Billionaire businessman and basketball legend Michael Jordan is expected to compete in this year’s White Marlin Open in Ocean City, August 5-9.
Jordan’s 2019 80-foot Viking sportfishing yacht, Catch 23, is the 123rd registered boat in the tournament. The yacht features a grey “elephant print” hull and a panther on the stern above the boat name.
The White Marlin Open, now in its 46th year, is arguably the largest billfishing tournament in the world. The tournament awards prize money for catches of white marlin, blue marlin, tuna, wahoo, dolphin-fish, and shark. The first tournament, held in 1974, drew 57 boats, 150 anglers and paid $20,000 in prize money with the top award of $5,000. Last year’s open drew 382 boats, over 3,000 contestants, and paid out $5.4 million dollars in prize money, including a top individual award of $2.5 million dollars.
The tournament can be fun and exciting for spectators as well as anglers. All fish must be weighed on the official scale at Harbour Island (14th Street and the Bay). Weigh-ins are held there each day of the tournament from 4 to 9:15 p.m. and are open to the public free of charge. As the week goes on, the suspense builds, as potential lottery-sized fortunes change hands with a tip of the scale.
Boats can leave the inlet of their choice no earlier than 4 a.m. Each boat must stop fishing by 3:30 p.m. If an angler still has a fish on the line at 3:30, the fish may be played until it is lost, boated, or released. Boats usually will be fishing from 2 to 4 hours offshore, so generally weigh-in activity is heaviest from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
The seas can sometime kick up and cause a slower trip back. Often an angler fighting a big tuna, or blue marlin, may be delayed. Regardless of the day hooked-up, the angler has until Saturday, Aug. 11, at 12:15 a.m. to bring the fish to the scale.
Some years, the winning white marlin is caught on the first day and the angler and crew have to wait to see if their fish’s weight will hold up. Other years, the winning white marlin is lifted at the scale at the last hour on the last day. The first fish weighed in last year was an 881-pound blue marlin. An 83-pound white marlin, caught aboard Weldor’s Ark, won the tournament for a record $2.58 million payout.
There is no parking available at Harbour Island, but there is ample parking within a few blocks walk. The Presbyterian Church on 14th Street offers parking for a small donation. Parking is also available at Holy Savior Church on 17th Street. “Park and Ride Shuttle Service” is offered from the Convention Center parking lot.
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With the warm water in the Chesapeake Bay, gamefish continue to hold in areas with adequate oxygen and the coolest water. Since rockfishl avoid water temperatures above 84 degrees, they are being squeezed into small areas with adequate temperature and oxygen, such as the oxygenated water around Kent Island. Another way to find cooler water is to fish the shallows at first light.
The most productive striped bass fishing is occurring very early in the morning and often tends to shut down as the heat of the day progresses. The recent hot temperatures and low dissolved oxygen levels below 15 feet to 20 feet in most areas are placing striped bass in a very stressful situation. Many recreational anglers are choosing to pursue other species due to stress-related striped bass mortality being observed near the fishing fleets. Fish should be brought to the boat as quickly as possible and released in the water if not kept.
Striped bass are still holding close to the structure on the east side of the Bay Bridge and anglers are working the bridge pylons for fish. Many are drifting live spot, white perch, or live eels back to the pylons during a good running tide. Others are jigging with skirted jigs close to structure.
Anglers live-lining are having some success at traditional sites where fish are holding less than 20 feet deep. The outside edge of Hacketts, Bloody Point, Thomas Point, and the Hill have been holding stripers. They can also being found along channel edges at the mouths of the Severn and South rivers.
Now that spot are readily available in shallow areas, live-lining is definitely doable. Just make sure to use circle hooks to stay legal, and fish to be released should be released quickly.
Fishing for white perch offers an alternative as there are plenty of large white perch on shoal areas and also in tidal rivers.
Pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig work well for perch holding in deeper waters. They will also attack jigged metal lures. Casting beetle spins along shoreline structure is a fun way to fish for them in the morning and evening hours. A mini Rat-L-Trap will also draw strikes in the shallows and may also lure yellow perch and catfish.
Farther south in the Chesapeake, fishing opportunities are beginning to expand as Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and a few cobia are starting to show up in Maryland waters, mostly on our side of the bay. Trolling with gold Drone spoons with a chartreuse sparkle strip seems to be an effective lure to use behind No. 1 or No. 2 planers. A few cobia have been caught by sight fishing and casting live eels near the Target Ship and Pocomoke Sound, but most of the cobia are still in Virginia waters.
The heat has been tough on crabbing success. Larger crabs tend to be holding in about 15 feet of water and sometimes drop off trotlines when coming up into the warmer surface water. Smaller crabs tend to dominate shallower waters.
On the freshwater scene, most of the trout management areas in western Maryland are offering good trout fishing opportunities. The tail-race waters of the Youghiogheny, Savage, and the north branch of the Potomac offer some of the finest fishing due to cool water flows. A variety of nymphs can be consistent producers. Streamers can be a good choice and terrestrial imitations such as hoppers and ants.
With the heat, fishing for largemouth bass is mostly a morning and evening affair. The bass are feeding in shallow areas during the night and seeking cool shade during the day. They can be intercepted at first light in shallow areas leading to deeper water with thick grass or sunken structure, or at creek mouths. Buzzbaits and frogs work well over shallow grass. Lipless crankbaits and soft plastics in the waters leading from the shallow grass or creek mouths are a good choice. As the day wears on, dropping stick worms through thick grass is a good way to entice a pickup.
Northern snakeheads are commonly found far back in thick shallow grass this time of the summer, often in areas not suitable for largemouth. Casting frogs and buzzbaits are a good way to get them to strike. Using a live minnow along the edges of thick grass areas is also a good tactic.
On the Atlantic Coast, surf anglers are catching kingfish and small bluefish during the morning and evening hours. Pieces of bloodworm work best for kingfish and finger mullet for bluefish.
Bluefish have been moving in and out of inlets on the tides, especially in the evenings when boat traffic is at a minimum. Casting Got-Cha lures or bucktails can catch them. Flounder are being caught on Gulp baits, live spot, and squid and minnow baits; the East Channel, Thorofare, and Sinepuxent Bay have been productive areas.
Offshore, the 30 Fathom Lumps have been holding bluefin tuna, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, and large bluefish for trollers. Sea bass success has fluctuated, and some flounder are being reeled in around the wreck and reef sites.
Anglers at the canyons are finding scattered yellowfin tuna with the best catches coming from northerly spots. Large wahoo are being encountered along with white and blue marlin. Chicken dolphin-fish are being caught near lobster buoys and some gaffer-size mahi-mahi are being caught while trolling.
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Duck blind know-it-all
Michael Jordan is the only NBA player to win the scoring title and the defensive player of the year title in the same season.