OCEAN CITY — Resort officials this week awarded the town’s $5,000 check to the angler who caught and released the first white marlin of the season this year back on May 23, the earliest ever in the storied history of marlin fishing in Ocean City.
Each year, the Mayor and Council offers a $5,000 prize to the angler or boat crew that catches the first white marlin of the season in the White Marlin Capital of the World. This year, the honor went to angler Carl Sauer and the captain and crew on the Reel Escape, who caught and released the first white marlin of the season back on May 23, the earliest date ever for the milestone. The previous record was four years ago on May 25.
The milestone catch was a first for many reasons this year. For Sauer, it was his first time ever fishing offshore and his first billfish catch ever, he said at Monday’s Mayor and Council meeting when he received the symbolic oversized check for $5,000. In addition, it was a maiden voyage of sorts for the Reel Escape.
The boat owners had acquired the sportfishing vessel earlier this year and spent much of the spring outfitting it for the summer season. The boat owner said on Monday they had been waiting on an opportunity to take it out on a shakedown cruise of sorts on the day the first white marlin of the season was caught.
The Reel Escape’s first white marlin of the season was caught and released around 11:30 a.m. between the Norfolk and Washington canyons on May 23. Sauer said during Monday’s meeting it might not have happened for him and Captain Chris Miller and crew on the Reel Escape without some perseverance.
“It was a little rough heading out and we talked about turning around a couple of times,” he said. “We decided to press on and we were rewarded with the first white marlin of the season.”
Sauer and the Reel Escape crew have earned $11,000 total for the distinction of catching and releasing the first white marlin of the season, including the town’s $5,000 prize and another $6,000 prize package from Fishermen United. A few years back during budget time, the Mayor and Council briefly considered eliminating the town’s $5,000 prize and Fishermen United, a coalition of local businesses including Atlantic Tackle, Sunset Marina, the Ocean City Fishing Center, Bahia Marina, the Bank of Ocean City and Hooked on OC, ponied up a $6,000 prize package in its place.
The town ended up restoring the $5,000 prize and Fishermen United kept their prize package in place, so Sauer and the Reel Escape earned the combined $11,000 package. The Ocean City Marlin Club also awards a $5,000 prize to the angler and crew who catch and release the first white marlin of the season if they are club members and most years, the combined $16,000 package goes to the same winner.
This year, however, the Reel Escape is not a club member and did not get the additional $5,000 from the Marlin Club. Instead, that prize will go to the crew on the Talkin Trash, which, remarkably also caught and released a white marlin on the same date on May 23 about an hour apart.
Mayor Rick Meehan presented the town’s $5,000 check to Sauer and the captain and crew on the Reel Escape on Monday.
“This has been going on for a number of years,” he said. “It’s an annual tradition here in the White Marlin Capital of the World. It’s very special. The first white marlin catch of the season is a symbolic start to the fishing season and hopefully a sign of many more for our offshore fishermen this summer.”
A short time later, Fishermen United representatives presented their $6,000 contribution to Sauer and the Reel Escape crew outside City Hall.
Historically, the first white marlin of the season has been caught in a window of around five or six days in mid- to late June. Before this year’s May 23 date, the earliest ever was May 25 four years ago.