50th White Marlin Open Has 400 Boats and Record $10.3 Million Purse
By Scott Lenox
Posted on August 6th, 2023
PHOTO: Michael Jordan’s “Catch 23” prepped and ready for the start of the White Marlin Open
I just got back from registration at Harbour Island and from shooting some vid at Sunset Marina and Atlantic Tackle and was super happy to see the announcement of participation for this year’s 50th White Marlin Open. Exactly 400 boats will be vying for over $10 Million in prize money and most of them will be fishing tomorrow. The weather forecast for mid-week is for seas to be a little sporty which probably kept some small boats from entering, but all things considered it is a spectacular turnout for the world’s largest billfish tournament. Congratulations to Jim Motsko and his entire family on 50 years!! Tomorrow is going to be a busy day at the scales after what will probably be the best weather day of the week. The Hooked on OC crew and I will be bringing it to you LIVE at www.WhiteMarlinOpen.com all week!!
Away from the tournament prep, the crew of the Boss Hogg with Captain Alex Beane had a great day of offshore fishing with some tuna and mahi action.
The ocean bottom fishing fleet enjoyed a beautiful, flat calm day of fishing today and a good bite on top of it. Captain Chris Mizurak of the Angler had a great day with plenty of nice sea bass and some good flounder being caught.
Captain Marc Spagnola of Dusk to Dawn Bowfishing had a couple of great trips over the past 24 hours with rays for his shooters both day and night.
The Brannan clan had a great day on the wrecks off of Ocean City putting five keeper flounder in the net up to 22″.
Captain Monty Hawkins of the Morning Star had an “XXL Flounder” trip today with some nice fish being caught.
Sure was a stunning start to the day. Weatherman hitting on all eight – ocean a splendid calm; Kevin dropped pyramids on Lucas Alexander’s Reef and got to work.
With a fairly strong current out of the NNE, we boxed a few flounder and put more back.
Soon enough the current began to taper and roll around E then SE. Reminiscent of days spent on sea trout when the whole fleet would run around impatiently as the current changed, then settle & make long drifts again when the water began moving – I used the lull to run to a new spot.
Sure was a lot of shorts. Some nice cbass too. But keeper flounder? Oyyyyyy!!
I finally made steam for some an inshore reef in the hope I could put dinner in a few more friers. Maybe some Reef Builder’s Karma.
A nice one for Big Bill.
And then John lands the pool Winner!
Churchill: Never Give Up. Never Give In..
(Still a regrettable day of fishing. But with a bright spot here and there..)
See Reef Report below.
Reef Report 8/6/23
New Reef T-Shirts at Marlin Fest
Bear Concrete Reef Begun
A Small Trawler..
My old mate, long since become professional mariner and captain; Danny found a 60ft steel trawler just right for our reef program. He’s been working on it on and off as his schedule allows. Friday-last my crew, Vic & Brian, helped him button it up: dumpster day! She’s ready for deployment sometime after the White Marlin Open when TowBoat Rob can catch his breath.
Time comes we’ll run some 1.5 inch nylon rope and two Navy surplus anchors with a buoy as a mooring – drop that trawler right where we want her.. Might be Jackspot, perhaps Bass Grounds. Not sure. Have a lot of reef in the pipeline.
Another way to build reef, likely better in the long run, has been Capt. Stormy Harrington’s Tiki XIV runs with tons of reef pyramids. He started a new reef at Capt. Nicky’s (Not At All) Top Secret Pyramid Reef at the Bass Grounds in mid-July. The Tiki is almost loaded for another.
Not sure what name he’ll pick for the reef but Nicky Ferrara will be the guy who names it. He owns Bear Concrete. It’s his guys who have been sending a trailer-load of reef pyramids south almost once a week since spring – adds up!
My crew & clients’ daily deliveries of reef are also adding up. We’re nearing 40,000 reef blocks; all of which have been deployed where I think they’d do the most good.
We still have the Landing Craft we worked so hard on back in April. She’s ready – but I don’t think getting rid of surplus is a top priority for Generals. All we need is a crane to swing it off the blocks and into the creek. They have plenty of heavy duty equipment. Perhaps early fall would be best anyway – easier to make time for a deployment.
Then there’s a small tug and barge coming from Murtech’s Marine Division. They’re ready – it’s just that the company is busy.
I see it coming. Capt Ward Brex, who had the Mast restaurant and Taurus party boat in WOC said of the Bass Grounds (through tears, so help me) “We had the best sea bass fishing on the coast and we let them destroy it.”
Capt. Paul Russell, who was truly the Paul Bunyan of early trap fishing off Maryland, was said to have ‘a sea of flags’ at the Bass Grounds.
In those early days party boats would even fish Great Gull and Fenwick Island buoys for dolphin (what we call mahi mahi today to avoid confusion.) I’m sure those trap flags were targeted in July & August for mahi too. My dear friend, since passed, Jim Whaley told me of winning the Marlin Club’s marlin tournament with two fish he caught at the First Lump – (immediately inside are the Bass Grounds.)
Was a time of zero regulation. We had dozens of surfclam boats working from OC Harbor. I remember em in the late 1970s all rafted off. Some folks say it was more than 50 boats – all towing a heavy steel dredge that liquidated the bottom; pulverizing anything that wasn’t stone.
Therein lies the problem.
I have personally witnessed a surfclammer impact to rock bottom about 20 miles out – filmed it in the early 2000s. You can see the striations where the dredge’s water jets left a perfect trail through sand & then shaved all coral growth off the boulders. Fishing, indeed, came to a halt on those rocks for a number of years
..but then growths came back. Regrew. Fishing came back too. It’s now an excellent reef.
At the Bass Grounds, however, we had hard bottom similar to some of the remaining substrate at Winter Quarter Corals. This reef bottom well resembles marsh peat – what you hope you’re going to step on when navigating marsh to go hunting or birding.
I’ve had divers bring me up samples: while hard enough to support coral and a variety of other growths — you can break this ‘rock’ apart by hand and mush it into muddy sand…..
A fifteen ton surfclam dredge would have little issue with it.
What was approximately 4.5 sq miles of spectacular natural sea whip meadow and star coral became barren sand.
With the substrate lost, so too was an equal measure of reef and its fishery production lost.
Today we have sq yards of that bottom left at the Bass Grounds ..but it’s all under Army Corps Artificial Reef Permit.
We’re slowly gaining a toehold – the Ocean City Reef Foundation will restore that magnificent reef bottom.
Begun just weeks ago with a full load aboard Capt Stormy’s Tike XIV – Capt. Nicky’s brand new (Not At All) Top Secret Reef will factor into that restoration. So will the already published Kinsley Reef with nearly 1,000 pyramids (and counting!) they’ve sent down from Kinsley’s York PA concrete plant..
There is no state program. No fed grants. No wind company windfall. Just our very small nonprofit plugging away at it.
Want to help?
See ocreefs.org or slide over to the WMO t-shirt tent at Marlin Fest in the inlet parking lot all this coming week. They’ll have our new reef t shirt -that says strangely: “More Coral – More Squid”.
Squid, you see, spawn on hardbottoms the world round. I bet before 1975 the artist’s t-shirt portrayal of a marlin feeding on squid atop a hardbottom reef at the Bass Grounds happened tens of thousands of times.
But not anymore.
“Return Billfish to Their Historic Inshore Grounds”
We’ll have those Ts on the reef website after the tournament.
Aim to make it happen again!
And! If you have a beer at Marlin Fest a portion of the proceeds helps build reef too..
It’s a huge project. From enormous biofilter oyster reefs being worked on by so many, to vast stretches of sea whip meadow off the coast where squid once spawned in astounding number that NOAA doesn’t even realize once existed: Reef Restoration is key to bringing marlin back to the Jackspot
..and even closer.
Its 100% doable!
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We’ve got some pretty crappy weather staring us in the face for this week with wind and rain forecast for most of the week. Unfortunately the ocean doesn’t look too inviting this week so hopefully things… READ MORE