Local Boats Dominate Early MA500

Local Boats Dominate Early MA500
ma500 white marlin

OCEAN CITY- With plenty of fishing still to go, the 22nd Annual Mid-Atlantic $500,000, which got underway on Monday, had a decidedly Ocean City flavor as of mid-week with fish weighed at tournament co-headquarters Sunset Marina in West Ocean City filling out many of the top spots on the early leaderboard including a white marlin in first place as of late Wednesday temporarily worth over $700,000.
Now in its 22nd year, the MA500, as its commonly known, continued to be one of the top sport fishing events in the region, perhaps second only to the White Marlin Open held in Ocean City earlier this month. With 117 boats entered this year, an estimated $1.8 million will be doled out to the winners in several categories.
Tournament headquarters has always been the Canyon Club in Cape May, N.J. and that hasn’t changed, but the increased number of boats fishing out of local marinas in recent years, and their collective results, has given the tournament an Ocean City flair. Nine years ago, MA500 organizers opened up Ocean City as a second port from which to fish and the change was met with great enthusiasm. For the first two years, however, any Ocean City-based boat that caught a qualifying fish had to transport it to the official scales in Cape May.
Seven years ago, Sunset Marina in West Ocean City was added as an official sister port for the event and local anglers participating in the MA500 began weighing potentially winning fish at their homeport. In each of the last three years, a boat fishing out of Ocean City has swooped in on the tournament’s last day to steal the top prize in the white marlin division and a little of the thunder from their New Jersey brethren.
It remains to be seen how it plays out this year, but a similar pattern formed after the first two days. On Monday, bad weather and rough seas kept all but 20 of the tournament’s 117 boats at the docks, and only one significant addition to the leaderboard was weighed. Captain Anthony Matarese and his local boat “Reel Chaos” weighed a 134-pound tuna at Sunset Marina to briefly hold on to the top spot in that category.
On Tuesday, however, a full complement of 100 boats was out in the canyons looking to fill vacancies on the leaderboard. The first big salvo of the day on Tuesday occurred shortly after the scales opened at 5 p.m. when the “Cookie II” weighed a 437-pound blue marlin at Cape May to take the top spot in that category. However, the best was yet to come at Sunset Marina in Ocean City.
Angler William Haugland and the crew on the “Lights Out” pulled into the scale at Sunset Marina and weighed an 84-pound white marlin for the first qualifier in that category. As of late Wednesday, the “Lights Out” was still sitting in first place with the 84-pounder temporarily worth over $700,000.
Two other qualifying white marlin were weighed in Cape May on Tuesday, including a 71-pounder caught by the crew on the “Krazy Salts” and a 66-pounder weighed by the crew on the “Reelin’ Feelin’.” As of late Wednesday, the white marlin leaderboard remained unchanged with three full days of fishing remaining.
The tuna division was dominated early by boats fishing out of Ocean City including the aforementioned 134-pounder from the “Reel Chaos.” On Tuesday, however, angler Michael Yocco on the “MJ’s” weighed a 231-pound big-eye at Sunset to take over the top spot. A short time later, angler Jim Jensen on the “Plane Simple” weighed a 203-pound big-eye to cozy into second in the tuna divison with the “Reel Chaos” dropping to third.