Big blue, big bucks

This blue marlin was one of two Maryland state record fish caught at the 2009 White Marlin Open. SportFisherman.com/White Marlin Open

OCEAN CITY, Md. — The 36th Annual White Marlin Open came to a close Friday night with two Maryland state records being broken during the five day fishing tournament.

Sean Healey of Prides Crossing, Mass., fishing aboard the Orion out of Palm Beach, Fla., took home a $903,442 paycheck with the winning 93.5-pound white marlin; however, the new state record blue marlin stole the show.

Robert Farris of Charlotte, N.C., caught a 1,062-pound blue marlin aboard the "No Problem."

The winning blue marlin shattered the existing Maryland state record of 942 pounds set in 1989 by Jim Daniel. The fish earned Farris and the crew aboard the No Problem a $454,999 paycheck. The fish was caught on 80-pound class tackle, and took over three hours to bring to the boat.

Another Maryland state record broken at this year's event was the scalloped hammerhead shark, caught by Jamie Gill aboard the Lisa. The 254-pound shark bested the existing record by 60 pounds and earned the crew a $4,500 paycheck.

This year's winning white marlin was the largest seen at the White Marlin Open since 1980 when a tournament record 99-pounder was caught. This year's winning white marlin fell short of the state record of 135 pounds.

As soon as the fish was hooked the boat experienced engine trouble. The Orion was stuck in forward, and could only circle the fish in wide loops. The angler was forced to walk around the boat and fight the fish for an hour before it was finally brought to the boat. The fish was then brought to the tournament scale by truck, which is legal by tournament rules. It was only the second white marlin Healey had ever caught.

Rounding out the leaderboard were the first0place tuna, dolphin (fish), and wahoo divisions. First in the tuna division was a 249-pound bigeye tuna caught by Doug Slater aboard the Shadowfax. The big tuna earned the crew a $179,581 paycheck.

First place in the dolphin division was a 37.5-pound dolphin caught by Ronald Bennett aboard the Crush-Em. The fish earned the crew $16,572. The winner in the wahoo division weighted 47 pounds, and earned the crew of the Wave Dancer $2,000.

The White Marlin Open is the World's largest billfish tournament, and while the tournament requires fish to be brought in and weighed, the tournament directors encourage the release of billfish with high minimum size and weight regulations.

White marlin must be at least 67-inches long and weigh 65 pounds to qualify, and blue marlin must be 105 inches long and weigh 500 pounds.

Boats are required to use non-offset circle hooks when using natural baits or natural bait and lure combinations. Research has shown that the use of non-offset circle hooks drastically reduces the mortality rate of released fish. This year's tournament had a 92.9 percent release rate.

The base fee to enter the event is $1,050 per boat, making teams eligible for $50,000 in guaranteed prize money, but there are 15 other divisions, or calcuttas, which cost up to $5,000. To enter all, or go all-in, costs an additional $14,450.

This year the White Marlin Open teamed up with SportFishermen.com to bring an updated tournament Web site, replete with live webcam coverage of the weigh-ins, daily tournament blogs, live leaderboard updates, and all pertinent tournament information.

SportFishermen.com is the largest Web site dedicated to saltwater sport fishing. Complete coverage of the tournament can be seen at whitemarlinopen.com and sportfishermen.com.

The upcoming sport fishing tournament coverage by SportFishermen.com includes the Mid-Atlantic $500,000 (Aug. 17-21, 2009) and the Bisbee's Black and Blue Marlin Tournaments (Oct. 16-18 and Oct. 20-24).