Private Group Chips In $5K For First White Marlin Prize; Season’s First Billfish Could Now Be Worth $15,000

Photo by Nick Denny

OCEAN CITY — A little over a week after voting to eliminate or at least redirect the $5,000 dedicated as prize money for the first white marlin of the season, the city’s elected officials voted to restore the funding and vowed to work with the fishing community to better market the annual milestone.

Two weeks ago, the Mayor and Council voted to eliminate the $5,000 prize citing a perceived lack of importance and interest in the annual milestone. The fishing community reacted with what can best be described as outrage in the council’s decision to eliminate the prize in the White Marlin Capital of the World.

Various marinas and other businesses rallied to piece together a private sector prize going beyond the city’s annual $5,000 within a day of the decision. It’s important to note the Ocean City Marlin Club already provides a $5,000 match if the boat landing the season’s first white marlin is a club member.

However, during a budget wrap-up session last Friday, the Mayor and Council voted unanimously to restore the $5,000 prize.

“Sometimes you take action and it leads to something good,” said Mayor Rick Meehan. “I learned a lot about this in the last week. I wasn’t aware about a lot of the tradition. I think we need to not only support this but improve it and really promote it to make it something special.”

The Mayor and Council will invite fishing representatives to meet with the Tourism Committee to explore ways to enhance the annual milestone event. Before Friday’s reversal by the Mayor and Council on the $5,000 prize, the fishing community planned to turn out in force at Monday’s Mayor and Council meeting to voice their displeasure and urge the elected officials to restore the funding.

That was tempered somewhat after the Mayor and Council reversed their earlier decision on Friday, but a handful of fishing community representatives still showed up on Monday to express their gratitude. Scott Lenox of Fish in OC and Hooked on OC told the council he had already reached out to Tourism Director Donna Abbott to begin exploring ways to greater promote and market the official first white marlin of the year.

“On behalf of myself, my business Fish in OC, Dave Messick and Hooked on OC and many of our colleagues in the fishing community, I want to personally thank you for your reconsideration of the $5,000 award for the first white marlin of the season,” he said. “It means a lot to me and many of my colleagues that you listened to what we had to say and reversed your decision in such a timely manner.”

Ocean City Marlin Club member and long-time marlin fisherman Glenn Mumbauer told the council he was instrumental in getting the city to contribute prize money for the first white marlin of the season nearly 20 years ago when the town’s contribution was just $1,000. He said he ironically caught the first white marlin of the season during the first year of the prize and it was a big deal then and an even more important accomplishment now.

“This is certainly an important event,” he said. “We invite the Mayor and Council to turn this into a positive event because it really is a great public relations opportunity.”

In the wake of the town’s initial decision to eliminate the $5,000 prize for the first white marlin of the season, various businesses in the community formed a coalition called Fishermen United of Ocean City. The businesses rallied to patch together their own prize for the first white marlin to fill the void including cash contributions, gift certificates and other merchandize totaling $5,000. After the Mayor and Council reversed their decision last Friday, the Fishermen United of Ocean City praised the quick response.

“The coalition of businesses making up the Fishermen United of Ocean City is extremely pleased that the Ocean City Town Council has voted to reinstate their long history of awarding $5,000 to the angler who catches and releases the first white marlin of the year,” the coalition said in a statement this week. “This was a step in the right direction for the town council to show its appreciation and respect for the fishing community and recognize the significant and positive impact that fishing has on visitors to our area in addition to local residents and businesses.”

The coalition vowed to work with the city to enhance the annual milestone and make it an even bigger event and said it would keep its $5,000 private sector prize in place in addition to the town’s contribution.

“Although the town of Ocean City will continue granting their award, Fishermen United of Ocean City will also make good their pledge of awarding $5,000 to the angler who catches the first white marlin of the season, making this season’s winner the most rewarded in Ocean City history,” the statement reads.

The coalition also praised the fishing community for rallying in the wake of the town’s initial decision.

“The coalition, made up of the Coastal Fisherman, Bahia Marina, Bank of Ocean City, Ocean City Fishing Center, Sunset Marina and Atlantic Tackle, is very appreciative of the overwhelming support received by the local community,” the statement reads. “It not only shed light on the impact of fishing to our area but also highlighted the unity within the fishing community towards the advancement of fishing in Ocean City.”

With the city’s prize, the coalition’s donation and the Ocean City Marlin Club’s $5,000 prize if the boat is a member, the first white marlin of the season could now be worth $15,000.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.