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Vol 49 | Num 12 | Jul 17, 2024

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Offshore Report

Article by Larry Budd

This Week Last Year
• The “Cabana” was the big winner in the 36th Annual Ocean City Tuna Tournament. They earned both top tuna with a 236 lb. bigeye and top stringer with a total of 763 lbs. All were caught in the Norfolk Canyon. Winning both was a tournament first.
• The “No Wake Zone” released the first sailfish of the season in the Wilmington Canyon.
• The “MARLI” was drifting in the Baltimore Canyon to fight a couple yellowfins when a swordfish hit on one of the tuna baits before it could be reeled in to fight the ones on the hook. 2.5 hours later the 284 lb. sword was on ice.

It feels like Mother Nature was playing with us last week. Midweek saw winds and the forecast for the weekend looked like a washout except for Sunday. That definitely affected the participation on the 37th Annual Ocean City Tuna Tournament as captains weighed the weather and the poor tuna bite of late. It turned out that both expectations were off! Billfishing while slow, was consistent and we also saw the arrival of wahoo with several speedsters over 60 lbs.

Most of the action offshore was tied to the 37th Annual Ocean City Tuna Tournament. As mentioned, the largest tuna tournament in the world took a hit on participation this year due to the forecast. Still, 51 boats registered and generated a purse of just under $650,000.

Friday saw half the fleet head out into what was expected to be sporty weather. Turns out the ride out was fairly smooth, but not so much the ride home. Day 1 was a pleasant surprise. The “Shorebilly” was at the dock at the Ocean City Fishing Center waiting for the scales to open. Once 4PM hit they slid a big bluefin tuna on the dock. It was their only bite for the day and it took the entire crew 3.5 hours to get to the boat. It counted though, as it remained the heaviest tuna through day 2 and finished in 2nd Place. They were followed by two more bluefins from the “Playmate” and the “Bad Habit 37”. The “Reel Tight” brought the first bigeye to the scales that weighed 103 lbs. They had actually caught two but the larger one got bit by a shark as it got to the boat. About a dozen yellowfins over the tournament limit of 30 lbs. also got on the scales. Most were in the mid 30 to 40 pound range. The 5 yellowfins brought in by the “Cabana” slid them into the top spot for the day with a stringer at 218 lbs. Nine of the 25 boats that fished came to the scales, not a bad first day.

Day 2 again saw 32 boats head out into even sportier weather than Friday. While the top spots on the leaderboard did not change, there was movement and two additions for Mahi and Lady Angler. The center console “Reelentless” took a beating in the Wilmington Canyon but were able to raise 7 yellowfin tunas and put the 5 heaviest on the scales. They're stringer weight of 203.5 lbs. placing them in 2nd Place at the end of the day. They also caught a 28 lb. mahi that put them on the board in that calcutta as well. It turned out to be the only qualifying mahi for the tournament over 20 lbs., earning the crew over $20,000.

Laina Herbert on the “Back In Black” put up a 35 lb. yellowfin to take the top Lady Angler spot for the day. Two bluefins shuffled the Heaviest Tuna Category. The “Charlie’s Plunder” pulled a 148 pounder from the 12 Fathom Lump and slid into 2nd Place where it finished the event. The “Poorman” boated a 62” and 144 lb. bluefin caught about a mile west of the 12 Fathom Lump that finished the day in 3rd Place.

With much better weather, Day 3 saw 46 of the 51 boats in the tournament head out. Since the Stringer Calcutta is the sum of both fishing days, we knew there were going to be changes to that category. While bluefins dominated Day 1 & 2, it was bigeyes for this day. The “Game On” brought in one of the larger yellowfins of the event. They caught a 102.5 lb. yellow at the Teacup. The playfully named “Cookie Monster” fished the Wilmington Canyon and brought back a 161 lb. bigeye. The “RoShamBo” returned from the Wilmington as well with 2 yellowfins and a 128 lb. bigeye giving them a 2 day Stringer total of 306 lbs. That was enough to take 3rd Place for the tournament. The “Charlie’s Plunder” reinforced their 148 lb. bluefin from Saturday with a 210.5 lb. stringer for a 2 day total of 358.5 lbs. locking in 2nd Place for the tournament. The top spot for Stringer however when to the “Shotski”. They fished the corner of the Wilmington Canyon where they hooked up with 4 bigeyes, getting 3 to the boat. Those three weighed a combined 412.5 lbs. besting all others and securing 1st Place in the Stringer Calcutta and a combined payout of $171,700!

The day was not done with changes to the leader board. The “Primary Search” was the last boat to the scales with a solid catch of 4 yellowfins and a large bigeye tuna. It was however their 167.5 lb. eyeball that hit the board taking 3rd Place for the day and the event for Single Heaviest Tuna. The charter boat “Wrecker” wrecked the leaderboard after sliding into the scales with a bigeye and a yellowfin from the Washington Canyon. Megan Humphrey caught the 39 lb. yellowfin earning her the Top Lady Angler award. The bigeye that was caught midday tipped the tournament scale to 191.5 lbs. jumping into 1st Place for Single Heaviest Tuna where it finished the event. That fish earned the tournament’s top payout of a combined $198,475. Our full coverage starts on page 56.

The action outside of the tournament was early last week. Weather and tournament prep kept many boats off the water midweek. Despite the strong eddy that dissipated over the weekend after the 4th, several boats reported some nice billfish trips and as the speedsters showed up.
While still small compared to prior years, tuna were still the main canyon catch with more bigeyes showing up at the scales. The charter boat “Rusty Reel” put a big 212 lb. eyeball on the scales at the Indian River Marina to set a new seasonal record for Heaviest Bigeye for a Delaware boat. Their bachelor party crew spent just over 3 hours fighting the big tuna in the Baltimore Canyon that hit on the short rigger with a naked ballyhoo. Another notable catch came from the crew of the private boat “Sea Hag”. Capt. Anthony Pino had his crew in the Baltimore as well billlfishing. They had an interesting if not unusual triple hookup. At the same time they had hooked two bigeyes and a white marlin, getting all to the boat! The eyeballs were almost twins at 135 lbs. and 130 lbs. They even had a giant bluefin on the hook for a short while, but it had hit on a dink rod. However, they were not done for the day, more on that when I cover billfish. Many other bigeye bites were reported that did not come tight.
The yellowfin bite remained mostly unchanged from prior weeks, meaning low single digit catches per trip with most caught at first light or just thereafter. What was different was the size. Many close to or over 100 lb. yellowbirds hit the scales, with many from inshore lumps. Capt. Dale Lisi on the charter boat “Foolish Pleasures” stayed a little closer to home to find his record catch. He was trolling at The Wrench near the Hambone where anglers Keeghan and Pat O’Rourke battled a 57” and 107 lb. yellowfin. That is the largest yellow Dale has caught. Capt. Nick Parks on his recently acquired 50’ Alex Willis “Tuna Ink” headed to the northeast corner of the Baltimore and brought home 6 good sized yellowfins.

The billfish bite definitely dropped off from the quantity of 4th of July weekend, however we heard of a lot of sightings and some nice catches. The afore mentioned “Sea Hag” finished the day after their triple header in the Baltimore by releasing another white as well as a blue marlin. The charter boat “Pumpin’ Hard” released their first blue marlin of the season in the southern Poor Mans. It was the second bite of the day taking a skirted ballyhoo. The first bite was a blue that hit a spreader bar, taking that rig with him! The private boat “Sea V” went to deep water east of the Baltimore in 1000 fathoms and went 2 for 2 on whites as well as seeing a third in the spread that did not bite.

The boat “Team Harvey” reached out about a trip they had early last week. They had just arrived at Fisherman’s Marina in West Ocean City for the tournament season and were on a practice trip preparing for the Jimmy Johnson Quest for the Ring Tournament being held this week. They were billfishing in the Poor Mans Canyon and released 6 whites. They also put a couple of yellowfins on ice as well as a 67 lb. wahoo. The speedster was caught on a billfish bait that hooked in the corner of the mouth. It is currently the Heaviest of the Season.

That was not the only wahoo we heard about for the week. Gregory Stansky reported his catch from the Poor Mans in mid June. It weighed 37.9 lbs. at Hook’em & Cook’em at the Indian River Marina, making if the First Fish Wahoo of the Season. More recently Parry Sparr of Bel Air, MD snagged a 65 lb. speedster trolling from the Hambone to Massey’s Canyon. That one weighed 65 lbs.

Mahi were well represented last week with anglers finding larger ones hitting on billfish and tuna baits and larger quantities when targeted under flotsam or at lobster trap balls.

That’s a wrap for this week. The weekend weather is looking fair in the canyons and inshore for the 20th Annual Ocean City Marlin Club’s Kids Classic. The kids may seem some rain, but hopefully lots of fish. Share with us what’s in your fish box! §

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