(Aug. 2, 2013) The excitement is building as boat captains, their crews and spectators await the start of the 40th annual White Marlin Open. Competition will begin Monday and continue through Friday, Aug. 9.
On Monday, Jim Motsko, director and founder of the tournament, said early registration compared to 2012, was up by about five or six boats. Thought most anglers wait until the final days to register so they can keep an eye on the forecast, Motsko said more than 65 percent of the boats traditionally return to compete each year.
Final registration will take place at Harbour Island Marina on 14th Street on Saturday, noon to 5 p.m., and Sunday, beginning at noon. The base entry fee is $1,200 per boat, which makes teams eligible for $50,000 in guaranteed prize money. There is no limit to the number of anglers on each boat.
There are 18 added entry divisions which range in cost from $50 to $5,000 to enter. An overwhelming majority, about 95 percent, of the teams sign up for at least one calcutta. The more calcuttas entered, the greater the possible return.
To enter every pool (16) for boats 37 feet LOA (length overall) and larger, costs $15,950, not including the base entry fee. For boats 36 feet LOA and smaller, the cost is $17,950 to enter into all 18 calcuttas. There are two additional calcuttas for boats 36 feet LOA and smaller: Level SBW: Small Boat Heaviest White Marlin Winner Take All and Level SBT: Small Boat Heaviest Tuna Winner Take All. Both were added last year.
It takes a combination of luck and skill to catch a white marlin. First, captains and anglers have to know how to find them. From that point on, there is a fair amount of luck involved in whose bait draws the interest of a big fish. Anyone can get lucky and that is why the Open is so popular. Novice anglers have won the tournament.
Teams may fish anywhere within 100 nautical miles of the Ocean City inlet sea buoy, but certain areas hold favor. Most boats will head to the Poor Man’s, Baltimore, Norfolk and Washington canyons, where large fish and Open winners have been caught in the past.
Motsko said to win money in the white marlin division this year, fish will have to weigh at least 80 pounds. The tournament minimum is 70 pounds and 67 inches.
To have a chance at prize money in the blue marlin division, Motsko said, fish will have to weigh at least 650-700 pounds. The tournament minimum is 500 pounds and 105 inches.
Each boat is eligible to fish three of the five tournament days. Boats can leave from any inlet between Rudee Inlet, Va. and Barnegat, N.J.
All boats will be searching for the same species: white and blue marlin, tuna, wahoo, dolphin and shark. While the white marlin division is the most coveted, there are also large payouts in the blue marlin and tuna categories. Cash prizes are also awarded for billfish releases.
Motsko said the estimated payout to the 2013 winners could be more than $2 million, depending on participation. Weigh-ins will take place daily at Harbour Island from 4-9:15 p.m. and are open and free to the public.
The first White Marlin Open took place in 1974 with 57 boats registered and a guaranteed $20,000 in prize money. Last year, approximately 2,000 anglers on 253 boats headed offshore. Overall prize money paid out to the winners last year was about $2.3 million.
A handful of white marlin were brought to Harbour Island Marina during the 39th annual Open last year, but after five days of weigh-ins, only one met the tournament minimum weight.
“It’s not that there were a lack of fish. [Anglers] were catching school-sized marlin that were cookie cutters of each other,” Motsko said after the tournament.
The weather forecast deterred captains from fishing on the first day of the weeklong tournament, when only 10 boats headed offshore, and the final day when 24 boats went fishing. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 243, 238 and 244 fished, respectively.
“Last year was unique in that most boats didn’t fish Monday. Typically, that’s a big day if the weather is good,” Motsko said Monday. “We had an anticlimactic start and an anticlimactic finish last year.”
The Blew Bayou out of Ocean City, docked on the third day of the tournament, to weigh a white marlin. In three days of weigh-ins not one white had met the 70-pound minimum. William Woody’s white weighed 72 pounds and was worth $1,429,092 — the third-largest payout in tournament history. It brought in so much money because it was the only qualifying white marlin weighed and no blue marlin met the 500-pound minimum so the prize money in that division went to the Blew Bayou, which is owned by Woody, who has homes in Pasadena, Md. and Ocean City.
“Last year fooled me. Last year was an anomaly,” Motsko said about the lack of qualifying white and blue marlin. “I don’t think it will happen two years in a row in both species (divisions).”
Marlin conservation is emphasized every year. During the 2012 competition, 953 white marlin were released, while eight were boated (99.17 percent). Six sailfish and five spearfish were also released last year. Anglers released 37 blue marlin and only two were boated (94.87 percent). The two blue marlin that were weighed tipped the scale at 456.5 (Storm Trouble) and 390.5 (Can Do Too) pounds, which were both below the tournament minimum. In the 39-year history of the tournament, there have been only four years a blue marlin did not make the minimum weight (1976, 1980, 1981, 2001).
The most activity of the tournament was in the tuna division. On Day 2, the numbers on the scale rose as Canyon Runner angler Dave Dunton’s (Milford, Ohio) bigeye was hoisted. It finally stopped at 236 pounds.
The next day, an hour and a half into the weigh-ins, the Right Hook arrived with a bigeye. Norman Pulliam’s (Yorktown, Pa.) fish weighed 238 pounds and jumped into first place in the division.
Pulliam’s fish held the top spot and was worth $324,516, while Dunton’s tuna earned the team $253,825. Tra Sea Ann finished in third place, with Christian Manetta’s (Brick, N.J.) 229-pounder. The group was awarded $24,758.
The Let It Ride took first place in the dolphin division with Monmouth Beach, N.J. resident, Arthur Kontos’ 33-pounder. The fish earned him and his teammates $20,648. Brian Gill’s (Palm Beach, Fla.) 27.5-pound dolphin, reeled in on the Krazy Salt’s finished tied for second place with Cape May, N.J. angler Doug Ortlip, who was fishing on the Got Game. Gill’s fish brought in $11,041, while Ortlip’s dolphin was worth $9,791. Chad Baker of Eldersburg, Md., took third place with his 27-pounder, hooked aboard The Natural. The crew received $16,215.
The Amarula Sun weighed Peter Katsarelis’ (Tarpon Springs, Fla.) wahoo, which registered 66.5 pounds, but minutes later, Canyon Runner arrived with a bigeye tuna and a wahoo.
Jamie Greer’s (Dayton, Ohio) wahoo weighed 70.5 pounds to take over the top spot. The team pocketed $28,756. Katsarelis and his Amarula Sun teammates won $3,433. Williamsburg, Va. resident Franklin Bowers caught a 42.5-pounder on the Sniper. The third-place fish earned the team $26,756.
A scalloped hammerhead shark was brought to the scale by Scott Cusick (Jackson, N.J.) on the Milling Around and weighed 266.5 pounds–a new state record. The crew took home $5,150. Craig Dengler’s (York, Pa.) 126.5-pound mako shark he caught aboard the Longfin finished in second and was worth $4,150.
For more information about the 2013 tournament, visit www.whitemarlinopen.com or call 410-289-9229.
White Marlin Open by numbers:
•57: Number of boats that participated in the first White Marlin Open in 1974
•253: Number of boats that participated in the 39th annual WMO in 2012
•$15,000: Amount of money awarded to Vince Sorenson of New Jersey during the first WMO for his 68.5-pound white marlin
•$1.4 million: Amount awarded last year to William Woody (Blew Bayou) for reeling in a 72-pound white marlin. Third-largest payout in tournament history.
•1: White marlin brought to the scale that met the tournament minimum weight of 70 pounds last year.
•$2.3 million: Approximate prize money payout during the 2012 WMO
•$1,200: Cost of base entry fee (This fee makes boats eligible for $50,000 in prize money).
•$15,950: Amount (not including base entry fee) to enter into all 16 Added Entry Levels/Calcuttas (boats 37 feet length overall). $17,950 for boats 36 feet (length overall and under) to enter into all 18 added entry levels/calcuttas.
•99 pounds: Tournament record for a white marlin (1980).
•99.17 percent: White marlin release rate last year (953 released, 8 boated)
•94.87 percent: Blue marlin release rate in 2012 (37 released, 2 boated)