OCEAN CITY- With a little luck and a lot of cooperation from Hurricane Earl, the Ocean City Marlin Club’s 52nd Annual Labor Day White Marlin Tournament will go off as planned this weekend although the schedule has been altered somewhat because of the storm.
After closely monitoring Hurricane Earl through mid-week, Marlin Club officials decided not to cancel the tournament, opting instead to move the event back a day. As a result, the registration and captain’s meeting originally scheduled for last night will be held tonight. The three fishing dates, which were set to begin today, have been moved back a day.
Under the new format, participating boats and anglers will fish two of the three scheduled days, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Marlin Club president Franky Pettolina said several options for changing the format were weighed, but canceling the event didn’t get much support considering the remarkable white marlin bite going on right now.
“We talked over a few options but nobody had much interest in canceling the tournament with the marlin fishing as hot as it is right now,” he said. “Hopefully, the storm will pass through on Friday as predicted and we can get back out there for the rest of the weekend.”
While it may lack the glamour and high payouts of the White Marlin Open, the annual Labor Day White Marlin Tournament trumps all others in terms of history and prestige. Called the “granddaddy” of the resort area fishing tournaments, the event is the oldest among the tournaments held in and around Ocean City each summer. The first was held in 1958 and the annual event has endured for five decades and several generations of local anglers.
Participating boats and captains must choose to fish two of the three fishing days, which will now conclude on Monday. As the name implies, the focus on the tournament is on white marlin, but there won’t be any billfish weighed at the scales at Sunset Marina over the weekend. The tournament’s winner in the billfish category will accumulate the most release points over the three days of fishing. White marlin, sailfish or spearfish releases will be worth 100 points, while blue marlin and swordfish releases will be worth 150 points.
There will likely be plenty of action at the scales at tournament headquarters at Sunset Marina each day, however, as there is a separate heaviest meatfish division for tuna, dolphin and wahoo. Cash prizes will be paid out to the top three places in each category. Weigh-ins will be held each of the three fishing days at Sunset Marina from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Last year, the crew on the “Big Oh” took the tournament’s top prize with 1,200 release points worth $21,510. The crew on the “Cyntinory” also accumulated 1,200 release points, but received $3,600 because of added entry levels. The “Phat Mann” crew took third with 900 release points.
While this year marks the 52nd anniversary of the Marlin Club’s first Labor Day White Marlin Tournament, the club’s history dates back about two decades earlier. The club has been around nearly as long as there has been a recreational billfish fishery off the coast of the sort, which is sometime after the cataclysmic storm of 1933 cut a permanent Inlet between the south end of the resort and what is now Assateague Island.