In light of what happened last week at the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament in Morehead City, N.C., you can bet competitors in the Carolina Billfish Classic this week will double-check to make sure they have their fishing licenses.
The Big Rock tournament on Tuesday announced the disqualification of the 883-pound fish that would have set a new tournament record and earned the crew of the Citation $912,825 because a crew member did not have a required $15 North Carolina recreational fishing license.
The crew member, a 22-year-old mate, purchased a license after the boat returned to the dock, but he was cited by North Carolina law enforcement officials for fishing without a license which carries a $35 fine and $125 court costs.
Carnivore, which had been the second place boat with a 528-pound catch, moved into first place and won $999,453. Wet-N-Wild finished third with a 460-pound blue marlin and won $275,322.
The tournament noted that the rule violation did not involve dishonesty or cheating.
"We've actually dealt with a similar situation," said Amy Dukes, tournament coordinator for the South Carolina Governor's Cup Billfishing Series. "A vessel didn't have the highly migratory species (HMS) permit and released two blue marlin at Edisto last year. We had to disqualify it from the Governor's Cup, and the boat did the honorable thing and disqualified itself from the tournament. It wasn't nearly the amount of money, but it would have been just shy of $60,000."
The Big Rock is one of the most prestigious and popular blue marlin tournaments in the country and features huge payouts, many of them earned by Charleston boats. Bak Bar, owned by Billy Barnwell and Neal Baker, won the 2007 tournament and $800,839 with a 613-pound blue marlin. Artemis, owned by John Darby, won the 2008 Big Rock with a 640-pound catch worth $708,400. J.F. Pederson's
Pipelayer won in 2003 with a 677-pound blue marlin worth $420,887.
The Big Rock tournament record is an 831-pound blue marlin caught by Summertime Blues out of Kiawah Island in 2000 that was worth $463,000.
Approximately 50 boats are expected to fish in the Carolina Billfish Classic, which will be held out of Charleston Harbor Marina, Harbour Town Yacht Club on Hilton Head Island and Georgetown Landing Marina.
Tournament director Deidre Menefee said the licensing issue is always emphasized at the captain's meeting. She said participating boats receive a list of all permits and licenses needed, and that the entry form has a space for the boat's HMS permit number. Law enforcement officers from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources check vessels for documentation and permits during Governor's Cup events.
At stake this week could be more than $1 million.
The bottom level entry fee is $2,500, and from that boats are eligible to win $20,000 for first place (based on points), $10,000 for second and $2,000 for the largest dolphin, tuna and wahoo. There also is a $10,000 prize for boats 40 feet and under.
Boats that enter every category will spend $15,000 (the overall entry at the Big Rock is $18,000). In addition to the above prizes, they also will be competing for a payout as much as six figures, plus $1 million for a certified state record blue marlin, dolphin, yellowfin tuna or wahoo. The current blue marlin record (881 pounds, 12 ounces) and current dolphin record (77-8) were both established during Governor's Cup tournaments.
Weigh-ins for the Carolina Billfish Classic are 5-8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 5-7 p.m. Saturday. Any blue marlin to be weighed must be brought to Charleston Harbor Marina.
CAROLINA BILLFISH CLASSIC
What: Third event in 2010 South Carolina Governor's Cup Billfishing Series
Where: Charleston Harbor Marina, Georgetown Landing, Harbour Town Yacht Club
Weigh-ins: 5-8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 5-7 p.m. Saturday
Eligible species: Blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish, dolphin, tuna and wahoo