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 26th 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 26th year, the Mid-Atlantic continues to be one of the top sport fishing events in the region with over $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.
Over a decade 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. Nine 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 95 participants from each of the two host ports. As of mid-week, Ocean City was already near its cap of 95 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.
The highlight of last year’s tournament was a big 680-pound blue marlin caught by angler Larry Hesse on the Goin’ In Deep. The 680-pound blue marlin barely edged out angler Art Kontos’ 677-pounder caught aboard the Let It Ride. For Hesse, the big blue was just part of the story for the week. Hesse also caught the heaviest tuna of the week, a 184-pounder, that also took first place in that category, marking the first time in the 26-year history of the Mid-Atlantic that a single angler took first in two of the premiere divisions.
The first-place blue marlin earned the Goin’ In Deep crew $580,762 in prize money, while the first-place tuna earned $529,871. Combined, Hesse and the Goin’ In Deep earned over $1.1 million, which was a tournament record payout for a single boat.
In the white marlin category, it was angler Scott Poole on the Waste Knot taking first with a 75-pounder worth $769,509. Angler Ken Hager on the Taylor Jean took second with a 72-pounder worth $217,665, while angler Rich Van Camp on the Reel Rodeo took third with a 71-pounder worth $73,602.
Again, in the blue marlin category, it was Hesse and the Goin’ In Deep taking first with a 680-pounder worth $580,762, while Kontos and the Let It Ride took second with a 677-pounder worth $142,929. There were no other qualifying blue marlin weighed during the tournament.