Fuel costs could cut field for Marlin Open

Tab could hit $3K in Ocean City event



As recently as two years ago, tropical storm warnings deterred anglers from participating in Ocean City's White Marlin Open, with fewer than 50 boats in the ocean on one day that year.

Now it's gas that could limit the field of fishermen in the $3 million competition that begins this morning. Last year, the Open attracted an event-record 449 boats, but tournament director Jim Motsko envisions a drop because of rising fuel expenses.

"I'll be satisfied with 400 boats," said Motsko, who founded the Open in 1974. "I think the fuel prices will have an impact to an extent. I don't know for sure, but it's a gut feeling."

Motsko said that it's common for a boat to use 150 gallons of fuel for the 50 to 70 miles needed to reach the areas anglers select to catch not only white marlin, but also blue marlin, dolphin and tuna.

Figure in the trip back to shore, today's fuel costs and multiply that by the three days competitors are allowed to catch fish and the tab comes to $3,000 in gas for the week.

Ken Coffer expects to spend that to defend his championship in the white marlin division. It's money he sees as worth spending.

"For the serious people, it's not really an issue," said Coffer, a Carolina Beach, N.C., resident who caught a 78.5-pound marlin on the first day of last year's event and ended up with the $1.65 million top prize.

But Motsko said that a decrease in vessels might arise from boat-pooling arrangements between anglers.

"A lot of people will say, `Instead of going out on my own boat, I'll jump into yours,' " Motsko said.

After his good fortune last year, Coffer, 40, doesn't plan any changes.

"I hope nothing changes, not a thing," Coffer said. "We'll try to do everything we did last year and hope that we find the right spot. Just a lot of luck."

The tournament's blue marlin contest came down to the last fish to hit the scale, a 656-pounder worth $461,000 to Greg Reynolds of Falls Church, Va.


At a glance

What: White Marlin Open. First held in 1974, this is reputed to be the largest fishing tournament in the world.

Where: Ocean City

When: Today through Friday

Prize money: Expected to top $3 million. Award money will be distributed at the Clarion Resort Fontainebleau Hotel.

Entrants: Approximately 400 boats competing for awards in 13 categories.

2005 winners: Ken Coffer of Carolina Beach, N.C. (white marlin) and Greg Reynolds of Falls Church, Va. (blue marlin)

Online: www.whitemarlinopen.com

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