Anglers hoping to snag the grand prize at a fishing tournament in Cape May found themselves some new competition earlier this week. Several pods of pilot whales—which are actually large dolphins despite their name—surfaced near anglers off the New Jersey coast and began feeding on nearby fish.
Dolphin sightings are generally welcomed by most fishermen, but rarely in the midst of a highly competitive tournament.
According to Bob Schoelkopf of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, pilot whales are quite accustomed to anglers in the area and are relatively comfortable with boats. The animals were apparently chasing after blue and white marlin, as well as some bigeye tuna.
“They’re pretty good about about avoiding boats,” Shoelkopf told the Asbury Park Press. “Food comes first.”
Like many other sea creatures, pilot whales recognize that anglers are quite skilled at drawing in fish and will opportunistically follow fishing vessels. The fish were not exactly the sort of retinue that anglers in the 24th Annual MidAtlantic tournament wanted. Competition this year is especially stiff due to the record $2.8 million prize purse offered by the tournament, which currently is underway with 139 boats.
“Pre-tournament registration has been brisk as crews are anxious to secure their spot in a field that annually hosts the best in big game tournament fishing who travel from up and down the Atlantic coast from as far away as New England and Florida and all ports in between to be part of this special event,” stated tournament organizers in a press release. “Last year 127 boats battled for a tournament record purse of $2.4 million!”
Organizers did not mention the sighting of pilot whales, which the tournament considers just another obstacle for anglers aiming for one of several large cash prizes.