BELFAST — They’re running.

Whether we’re talking about mackerel or the anglers trying to catch them, it’s an appropriate description of the Holy Mackeral Fishing Tournament held July 30-31 in Belfast. The tournament’s history reads like a fish story.

“It began in 1981,” said Holy Mackeral Tournament Director John Gibbs. “It was pretty popular, but for some reason they just stopped having (the tournament).”

Gibbs changed that in 2019, resurrecting the event that has drawn more participants each succeeding year.

Youngster displays his impressive catch in the Holy Mackeral Tournament, which awards prizes for mackerel and striped bass. Photo courtesy of John Gibbs

We had about 50 people in 2019,” Gibbs said. “We got a few more the next year. Last year we had 134 people involved.” This year the two-day event drew over 200 anglers.

The Holy Mackeral Successful anglers in the Holy Mackeral Fishing Tournament, which attracted over 200 anglers. Photo courtesy of John Gibbs

The prizes have also evolved over that time.

“That first year (2019) I put up the money for the prizes,” Gibbs said. “We have sponsors now and we give out more prizes, especially to the kids.”

There are prizes in adult and child categories for the biggest and smaller mackerel and the largest legally sized striper.

This year’s event played out in calm waters under blue skies. The weigh station is located at Gibbs business, the Front Street Pub. Prizes are awarded daily with weigh in times scheduled for 1 and 6 p.m. each day.

Billy Grotton took top weekend honors, landing a mackerel that weighed in at 1.14 lbs. Brad Swift landed the largest striper at 33 inches and 14.7 lbs.

The “Big Board” outside Front Street Pub displays the daily Holy Mackeral winners. Photo courtesy of John Gibbs

“It was a great weekend,” Gibbs said of this year’s tourney. “Great weather, more people signed up, and everyone has a great time. Hopefully they all come back next year.”

It looks like this Holy Mackeral is a keeper.