Fishing the 2014 Zobo Winter Flounder Tourney

Pete Santini holds the tourney-winning fish caught by Jim Kougeas, at right
Pete Santini holds the tourney-winning fish caught by Jim Kougeas, at right. Photos/New England Boating, Tom Richardson.

The weather was not looking good for the 5th Annual Zobo Winter Flounder Tournament, held Saturday, May 17. Indeed, the forecast for torrential rain and high winds from the southeast kept many would-be anglers at home. But as it turned out, the folks who sat out this year’s tourney—which is organized by Pete Santini, the owner of Fishing Finatics Bait & Tackle in Everett, Massachusetts—had to be kicking themselves, because by 10:00 the sun was out and just a light breeze riffled the surface of Boston Harbor. Santini’s Zobo luck has prevailed again!

The scale tells the tale of the winning flounder
The scale tells the tale of the winning flounder.

The Zobo Tourney is named for the special winter flounder rig designed by Pete and the late Johnny “Shinertown” Dicato. But over the years, “Zobo” has come to represent more than the fishing device that bears its name. Indeed, “Zobo” can be used as a noun, verb or adjective. And it can be used in both a positive or negative sense. For instance, to be “Zoboed” is to have your bait stolen (or having too much to drink, as in “He was totally Zoboed last night”). And to have the weather turn in your favor is decidedly “Zobo-riffic”.

Yes, Zobo power was flowing strong as we stepped aboard charter captain Ernie Sordillo’s Karma, based in Winthrop. Fishing with us was Pete’s good friends Jim and Kerry Kougeas, and it made for a jovial crew.

The fish fry at JJ Grimsby's was a fitting end to the tourney
The fish fry at JJ Grimsby’s was a fitting end to the tourney.

We headed straight for the Deer Island Flats, a broad mud-bottomed area between Logan Airport and the egg-shaped tanks of the sewage treatment plant that helped revive this remarkable fishery. The flats are a perennial flounder producer from May through mid-June, and they did not disappoint.

The Boston Harbor winter flounder fishery is a success story that bears repeating. Once decimated by pollution and overfishing, the urban flounder population has rebounded in the last 10 years, to the point where catching a daily limit of 8 fish per person can often be accomplished in an hour or two. Best of all, the fish are healthy and safe to eat.

While the turbid conditions on Saturday did not help the fishing (winter flounder are sight-feeders), we managed a steady pick of fish, highlighted by the 3.39-pound, 20” monster blackback landed by Jim. The fish turned out to earn Jim first place in the tourney.

Capt. Ernie Sordilllo with a Boston blackback.
Capt. Ernie Sordilllo with a Boston blackback.

We fished until 2:00 before returning to the dock and heading to Pete’s shop for the weigh-in. The results were kept secret until the post-tourney celebration, held at J.J. Grimsby’s Restaurant in Stoneham, where the kitchen staff fried up the day’s catch for the hungry crowd of anglers and their friends. Served with french fries and coleslaw, the fish-fry feast was a fitting cap to a great day on the water with a great group of anglers. I can’t wait to do it again next year!

2014 Zobo Winter Flounder Tourney Results:

  • 1st Place: Jim Kougeas — 3.39 pounds
  • 2nd Place: Ron Powers — 3.34 pound
  • 3rd Place: Andy Pelletier — 2.91 pounds
  • 4th Place: Dave Spurgis —2.76 pounds
Pete Santini with a nice blackback
Pete Santini with a nice flounder.

Watch a video on fishing for winter flounder in Boston Harbor: