Local Angler’s Open Memories Turn For Better

OCEAN CITY – A local angler with a history of riding out the White Marlin Open for a completely different reason sat cautiously atop the leader board in the event’s glamour division as of late.

Berlin resident Brian Roberts and the crew of local anglers on the “Shelly II” lead the 2010 White Marlin Open with a whopping 97.5-pound white marlin weighed at the scale at host Harbour Island on Tuesday. The white is the second largest ever caught in the tournament and only the fourth 90-plus-pounder ever weighed during the event. Angler Steve Bass still holds the tournament record with a 99-pound white marlin caught during the 1980 tournament, a record that has stood for 20 years, but Roberts and the “Shelly II” crew made a run at the old mark on Tuesday.

It remains to be seen if Roberts’ 97.5-pound white will hold up this year. As of late yesterday, it was comfortably in first place and stood to earn the “Shelly II” crew $800,000 in prize money, with two full fishing days to go. However, with concerns about the weather and sea conditions late in the week, many of the 255 boats participating this year used up their three days of fishing by Wednesday.

Just 20 boats fished yesterday, and while quite a few more have one more day of fishing left today, history says the 97.5-pound white marlin stands a better than average chance of holding onto the top spot when the dust settles later tonight.

Last year, the winning white marlin was 93.5 pounds, and before that, the only 90-pound plus whites caught during the tournament were a 90-pounder in 1981, the 99-pounder in 1980 and a 93.5-pounder in 1978.

Nonetheless, Roberts was decidedly pensive when asked yesterday to describe his remarkable catch on Tuesday. Fishermen are generally a pretty superstitious lot, and Roberts was reluctant to do any talking about Tuesday’s big white before all the fishing days were spent and the scales closed for good later tonight.

“We’re just trying to take it one day at a time,” he said yesterday. “I’m just so nervous and I’m trying not to say too much about it or talk about it too much just yet. We’re just trying to go through our normal routine.”

While Roberts was clearly uncomfortable sitting atop the white marlin leader board with two days to go, it had to be a much more relaxing spot than where he was on a fateful day during the 2005 tourney.

Roberts was on a 28-foot center console that sank roughly 40 miles offshore during the White Marlin Open and spent over an hour treading water in the rough seas before other boats fishing in the tournament came to the crew’s rescue.

During the 2005 Open, the 28-foot center console was chugging in from well offshore in steadily building seas when the vessel plowed into the back of a swell and the bow did not roll over like it normally would. Instead, the bow of the boat stuck in the back of the wave and quickly filled with water. The engines killed and the boat rolled to starboard before turning over completely, trapping Roberts underneath.

“The boat rolled on top of me, but I was able to push myself off and out from under it,” he said at the time. “The next thing I knew, we were just bobbing in the water without any life preservers. I remember thinking this is going to be a long night.”

A Good Samaritan came by about an hour later and pulled the five chilly and tired crewmembers onto the vessel to safety. One crewmember was in the early stages of shock and another had suffered a laceration, but they each survived the ordeal.