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First white marlin of season caught, released off OC

If you are in Ocean City this week, you may notice a couple of changes as you drive down Coastal Highway. The speed limit, normally 40 mph through North Ocean City, has been reduced to 30 mph, and Downtown, the speed limit has also been reduced. This is due to the expected, unauthorized H2Oi Pop-Up Rally.  It is reasonable to expect heavier than usual traffic, noise and strict enforcement of vehicle laws during the week and weekend.

(May 29, 2015) The first catch and release of a white marlin in Ocean City, with prize money totalling  $10,000 presented by the Town of Ocean City and the Ocean City Marlin Club to Dale Downey and Capt. Rick Schafer, almost went to someone else.

The town offers a $5,000 award to the angler, Downey, and since Schafer is a member of the Ocean City Marlin Club he is also rewarded, but the pair — fishing buddies in Ocean City waters for the past five years — were actually fishing for yellowfin tuna on May 24.

“When you hook a marlin you have to bring in all the other lines because they dance all over,” Downey said. “It was an outstanding day.”

Schafer and crew reported landing five yellowfin during the same trip. The fish was hooked on a skirted blue and white ballyhoo on the east side of the Baltimore Canyon, near the 300 fathom line, Schafer said.

“We were rigged for tuna, but we set out one line for marlin,” Downey said. “It started dancing and took out between 300-400 yards of line before we could bring him in.”

The approximately 6-foot, 80-pound fish was landed at 10:48 a.m. Sunday morning and took 45 minutes to bring onboard. Schafer said the boat crew hooked another marlin later in the day, but didn’t land it.

“We put the line out just in case,” Schafer said.

This billfish beats a record for earliest catch set in 2012, when junior angler Grant Clubb, at the age of 14, landed the first white marlin of the season on May 27. OCMC has been keeping detailed records since 1936.

Schafer is the captain of the Got-R-Done, which has been harbored at Sunset Marina for the past five years. He recently competed in the Maryland Saltwater Sport Fishermen’s Association Championship on the Chesapeake rockfish tournament and brought home more than $12,000 in prize money. He plans to compete in more MSSA tournaments this year.

“I’ve done the White Marlin Open before, but it all depends on the crew,” Schafer said. “It’s a great feeling to experience, and I never knew how big a deal it was. It’s quite an honor.”

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