Fishermen in the Southport area attacked Military Appreciation Day 8 (MAD 8) with unique fervor, with 62 volunteer boats carrying 122 troops out to catch plenty of fish.

Aided by excellent weather, MAD fishermen were spread from the creeks off the Intracoastal Waterway and Cape Fear River around Southport to the Steeples at the edge of the Continental Shelf.  Even better, everyone caught fish and a there was a huge variety of fish.  

Two of the most exciting catches went to Tyler Wentworth of the Air Force and Jeremy Carter of the Army, who fished with Capt. Ben Baker and Mike Witmore on the Tag Team. They were on the business end of multiple jumps and runs of a pair of sailfish in addition to the king mackerel they expected to catch.

Wahoo were one of the most popular of the offshore fish, and many boats had several. Tim Green, Kendrick Bowman and Chris Remington caught some nice ones while fishing with Todd Mason and Peter Malec on the Kilowatt. A few dolphin were also landed offshore.

Bottomfish and king mackerel were popular, too, and all were hungry and cooperated with the fishermen. Closer in Spanish mackerel, including several of citation size, were snapping. The hot fishing continued inside the inlets too as fishermen landed lots of flounder, red drum, black drum and speckled trout. Damon Embry, Tyler Nelson and James Austin fished with Scott Blevins on the Vinsanity and caught some of all the inshore fish. A nice redfish was Embry’s first ever, and he enjoyed the fight so much he gave the fish a kiss. 

Numerous coolers full of fish were offloaded for Jody Wilmoth, Southport fish cleaner extraordinaire, and his volunteer crew, which worked until well after dark to get them all cleaned. Coolers of filets and steaks were then loaded into vehicles heading back to Fayetteville, SpringLake, Goldsboro, Jacksonville and numerous other towns around military bases.

More than just going fishing, the troops knew they were appreciated, which is the main goal of MAD. The morning answer to the question of, “What would you like to catch?” had been “Just something to pull back.” They got that – in spades. Troops and fishermen with weary, but happy, smiles sat around the tables at Southport Marina Saturday afternoon and enjoyed the picnic that had been prepared by the crew of Hobo Junction, which cooks for North Carolina MAD events.

Many of the troops commented on how much fun they had and some, like Will Weiss, posted on the MAD Facebook page about how much they appreciate the fishing and support of the volunteers at the MAD events. While the troops had fun, several volunteers said they thought they had more. Volunteers came from several states to support MAD 8. Hector Reyes traveled the farthest – Delaware – for his third MAD event this year.

MAD was formed in 2006 after Rodney Carroll, Dan Smith and John Polosky were outraged after reading a Wilmington newspaper story about local restaurants and clubs that were refusing entry to Marines who had just returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. The first MAD fishing event was held in May 2006. Since then, it has grown, and several annual events are held in North Carolina, the biggest being a June 1 Mad in Morehead City when 120 boats took almost 500 troops fishing.