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Millions on the line during WMO white marlin blitz

There was some wild canyon fishing during yesterday’s White Marlin Open competition at Ocean City, Maryland. My late night Word Press report transmission got screwed up, so I’ll try to get it straightened out as the competition continues through Sunday.

With no bottom line established in the white marlin category, there was a flood of barely eligible by length whites brought in for weighing that didn’t make the 70-pound minimum. While 360 boats out of 433 entered released 207 whites, there were 24 boated for a total of 231. However, there were enough qualifying whites to fill that big money category.

John Morton’s Reel Estate from Ocean City started it off with a 72-pound white, but ended the day in a tie for third. Adam Fye of Pasadena, Md. brought in a 74-pounder on Hook and Settle that’s in line for a $1.1 million payoff, but another Md. angler, Timmy Collins, is in more Calcuttas and his 72.5-pounder on Sea Toy can win $1.7 million. Reel Estate and John Verzalena’s Reel Steel from Mountain Lakes, N.J. each can earn $115,000 for third place 72-pounders.

Though the blue marlin category remains unfilled with a 114-inch minimum, but there was finally some sign of them as 17 were released. There were also two releases each of spearfish and sailfish.

The tuna category got a new leader as Sentient boated a 121-pounder in Norfolk Canyon. Five big dolphin were weighed, and the last was the most likely leader to survive as Ian West of Hershey, Pa. boated a 54-pound bull on Security.

With 270 boats out today, there are bound to be many changes by tonight. I’d be surprised if all leaders except that dolphin aren’t knocked back as long as the weather holds through Sunday.

Whites go wild at WMO

Canyon fishing exploded today at the Ocean City, Md. White Marlin Open. Lots of whites were released and many weighed as the previously vacant category was filled.

Ocean City boats dominated on their home turf. Hook and Settle ended up the day on top at 74 pounds for a potential $1.1 million, but Sea Toy at 72.5 pounds could make $1.7million. Reel Estate is tied for third at 72 pounds with Reel Steel from Mountain Lakes, N.J.

The new tuna leader is a 121-pounder on Sentient from Slaughter Beach, Md. There are still no blue marlin. Wrecker had a 40-pound dolphin, but Security weighed a 54. Weigh-ins continued to about 10. I’ll have details in the morning.

First big day at WMO as 360 out of the 433 boats entered sailed today

Today was the start of a dramatic finish to the 47th annual White Marlin Open at Ocean City, Maryland since it’s down to the last four days and there have been only two marginable days fished so far by a very small portion of the 433 boats entered in the $6.7 million event.

The big money white marlin and blue marlin divisions didn’t have an entry, and the other leaders are well within reach by historical WMO standards. Just before 8 p.m. I can tell you that’s changed, and will bring everything up to date in a blog after the scales close at 9:15.

The post-storm fishing yesterday wasn’t very impressive as the 35 boats came up with a species count of 20 white marlin (all released except two that made the 68-inch minimum for weighing, but not the 70 pounds needed to get on the leaderboard), one tuna, one wahoo and two dolphin — not even one eligible fish per boat.

At least that tuna is in position to win $395,000 as the 106-pound bluefin boated on Blue Runner from Manasquan, N.J. moved into second place behind the 114.5-pounder by Restless Lady 2. Bluefin used to be ineligible, but are included now.

The other categories got impressive entries as a 35.5-pound dolphin on Salt Lick beat a 27-pounder on Bar South, while the first wahoo was a 60.5-pounder by Magic Moment. Bar South also led in white marlin releases with five — ahead of Taylor Jean and Ohana with three each.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar got into some unexpected rain this morning, but ended up with calm seas and loads of chub mackerel. There were also blues, sea bass, some fluke and the first cutlassfish reported so far.

Blue Runner moves into second in tuna at WMO

With the scales set to close shortly, and no boats expected, it appears that the highlight of Wednesday’s fishing in the 47th annual White Marlin Open was the 106-pound tuna on Blue Runner from Manasquan that put northern N.J. into a prize money position as they pushed Swords Fish back to third with their 92-pound tuna. Blue Runner has a potential payout of $395,000 if it holds up over the next four days. Restless Lady 2 remains first at 114.5 pounds.

A white marlin was weighed, but fell short of the 70-pound minimum at 67 1/2 pounds.

The two “fun fish” categories finally got an entry. Salt Lick weighed a 35.5-pound dolphin, and Magic Moment boated a 60.5-pound wahoo.

WMO Open will be humming the next four days

Though the tropical storm passed by quickly, only 35 of the 433 boats entered in the White Marlin Open at Ocean City, Maryland opted to fight the remaining seas today with four days of predicted good weather ahead of them in which to utilize their three fishing days.

There was no one waiting when the scales opened at 4 p.m., but I’m sure there will be lots to write about by the time the scales close at 9:15. I’ll have another blog around that time to bring you up to date.

There was an early arrival at the scales on Monday, as Restless Lady II was anxious to weigh their 114.5-pound tuna which still leads that division entering the day. Most skippers would continue to fish out the day rather then return early with a good entry, but getting the maximum weight out of the fish is another consideration. Ounces are rarely important in big fish events, but the Big Rock Tournament at Morehead City. N.C. in June proved otherwise as less than a pound separated the three top blue marlin which were all over 400 pounds. Swords Fish from Indian River, Delaware is currently second in tuna with a 92-pounder, and Wrecker from Ocean City is third at 57..

There wasn’t much white marlin action the first day though one was weighed in. Whites must be 68 inches in order to be weighed, but have to be 70 pounds to get on the leaderboard. Unfortunately, that white only weighed 63 1/2 pounds. A revision of the white marlin release count for Monday brought that figure up to 11 plus the one boated for a total of 12 whites that day along with four eligible {50-pound minimum) tuna. Amazingly, there were no dolphin which have to be at least 20 pounds.

It’s likely that almost every boat will be sailing tomorrow with a forecast of northeast winds at just 5-10 knots which switch to east in the afternoon.

Thursday at 11:59 p.m. is the deadline for entering the JCAA Heavy Hitters Fluke Tournament which runs out of N.J. ports from Friday to Sunday. Each entrant can select the day he wants to fish by text or e-mail the night before. Boats are limited to four people, and only four lines can be fished at a time. The total weight of three fluke wins, and there are also various Calcuttas. Enter on-line by visiting http://www.jcaa.org. You can also call Paul Haertel for details at 973 943-8201.

Tank Matraxia had a fine time yesterday while fishing for sea bass on the charter boat Albacore out of Nantucket. His party of four limited with sea bass that ran up to 21 inches before adding keeper-sized fluke.

The Golden Eagle from Belmar was kept in port by the storm, but will be sailing into fine weather at 7:30 tomorrow morning.

Where did the dolphin go?

The opening day of the White Marlin Open at Ocean City. Maryland produced very few fish, but prospects are much better after the tropical storm blows through today with a fine forecast for the rest of the contest that runs through Sunday.

Only 42 boats out of the 433 entered fished the first day, and many of them trolled for tuna closer to shore rather than running out to the canyons. That may have been the reason for the relative lack of billfish and the total absence of dolphin at the scales.

I expected to see dolphin on any boat that went out the first day. While canyon trolling is often a shot in the dark over great depths, dolphin are usually available by trolling the pot buoys along the edges of canyons. Yet, the daily award for dolphin went unclaimed.

Indeed, the WMO reported a species count for the day of only four eligible tuna plus six white marlin releases and one boated. Unfortunately. the boated white didn’t meet the 70-pound minimum.

Restless Lady 2 from Ocean City got off to a good start with a 114.5-pound yellowfin tuna, That wouldn’t normally stand up through the contest unless no bigeyes are encountered. Swords Fish from Indian River is in second with a 92-pound yellowfin that may not stand up, but also leads the Small Boat Division with a $250,000 payout. Wrecker from Ocean City moved into third with a 57-pound yellowfin.

The only good thing about the storm is that it’s getting out of the way quickly. The offshore forecast for Wednesday is for a southwest wind diminishing to 5-15 knots with seas dropping to 3-6 feet. By Thursday it’s down to less than 5 knots and 3-4-foot seas. What the fish will do under those conditions is always a question, but it will certainly be a new ball game.

Those fishing shore and inshore areas can expect to see dirty waters for a at least a day before the ocean settles even after the winds drop out.

Tough first day at WMO

The 42 out of 433 boats that fished during the first day of the White Marlin Open didn’t find much for the scales which closed at 9:15. The only white marlin brought in didn’t meet the 70-pound minimum, and there were only a few qualifying tuna.

Restless Lady 2 from Ocean City weighed a 114.5-pound tuna that might be around for a few days, while a 92-pounder was second and a 57-pound entry is third. Tomorrow will be unfishable, but the weather looks good after that.

World record $6.7 million purse as WMO opens

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.

White Marlin Open starts tomorrow

The 47th White Marlin Open kicks off at Ocean City Maryland on Monday and runs through Sunday. Despite the tropical storm coming this week, there should be three good fishing days for the over 400 boaters to select.

The offshore forecast for Monday is marginal. Southwest winds at 10-20 knots with 3-5-foot seas and showers are predicted, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of boats taking a shot since there are daily cash prizes that may be won by any boat able to find a tuna, wahoo, dolphin or marlin.

The storm’s impact will be felt on Tuesday with south winds at 35-45 knots and 10-foot seas, but improves rapidly after that. It’s southwest at 10-15 offshore by Wednesday and dropping to 5-10 knots that afternoon.

Today’s south wind made for tough bluefishing on the Golden Eagle from Belmar. The seas were choppy, and fish reluctant to bite though some blues, chub mackerel, sea bass, ling and fluke were picked’

The surf was rough this morning as I briefly cast a popper at Sea Girt with no other anglers around. Bob Correll said he saw Spanish mackerel arching well out of range at Bay Head.

Capt. Ron Santee Jr. was pleasantly surprised to find a decent bite of fluke on his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands despite the south wind that usually turns them off. The pool winner was a 5-pounder

Tomorrow may be fishable inshore though the south wind has been gusting to 25 knots this afternoon. By morning it’s supposed to be down to southwest at 5-10 knots before increasing to 10-15 with gusts to 20 and 4-5-foot seas in the afternoon. By Tuesday evening it will be southeast at 35 knots.

White Marlin Open set to begin tomorrow in Ocean City, MD

Even the threat of a hurricane coming up the coast hasn’t bothered organizers of the 47th White Marlin Open in Ocean City, Md. from gathering tomorrow for a captains meeting prior to Monday’s start of the big money event. The only concession to the storm so far has been extending fishing days through next Sunday. Contestants choose which three days they will fish.

Last year’s WMO drew 202 boats and a purse of over $6.25 million – but the pandemic and the storm threat may impact those figures.

Capt. Freddy Gamboa is coming in on a hot streak with Andrea’s Toy after a fine season of N.J. tuna action and the release last week of a blue marlin estimated at 500 pounds. He’s docked next to another strong competitor — Michael Jordan on his $8 million, 80-foot Viking, Catch 23. Jordon fished his first tournament in June at the Big Rock out of Morehead City, N.C., and weighed in a 442.3-pound .blue. A great catch, but short of Strike Hunter’s 495.2-pounder in an amazing finish in which less than one pound separated the top three entries.

Gamboa also reported on Facebook about another great catch last week as follows: “Had Dan and Anthony back for second trip of the summer. Guys wanted a mixed bag, started off with a dozen mahi, then went on the troll, missed a few bites then saw a big Mako, asked the boys if they wanted to step up.” They sure did as a 650-pound mako was weighed in at Hoffman’s in Point Pleasant after a long battle. That’s the largest mako I’ve heard of this year.

Capt. Rob Semkewyc said fluking on his Sea Hunter from Atlantic Highlands wasn’t up to mid-week standards due to poor conditions. He’ll be sailing in the morning, and then looking ahead at the forecasts day-to-day as the storm gets closer.

Sunday’s forecast is for south winds at 10-15 knots before increasing to 15-20 in the afternoon. Showers and thunder storms are possible.