For the past 11 years, the Cheeky Schoolie Tournament has been an event glued on our calendars. For many anglers, it marks the beginning of their New England striper season, and for others, it’s a chance to gather with fellow striper fanatics on the Cape before the high-summer season begins on Memorial Day Weekend when the beaches fill up with the sunbathers and crowds.
1st Annual Striper Symposium
On the Friday before tournament day, dozens of industry representatives, advocates, and conservation partners gathered at the Cape Cod Conference for the inaugural Striped Bass Science Symposium. The American Saltwater Guides Association, along with Costa Sunglasses and Cheeky Fishing’s support, hosted the full-day event. The overarching goal was to teach those with large audiences how to be effective advocates for conservation, striped bass specifically, and to highlight recent and upcoming research efforts.
The day started with a catch and release mortality experiment by Keep Fish Wet. Post-release mortality for striped bass is a substantial component of the fishery’s total removals, and angler education is one of the leading methods for lowering that number. Keep Fish Wet recommends limiting a fish’s air exposure to 10 seconds or less—or you know, leaving fish in the water, unless absolutely necessary!
From there, participants went to the conference center to hear from ASGA’s team, Biologists from the Massachusetts Department of Marine Fisheries, Sacha Danylchuck from Keep Fish Wet, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, and Costa Sunglasses. ASGA opened the Symposium by discussing how and why ASGA formed—the resource-first, precautionary voice was not an influential point of view within the recreational fishing community prior to ASGA hitting the block. ASGA’s John McMurray along with Mike Woods and Chris Borgatti of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers provided a recap of Amendment 7, which was a tremendous victory for striped bass conservation. The highlight of the day was Massachusetts DMF’s presentation on their striped bass tagging research. Without getting into too much detail/technical jargon, they found that striped bass has strong tendencies to go back to the same areas each summer. This has management implications too, which the DMF Biologists are still working on. A video of the presentation and the entire symposium will be up shortly!
Next up was a presentation on utilizing social media to enact change. While social media is often castigated as overcrowding fishing spots and threatening the delicate balance of our living resources, it can also be used to educate new anglers and advocate for important causes. It’s an important distinction because love it or hate it, social media isn’t going anywhere, so let’s use it as best we can.
The final agenda item was ASGA’s, where they announced a False Albacore tagging research project, with support from Orsted, an offshore wind developer. The scientific and angling communities know very little about this species—migrations, stock complexes, catch and release mortality, you name it. Yet, albies are an almost exclusively recreational catch and release species, so the hope is that this research can inform the sustainable management of this economically important species. All in all, it was an engaging, interesting day for striped bass conservation, and was great to hear from those leading these efforts.
Costa Captains Party
Last year, the biggest thing we missed were the legendary in-person events that the Cheeky tournament is famous for. This year’s tournament was the first with in-person events since 2019, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. This year, Cheeky adopted a hybrid model, hosting in-person parties and hosting virtual events to make sure every competitor felt safe and healthy during the weekend.
The Costa Captains Party felt like a return to form for the tournament. All around, the New England and mid-Atlantic fishing community came together to talk about all things striper and to share their anticipations for the 2022 striped bass season. Thankfully for our heads and health, this year’s party was far tamer than previous years, which made for an easy wake up during the coming fishing day.
If you were hoping for a tale of big fish and a podium finish for Team Flylords, you should probably just skip to the next session. Although we did post points on the board this year, we were once again beaten out by teams with far more experience and competitive drive than us. However, we did have an excellent day on the Cape, managing to score a total of 69 inches (nice) and secure our spot as #71 on the leaderboard out of the 108 teams in the field.
The tournament day started as it usually does, with a groggy 4 AM wake up after throwing back one too many All Hands at the Costa Captains’ Party the night before. Luckily for everyone competing, the weather and conditions were ideal with high sun, low winds, and warm temps.
Our team headed to our tried-and-true spot where we had landed plenty of scoring fish while checking spots earlier in the week. Unfortunately for us, overnight high tides combined with about an inch of rainfall killed the bite that was hot throughout the previous week. We managed to land three scoring fish, fill two sets of waders with marsh water and successfully get ourselves to the wrap-up party going on back in Hyannis.
The Cheeky After Party
During a typical year, the tournament after party is traditionally the event where competitors loudly share the stories they collected during their day on the beaches, rivers, and flats of the Cape. This year was no different, throughout the evening, Cheeky held their hotly anticipated Virtual Tournament Raffle with the proceeds going to further support striped bass conservation on the Atlantic Coast.
1 – Playing Hookie – 116 inches
2 – Team Jones – 112.5 inches
3 – The Harpoon Willies – 112.5 inches
4 – Lansing Brothers – 110.75 inches
5 – My Fishing Cape Cod – 110 inches