OCEAN CITY- The Mid-Atlantic Tournament that wrapped up last Friday was one for the books with a record $3.6 million in total prize money, a big white marlin that took first place on the last day, record payouts in several divisions and a record number of blue marlin released.
The Mid-Atlantic concluded with a flourish last Friday after five days of fishing during which the leaderboard was erased and rewritten several times. The Mid-Atlantic is one of the late season highlights in the resort’s summer offshore fishing tournament series, perhaps second only to the White Marlin Open in terms of prestige and payouts.
While the tournament headquarters has always been the Canyon Club in Cape May, N.J., Sunset Marina was added as an official sister port about nine years ago, giving the event a decidedly Ocean City flair. A similar story played out last week with the winning fish in several categories weighed at Sunset Marina in West Ocean City.
There were several anomalies during the 2018 Mid-Atlantic tournament including records in payouts and blue marlin releases. However, not one qualifying blue marlin was weighed in either of the host ports all week. The weather certainly created some odd firsts for the tournament. For the first time in the 27 years of the tournament, not one of the 157 registered boats left the docks last Wednesday. By contrast, every single one of the registered boats fished last Friday, the last day of the tournament, which was also a first.
The leaderboard in the signature white marlin category changed on the last day with a 78-pound white marlin caught by angler Sean O’Donnell on the Got Game taking over first place. The Got Game’s 78-pounder supplanted a pair of 73-pound white marlin that shared the top spot in that division most of the week.
When the dust settled, the Got Game’s 78-pounder held on for first place and earned a tournament-record $905,408 in prize money. The 73-pounder caught by angler Justin Branning on the 3’s Enough shared second place and earned $293,172 in prize money, while the 73-pounder caught by the Special Situation shared second place and earned $134,006 in prize money.
There was also a tie for third place in the white marlin division. The Gusto crew weighed a 71-pounder worth $169,466, while the FFMD also weighed a 71-pounder worth $141,376. Again, there were no qualifying blue marlin weighed, so the prize money in that category was distributed equally across the winners in the white marlin division.
There was also a record payout in the Mid-Atlantic for the heaviest tuna after a run of big-eyes all week. The D.A. Sea took first place with a 116-pounder worth $571,289. The Blue Runner shared second-place in the tuna division with a 114-pounder worth $209,260, while the Toddy Time also weighed a 114-pounder worth $114,790. Third place in the tuna division went to the Reel Estate with a 111-pounder worth $16,807.
In the wahoo division, it was local boat Zipper taking first place with a 71-pounder worth $19,787. The Contrail took second with a 49-pounder worth $50,149, while the Torta and the Contrail tied for third with a pair of 46-pounders worth $23,735 and $18,753 respectively.
In the dolphin division, the First light too first-place with a 43-pounder worth $27,847. The Espadon was second with a 34-pounder worth $54,731, while The Natural was third with a 33-pounder worth $25,004. A total of 818 billfish were released during the tournament, including 765 white marlin and 53 blue marlin, representing one of the highest release rates in the 27-year history of the event.