OCEAN CITY – Resort officials this week awarded the town’s $5,000 check to the angler who caught and released the first official white marlin of the year back on June 7, a familiar name and face who was a first-timer at offshore fishing.
The crew on the Wrecker with Captain Bobby Layton at the helm caught and released the first white marlin of the season early on June 7, a milestone watched closely in the White Marlin Capital of the World. The Wrecker was fishing in the Baltimore Canyon when the white marlin came up in the spread and took a skirted ballyhoo.
Angler Kevin Gibbs, whose family owns and operates the Dough Roller restaurant chain, and who is also the current president of the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC), was on the rod and the big white was caught and released quickly.
On Monday, the Mayor and Council awarded Gibbs and the Wrecker crew with the symbolic $5,000 big check from the Town of Ocean City for catching and releasing the first white marlin of the year. All in all, Gibbs and the Wrecker crew will be awarded a combined $17,000 for reaching the milestone.
Each year, the Mayor and Council offers a $5,000 prize for the captain and crew that catches and releases the first official white marlin of the summer season. A few years back during budget deliberations, the town briefly considered eliminating the annual $5,000 prize, but it was quickly reinstated after some outcry from the local fishing community.
In addition, the Wrecker will receive another $5,000 prize from the Ocean City Marlin Club for catching the first white marlin of the season for being a club member. Finally, the Wrecker crew will receive a $7,000 prize package from Fisherman’s United, bringing its total purse to around $17,000.
During that brief time a few years back when the town considered pulling the annual prize, a coalition of local businesses ponied up a $7,000 prize package for the first white marlin of the season and that remains in place. Mayor Rick Meehan presented the ceremonial big check to Gibbs and the Wrecker crew during Monday’s meeting.
“The Town of Ocean City rewards the angler for the first white marlin caught in Ocean City each year,” he said. “I don’t remember how many years we’ve been doing that, but it’s been an awful long time. You know, we are the White Marlin Capital of the World and that is something that is very important to us.”
Meehan pointed out that for Gibbs, it was his first time fishing offshore.
“It’s kind of interesting,” he said. “For the angler who caught the first white marlin, it was his first time deep-sea fishing. It just goes to show you that you can go out there for the first time and catch the first white marlin of the season.”
Layton explained how the Wrecker crew was fishing for tuna when the white marlin came up in the spread.
“We were trolling and a white marlin came up in the spread,” he said. “We all started freaking out because we knew the importance of it. Once it got into everyone’s head, we got it done pretty quickly.”
For his part, Gibbs said he was the unsuspecting angler on the first white marlin of the season.
“There was a significant amount of adrenaline to say the least,” he said. “At the very beginning, it was a little touch-and-go because I didn’t know if I was going to make it. I spoke to the captain and he said ‘we’re going’ and ‘we’ve talked about this for years.’ I was inside when I heard ‘let’s go, you’re next.’ It was a pretty emotional day.”
Historically, there was nothing significant about the date for the first white marlin of the season on Tuesday. Typically, the first white of the season is caught and released in a window of around five to six days in mid- to late-June, and the June 7 date was right in that window.
Last year, the first white marlin of the season was caught and released on May 23, the earliest date ever recorded since records have been kept by the Ocean City Marlin Club. The latest ever, since records have been kept for 80-plus years since the first white marlin was caught off the coast of Ocean City in 1936, was July 20.