When an 86-pound white marlin came to Harbour Island Marina on 14th Street last Wednesday, Aug. 9, the smart money figured the odds of it taking the top prize were better than good, even with two days remaining in the 44th annual White Marlin Open.
And they would have been right were it not for Glen Frost of Stevensville, Md., who, as far as odds go, had to be one of the more unlikely winners of the tournament in some time.
First, he landed a 95.5-pound white marlin to win the Open and more than $1.6 million on Friday, the last day of fishing. Secondly, it was his first marlin catch ever, and third… more on that later.
“If I was a betting man, which I’m not, I would have sworn 86 pounds would hold,” said Jim Motsko, White Marlin Open founder and co-director. “Yeah, I was surprised.” The 95.5-pounder “was a big, fat fish. It’s the third-heaviest ever in 44 years.
“We had several white marlin over 70 pounds,” he noted of the tournament minimum, “which shows it’s a healthy stock when you see big fish.”
Mike Donohue of Wilmington reeled in that 86-pound white marlin while fishing on the Griffin out of Palm Beach, Fla.
Top winner Frost’s near-tournament-record catch came aboard the Wire Nut, out of Ocean City — one of the 327 boats that headed offshore on the final day of the tournament in hopes of besting that 86-pounder.
The big white marlin took Wire Nut’s bait around 12:50 p.m., in the Baltimore Canyon. Frost jumped on the rod and began his fight. The fish jumped out of the water several times, and Frost and his teammates knew it was a potential winner.
“I saw it jump at least three times. When it jumped, we knew it was a monster white,” he said.
Admitting to some nervousness, Frost said he concentrated on keeping the line tight and focused on getting the fish to the boat. After about 20 to 25 minutes, he won the battle and the marlin was boated.
“It was an awesome fight,” he said. “It was one of the happiest moments of my life. I was fairly confident it was a $1 million-plus fish, and it might be the winning fish.”
After measuring the fish on the boat and finding it to be 74 inches long, and fat, the crew estimated it to be in the 90-pound range.
The Wire Nut pulled into the marina a little before 5 p.m. A few minutes later, when the scale read 95.5 pounds, angler and crew rejoiced … and rejoiced some more.
“It was really big white marlin,” he said. “We were very happy. There was lots of celebrating.”
Even though Frost is an avid angler and has been aboard boats when white marlin have been caught and released, this was his first billfish catch and his first time competing in the White Marlin Open. The clincher in the odds department, however, is that Frost, an attorney, also represents several members of the fishing team in the ongoing litigation concerning the 2016 Open winner, when a federal court upheld the disqualification of what had been the tournament’s first-place and only white marlin last year.
Several crew members Frost fished with on the Wire Nut this year were on the Get Reel in 2016, when it landed the only qualifying white marlin of the tournament. They invited him to join them this year.
That was a good thing, too, as Frost and his teammates won $1,654,800. As for the second-place fish, it didn’t do too badly, as Donohue and the Griffin crew took home $1,525,960.
A total of 222 boats registered for the Level E Winner Take All calcutta for white marlin, which cost $5,000 to enter. The pot totaled $999,000. That money went to the Wire Nut.
A total of 142 crews registered for the Level WM (White Marlin Winner Take All) added entry-level calcutta, which costs $10,000 to enter. The pool amount was $1,278,000. The Griffin team was awarded that money.
“It feels great. It feels unbelievable,” Frost said. “I’m humbled to have been the one to catch it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Joe Andrews of Ocean City caught a 79.5-pound white marlin on the final day of this year’s tournament. Andrews and his M.R. Ducks (Ocean City) teammates received $164,673.
Three hundred ninety white marlin were released this year, while only 19 were boated (95 percent). Thirty-four blue marlin were released and none were boated, which surprised Motsko.
“I thought we’d have a qualifier,” he said. “I thought for sure there would be at least one over 500 pounds.”
Four spearfish and two sailfish were released and none were boated.
Tuna tops other tournament winners
Joseph Sadler’s 68.5-pound yellowfin caught aboard the Intents out of Juniper, Fla., on Wednesday, earned the Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., angler and his teammates $866,553.
Because there was no qualifying blue marlin, as per the rules, the Level F Blue Marlin Winner Take All went to the Intents and the A, B, C and D blue marlin money went to the white marlin winners, according to how they finished. The Level F prize money of $392,400 was awarded to the Intents’ crew. The total amount of blue marlin money in A, B, C and D levels, $504,945, went to the white marlin winners.
The Blue Runner (Manasquan, N.J.) angler James Boynton of Scituate, Mass., finished tied for second place with a 67-pound yellowfin he landed last Tuesday. He and his teammates won $90,380 for the fish because of participation in added entry-level calcuttas. Kris Rainear of Buena, N.J., also reeled in a 67-pound yellowfin while fishing on the Warden Pass, out of Cape May, N.J., last Wednesday. The crew received $52,950.
The Slabjack, out of Ocean City, took third place with Jared Brown’s (Brick, N.J.) 65.5-pound yellowfin boated last Friday. The team pocketed $36,180.
Jim Murray of Toms River, N.J., landed a 64-pound yellowfin aboard the Caitlin, out of Manasquan, last Thursday. Jim Stavola nabbed a 64-pound yellowfin tuna last Monday aboard the Milling Around, out of Atlantic Highlands, N.J. Both teams were presented $36,180.
Mike Cutler (Leawood, Kansas) reeled in a 59-pound yellowfin tuna aboard Ocean City-based boat the Lisa last Friday. Entered into the small-boat calcuttas, the crew took home $112,050.
Jimmy Michael of Pasadena and his the Dawg Haus (Ocean City) teammates were awarded $51,300 for his 58-pound yellowfin landed last Friday because of participation in the small boat calcuttas.
Dolphin, wahoo, sharks and more
Andrew Cohen of Ashton, Md., brought the only qualifying dolphin to the scale. He caught the 23-pound mahi aboard Silly Money out of Annapolis, on the final day. The crew was awarded $74,841.
Gary Capuano of Annapolis landed a 55-pound wahoo aboard the Hog Wild out of Manteo, N.C., on Monday, and it held the top spot all week. The fish was worth $27,841.
The G-Force (Ocean City) angler Seth Obetz of Manheim, Pa., hooked a 53.5-pound wahoo on Thursday. The crew won $26,841.
Jonathan Bennett of Atlanta, Ga., reeled in a 50.5-pound wahoo while fishing on the Karen Marie out of Vero Beach, Fla., on Friday to finish in third place. The group received $24,841.
Frank Snover of White Township, N.J., caught a 126-pound mako on the last day of the Open while aboard the Restless Lady out of Ocean City. The team was awarded $7,091.
Many local boats and participants had a successful tournament. A number of those boats are registered Ocean City Marlin Club members, including all three of the finishers in the while marlin division, as well as the Bar South, Dawg Haus, G-Force, Restless Lady, Intents, Lisa, Silly Money and Lights Out.
“As president of the club, it makes me proud to see our members do well,” said OCMC President Franky Pettolina. “Congratulations to all of the winners. It was tough fishing this week but they brought it home.”
Other winners in the tournament included:
•Top Three Boats (releases) — Bar South: eight white marlin, one blue (735 points); Fender Bender: 10 whites (700 points); Weldor’s Ark: seven whites, one blue (665 points)
•Top Three Anglers — Jack Owens (Rebel), nine white marlin releases and one boated, 630 points; John Roberts (Weldor’s Ark), six white marlin and one blue marlin releases, 595 points; Kevin Pento (Singularis), two white marlin releases, one boated; two blue marlin releases; 560 points.
Altogether, 353 boats participated in this year’s tournament, which had a record payout of $4.97 million.
“Overall, it was very good. I’m happy with it. We had more boats [than last year] and another $500,000 in prize money,” Motsko said.
In 2016, 329 boats participated, and $4.42 million was awarded to tournament winners — a record payout until this year.
“Numerous fish made the [white marlin] weight minimum. We had the third-heaviest white in tournament history,” he continued. “There were about a third less marlin releases this year [compared to last year] with more boats fishing, but quality was better this year than quantity.”
With poor weather and sea conditions the first two days of the tournament, most of the action took place Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. A total of 136 boats went offshore last Monday, Aug. 7. Most took a lay day on Tuesday because of rough seas, but 12 did venture out. Wednesday was a busy day, as 297 boats headed offshore. Thursday, 287 crews fished, and Friday, 327 went out.
“It was essentially a three-day tournament. The last three days, a majority of the boats fished,” Motsko said. “It made for a real exciting finish.”
The weigh-ins were well-attended, as hundreds, if not thousands, stopped by the 14th Street marina daily to watch. Viewership of the weigh-ins online at www.whitemarlinopen.com also increased from last year, Motsko added.