OCEAN CITY- The resort area’s collective hangover from last week’s White Marlin Open has just about worn off in time for the next big event on the summer sportfishing calendar- the 25th Annual Mid-Atlantic, a Cape May, N.J.-based tournament that will again have a strong presence in Ocean City again this year.
Now in its 25th year, the Mid-Atlantic $500,000 continues to be one of the top sport fishing events in the region with nearly $3 million in prize money expected to be doled out again this year. Tournament headquarters has always been the Canyon Club in Cape May, and that hasn’t changed, but the increased number of boats from the resort area has given the event a decidedly Ocean City flair.
Clearly, the white marlin are in the area. During the White Marlin Open last week, epic numbers of white marlin releases were reported and that trend has not slowed. Sportfishing boats in both Ocean City and Cape May have been returning to the docks daily with many flying double-digit white marlin release flags. Unlike the WMO, which has a 70-pound minimum for white marlin, the minimum qualifying size for a white marlin in the Mid-Atlantic is 65 pounds. Despite the record number of releases during the WMO last week, there was only one white marlin weighed that met the minimum standards.
Ten years ago, Mid-Atlantic 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 boat that caught a qualifying fish had to transport it to the official scales in Cape May. Eight years ago, however, Sunset Marina in West Ocean City was added as an official sister port for the event and local anglers participating in the Mid-Atlantic began to weigh potentially-winning in at their homeport.
This year, in order to maintain the Mid-Atlantic’s high standard of dockside service and hospitality, caps have been set at 85 participants from each of the two host ports. As of mid-week, Ocean City was already near its cap of 85 participants, while Cape May entries were way ahead of last year.
The tournament gets underway on Sunday with captain’s meetings, registration and a kick-off party at the two venues in Ocean City and Cape May, but the real action gets started on Monday with the first of five fishing days. Participating boats must choose to fish three of the five days and weigh-ins will be held each day at Sunset Marina and in Cape May.
For several years, it was an Ocean City-based boat sweeping in on the tournament’s final day to claim the top prize, but Cape May turned the tables on O.C. last year. Shortly after the scale opened in Cape May on the last day last year, 16-year-old angler Vincent Savino and the crew on the “Texas Tea” weighed a 77-pound white marlin to take the lead in the premiere division.
Just moments later, the Ocean City-based “Lights Out” weighed a 72-pound white marlin at its home port at Sunset Marina in West Ocean City to settle into second place. Third place was occupied by the crew on the “Naps V” out of Cape May with a 71-pounder caught on Wednesday. When the dust settled, it was the “Texas Tea” crew taking home the tournament’s top prize of $714,259. The “Lights Out” crew earned $137,287 for its second-place white, while the “Naps V” earned $74,213.
In the blue marlin division, it was an Ocean City sweep with boats fishing out of the resort taking the top three spots. The crew on the “Makara” took first place with a 566-pound blue marlin caught on Wednesday last week worth $196,836. The “Ringleader” out of Harbour Island in Ocean City took second place with a 543-pounder caught on Day One that was ultimately worth $420,998 because of added entry levels. Another Ocean City-based boat, the “Fish On,” took third in the blue marlin division with a 437-pounder caught on Day Two that was worth $91,855.
The tuna division featured several big-eyes throughout the week and also included a strong showing by Ocean City-based boats. The “Plane Simple” out of Ocean City took first place with a 214-pounder worth $452,822, which was the tournament’s second highest cash prize. Another Ocean City-based boat, the “Canyon Runner,” took second in the tuna division with a 199-pounder worth $223,496. The Cape May-based “Operating Room” took third with a 198-pounder worth $154,758.
In the dolphin division, it was the “Bar South” taking first place with a 38-pounder worth $48,199. The crew on the “Blue Runner” took first in the wahoo division with a 73-pounder worth $46,506.