I think two records were set this week at the White Marlin Open.
Officially, the tournament eclipsed its previous high in prize money with more than $5.4 million up for grabs for fishermen. Unofficially, I think Beckett set a new record for most questions asked at the weigh scale on Tuesday. Since I’m certain there’s no record books for this sort of thing, I’m giving him the record.
It’s been about 20 years since I have been to the tournament scale area to cover the weigh-ins for the paper. While I had my camera in tow on Tuesday and reported online the big catches of the day, the priority for me was to show Beckett what the tournament was all about at ground zero. Since he’s taken an interest in fishing this summer, I wanted him to see what can be caught offshore and how excited grown men and women get over bringing in their catches from the day.
I picked him up early from camp on Tuesday to head to Harbour Island Marina. We parked in the Mallard Island area and it took us a good half hour to make our way to the marina. We were delayed because Beckett wanted to check out the exterior and interior of nearly every car we walked past. The makes and models of vehicles has become a new fascination this summer. This interest was sparked I think after he saw a “Lambo” (Lamborghini) at a hotel parking lot while on a recent trip. He subsequently researched the car and learned how much it cost. It blew his mind.
Although he seemed a little disappointed there weren’t any “megalodon sharks,” which I had to look up to learn was a species that went extinct millions of years ago, Beckett had a blast with his front row seat to all the action. He learned a lot about fishing and the tournament, thanks to the organizers and workers indulging his many questions throughout the few hours we were at the scale.
Every time I turned around he was firing questions at someone about this or that. Soon enough he had memorized all the weight minimums of each fish division and the largest of each caught in the tournament’s history. When he’s interested in a subject, his attention is on point and he’s a sponge. I just wish his summer reading interested him half as much as fishing.
Things were slow at the scale initially Tuesday. After Beckett had exhausted all his questions for Mrs. Rowan and Mrs. Motsko, we walked around the marina and took in the sights and sounds. He enjoyed putting on an expensive watch, which he, of course, wanted me to buy him for no good reason except that he liked it. I told him I would consider it when he finally locates that Fitbit he got as a gift at Christmas. It’s been missing for months.
When we got word a white marlin was coming in through the next bridge opening, we hustled back to the scale. My 10-year-old boy loved watching the dock hands measure the fish and prepare it for weighing. He wanted to help and be a part of the process, but I let him know that was unnecessary. He should just focus on observing.
As luck would have it, the first fish he ever saw weighed in was a 75-pound white marlin, which at that time was the first qualifying white marlin to be weighed in and stood to gain the boat a payout of $2.6 million. The dollar amount shocked him, touching off a series of questions as to how that could be possible and how everyone on the boat would divide up the prize. He later got to see several tuna and dolphin, one wahoo and an undersized white marlin that didn’t qualify.
The highlight of the experience for him had to be getting a chance to climb to the top of the scale with Mr. Kevin and operate the mechanism that lifted the fish into place. He got to do this for a tuna and a dolphin and the expression on his face was priceless. He loved it. I couldn’t hear what he was saying up there, but I assume there were lots of questions being thrown out, including, “Would I get hurt if I jumped from here?”
As we were leaving the marina, he heard a boat arriving. He asked to see what it was bringing in. Since he had memorized the flags, he knew it was a boated white marlin. We watched as the dock hands measured the fish. It had met the minimum length and was going to be weighed. He and I then went back and forth guessing the weight based off its girth being three inches smaller than the one weighed earlier. We were both off, as it was 57 pounds — too light to meet the minimum weight standard for white marlin.
Later, when we got home, his mom told him he was a lucky boy for getting to hang out that close to the action because thousands of people stand around the marina for hours just to see the fish. They would have loved that opportunity to see everything unfold.
“Yeah but I’m not as lucky as the guy whose fish is worth $2.6 million,” he said.
That was a fair point.