Dietrichson Wins Cash in Spanish Mackerel Tournament
– September 2, 2013 7:54 pm
Jessica Dietrichson (14) of Dumfries makes historical first in Lancaster County Little League Spanish Mackerel tournament held Saturday, August 24.
The tournament was based in Kilmarnock located in Virginia’s Northern Neck and competed by 56 vessels in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Jessica, along with her parents Douglas and Jacque Dietrichson, her siblings Eric (12), Gabe (10), and Susannah (9) competed for over $35,000 in prize money. The tournament was also the first in the country to offer a designated cash purse for individuals with disabilities. Jessica, along with her brothers Eric and Gabe, each have Autism and were declared eligible to compete for the Special Angler purse.
The family, having previously declared with the Liquid Assets II team sponsored by Fish Dispatch USA, competed alongside four other families with special needs children aboard the 46’ vessel captained by Billy Pipkin and mated by his son Billy Pipkin, Jr. The Dietrichson family rose at zero dark thirty from a base camp off the Potomac (Jacque’s brother’s house in Hague, VA) on Saturday morning for a clandestine departure at 6:15 a.m. from the Ingram Bay Marina located in Wicomico Church.
The Special Angler team, loaded with pre-tournament fish catch intelligence data, had kept departure location secret to avoid tipping off other competitors that large schools of mackerel were available just south of the Smith Point Lighthouse near the mouth of the Potomac River.
Early catches of Spanish mackerel and bluefish were made by the team. Captain Billy Pipkin reported that “The team had to overcome early obstacles that most novices experience. They made great strides in learning how to catch and carefully reel in mackerel without losing them.”
Although the historical feat seemed all but certain by 9 a.m., the team continued to compete for additional catches and prize money up until the 3:00 PM deadline. They also created a bit of additional drama. By 3 p.m. the Liquid Assets II was still near the mouth of the Potomac River, some 15 miles away from the official tournament weigh station in Kilmarnock.
The entire success of the effort was now totally upon the LA II crew to get the vessel to the dockside weigh station. Having undergone a recent $34K + overhaul of the Caterpillar engine the previous week, the LA II, whose engine was not fully broken in, was not permitted to run full steam. Captain Billy Pipkin called in to say that arrival by the deadline would be “touch and go”. With a raucous crowd having formed on the docks, the LA II cruised in past the designated Boat Basin buoy with no more than five minutes to spare.
By seven o’clock that evening, four Special Anglers would receive the coveted tournament award plaques: Joe Gittinger of Dunn Loring, VA, 1st (1.45 lbs, $250), Sarah Capp of Centreville, VA (1.40 lbs, $150), Jessica Dietrichson, of Dumfries, 3rd (1.35 lbs, $100), and Tasha Adkins-Blanch of Arlington, VA (1.2 lbs, $100). As a result of awards being made in reverse order, Tasha Adkins-Blanch was the first recorded Special Angler to receive a cash prize in a public fishing tournament. The official delivery of the $100 cash award was made on Sunday morning after the tournament by donors and officials of the Special Angler Foundation in a beach side ceremony in White Stone, VA.
Jessica’s mom Jacque summarized the event saying, “It was a great experience for our kids. Jessica is so proud of her plaque that was a very special moment for her. I enjoyed watching her, with great intent, telling what she wanted engraved on it. I know it will hang proudly on her wall and (despite a little sea-sickness) she’ll hold great memories of the day. Our three others, while they didn’t catch any mackerels, had a great time too – I think my boys liked watching the fish flop around in the cooler as much as trying to catch them!”