Blue marlin, 424 1/2 pounds, is checked in at Open

August 03, 1994|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,Ocean City Bureau of The Sun

OCEAN CITY -- "We've got everything but a white marlin -- wahoo, tuna, everything," said Jim Motsko, organizer of the 21st annual White Marlin Open fishing tournament.

Day 2 of the five-day tournament, which began Monday, yielded a better-than-respectable catch among the 233 boats participating in the competition, including a blue marlin that weighed in at 424 1/2 pounds.

"It's my first marlin either way, blue or white," said Brian McNamee of Clifton Heights, Pa. "It took 1 1/2 hours to get her in -- great fight. The crew helped a lot. All I wanted was to get to the scales and weigh something in . . . now that it's in the money, it's a real thrill."

McNamee and his father were fishing off the Allison, a boat out of the Indian River inlet.

A large crowd gathered at the Harbour Island Marina as the boats began coming in from offshore late yesterday afternoon. The fishing hours for the tournament are from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and most boats are fishing in the area called the canyons, about 60 miles off Ocean City's coast.

The tournament, billed as the world's largest billfish tournament, offers some serious money in six categories. The guaranteed prizes go as high as $15,000 for the heaviest white marlin, with less money offered for winning blue marlin, tuna, wahoo, dolphin (mahi-mahi) and shark catches.

Prizes are augmented considerably, however, by the added entry awards categories, in which anglers pay from $300 to $5,000 to compete in five skill-level divisions. The tournament has made official what used to be called Calcuttas, under-the-table money paid to winners, said Chuck Motsko, who works with his cousin Jim to organize the tournament. Until the Motskos decided to award openly and legally such monies (complete with an IRS 1099 form), he said, it had not been done officially in any tournament.

The added entry awards bring the total money in the tournament to just over $650,000 this year, the Motskos said.

All boats are allowed to fish a maximum of three days (they choose which three) during the five-day tournament. There is a panel of three judges. John Foster, sportfishing coordinator for the state Department of Natural Resources, checks that each fish has been caught that day and is the official weighmaster for the competition.

"Close but no cigar," said Chuck Motsko, as the third white marlin in two days came in at exactly 64 pounds -- one pound under the 65-pound minimum required for the tournament.

Anglers get points for releases, and can win money that way, said Chuck Motsko. Also on hand for the weigh-in was Robin Forti, director of membership for the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Billfish Foundation, which encourages anglers to put back undersized fish.

The tournament this year also has paid for plastic tags, to be put on fish before they are released, she said. "We used to use metal tags -- the new tags are made of hydroscopic nylon, which is more compatible with the fish's skin," she said.

As the boats came in, hundreds of people crowded the docks and lawns at the Harbour Island Marina last night. Near misses in the marlin category brought sympathetic groans from the crowd, as Chuck, Jim and Andy Motsko took turns announcing each fish's weight and the angler who landed it.

Many of those present were anglers themselves, though they don't compete in tournaments. Others were just fans of the competition.

"We're just here to fish for the week," said Debbie Kavanaugh of Wilmington, Del.

"Everybody from work is taking off -- I can't believe what a big deal this is," said her friend, Donna Shaw of Ocean City. Shaw works at The Hobbit, an Ocean City restaurant and bar.

The tournament continues today, tomorrow and Friday, with an awards ceremony at the Sheraton hotel Saturday at noon.

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