10 Rules You Probably Didn’t Know in The White Marlin Open

With a tournament of this magnitude, there must be strict rules to keep everything fair. Here are some rules that many people never knew.

Do Not Pass Go

ocean city inlet
Maureen Donahue Sutch – The Inlet at Sunset

The rules clearly state that no boat, no matter which inlet they’re leaving from, can cross the buoy before 4am. If you’re an early riser, come down to the Ocean City Inlet, you’ll be treated to a boat parade which looks more like a starting gate of a the Kentucky Derby. 

     Hey! It’s Upside Down

white marlin flag
Flags are purposefully hung upside down to show that their fish was released.

You may sometimes notice that boats have their fish flags flying upside down. That’s not a mistake. That just means that the boat caught the fish but they had to release it. Maybe the fish didn’t meet the weight or length requirement. Or maybe it had a huge chunk taken out of it from a shark. Either way, that fish made it to the boat but was released.

   Beep Beep!

Alex Davis, right, and Mike Hannon, members of the White Marlin Open Harbour Island Marina dock staff, lift a shark out of a boat during the 2013 tournament.

The White Marlin Rules state that any qualifying fish must be weighed here in Ocean City. What does that mean for boats that fish from other states? They can drive their fish in my truck! As long as the fish to be weighed gets here before the scales close, it’s allowed to be weighed.

    Days Off

fishing ocean city
Lay days are days where boats are fishing but not for points.

Boats can only fish 3 of the 5 days of the tournament and must report which days they will not be fishing. But they can still go out and fish for fun- a lay day! Unfortunately, if they catch a qualifying fish on a lay day, it doesn’t count towards the tournament.

     If You Grab It, You Must Reel It

Natalie Garnand Pritchett a happy fishermen!

When you’re standing next to a rod and it gets a massive hit, grab it! But you have to be the one to bring it to the boat. No matter how tired you get or how bad your arms hurt, if you pass the rod to someone else, it’s an automatic disqualification. If the captain or the mate hook the fish, it needs to be transferred to an angler immediately after the hook up.

   Sorry, That’s a DQ

What a huge disappointment it is when an angler spends over an hour pumping the reel to bring that award winning marlin to the boat and finds a large chunk taken out of it. Any fish that has some type of damage, whether it’s a shark bit or even gaff marks, can be disqualified from the tournament.

   No Sharks Allowed

Cheri Coley caught this 95.6-pound mako shark during the final day of the 17th annual Mako Mania fishing tournament in 2013.

Due to conservation, the 2022 White Marlin Open was the first in its history to eliminate the Mako Shark category. But in its place went The Swordfish category and it just so happened that no one caught a swordfish that year. Maybe this year will be the year.

Teach ‘Em Young

Watching the Big Fish classic weigh in and was invited beyond the ropes to check it out.

There is no minimum age limit to be an angler in the White Marlin Open. Back in 1993, 15-year- old Tommy Gessler won $109,000 and a Rolex watch, boating a 74 pound white marlin fishing the open with his family. Then in 1994, 14- year-old Grant Connolee caught a 70.5 blue marlin winning him $61,000 while fishing on Sweetwater. Talk bout young luck.

North and South

As the tournament expanded, the areas that were included in the tournament expanded as well. Boats are now allowed to come from as far North as Barnegat, New Jersey and as far South as the Rudee Inlet, Virginia Beach.

Going the Distance- Or Not

Many people are under the assumption that boats are allowed to go and fish wherever they want. But that’s false. Boats are only allowed to travel 100 nautical miles from the Ocean City buoy, no exceptions.

There you have it. Ten rules to help you understand the world’s largest and richest billfish tournament in the world. Enjoy the week and remember, “tight lines.” (That means good luck when you’re out there fishing. 😉)

Katie Ruskey
Katie Ruskeyhttp://kruskeyauthor.com
Katie Ruskey is a local author, splitting her time between Baltimore and Ocean City. Her debut fiction novel, Marlin Week, was released in August 2022 based on three captains that fish in the infamous White Marlin Open. Her first children's book, The A B Seas of Ocean City, Maryland takes young readers on a tour of OC. For more information on how to purchase her books, visit her website www.kruskeyauthor.com or follow her on IG/FB at Katherine Ruskey Author.



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