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Fishing Crew Loses $3.5 Million Prize After Mega Marlin is Disqualified

One crew’s massive haul in a marlin fishing tournament ended up being the prize that got away.

On Saturday, the crew of Sensation, entered in the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament in Morehead City, North Carolina, thought that it had won the tournament and raked in some bonus money when they brought in a 619.4-pound marlin.

Then the judges inspected the catch, and the thrill of victory began to seep away.

“OK, guys. Let’s talk about the rules here for a second. It would appear that this fish has been bitten by a shark,” emcee Tommy Bennett said after the fish was inspected, according to The Washington Post.

The next day, the ruling came down.

“The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament follows [International Game Fish Association] rules regarding mutilated fish as outlined in Rule #23 in the Big Rock Official Rules. IGFA rules state that the following situation will disqualify a fish: ‘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,’” the ruling said.

“After careful deliberation and discussions between the Big Rock Rules Committee and Board of Directors with biologists from both NC State CMAST and NC Marine Fisheries biologists as well as an IGFA official, it was determined that Sensation’s 619.4lb Blue Marlin is disqualified due to mutilation caused by a shark or other marine animal. It was deemed that the fish was mutilated before it was landed or boated, and therefore, it was disqualified.”

As the Post noted, this was not about bragging rights. The decision cost the crew $3.5 million, with $2.77 million for winning the tournament and $739,500 for bringing in the first catch of the year to top 500 pounds.

Jeremy Duffie, a Maryland-based game fisher, said the rule targets crews that hit a fish with a boat, making it easier to catch the fish. Fish that are wounded are also easier to catch.

Greg McCoy, captain of the crew that caught the monster fish, said it was no picnic. “[W]e fought with him for six hours. It’s a tough pill to swallow,” he said.

The tournament was won by the crew of the boat Sushi, whose marlin weighed 484.5 pounds.

“We don’t get a plaque on the Big Rock fountain. We don’t get the dough. A year from now we will be totally forgotten. No one will care,” McCoy said after the tournament, according to Carolina Cost Online.

“I was hoping they would do the right thing and declare us the winners but no such luck. It’s a lot of money,” he said.

McCoy said boat owner Ashley Bleau is protesting the ruling and could consider legal action as well.

McCoy said the crew went on an emotional roller-coaster.

“You catch a fish like that on the last day in the last hour and go well into overtime, it was something else. Then they started pulling those shenanigans, and I thought we were going to have a riot on our hands for a while,” he said.

He said the catch was followed by “[a] lot of hooting and hollering and embracing. We knew we had just won the Big Rock. Not too many guys have done it. Then we pointed her to the beach, and the Big Rock crowd was talking to us on the radio about when we would be in. We had a lot of good fun on the way in. It’s just unfortunate it didn’t work out.”

  • RP says:

    Just another bullshit rule that keeps them from having to pay out, just like insurance companies do you, ALWAYS some excuse!!!!!!!!!

  • Slim says:

    If the fish was bitten by a shark at landing why would the referees disqualify such a catch when the purpose of the rule is to keep honest fisherman honest and to stop unethical fisherman from using a boat to injure a fish to make landing easier. One has nothing to do with the other. Sounds very much like a theft of a prize has happened. I am sure that this competition has just ended itself for the future. Who wants to compete when the prize may be taken away for no obvious good reason when funding the entrance into the competition is so expensive?

  • Nancy says:

    They won fair and square. The fish weighed the heaviest even with the shark bite on it so what’s the beef? I say they deserve the top prize, whether it has a shark bite or not. The shark bite didn’t make it heavier so who’s cheating? Only the judges who ruled in the other person’s favor.

  • Louis Galmarini says:

    Not sure of the ‘terms and conditions’ in the rules for this, but it’s my guess there were other ‘qualifiers’ which had to be met besides weight, (condition, type, etc.). What’s not reported here, (as w/ almost EVERYTHING today), would be the reason for disqualification. If there is no video proving they rammed the fish, (making it easier) before ‘catching’ it, how can they claim ‘foul play’ on the crew? Something is DEFINATELY ‘fishy’ w/ this decision, and I’m willing to bet the law suits are going to fly fast and furious, (as they should). The losers are the contests owners. After this, they’ll be lucky to be able to hold another tournament in the next 5 years, (if ever).

  • Boycotter says:

    I think there’s something fishy going on !

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