fish yet ensure recreational anglers' access to them.