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.

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.

For-hire boats remain on hold

Though there have been discussions about opening up the economy as the pandemic curve flattens, the owners of party and charter boats in N. Y. and N. J. remain confused about when or if they will be allowed to take customers this year.

The bills keep coming for dockage, but income remains at zero. It isn’t like that everywhere. Charter boats have been operating in Florida, and Capt. Monty Hawkins is planning to start running limited trips in May with his Morning Star from Ocean City, Maryland. Hawkins will carry only nine customers, which is just 22,5% of his capacity in order to ensure the proper distancing. The cost for those sea bass trips will be $155  on Saturdays and $135 from Sunday to Friday.  Reservations are required by calling 410 520-2076. The sea bass season there opens with a 12-inch minimum and 15 fish bag limit.

Charter boats are operating in R.I., but don’t rush up there. Mike Laptew, the famed underwater photographer, checked with the governor’s office and found that they may only carry R.I., customers.

Even non-residents who own boats in R.I. have to check with their marina and quarantine before working on their craft. The state’s waters are open, but out-of-state boaters can’t overnight at the marinas.

Jack Kauffman confirmed last night’s blog about Saturday’s crowd of boats in Raritan Bay turning off the bite. He noted that there were no markers in the bay, and though he marked lots of fish for three hours they all had lockjaw.

Mark Roy got out into the bay today with his Release Me from Raritan Marina in Hazlet. His crew trolled stripers of 28 1/2 and 35 inches on mo-jos and released two smaller ones. They couldn’t find any bunkers for bait in Great Kills Harbor  before going to the back of the bay where there were bunkers flipping but no hits up to the time this blog was written.

The weather is turning on us again. The wind turns southeast in the morning at 10-15 knots plus gusts to 20 before increasing to 20-25 knots in the afternoon with gusts to 30 knots.