Five days of white marlin fishing is only one part of what is known as the world’s largest billfish tournament. Sportfishing boats from up and down the East Coast congregate in Ocean City, Maryland for an annual August shootout. With a million dollars on the line for white marlin, the blue marlin can sometimes be overshadowed but that was not the case in 2014 with three big blues weighed in.
A total of 288 boats registered to fish in the 2014 White Marlin Open; organizer Jim Motsko is appreciative of all the support. “This is our third year of increased registration after the economy dipped,” said Motsko. “Our heyday was back in 2006 when we had 400 boats fishing. The event is such a fun experience that anglers keep wanting to come back.” The fun and the $2.77 million purse too!
“The weigh-in and festivities happen at Harbour Island in Ocean City off of 14th Street,” said Mostko. “There is public transportation to Harbour Island which helps with our large crowds of spectators, and we have been using this facility since we started the tournament. My cousin Andy performs the emcee duties at the weigh-in and I stay behind the scenes out on the dock.”
In past years the white marlin bite has been rampant but not so in 2014. The White Marlin Open rules stipulate that any white marlin must weigh a minimum of 70 pounds or measure a minimum of 67 inches in order to be considered legal. Only one white marlin met these standards, weighing in at 78.0 pounds, giving angler John Bayliss the first place prize payout of $1.29 million.
Bayliss’ company Bayliss Boatworks, is also a proud sponsor of the White Marlin Open. He was fishing on an 80-foot Bayliss named Dream Time on Thursday, August 7, when he reeled in the winning whitey. Captain Rob Mahoney of Manteo, N.C. and mate Sean Dooley were part of the crew that found the winning white marlin. They released two more white marlin that day for good measure.
“The White Marlin Open release rate this year was 97.5 percent,” said Motsko. “I think it was about the same last year too. This shows that you can put on a solid release tourney but still award cash prizes to the winners.” The boats can fish within 100 nautical miles of Ocean City, including the Wilmington Canyon, Norfolk Canyon and all points in between.
Two boats went out on Thursday, August 7, and found pay dirt in the form of big blue marlin. Gratitude out of Virginia Beach, Va. brought a 738.5 pound blue marlin to the scales that afternoon. Generation from Cape May, N.J. was fishing within sight of Gratitude and landed its own blue marlin that tilted the scales at 564.5 pounds. The crowd was in frenzy from the double dose of blue marlin, but one more fishing day remained.
On Friday August 8, a fleet of 270 boats went fishing for a white marlin that could displace Bayliss, or for another big blue marlin. The white marlin remained shy but Rhonda’s Osprey out of Ocean City, Md. landed a blue marlin that went 723.5 pounds, which narrowly missed being in first place. Organizer Mostko said he couldn’t recall a year when they had two blue marlin over 700 pounds at their tournament.
Angler Sam Lancelotta from Ellicott City, Md. reeled in the blue marlin for Gratitude taking home the first place prize of $511,000. Angler Lawrence Julio from Reisterstown, Md. reeled in “the man in the blue suit” for Rhonda’s Osprey, good for second place and $105,000. Robert Guarini from Glen Mills, Pa. reeled in the blue marlin for Generation to claim the third prize of $70,500.
Each fishing day brings fans to Harbour Island to watch for big marlin, but also to look at the daily meatfish weigh-in. Taking home the top spot for tuna was angler Doug Mazzullo from Kent Island, Md. with his 183.5-pounder caught aboard Constant Threat from Ocean City. Finishing first for dolphin was angler Eric Seigel from Aldic, Va. for his 38-pound mahi caught aboard Trophy Hunter from Oregon Inlet, N.C. The winner for wahoo was angler Kenny Lord from Cambridge, Md. while fishing from Iceman out of Secretary, Md.
The dates for the 2015 tournament are all set for August 3 – 7 in 2015. To view more information about the tourney visit the Internet at www.WhiteMarlinOpen.com.
Jeff Dennis is an outdoor writer and photographer who grew up on a creek in Charleston loving the saltwater, and he contributes regularly to All At Sea Southeast. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com