One fish, two fish
White fish, blue fish.
Before this saltwater season is over, anglers will be raking in cash for all shades of fish.
Friday marks the start of the three-day Ocean City Tuna Tournament, which offers a $250,000 bonus to the angler who breaks the International Game Fish Association world record (392.6 pounds) for Atlantic big-eye tuna.
"We're trying to take the next step to be the top tuna tournament on the East Coast," says Brad Grace of the Ocean City Fishing Center, the event's sponsor.
The tournament has a 135-boat cutoff for entries, a number Grace expects to come close to reaching. Last year, 102 boats took part in the tournament.
The entry fee is $600. Prizes will be awarded at four levels, and eligible fish are big-eye, yellow fin, and blue fin tuna. Prizes also will be awarded for tag-and-release white marlin and tuna and largest dorado.
Last year's big winner was John Miller of Lebanon, Pa., who landed a 151-pounder aboard Capt. Mike Boulsir's Reel Release. Anglers on Box Lunch with Capt. Craig Zieglar won the greatest-weight award with 465 total pounds of tuna.
The captain's meeting is Thursday, with lines in at 8 a.m. and lines out at 3:30 p.m. each day. Weigh-in at the Ocean City Fishing Center begins at 4 p.m.
Grace says the 13-year-old tournament has an off-water aspect that really draws a crowd.
"We have a lot of family-oriented events. A fashion show for the ladies on Saturday, Lollipop the Clown and the Delmarva Shorebirds mascot for the kids, and a pig roast on Saturday for the hungry," he says.
Grace says the tournament has plenty of parking. Information: 1-800-322-3065.
Twenty-seven years ago, Jim Motsko had a dream: "We'll have a fishing tournament, and I'll win it."
He still hasn't won anything in the White Marlin Open, but that hasn't stopped him from having fun running the five-day event, which this year runs from Aug. 7-11.
"It's like a snowball," says Motsko, 53. "It's going, and I can't stop it."
Who would want to? From humble beginnings with 57 boats and a guaranteed pot of $20,000, the tournament has grown to the point where last year it had 331 boats vying for $1.25 million in prize money.
Richard Benn of Great Falls, Va., won $685,000 with his catch of an 81.5-pound white marlin. The winning boat out of South Carolina took home more than $800,000.
Motsko says the potential exists for $1.5 million in prize money this year.
The basic entry fee is $750, and given the number of boats likely to compete, the prize money should be at least $50,000. But anglers (and those feeling very lucky) can register their boats in additional skill levels, called across-the-board, for a shot at a huge payout.
"Not everybody is a high roller," says Motsko, a real estate agent in his other life. "You don't have to go across-the-board. Our format allows people to get into what they're comfortable with."
Hundreds of spectators crowd the weigh station at Harbour Island from 4 p.m. until after 9 p.m. each day, waiting to see if a newly arriving boat unloads the tournament winner.
Motsko says he is most proud of the tournament's tag-and-release record. Last year, 94 percent of the billfish caught were released, most tagged in cooperation with the Billfish Foundation.
He said many of the fish brought back to the pier are cleaned and donated to a local food bank.
The minimum weight for white marlin is 65 pounds; the blue marlin minimum has been raised to 400 pounds.
Motsko says while he would like to be the tournament's top angler just once, it's probably best that he finishes out of the money. "There would be a lot of suspicion if I won," he admits.
Congratulations to two Baltimore-area anglers recently honored by the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife as 1999 Sport Fishermen.
Middle River's Ivan Joseph Brown set a state record with a 19-pound, 13-ounce, 32-inch tautog. And Pasadena's James S. Thomas got a saltwater division citation for his 1-pound, 12-ounce kingfish.
To read an expanded Outdoors Journal or the fishing report online, go to www.sunspot.net/sports/outdoors.
To hear the fishing report, call SunDial and enter category 5378 on your touch-tone phone. The phone number is 410-783-1800 in the Baltimore area; 410-268-7736 in Anne Arundel County; 410-836-5028 in Harford County; and 410-848-0038 in Carroll County.