(July 19, 2013) Despite poor weather and torrential downpours throughout the morning and afternoon last Friday, fishing was good offshore for anglers participating in the 26th annual Ocean City Tuna Tournament.
Thirty-nine of the 85 boats competing in the tournament went fishing on Day 1, July 12.
A total of 35 bigeye tuna were brought to the Ocean City Fishing Center scale in West Ocean City during the three-day tournament, July 12-14. Twenty-nine of those were weighed last Friday.
“That’s a record. We’ve never seen that many before (weighed in one tournament day),” said Jennifer Blunt, tournament director. “We knew bigeye and tuna fishing was good the week before off North Carolina and we hoped the fish would move up this way. I guess they did. We were amazed at 29 bigeyes brought to the scale.”
The area where the bigeye were biting, the Washington Canyon, was crowded last Friday with boats and teams looking to land one that would make the tournament leader board. Other boats not in the tournament flocked to that area, as well.
“They heard the bite was on so everyone wanted to be out there,” Blunt said. “We just wish the fishing was better Saturday and Sunday.”
Blunt said fishing may not have been as good those two days as it was Friday because even more boats headed to the canyon and the tuna dove deeper under water with all the activity.
Fifty-six tournament boats headed offshore last Saturday and 74 fished Sunday. Teams were eligible to fish two of the three tournament days.
The Reel Chaos brought four bigeyes and a yellowfin to the scale on Day 1, totaling 687 pounds–a new one-day stringer record. Blunt said the previous record of 594 pounds was set in 2011 by the Crush Em’ crew. Their two-day total that year was 815 pounds.
Reel Chaos took top honors in the Heaviest Stringer Weight Division and received $74,357.
The crew on the Warrior finished in second place with a stringer weight of 605 pounds and won $39,052. The team on Grande Pez logged a stringer weight of 503 pounds, good for third place and $22,705.
Bill Schatzman on the No Quarter, landed a 253-pound bigeye to win the Single Largest Tuna Division. The fish was worth $243,917.
A majority of that money, $166,500, came from the Level F Pro Tuna Jackpot, which is a winner-take-all pool for the largest single tuna. It costs $5,000 to enter and 37 of the 85 tournament boats registered for the Level F calcutta.
Tom Dickerson’s 238-pound bigeye finished in second place. Dickerson and his Stress Reel-ief team were presented with $34,057.
Spencer Bradley hooked a 237-pound bigeye aboard the Goin’ In Deep. The fish took the third spot in the division and was worth $22,705.
Let It Ride angler, 13-year-old Domenic Dipiero IV, fought a 201-pound bigeye for one hour and two minutes. He scored first-place honors in the Junior Angler Division and was awarded $1,000. Fifteen-year-old Dante Caruso, fishing aboard Pipe Dreamer, caught a 162-pound bigeye to put him in second place. He received $500. Tuna Dog angler Alex Grapes, 10, took third, with a 111-pound bluefin. He was awarded $250.
Samantha Freas caught a 154-pound bigeye on the Reel Chaos to win the Lady Angler Division and $1,500. Myra HT angler JL Cropper finished in second place with an 80-pound bluefin. She and Debbie McCann, who reeled in a 49-pound yellowfin aboard Sea Slammer, both took home prizes.
The Level I Boats Under 40 feet Winner Takes All calcutta was added in 2011. This year, 27 of the 29 boats smaller than 40 feet entered the Level I calcutta, where 50 percent of the prize money went to the angler who reeled in the heaviest tuna. The other 50 percent was awarded to the team with the most tuna caught, measured by pounds.
Dickerson received $3,645 for his catch. The Four Play crew pocketed $3,645 for its 399-pound stringer weight.
Each year, half of the prize money in the Level G calcutta benefits an organization or charity. This year Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Foundation Beach Respite Housing Program, which provides critically ill children and their families a much-needed getaway to the beach from the everyday stresses of a child’s medical illness, was the beneficiary.
The organization received $3,060. The other half of the calcutta money went to the No Quarter team.
The first Capt. Robert Gowar Captain of the Year award was presented this year. Gowar, who died a few years ago, was one of the founders of the tournament. The award went to Anthony Matarese, Jr. of the Reel Chaos for his team’s “amazing and new record for this event–four bigeye tuna on Day 1 totaling 687 pounds,” Blunt said.
More than $450,000 was paid out to tournament winners. Since no qualifying dolphin were weighed, the $13,200 pot for that category will be carried over to next year’s tournament.
Along with the 35 bigeye brought to the scale, 43 yellowfin and six bluefin were also weighed during the tournament.
Blunt said tournament organizers were pleased with how the competition went. They received many compliments from sponsors and participants, she said.