DAN KIBLER COLUMN: A $3.5 million problem

By Dan Kibler

Maybe it’s because there is so much money at stake, but the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament certainly appears to have to make a lot of very difficult decisions these days.

Dan Kibler

Remember, back in 2010, the tournament disqualified a potential $912,000 winning blue marlin because a member of the winning crew of the Hatteras-based Citation did not have a valid North Carolina saltwater fishing license at the time the 883-pound fish was boated. It was discovered that the crew discovered the problem, and the crew member bought the license on-line during the boat’s trip back to the scales in Morehead City.

The tournament committee rightly disqualified the fish and moved all of the other qualifying fish (at least 400 pounds) up one slot. The owners of the disqualified boat filed suit against the tournament and the other prize-winning boats, but the suit was disqualified in 2011.

Well, it happened again this past weekend. A 619-pound marlin, caught on Saturday by a local charter boat, Sensation, was disqualified because the fish had been mutilated, likely by a shark that slashed at the fish during the 6-hour battle between crew and billfish.

The huge fish, had its tournament winning position held, would have been worth more than $3.5 million in prize money – $2.7 million as the biggest blue marlin caught by any of the 271 boats entered in the 6-day tournament and almost $750,000 as the first fish caught to break the 500-pound mark.

The crew of the Sensation weighed the fish in at 11:22 p.m. It was hooked around 2:30 p.m. – just before the 3 p.m. cessation of fishing – and boated at 6:42. According to reports, tournament officials weighed the fish, while informing the crew that the chunk taken out of the fish’s side might be a problem.

A $3.5 million problem.

“It was deemed that the fish was mutilated before it was landed or boated, and therefore, it was disqualified,” officials said in a release on Sunday morning, citing an International Game Fishing Association rule that says, “Mutilation to the fish, prior to landing or boating the catch, caused by sharks, other fish, mammals, or propellers that remove or penetrate the flesh.”

First place and $2.5 million wound up going to Sushi, a Nags Head-based boat which landed a 484.5-pound marlin earlier in the tournament. Chasin A finished second with a 479.8-pound fish, and C-Student was third with a 470.2-pound fish.

Because no 500-pound marlin was landed within the parameters of the rules, the $739,000 prize for the first 500-pound fish brought to the scales will carry over to the 2024 tournament, doubling the prize money in that category.

One interesting twist on the story is the Sensation itself. It was built in 1986, the first boat built by iconic Jarrett Bay Boatworks in Marshallberg. It replaced an aging charter boat owned by Randy Ramsey and run out of Harkers Island – I once fished on it and had one of my best-ever days offshore. Jarrett Bay took off in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and Ramsey eventually served as tournament director and a member of the tournament board. He sold the boat in 2022.

F1 bass stockings have begun

Bass fishermen in North Carolina are finally getting a little bang for their bucks, as the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s plans to stock F1 hybrid largemouth bass in several reservoirs cranked up earlier this week and will continue into next week.

The Commission, with some financial backing from the BASS Anglers for NC Lakes group, has embarked on a 5-year project to stock F1 hybrids (northern largemouth bass/Florida-strain bass) into Lake Norman, Jordan Lake and Lake Gaston.

The stocking of 130,000 fingerlings into Lake Norman took place this past Tuesday. Another 55,500 fingerlings were stocked this morning at Jordan Lake, and 85,500 more fingerlings will be stocked on June 27. That stocking will begin at 7 a.m. at the NCWRC’s Henrico ramp.

The F1 hybrids have been stocked and have positively affected the bass fisheries in a number of bodies of water in the southeast. The hybrid combines the aggressive nature of northern largemouths with the fast growth rate and potential for overall greater size of Florida-strain fish.

July 4 is “license-free” fishing day

Fishing licenses will not be required around North Carolina to celebrate July 4, an annual “day-off” scheduled by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

Anyone fishing from 12 a.m.-11:59 p.m. on July 4 can fish without a statewide license – residents and non-residents.

Fishermen will still be required to follow other state fishing regulations, including daily creel and size limits and other tackle restrictions.

Dan Kibler has covered the outdoors since 1985 as outdoors editor of the Winston-Salem Journal and later as managing editor of Carolina Sportsman until his retirement in 2021.