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.”