OCEAN CITY – Continuing a white hot streak that started back in May with the first mako shark caught in the waters off the coast of Ocean City and also included the first white marlin of the season and a new state record mako in the Ocean City Shark Tournament, Captain Terry Layton and the familiar crew on the “Nontypical” last week snagged a nice share of the White Marlin Open prize money, adding to the growing folklore of the memorable summer of 2009.
For Layton and the “Nontypical” crew, with a core group including Jim Hughes, Robert Phillips and Timmy McGuire, the summer of 2009 has been anything but typical. In May, the crew caught the first mako of the year off Ocean City, setting the tone for what has become a remarkable offshore fishing season.
Layton, who owns and operates the family restaurant of the same name on 94th Street, followed that up by taking first- and third-place in the annual Mako Mania tournament. Three days after that, the “Nontypical,” a sort of sport fishing David in a sea of much larger Goliaths, caught the first white marlin of the season to add another feather in its already well adorned cap. The following weekend, angler Jim Hughes and the “Nontypical” crew made headlines again, this time by catching a new state record 876-pound mako during the annual Ocean City Shark Tournament to take top honors in that event.
Last Tuesday, the “Nontypical” crew was at it again, weighing an 83-pound white marlin on the second day of the world-famous White Marlin Open just minutes after the eventual winner, a 93-pounder, was weighed. Layton and the “Nontypical” crew eventually got bounced to third in terms of weight by an 85-pound beauty on the tournament’s last day, but took home a large share of the white marlin division prize money.
Now, any one of those feats considered in and of itself would be a major accomplishment for most boats during a summer fishing season. Collectively, what’s collectively happened this summer is a monumental achievement by anybody’s standards. This week, Layton looked back on a summer full of milestones during an interview with The Dispatch. Here’s a look at excerpts from that conversation.
Dispatch: You’ve been involved with offshore fishing in Ocean City for a long time. Just when did you get started?
Layton: The first year I went fishing was 1969 with a friend of my dad’s and I caught my first white marlin that year, so it’s been 40 years I guess. Actually, it’s been 40 years ago this month because I caught that white marlin in August of that year. I’ve fished the White Marlin Open, I believe this is my 31st year. I’ve fished 31 in a row. We won money in it seven years. We had the third-place white marlin in 1989, the same place we finished this year. In 1990, we caught the second biggest blue marlin in the tournament, and in 1991, we caught the biggest blue but won most of the money because there wasn’t a qualifying white caught that year. For three years in a row there, we did real well.
Dispatch: “Nontypical” is an interesting name choice for your boat, given everything that’s happened this summer. It certainly has been a non-typical summer for you and your crew. Where did the boat name come from?
Layton: Actually, bow hunting is my passion and it’s named after a non-typical deer. It’s just something to keep the hunting and the fishing in the mix. A non-typical deer is one with antlers that are just kind of strange looking. Anyone that hunts deer or bow hunts is familiar with that term. On my logo for the shirts and hats and things, the “y” is actually the antlers of a non-typical deer.
Dispatch: Captain Marty Moran last week described luck in terms of fishing as a perfect combination of opportunity and preparation. Is that how it’s been with you guys this year?
Layton: It’s been a lot of luck and good fortune. There’s definitely a lot of skill with it, but at the same time, you have to have that certain special fish come up at the right time. That’s where the luck comes into play. It’s a combination of a lot of things and we have been very fortunate.
Dispatch: You guys followed your success with the first mako of the year and winning the Mako Mania tournament by catching the first official white marlin of the season off the coast of Ocean City. Were you going after that first white marlin that day?
Layton: Oh yeah, that’s what we went out there for. Marty Moran and I were the only two boats out there that day and we were both looking for the first white marlin. Marty ended up catching the first blue marlin of the year that day on June 10. We were about 86 miles from the beach. We saw some water on the satellite picture and ran out there. Marty caught the first blue that day and we caught the first white, so that was a pretty neat day. It was real foggy that day. That’s what we were both looking for. There was an 80-degree break in the water, so we said the weather looks good today and it doesn’t look good the next two days, so let’s run out there and try it. If we don’t get out there now, it might be gone.
Dispatch: We already talked a little bit about the luck factor, but clearly, it sounds like you guys do your homework?
Layton: Yeah, we do. There’s a lot of research and a lot of preparation involved.
Dispatch: Tell me a little bit about that beast of a mako you caught in the shark tournament.
Layton: That was pretty cool. Again, we didn’t plan on it, but Marty was out there only about three miles from me. Another friend of mine, Gary Stamm, who was actually in the lead in the tournament at the time, was about three miles in the other direction from me, so we were all fishing in about a six-mile area. We caught seven makos that day and I had never caught that many in one day. About two o’clock, we caught one about 200 pounds, but we released it because you’re only allowed to kill one a day and we knew it wouldn’t finish in the top three spots. About a half an hour later, we saw a big mako come up in the chum slick. We didn’t realize at the time just how big he was. We hooked him on the first bait and broke him off. He bit through the leader in about a minute and then he came right back to the boat and he ate another bait, and we had it to the boat in about an hour.
Dispatch: Did you realize at the time just how big and how special that shark would turn out to be?
Layton: When we got it to the boat, it was actually a little bigger than we expected. You know, it was a little intimidating trying to put a gaff in him at the boat. I’ve had a lot of highlights this summer, but I would say that might have been it though. Just as far as the fishing perspective, that was pretty cool because I’ve been shark fishing for a long time. The Shark Club has been in existence for about 30 years. Mark Sampson, who runs it now, he and I were two of the five people who started the shark club 30 years ago. It was pretty neat that we caught that fish in that tournament, because I had an input in starting it. I think Mark was as excited about it as we were because he been doing that as a charter captain for 30-some years and I don’t think he’s ever seen one that big. That was pretty special.
Dispatch: You’re no stranger to weighing big fish during tournaments. Was that a spectacle when you guys rolled into the marina with that shark?
Layton: It was. We had a really terrible thunderstorm right before we weighed the fish. We were still offshore and saw it coming, but Mark said there were hundreds of people there. The rains came, but nobody left. They just went inside and waited because Mark told them there was a big mako coming in. Nobody left. It was pretty cool.
Dispatch: That takes us to last week and the White Marlin Open. There was a little white on the board after Monday, but it was still wide open. Tell me a little bit about Tuesday and the 83-pounder.
Layton: After a 67 was weighed on Monday, it was really like the tournament was just starting on Tuesday because we knew that wouldn’t hold up. Basically, we knew it was going to take a 70-pounder to win it. You don’t go out there trying to catch the biggest white marlin, you go out there and try to catch as many as you can and, hopefully, one of them will be big enough. There’s really no more skill in catching an 80-pounder than there is in catching a 40-pounder. The hardest thing about catching a white marlin is hooking it.
It’s a really tricky, fast fish. They come into the spread to eat a bait and the hardest thing to do is to hook them. Once you hook them, they’re nowhere near as hard to catch as a blue marlin because they’re not as big. The hardest thing about catching a white marlin is getting a hook in its mouth. It’s a finesse fish and it’s just one of those things when you just have to know when to set the hook at the right time. We only hooked two out of seven that day. We had seven shots at a white marlin and only hooked two. We missed a couple that day and we were just fortunate enough to hook the big one.
Dispatch: Did you think at the time that white might be the winner this year?
Layton: When you see them in the baits, you see them on top, it’s just hard to tell how big a white marlin is until you get it jumping. Two or three of those fish we missed might have been nice fish, it’s just too hard to tell until you get them in the air, then you get an idea just how big they are. We weren’t 100 percent sure, but the more we saw it jump, the more we became confident about it. We got him in the boat and did the formula on him, but the formula came up a little shy of what we thought, but he was so thick toward the tail. The more we looked at him, the more we realized the formula wasn’t going to work on a fish like that because it was just so fat toward the back.
Dispatch: Now, the 93-pounder was weighed first. Did you hear through the grapevine that big white had been weighed before you got to the scale?
Layton: We heard about a half an hour before we weighed our fish. I actually called my wife and told her to meet us at the scale because we had a nice fish, and instead of being excited, she said they just weighed a 93-pounder. I said, ‘well, this isn’t going to weigh 93, but it’s a nice fish.’ I guess it was good we didn’t weigh our fish first because we would have been at the top of board for about 20 minutes before that 93-pounder went up.
Dispatch: That was only Tuesday, so I guess the rest of the story is you just wait it out for the rest of the week and hope it holds on?
Layton: That’s pretty much how it goes. They brought a bigger fish in on Friday that bumped us into third, but it didn’t cost us that much money because they weren’t in all the calcuttas, so we ended up with a nice chunk of money ($80,080). We were really excited about it because it turned out really good. The neat thing about all this is we probably had one of the smallest boats in the tournament, a 34-inch center console. It’s just kind of neat to do it on your own against the multi-million dollar sport fishing boats. We’ve been doing it with a small boat for a long time and it’s just kind of neat to compete with those big boys and succeed like we’ve been able to.
Dispatch: Obviously, this is a team effort. Tell me a little bit about your crew.
Layton: It’s just a private boat. We try to fish for fun and fish a few tournaments here and there. We like to get out about once a week or twice if we can. Jim Hughes fishes with me just about every time and, actually, he caught that record mako. We had the same four guys every day in the tournament this year and I added a different guy each day. We had Jim Hughes, Robert Phillips and Timmy McGuire and we all fished together each day. On the day, we caught that big white, we had Dr. Jeff Greenwood on the boat with us. You get in synch and know what everybody’s doing, so it helps when a situation presents itself.
Dispatch: With the Poor Girl’s Open and the Mid-Atlantic $500,000 coming up, you still have some time to add to your collection of hardware. Will you guys be competing in either of those events this week and next week?
Layton: No, actually, I don’t know if I’ve worn out my welcome. I’m not really that upset about it, but I wanted to fish the Mid-Atlantic this year, but my help this time of year [at the restaurant] just won’t let me do it. I’ve got so many schoolteachers and kids going back to school that I lose so much help and I just have to be there all the time this time of year. It’s the same thing every year at this time. It’s just part of the deal.