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Coastal Carolina fishing tradition continues

October 30, 2009

This year the Coastal Carolina Invitational fishing tournament turns 36. The fishing match, which began in 1974, is the oldest collegiate event of its kind in the country. This years event is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 13.

After 36 years, many things about the tournament remain the same: competition fishing is scheduled for the last Friday in October (Oct. 30); king mackerel are the target species; Distinguished Professor Emeritus Richard Moore of Coastal Carolina University will judge the results as he has done every year since 1974; the New Inlet Princess from Captain Dicks in Murrells Inlet will be hosting the student anglers; and the Hot Fish Club also of Murrells Inlet is preparing the post-tourney awards banquet.

But although the tradition continues, it will never be quite the same. Professor Don Millus, the creator and organizer of the event, passed away in June after a short illness. Although Millusa legendary fishing enthusiast, scholar and poetwill not be present at this years tournament, he is fondly remembered by the participants who have been involved with the tournament over the years.

Dr. Joey Sanders and Captain Ryan Powers, both CCU alumni, are assisting Professor Erin Burge of the Department of Marine Science with the organization of this years tournament. Lyn Smith of Capt. Dicks provided valuable details on the tournament organization, thanks to her long friendship with Professor Millus, and Allan Hickman, a student angler from the 2008 championship team from CCU, is returning for this years match as a special guest. (As part of his on-campus job with facilities maintenance, Hickmans crew was tasked with cleaning out Milluss office earlier in the fall in order to make it ready for a new English faculty member. During the cleanup, Allan recognized records and photographs of past tournaments going back to the first match in 1974. He saved these from being discarded and passed them on to Burge.)

To challenge the two-year run of Coastal Carolina victories, this years competing student teams include the University of South Carolina, coached by Professor Jerry Hilbish of USCs Department of Biological Sciences, and Clemson University, mentored by Professor Jeff Isley. Coastal Carolina is fielding two teams, one representing the CCU Fishing Club, and another representing the Saltwater Anglers Club, to defend CCUs claim to the fishing trophy. Student anglers and their faculty coaches will drift fish for kings in areas that have been recently productive, according to Captain Jack Orr of Capt. Dicks Marina. In some years the fish run close to the beach, and in others they hold farther offshore. Anglers also have the opportunity to catch bottom fish including black sea bass, triggerfish and grouper.

All student anglers and their coaches begin the day viewing a short video introduction to the history of the tournament. They will depart from the marina for the fishing grounds at 7 a.m., Friday, Nov. 13. The weigh-in for the event is scheduled for 4 p.m. at the dock behind Capt. Dicks. The public is welcome to attend.

Points to each team are awarded based on pounds of legal game fish caught with bonus points for live releases, with an exclusion for sharks. After tabulating the fish caught, the catch will be turned over to the chef at Hot Fish Club, where the banquet and awarding of prizes will begin at 5:30 p.m. The main sponsor of this event continues to be the Coastal Education Foundation and the many volunteers who participate.