Record Payout Highlights 2022 White Marlin Open

Record Payout Highlights 2022 White Marlin Open
The happy crew on the Ocean City boat Billfisher, with angler Jeremy Duffie, hauled this 77.5-pound white marlin to the scale on the last day to win first place in the white marlin division in the White Marlin Open, collecting a new world record $4.5 million payout for a single fish. Photo Courtesy of Fish in OC

OCEAN CITY – The 2022 White Marlin Open that ended last weekend with a flourish after days of relative inactivity will be remembered for a lot of things, including a new world record $4.5 million payout for a single fish.

The first three days of the 2022 White Marlin Open (WMO) last week saw plenty of bigeye tuna action with some behemoths arriving the scale, while the leaderboard in some of the other categories began to fill up little by little.

What was remarkable about the start of the WMO was the lack of billfish, including in the signature white marlin category. Not a single qualifying white marlin was brought to the scale for the first three days of the tournament.

In a typical WMO, a qualifying white marlin and blue marlin are weighed, and the captains and anglers know where the bar is set for the rest of the week and the release rate starts going up.

This year, however, there was very little white or blue marlin release action relative to most years. Each WMO is different, and some years the winning white marlin has been caught and weighed at the scale at host Harbour Island on the very last day, often at the very last hour.

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Such was the case in the 2021 event when the Sushi out of Ocean City came in with the top white marlin at the last minute on Friday night, capturing a then-world record $3.2 million for a single fish in the world’s largest billfish tournament.

This year, a similar situation played out when the Billfisher out of Ocean City, with Captain Jon Duffie and angler Jeremy Duffie, came into the scale with a big white marlin to weigh, only the second qualifier weighed during the entire week. When the white was hauled up the scale, it topped out at 77.5 pounds, good enough for first place in the signature division and a whopping $4.5 million-plus in prize money, or a little more than the entire purse for the tournament.

Again, not a single qualifying white marlin was weighed during the first three days of the tournament, but that changed on Thursday. The C-Student out of Southside Place, Texas, and angler Keeley Megarity from Houston, Texas, arrived at the scale with a 71.5-pound white marlin, temporarily worth $2.8 million for the crew.

However, fame was fleeting for the C-Student crew, who were knocked out of the top spot by the Billfisher on Friday.

As a result, the C-Student came in second in the white marlin division with its 71.5-pounder that ended up being worth over $197,000. Those were the only two white marlin weighed during the entire tournament.

Even a look at the release rates illustrated just how slow the billfish bite was during last week’s tournament. From a recent high of 1,504 white marlin caught and released during the 2019 tournament, just 155 whites were caught by the entire fleet of 408 boats, and 151 were released.

The same held true for blue marlin. Last week 58 of the 59 reported blue marlin catches were released.

The one blue marlin not released turned out to be a big one. On Thursday, the Cabana out of Fenwick Island, with angler Bill Britt from Sandy Spring, Md., arrived at the scale with a 511-pound blue marlin, the only qualifying caught during the entire tournament. The Cabana’s big blue was worth over $1.2 million when the dust settled and the tournament ended.

Again, the bigeye tuna were the big story throughout the beginning of last week. When the scale closed Friday night, it was the Southern C’s out of Ocean City and angler Jason Hersh taking first with a 247.5-pounder ultimately worth over $1.2 million. Just one pound separated the Southern C’s bigeye from the second place 246.5-pounder caught by the Big Stick out of Ocean City with angler Anderson Bowen, but it was an expensive one pound. The Big Stick earned over $152,000 in prize money for finishing second. The Komotose out of Manteo, N.C., weighed the third heaviest tuna, a 242.5-pounder, but earned nearly $438,000 in prize money because of added entry levels.

In the wahoo division, it was the Jenny Poo out of Palm Beach, Fla., and angler Chris Thompson taking first place with a 61-pounder worth $24,500. The WaterMarlin out of Seaford, Del., with angler Hans Mulford took second with a 54-pound wahoo worth $23,500, while the Irish Twin out of Miami, Fla., took third with a 51.5-pounder and earned $22,500.

In the dolphin division, it was the Irene out of Stuart, Fla., and angler Frank Sinito, Jr., taking first with a 59.5-pounder worth over $31,000. The 10-4 Joker from Chincoteague took second with a 29-pounder, but earned over $104,000 in prize money because of added entry levels. The JEB out of Ocean City with angler Vince Picchinni took third in the dolphin division with a 28-pounder worth over $28,0000.

For the first time ever, a swordfish division replaced the traditional shark division because of new regulations on mako sharks. However, no qualifying swordfish were brought to the scale during the tournament.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.