By the time boats started lining up Thursday at the end of the fishing day at Jim King Park and Boat Ramp at Sisters Creek, Mike Kelly had already been home for nearly 90 minutes.
While many anglers in the 36th Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament used every minute of the 11-hour fishing window, Kelly wrapped up his work early by landing a 45.15-pound fish.
Since teams were limited to a single fish during weigh-ins, Kelly, and the rest of the Ponte Vedra Beach’s Time Served crew, knew there wasn’t much sense in staying at sea.
Scales opened at 3 p.m. and Kelly was the third fisherman to hit the dock.
“Once he hit the downrigger, he was on fire,” Kelly said. “We chased him down the whole time.”
Kelly may have reeled in the biggest fish caught on the first of two tournament days, but the rest of the Time Served crew — caption Philip Kelly, Jerry Moulton and Mac Powers — all played a role in the first-round lead.
“We hit the fish with our second spot,” Moulton said. “We worked it with a pogey [fish as bait]. We knew it was a big fish. It was one of those where when you went to gaff it, you had to make sure you had both feet under you.
“There are a lot of big fish out there. We’re glad to have this one on the board.”
Of the 244 boats entered, 114 appeared at the scales. The tournament will conclude today with anglers being allowed to submit two fish. The top-10 largest fish, as well as the top-10 teams with the highest two-day totals, the largest fish caught by a woman and the largest cobia and wahoo will receive prizes.
Top prize is an $82,000 Contender boat with a four-stroke Yamaha outboard motor and trailer.
While Kelly has the lead for overall and largest fish, the aggregate is certain to be a big number. Eleven boats hooked fish of at least 35 pounds and 29 tipped the scales of at least 30 pounds.
St. Augustine’s Good Life with captain Dennis Hollingsworth will enter the final round in second place at 42.45 pounds. Ponte Vedra Beach’s Sweet Caroline IV with Ronald Hildum at the helm is third at 39.5 pounds, while Shane Hood of Jacksonville is fourth at 39.3 pounds on the Scallywagon and Callahan’s Larry Owens and the Off Seasons is fifth at 39 pounds.
Don Miller hooked a monster wahoo — 71.1-pounds — and Alan Richey’s Not Guilty leads the cobia tally at 22.1 pounds.
The women’s class won’t be posted until this afternoon. There was some confusion Thursday whether a woman has to actually catch the fish or if it can be submitted by the boat, even if it actually was caught by a man.
There was no such controversy in the wahoo class. Miller caught the 71.1-pound fish at 8:30 a.m. — as well as a 20.3-pound kingfish — by 8:30 a.m. He came to shore early because he ran out of bait.
“We got him at 32 feet and he ran for about 20 minutes,” Miller said. “We had another fish on the line at the same time. We got a kingfish at 9:15 [a.m.], 9:30 and 1:30 [p.m.]. We had a pretty good day.
“Now we’ll regroup and hit them as early as we can.”
Although boats were only allowed to submit a single fish, smaller ones were donated to support Jacksonville Marine Charites. All fish were sold to the Safe Harbor Seafood Market with the proceeds going to support the organization’s charities.
Fishing begins today at 6:30 a.m. and boats must be at the inlet before 5:30 p.m. to be eligible for weigh-ins.
Moulton said the Time Served plans to go back to the same spot where he caught the tournament-leading kingfish.
“We will work the same spot, the same area,” Moulton said. “There still are some big ones out there.”
Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament
at Jim King Park and Boat Ramp at Sisters Creek
Thursday’s first-round results
1. Philip Kelly, Time Served, 45.12 pounds
2. Dennis Hollingsworth, Good Life, 42.45
3. Ronald Hildum, Sweet Caroline IV, 39.5
4. Shane Hood, Scallywagon, 39.3
5. Larry Owens, Off Seasons, 39
6. Russell Stuart, Seafood Kitchen, 37.8
7. Harvey Way Jr., Second Chance, 37.35
8. Jeff Parsons, Final Approval, 36.6
9. Time Price, Chaser, 36.35
10. Robert Holmquist, Pelagic, 35.25
1. Don Miller, 71.1 pounds
2. Geoffrey Stam, Turn 3, 70.9
3. Chris Markham, Father-Son-Time, 63.35
1. Alan Richey, Not Guilty, 22.1 pounds
2. Chris Jonsson, Side Job, 17.15
3. Richard Walker, Walker’d Up, 15.35