Hawaii tournament extra hook for billfish anglers

ON THE OUTDOORS

July 29, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

The White Marlin Open has been the hot lick in Ocean City during the first week of August for 25 years, and this season the tournament has an added incentive for billfish anglers who release their catch -- an invitation to the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii next March.

"It's kind of a feather in our cap," said Jim Motsko, tournament director for the Open. "And it's nice to get that kind of recognition from the IGFA."

At the end of the five-day Open next Friday, representatives of the International Game Fish Association will present the invitation to the Rolex/IGFA Invitational Tournament of Champions to the crew of the boat that wins the billfish points category.

Catch-and-release has become an important part of the Open, and last year 95 percent of the 427 billfish caught were released.

Which angler wins the big money, of course, will be decided at the Harbor Island scales, where potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars can be won each evening of the event.

This year, Motsko said, more than $1 million in prize money is expected to be awarded. Last year, the Open paid out more than $1,030,000, including $544,000 for the top white marlin.

The big prizes for white and blue marlin, tuna, dolphin, wahoo and shark are built on optional skill-level pools. However, in the 1996 Open an angler from Virginia caught his first white marlin, placed first and won more than $400,000.

Fishing reports from Ocean City indicate sporadic action for billfish on the eve of the Open, but Motsko said the marlin are offshore.

"I honestly think most people are still fishing for tuna," said Motsko. "Most of the charterboats want to keep people happy, so they're chumming for bluefin, and everyone gets a tug on the line."

But, Motsko said, the boats that have gone out to the 38- to 42-fathom lines have done well for blue marlin.

The final two days to register for the tournament are Saturday and Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Harbor Island Marina.

Motsko said he expects more than 300 boats and 1,200 anglers to be entered in this year's tournament.

The entry fee is $750 per boat, and anglers can fish any three days from Aug. 2-6. For information, call 410-289-9229 or go to http: //www.whitemarlinopen.com on the Internet.

Daily weigh-ins will be held at Harbor Island starting at 4 p.m. Admission is free and the public is welcome.

Bass in Delta

The Bass Masters Classic, often called the Super Bowl of bass fishing, starts today on the Louisiana Delta outside New Orleans and will run through Saturday, when the winning angler will be awarded $100,000 at the Superdome.

The Classic field includes seven former world champions and more than a half-dozen Bass Anglers Sportsman's Society anglers of the year.

The fishing report

Salt water

Ocean City: Offshore waters are almost uniformly warm; as a result, DNR reports billfish, tuna, wahoo and other pelagics are scattered from Massey's Canyon to the Lumpy Bottoms. Billfish are scattered from as close as the 30-fathom line out to more than 100 fathoms, where longfin albacore and big eye tuna are a good possibility. Bluefin tuna from the Elephant Trunk to Lumpy Bottoms, and yellowfin at the Hambone and Hot Dog. Bluefin tuna limited to one per boat per day, 47-73 inches curved fork length. Inshore, large numbers of croaker in the back bays from the Fenwick Ditch to the inlet. Also, increasing numbers of spot. Flounder also are present in large numbers, but most are under the 15.5-inch minimum. Night fishing for sea trout continues to be good at the Route 50 bridge, the inlet piers and the south jetty.

Upper Chesapeake: Rockfish for trollers working the 40-foot contours off Sandy Point have faded, and chummers at Swan Point, Love Point and Belvedere Shoals are encountering large numbers of rockfish under the 18-inch minimum. Drifted eels fished in the cuts from Sparty's Lump to Shad Battery Shoal continue to produce rockfish to 32 inches at times. White perch are a good bet at Snake Reef, Hodges bar and over oyster beds off the Magothy and in the lower Chester River. Jumbo spot have been hitting along the eastern channel edges north of Kent Narrows. Bluefish are scattered as far north as Worton Point. Seneca Creek-Dundee Creek area and Sassafras River are good bets for largemouth bass near wood cover, and the grassbeds on the Susquehanna Flats also are a good choice for bass.

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