OCEAN CITY – While
several big sharks have captured much of the attention surrounding the early
offshore fishing season, it typically doesn’t really heat up until the first
white marlin of the year shows up.
On Tuesday morning,
Captain Dan Clayland and a crew of local anglers aboard his “Bimini 24” found a
warm water break in about 1,100 fathoms and set up shop in an area about 77
miles offshore between the Poor Man’s and Washington canyons. Other sport
fishing boats had discovered the same break and trolled the area looking for
early billfish, dolphin and tuna.
A short time later,
Clayland, who was driving the boat, and angler Eric Van Orden saw a white
marlin approaching the spread and knew they had a shot at the first one of the
season. Van Orden said later he saw the distinctive dorsal fin of a white
marlin approaching the spread and prepared for action.
“We could see it
swimming toward the baits, and I had my hands on the reel,” he said. “It
approached from the right side of the boat and hit the right long-rigger. I
literally saw him swim right up to the right long-rigger and he hit it hard and
the reel free-spooled for a few seconds.”
Clayland maneuvered the
boat and Van Orden maintained a firm grasp on the reel, but the fish briefly
let loose before hitting the right long-rigger again. This time the crew on the
“Bimini 24” was not going to let the big white get away.
“He hit it again and I
let him take quite a bit of line before we had him set and started gaining some
line on him,” said Van Orden. “He lit up beautifully and did some greyhounding
before we got him close and were able to bring him on the boat. It was quite a
show, but it wasn’t terribly difficult or anything.”
After a few quick
photos, the “Bimini 24” crew, which included Clayland, Van Orden, mate Sean
King, Annie Tingle and Gina Drago, released the big white and continued
fishing. The white marlin hit a Sea Witch lure with a weighted J-hook in water
just over 71 degrees.
Other sport fishing
boats had discovered the same warm water break in the area between the Poor
Man’s and Washington canyons, which yielded other firsts for the season on the
same day. Angler Scott Brooks on the “Stress Reel-ief” caught the first blue
marlin of the season in the same area on the same day. The big blue was hooked
up in 1,100 fathoms just outside the 461 Lump. In addition, the “Lucky Duck II”
crew reported the first dolphin catch of the year in the same area, although
others were caught later the same day including a handful of gaffers by the
“Bimini 24” crew.
The big story on the
day, however, was the first white marlin of the year in the White Marlin
Capital of the World. Clayland, Van Orden and the crew on the “Bimini 24” will
receive a check for $5,000 from the Ocean City Marlin Club for the first white
and the town of Ocean City will match the award with a check for $5,000 at an
awards ceremony at the club in the fall.
Historically, there was
nothing remarkable about the date for the first white marlin catch of the year,
which has typically occurred within a window of about five or six days from
mid- to late June when the milestone has been reached most frequently in the
70-plus years since the first white marlin was caught and recorded off the coast
of Ocean City in 1936. The earliest date ever came on June 1, 2002, while the
latest date ever recorded in the annals of the Ocean City Marlin Club was July
Last year, Captain Terry
Layton and the crew aboard the red-hot “Nontypical” caught the first white of
the year on June 10, and in 2008, the first white of the year was caught on
June 9, the same date as this year. The first white of the year in 2007 was
caught on June 16, while the first white of the year in 2006 came on June 17.