The first fish weighed at the 2021 White Marlin Open sat atop the leaderboard with little competition throughout the first four days.
Then came Friday, the fifth and final day of the world’s largest billfish tournament. With Mike Atkinson’s 82.5-pound white marlin valued at just over $5 million, anglers were eager to bring aboard an award-winning catch.
Just minutes after the scales opened at 4 p.m., Keith English aboard the Click Through provided the most competition to Atkinson’s catch. His 70-pound white marlin became just the second qualifying catch in the category but failed to dethrone Atkinson.
“This one played nice with us,” English said. “We did our job and were stressing over 69.5 until it clicked up.”
About 45 minutes later, though, the biggest threat to the first-place marlin came floating to the scales aboard the Billfisher.
The weight rocketed past the 70-pound minimum but stopped just short of 79 pounds. With a final weight of 78.5 pounds, Bill Gerlach claimed second-place in the category, now valued at $145,000.
No other white marlin weighed on Friday was deemed eligible for prize money as of 8 p.m.
The tournament’s final day saw 402 of the 444 registered boats hit the water. Though there was no movement atop the white marlin category, the same couldn’t be said about other divisions.
Ocean City boat leads dolphin category
A 34-pound dolphin caught aboard the Dropped Call out of Ocean City finished first in the division. Angler Charles Dishman was credited with the catch valued at $20,000.
The fish beats out Andrew Kinsley’s 31.5-pound dolphin caught on Day 1. Fishing aboard the Kilo Charlie, Kinsley’s catch is also worth $20,000. Anglers can enter multiple categories, including a daily division, which can ultimately earn them more money despite their placement in the category.
Other qualifying dolphins include Ricky Petrocelli’s 31-pounder, Kevin Sutton’s 29.5-pound fish and Will Emmert’s 25-pounder. Trey McMillian aboard Catch 23, the boat that housed six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan, caught a 23.5-pound dolphin on Wednesday.
Crew of sunken boat makes appearance, catches qualifying tuna
Of the 421 boats that went out on Day 1 of the White Marlin Open, one didn’t return.
Members aboard the Knot Stressin were forced to abandon ship after engine failure and high waves forced the vessel to sink. The crew was rescued by members of the Fishbone who were fishing nearby.
Tournament officials granted an additional day of fishing to both crews, but Knot Stressin would first need to find a new boat.
On Friday, aboard the Stalker, the same crew that piled into a lifeboat just four days prior came into Harbour Island Marina with a qualifying tuna. With a 52.5-pound catch, the fish is currently valued at $80,000.
Monster blue marlin excites at the scales
In 2020, there were no qualifying blue marlin at the White Marlin Open.
That changed the following year, as two of the massive fish were brought to the scales; the second on Friday afternoon.
After Chris Perry aboard the Mama C caught a 559.5-pounder on Day 1, Scott Zurawski brought in a 511-pound blue marlin to claim second place. Perry’s catch is valued at $800,000, while Zurawski’s is set at $140,000.
“We’ve been fishing 30 years, and this was the first time I got to catch a big fish like this,” Zurawski said. “It’s a lot of team work.”
As of 8 p.m., no other blue marlin had come to the scales, however officials said one had been boated earlier in the evening and was en route to Harbour Island Marina.
Massive wahoo takes over first place
There hadn’t been much movement in the wahoo category prior to Day 5.
Alex Haskins’ catch of a 48.5-pounder proved to be the only qualifying catch throughout the first four days. But on Day 5, he was dethroned.
Ormonde Mahoney aboard the El Azul brought in an 84-pound wahoo to easily claim the top spot in the division. Mahoney’s catch was one of three wahoos brought to the scales on Friday.
Alex Eason caught a 45.5-pound wahoo at about 5:40 p.m., netting him the fourth spot in the category. An hour later, Tim Richardson aboard the Oysta Gangsta weighed a 46.5-pound catch, admitting later it was the first wahoo he ever caught.
Despite their placement on the leaderboard, Richardson’s catch is valued at $90,000 compared to Mahoney’s $2,000. This is due to the different categories boats enter prior to the tournament.
An award ceremony will be held Saturday at the Clarion Resort from 4-6 p.m. All anglers that claimed $50,000 or more are subject to a polygraph, which will take place Saturday morning, per tournament rules.