Photos courtesy of Prime Hook Sportfishing
Adventurous skippers, crews and customers of Prime Hook Sportfishing set out in search of the big in Delaware.
Does the idea of flying over the waves while holding on to a fishing rod with its hook firmly attached to a blue marlin’s mouth excite you?
It does for the sport fishermen men and women who charter from Indian River Inlet.
“Let me tell you, the first time I went out and landed something big, I was hooked for life,” says Prime Hook Sportfishing’s Hank Draper.
If you’re unfamiliar with fishing terms, “landing a fish” means getting it on board your boat.
Draper and his crew take clients out on the water all summer long to share the thrill of sport fishing. They mainly look for White Marlin, Blue Marlin and Yellowfin Tuna.
“You catch and release the marlin, but you can take the mahi and tuna home and eat them for dinner,” says Draper. For this reason, marlin are considered a sport fish – they are only there to hunt.
Draper takes customers about 80 miles from the bay. It’s not like Delaware out there anymore. It’s a whole new world where you can only see clear water. Trips typically last all day, but Draper sometimes runs shorter trips.
“When you’re out there trolling for marlin and then hooking one, it’s really an experience. You fight the fish—mano a mano,” says Draper.
If you grab the fishing rod, he explains, the marlin will jump out of the water. The fight is on. When a marlin fights you, sometimes their entire body will light up (their scales have a light-reflecting quality that makes them appear to glow above the water’s surface) as they leap into the air. “It’s pretty wild,” says Draper.
Considered by some to be the fishing guru on the Indian River Inlet, Chris Ragni operates both inshore and offshore fishing charters. His season starts on May 15th when he takes clients to black sea bass. The offshore season starts in June and he will be making several trips each week for tuna, bass and marlin.
In-shore charters sail no more than 30 miles away, while offshore charters are usually around 50 to 80 miles away.
“My best days are when we have 10 rods in the water and a tuna on each one,” says Ragni. “That’s as good as it gets.”
Both Draper and Ragni compete against customers and teams in many of the local and regional sport fishing tournaments. Next big is Ocean City’s White Marlin Open, a 48-year tradition that’s held every August.
“We’re trying to steal the glory from Ocean City,” says Draper, laughing.
The tournaments are huge and attract participants from all over the nation. Famous basketball player Michael Jordan has participated several times. The tournaments are known for big crowds and even bigger payouts, with some of the competitions awarding winners with prizes of $1 million. At last year’s White Marlin Open, Maryland’s Butch Wright was awarded $3.2 million for an 85.5-pound marlin.
It can cost more than $30,000 to enter all the competitions in a tournament – there are separate competitions for different species of fish – so groups of friends often pool their money to enter. Others only participate in the cheaper competitions.
“It’s like competing in the NFL if you’ve only played in your backyard,” says Draper.
For him, it’s all about the thrill of the sport. “I just want to fish every day,” he says.
As Draper prepares his 37-foot custom Carolina sportfishing boat at the dock in Indian River Inlet, the sun glitters on the water, waves gently lap the sides of the boat, and a warm breeze gently dances in our hair. Yes, seems like a great day for fishing.