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OC Tuna Tournament, July 12-14

(July 5, 2013) Bluefin, yellowfin and big eye tuna are the prime catches anglers will be searching for offshore during the 26th annual Ocean City Tuna Tournament next weekend.

“Tuna fishing off North Carolina has been phenomenal. With the south wind blowing this way, hopefully the fish will come this way, too,” tournament Director Jennifer Blunt said Monday.

In this area, Blunt said anglers have caught some nice size yellowfin tuna as well as big eyes. There have been reports that bluefin tuna are swimming fairly close to shore, she said.

During the Tuna Tournament, anglers on both charter and private boats may hook a single bluefin per day. Three yellowfin, which tend to be smaller than bluefin, may be caught per person per day. There is no limit to the number of big eyes a team may catch, although they may only weigh up to five fish per tournament day.

Early registration for the 26th annual tournament ends today, July 5, at 5 p.m. The cost is $800 to enter.

Final registration will take place Thursday, July 11, from 3-7 p.m. at the Fishing Center in West Ocean City. A captains’ meeting will follow. For those who miss early registration, the cost is $900 per boat (maximum six anglers).

There are nine added entry level calcuttas, or wagering pools, this year. Cost to enter those ranges from $200 to $5,000. Anglers may enter into one or all of the added entry level categories, which, if they place on the top of the leader board, could substantially increase the amount of prize money they receive.

The Level F “Pro Tuna Jackpot” Winner Takes All costs $5,000 to enter, but it pays off for the angler with the heaviest single tuna as long as he signs up for the calcutta. In 2012, 34 of the 79 tournament boats entered and the Level F pot itself totaled $155,000. Last year, a total of $426,910 was paid out to tournament winners.

Five big eyes, more than 100 yellowfin and seven dolphin were weighed throughout the three tournament days. No bluefin tuna were brought to the scale.

For 2013, tournament fishing is permitted Friday through Sunday, July 12-14. Anglers will fish two of the three days. Catches will be weighed at the Ocean City Fishing Center between 4-7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and until 7 p.m. Sunday.

“We encourage everyone to come out and watch the weigh-ins,” Blunt said.

To speed up the weigh-in process, stringer fish (a boat’s heaviest five fish per day) can be weighed at Sunset Marina on Friday and Saturday. All other fish, including trophy fish, must be brought to the Fishing Center.

Prize money will be awarded to the first-, second- and third-heaviest single tuna and the largest total catch weight. The top team in the Largest Fish division will receive an invitation to compete in the IGFA Offshore Championship.

Each boat may weigh up to five fish per day to compete for a two-day total pound catch. There is a 30-pound minimum weight requirement for all eligible tournament tuna.

A $1,500 award will be presented to the female angler who catches the largest tuna.

A Junior Angler division is available for those 16 and younger. The winner will receive $1,000. Cash prizes will also be presented to junior anglers who land the second- and third-heaviest fish.

There will also be prize money ($2,500, $1,000 and $500) for the first-, second- and third-largest dolphin.

A new event this year will take place next Friday night under the tent at the Fishing Center. Tunapalooza is open to the public and includes a beer garden featuring Miller Lite, Coors Light, Blue Moon, Redd’s Apple Ale, Batch 19, Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, Miller 64 and Third Shift. A Crush Bar will be presented by Three Olives Vodka. The band Overtime will perform. The beer garden opens at 6 p.m. with the party starting at 7 p.m.

For more information about the Tuna Tournament, call 410-213-1121 or visit www.octunatournament.com.

The Absolute Pleasure crew unzips the bag that keeps angler James Romero’s bigeye tuna cool during the final day of the 25th annual Ocean City Tuna Tournament last year. The bigeye weighed 257 pounds and took over first place in the Single Heaviest Tuna Division. The fish was worth $224,116.

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