By MARK ALAN LOVEWELL
The 27th annual John Havlicek Celebrity Fishing Tournament made a lot of money for the Genesis Fund last weekend, and not all the draw was the celebrities who attended. Much of it had to do with good fishing, and that success was tied to Vineyard and Nantucket fishermen.
With the final numbers still being worked out, the long weekend event on the Vineyard grossed at least $340,000, slightly more than last year. The gathering included a live and silent auction at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown.
Mr. Havlicek, a Celtics basketball legend and member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, spoke about the tournament minutes before heading out in a boat to fish Saturday morning.
“What surprises me is we’ve been doing this so well for so long,” he said. “When we started this fishing tournament 27 years ago, we were thinking maybe a couple of years.
“It has taken off,” he said. “There is a lot of camaraderie in this fishing contest. Many people keep coming back.”
Mr. Havlicek, named in 1996 as one of the 50 finest players in National Basketball Association history, won eight NBA titles with the Celtics. But on this day, he was thinking bluefish.
The event is a catch-and-release bluefish tournament. Participants spend as much as $3,000 to participate. While they may be holding fishing rods in one hand, part of the fun is rubbing elbows with friendly celebrities. A key ingredient is about making new friends and getting out on the water. A total of 120 people participated in the event. Twenty-four boats started Saturday morning.
“The venue is really the most important part of this tournament,” Mr. Havlicek said, referring to the Vineyard as the contest’s annual weekend home. “We keep coming back to the Vineyard, because it is a great place. The people are so good to us.”
Out of the 27 years the tournament has been held, 20 of those events have been held on the Vineyard.
Capt. Everett (Porky) Francis, of the Edgartown charter fishing boat White Water, a 30-foot Black Watch, has participated in the contest every year, even though, for a stretch, it was held on Nantucket. Captain Francis and his fishermen on Saturday were John Kheary, J.C. Murphy and Diane Murphy.
Mr. Francis said they went fishing off East Beach, where they caught and released 25 fish. “Diane caught a 10-pound, 6-ounce bluefish,” Mr. Francis said. Their efforts earned them a third place in the fishing contest.
The first place in the fishing contest went to former hockey goalie Jim Craig, a player on the miracle team that won the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid.
Mr. Craig fished with Capt. Tom Mleczko and his son Jason on their boat Priscilla J., a 29-foot Hawk. The boat came from Nantucket twice that day. The first trip from Nantucket was to get to the Oak Bluffs harbor in time for the 9 a.m. start.
When they left Oak Bluffs harbor on Saturday morning, they took their guests back to Nantucket for the best bluefishing. The second trip to the Vineyard came in the afternoon when it was time to finish the tournament.
Captain Mleczko said he has fished the tournament for quite a few years and is drawn to the good fellowship.
Another Vineyard participant in the contest was Capt. David Pothier of Oak Bluffs. Mr. Pothier owns a 32-foot Pursuit named U-Turn. He went fishing with D.J., his 19-year-old son and mate.
Their guest celebrity was Jack Williams, the television news anchor for WBZ Channel 4 Boston, and one of his relatives.
“You couldn’t ask for a better day,” said Mr. Pothier.
He took their boat to Tom’s Shoal, right off the Red Can, and got into both bluefish and striped bass. The last week has been really good all around that area.
Mr. Pothier said he fished in the vicinity of Captain Francis. “Oh, we were looking at each other, nearly all the time,” Mr. Pothier said.
“He would move into one area and we would move out. We don’t like to get in each other’s way.”
A key part of the tournament has to do with children. The fishing contest is held annually to help the Genesis Fund, a nonprofit organization that was created soon after the first successful Havlicek fishing contest.
The fund, based in Waltham, raises money to offer care for children suffering from genetic birth defects, genetic diseases and mental retardation. To date, the fund has raised $20 million by holding a number of different annual events. The Havlicek fishing tournament alone has raised close to $4 million.