Despite the pandemic and a tropical storm moving up the coast, the 47th annual White Marlin Open at Ocean City, Md. is underway with 433 boats and a world record tournament purse of $6.7 million. The field for the 2020 WMO includes many top boats from last year’s fleet that set a tournament record of 1,429 white marlin releases.  

The ‘Big Deal” out of Brielle, N.J. will be defending the 2019 Top Boat award as will runner-up “Uno Mas”. Returning also are many of the top money winners of 2019.  The “Fish Whistle” out of Indian River, De. which won $1,504,000 last year for a 79.5-pound white marlin is back as is the “Backlash” from Virginia Beach that took second and $1,502,000.  Frank Criscola’s Crisdel from Brielle Yacht Club won $935,000 for the top tuna and returns to try to add to their winnings. Business was the white marlin winner at the recent Beach Haven White Marlin Invitational, and will try to repeat with big money on the board.

I was expecting a few boats to sail before the storm, but 42 did so. A few returned to the scales early to start filling the tuna leader board. Restless Lady 2 from Ocean City took the lead for $980,000 with a 114.5-pounder. Swords Fish from Indian River had a 92-pound entry for second and a potential $60,000. The center console Wet Rock had a catch of tuna which included a 56-pounder that made it over the 50-pound minimum.

I’ll have an update later tonight after the scales close. Tuesday will be a washout with a tropical storm warning in place for offshore S-SE winds at 35-45- knots and 11-19-foot seas before switching to SW 35-45. By Wednesday morning that will be down to SW at 5-15 knots with just 3-5-foot seas.

The inshore forecast is somewhat better as tonight’s SW gusts to 25 knots drop down before gusting to 35 knots SE in the afternoon with lots of rain and 9-15-foot seas. You can be sure that no one will be sailing.

The Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands couldn’t duplicate yesterday’s decent fluking in a south wind due to a lack of movement. Most keeper fluke were just 18 inches except for a 4-pounder — and one limit was taken.

Sunday’s south wind didn’t bother Phil Fischer initially as he ran into breaking fish in Sandy Hook Bay. Nothing hit small lures trolled slowly until he picked up speed and started catching Spanish mackerel. The wind was fine for drifting rough bottom in the bay which produced a near-doormat 9 1/2-pounder though other keepers barely made it before the wind got too strong.

At Belmar, the Ocean Explorer reported Sunday’s southeast wind was no good for drifting or catching — and only a few fluke were caught. The Golden Eagle had a good Saturday, but Sunday and Monday were tougher for blues, chub mackerel, ling and fluke. However, they did release some black-tipped sharks today.

The Queen Mary from Point Pleasant had to postpone the Tuesday tuna trip. Sunday’s inshore fishing was the first clunker in weeks with only a few Spanish mackerel.

Bob Correll reported that a cownose ray provided a surprise catch in the Bay Head surf for one angler this morning.

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