OCEAN CITY – Mayor Rick Meehan presented White Marlin Open founder and organizer Jim Motsko with a key to the city at this week’s meeting.
According to the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum, in 1966 a 20-year-old Motsko, originally from Catonsville, was a college student with a love for fishing, came to Ocean City and was hired as mate on Captain Fred Kerstetter’s boat. After spending three years as a mate, while on his honeymoon in the Bahmas, he observed a major billfish tournament that featured a festival-type atmosphere and that is where the concept for the White Marlin Open was born.
In 1974, the first White Marlin Open was held. It drew 54 boats, vying for the prize money of $20,000. The tournament was plagued by windy, rainy weather, and when it ended, Vince Sorenson of Bowie, Md., would go down as its first winner. On Aug. 11, 1974, the late Mayor Harry Kelley presented him a check for $5,000. Motsko had lost money on the tournament but his enthusiasm remained and the event continued.
This summer’s was the 39th Annual White Marlin Open, held Aug. 6-10. The event resulted in a huge tuna, a Maryland State record shark, and a white marlin that earned top honors and $1,429,000 in prize money.
The 2012 White Marlin Open had 253 boats registered to compete for over $2.3 million in prize money for catches of white and blue marlin, tuna, wahoo, dolphin and shark. There were 960 whites caught during the event with all but eight released back into the ocean.
“The council wanted to take a moment to recognize you and your family … on the fabulous tournament that you have founded here in Ocean City and has been taking place for the last 39 years, and that of course is the White Marlin Open,” Meehan said.
The mayor said the White Marlin Open has become the largest and richest billfish tournament in the world and is headquartered at the Harbour Island Marina.
“What you have done taking this from a smaller tournament to the largest tournament of its kind in the world is quite phenomenal and things like that don’t just happen,” Meehan said. “Sometimes people don’t realize that it takes a long time to put this into place and all the years that you have dedicated to this event is why it has grown into what it is today.”
Motsko thanked the mayor for the award and said he and his family are already working on 40th anniversary event next year.
“It does take a lot of work and effort in planning and I really appreciate your acknowledgement … it means a whole lot to our family,” he said.