Not too bad for his first time deep-sea fishing.
The winner of Wednesday’s Armed Service Combat Fishing Tournament claimed the top spot after reeling in a 107 pound halibut – with no prior deep see fishing experience. Technical Sergeant Antonio Nuño, a medical logistician at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, walked away with the grand prize, which he shared with Will Gentry, the J Dock charter captain who took him out on the water.
Nuño was one of the more than 200 members of the armed forces who took part in Wednesday’s tournament, a whirlwind event that sees junior enlisted personnel stationed in Alaska board an early morning bus to Seward in time for a 6 a.m. start.
The tournament began in 2006 at the initiative of Bob Candapolous and Keith Manternach. Now in its 13th year, it is said to be the largest tournament of its kind in the country. The Armed Services YMCA of Alaska now organizes the event with help from a long list of local businesses, non-profits and government agencies, said Marketing Director Lita Miller.
“Basically, Seward in general rolls out the red carpet for us,” Miller said. “Anything that we need, we’re hooked up with and its pretty awesome. We feel like we get treated pretty great, and they take great care of our troops.”
A dozen or so charter captains volunteer their time each year to take participants out on the water with bait provided by Captain Jack’s Seafood Locker. Seward’s American Legion Post #5 provides a great deal of the shore-side volunteer muscle, according to Miller and Post Commander Clare Sullivan, including the cooking for the awards banquet.
“Two hundred and fifty pounds of pulled pork. A lot of beans. And of course huge amounts of coleslaw,” Sullivan said when asked how much the Legion had prepared. “We cleared out Three Bears, Safeway of everything.”
Wednesday’s awards banquet, emceed by Anchorage radio DJ Bob Lester, also got a visit from Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who addressed the assembled troops.
“I want to thank each and every one of you for your service to our country,” Dunleavy said. “On behalf of the State of Alaska, on behalf of the people of Alaska: We love you guys, we love you ladies, and we thank you for everything that you do.”