April 10, 2018

MEMO TO:        Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

FROM:             Frank A. Rush, Jr., Town Manager

SUBJECT:       Potential Emerald Isle Spanish Mackerel / Flounder Fishing Tournament - (Summary & Suggested Motions)

I have scheduled time on the April 10 meeting agenda for the Board to discuss the potential establishment of a new Emerald Isle Spanish Mackerel / Flounder Fishing Tournament.  Commissioner Mark Taylor is the driving force behind this potential new event, and the Board is asked to consider  a) the formal establishment of a Tournament Committee and  b) a budget amendment to provide a small amount of working capital ($2,500) for the new event.  

As you know, the Town has intentionally worked to develop more shoulder-season events in the spring and fall months.  The Emerald Isle Marathon, Half-Marathon, and 5k races (March) and the Bike the Banks bicycling event (May) have been added in the spring, and both are produced by volunteer committees with support from Town staff.  The Emerald Isle Christmas Parade (November), produced by the Emerald Isle Business Association with support from Town staff, and the Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival (September), produced by Town staff with significant TDA funding, have been added in the fall.  All of these relatively new events complement the Town’s signature annual event, the St. Patrick’s Festival each March, which is produced by Town staff and the Emerald Isle Business Association. 

Commissioner Taylor’s vision for the potential new fishing tournament is to add another shoulder-season event, and to earmark event proceeds for future Bogue Inlet navigation dredging costs.  As you know, the Town (along with other area local governments and the State) has routinely provided funding for navigation maintenance dredging in Bogue Inlet since 2006.  The Town’s historical contributions are as follows:

            2006                 $ 15,000

            2011                 $ 16,000

            2014                 $ 15,000

            2016                 $ 20,000

            2017                 $ 10,000.

If the new fishing tournament is successful, event proceeds would be allocated for future Town navigation dredging costs, and would reduce taxpayer expense for these efforts.  Commissioner Taylor has also discussed the potential establishment of a scholarship fund to benefit students at Croatan High School (50%) and Swansboro High School (50%), funded by event proceeds.

Concepts, Potential Dates

Commissioner Taylor’s vision for the new fishing tournament includes the following concepts and potential dates:

  • a late August and/or early September tournament date,


  • although the initial thought was to target August / September 2018, it is now likely necessary to focus on an August / September 2019 event in order to provide ample planning time for a successful event, 


  • a boat-based tournament that would likely utilize the Emerald Isle Public Boating Access Area as a home base,


  • a 3 – 7 day tournament time frame, with local weigh stations (i.e, The Reel Outdoors? others?),


  • a goal for 50 – 100 boats participating in the tournament, with relatively low entry fees in the $300 - $500 per boat range,


  • a relatively simple prize scheme, with 3 cash prizes for each type of fish (spanish mackerel and flounder),


  • solicitation of sponsorships from area businesses, particularly those with an emphasis on fishing, marine equipment, etc.,


  • production of an associated auction event with donated items, in conjunction with a dinner / banquet event for participants and community members,


  • production of event t-shirts, with sale proceeds added to overall event proceeds (a copy of the artwork for the event t-shirts is attached),


  • development of an event website and other promotional efforts, and


  • other beneficial concepts and ideas that can be incorporated into the event.

It will be important to select potential dates that do not conflict with other area fishing tournaments or other area special events, and the late August and/or early September time frame appears to “fit” reasonably well.  The Carteret Community College Foundation Spanish Mackerel Tournament is in late July, the Swansboro Rotary Club 5-0 King Mackerel tournament is in mid / late October, and the Atlantic Beach King Mackerel Saltwater Slam runs for much of October. 

Emerald Isle Parks and Recreation produces two small surf fishing tournaments, and each typically draws 25 – 40 surf fishermen for a simple, free, “fun” tournament with no fees or cash prizes.  The Town’s annual Flounder Surf Fishing Tournament is held in mid / late September, and the annual Gordie McAdams Speckled Trout Surf Fishing Tournament is held from mid-October to mid-November. 

In terms of other special events, the Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival is held in late September, the NC Seafood Festival is held in early October, and the Swansboro Mullett Festival is held in mid-October. 

Establishment of Tournament Committee

In order for the new fishing tournament to be enjoyable, successful, and profitable, it will likely take hard work by many committed individuals, as is the case for the Town’s other successful events noted earlier (St. Patrick’s, marathon races, parade, etc.) and the other established fishing tournaments in our area (Swansboro, Atlantic Beach, CCC, etc.).  Each of these events has a significant and committed volunteer group leading and/or assisting these special event.  To this point, Commissioner Taylor has completed preliminary work on the new fishing tournament, but it is anticipated that a working Tournament Committee will be necessary to fully develop the new event.  Ideally, the new committee would include 8 – 10 individuals who are fishing enthusiasts and that have a strong commitment to Emerald Isle’s success. 

As is the case for other special events, Town staff would be available to help promote the event, assist the new committee along the way as needed and practical, provide assistance with event setup and cleanup, and other support roles.  It will likely be important, however, for the committee members to:

  • effectively plan all aspects of the event,


  • develop a comprehensive event website,


  • generate support for the event in the Emerald Isle community and in the area and regional fishing communities,


  • solicit sponsorships,


  • solicit auction items,


  • coordinate registration and prizes, and


  • other typical event tasks (t-shirt orders, tournament rules, liaison with Town staff and emergency personnel, etc.). 

If the Board supports the concept of the new fishing tournament, the Town will actively solicit for volunteers interested in serving on the committee through the Town’s website, email newsletter, and social media accounts.  This solicitation would begin immediately following the April Board meeting, with a deadline for applications of early May.  In May, the Board could formally appoint the members of the new committee, or could simply open the committee up to anyone interested in volunteering their time toward the new event. 

It is envisioned that Commissioner Taylor would serve as the Chairman of the new Tournament Committee, and the committee would begin work later in May or June.  At that point, the new fishing tournament would be approximately 15 months away in late August / early September 2019, which should provide ample time to plan a successful event.

Budget Amendment – General Fund

In order to provide a small amount of working capital for the new fishing tournament, the Board is asked to approve the attached General Fund budget amendment appropriating $2,500 toward the event.  These funds would be derived specifically from higher than anticipated beach driving permit fees, nearly all of which are collected from fishermen in Emerald Isle.  It is anticipated that these funds would eventually be returned to the General Fund if / when event revenues are received.  It is also anticipated that a special revenue fund would be established in the FY 18-19 budget specifically to account for event revenues and expenditures separate from other Town funds.

If there is sufficient interest in the new Tournament Committee, I recommend that the Town also consider applying for initial special event funding from the Crystal Coast Tourism Development Authority (TDA) for initial promotional activities, including the development of a comprehensive event website, in May.  Assuming good progress toward the production of the new tournament, I would also envision another 2019 funding request to the TDA. 

Commissioner Taylor and I look forward to discussing the potential Emerald Isle Spanish Mackerel / Flounder Fishing Tournament with the Board at the April 10 meeting.