OCEAN CITY- The 35th annual Ocean City Tuna Tournament is underway with dozens of boats and hundreds of anglers searching the canyons off the coast of the resort in search of the burly behemoths.
The tuna bite has been strong this summer thus far, setting up what should be a memorable Ocean City Tuna Tournament in its 35th year. The event got started Thursday with a captain’s meeting and later registration at the host Ocean City Fishing Center, but the real action gets under Friday, the first of three fishing days.
The annual Ocean City Tuna Tournament is one of the highlights of the offshore tournament season each year, perhaps only second to the White Marlin Open in terms of prize money and the number of anglers participating. Thousands of spectators will cram into the Ocean City Fishing Center over the weekend for the four-day event, a celebration of fishing, food, drinks, live entertainment and, of course, the daily weigh-ins. Weigh-ins will be held Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Fishing Center and Sunset Marina, and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday at the Fishing Center only.
From modest beginnings in 1988, when just 38 boats competed for $9,000 in prize money, the tuna tournament has grown by leaps and bounds over the years.
Last year, a tropical storm passed and the tournament went off as planned, essentially reduced to a Saturday and Sunday event. Nonetheless, there was no shortage of action for the two days of fishing with plenty of big tuna brought to the scales at the fishing center. The event drew 106 boats with over $1 million in prize money doled out to the winners.
In the single heaviest tuna category, the crew on the Hydrosphere took first with a 233-pounder worth $93,787. The Tara Jessica was second with a 199-pounder worth $30,802, while the Instigator was third with a 170-pounder worth $59,865.
In the heaviest stringer category, the Big Stick took first with a total of 638 pounds and earned a tournament-high $305,880 in prize money. The Big Stick continued its early season winning ways after finishing first in the previous weekend’s Canyon Kickoff tournament. The Bar South crew took second in the heaviest stringer category with 562 pounds and earned $64,395 in prize money, while the Hydrosphere crew was third in the heaviest stringer category.
In the heaviest dolphin category, the Christine Marie took first with a 20-pounder worth $27,070. Robert Warden took first and second in the junior angler category, while Jackson Morgan took third. Kristin Quinn was the top lady angler, while J.L. Cropper was second and Danielle Robertson and Janine Samuel tied for third.