The second day of the 52nd annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament failed to match the excitement of the first as no blue marlins were brought to the scales and only two were hooked and released following a record-setting Monday.
Big Rock competitors had high hopes for a great day Tuesday after Citation set a new Big Rock record with an 883-pound blue marlin caught late Monday by Andy Thomasson of Richmond, Va. Those hopes were dashed by the end of the day when 103-of-156 teams that fished managed just 11 hook-ups and seven releases.
While some blamed warmer-than-normal temperatures for the downturn in billfish activity, others faulted East winds and a high-pressure system sitting offshore. The culprit is may be a combination of both and Big Rock fishing teams must factor this in as they plan for the final four days of fishing.
“It’s hard to figure,” said Big Rock president Randy Ramsey when asked about the billfishing lull. “The dolphin fishing has been great ... everyone has been commenting on that. The billfishing was great heading into this week. All I can say is I expected a real good week of fishing based on what led up to this week. So I’m surprised ... real surprised.”
One boat that had an outstanding day Tuesday was the Miss Judy, captained by Lacy Henry of Atlantic Beach. Henry’s crew released the only blue marlins of the day and not only won the $7,732 daily release prize but took over first place in the billfish release division as well. If the Miss Judy team can hang on the top spot in the release division they will win an additional $45,216.
The Haphazard, captained by Will Ross of Wanchese, had a lucky moment Tuesday when it hooked and released the first billfish of the day just 12 minutes into the competition. Ross and his fishing team won the daily first release prize of $2,000.
But, the big winners continue to be the crew of Citation who spent Monday night moored at the Big Rock scales after offloading their record catch and receiving a $318,750 check for boating the first blue marlin weighing at least 500 pounds. Citation captain Eric Holmes of Buxton did more, carving out a place in Big Rock history by landing the tournament’s largest-ever blue marlin.
“Andy was on the fish a long time and he was working it...I’m really proud of him,” Holmes said shortly after reaching the scales. “We couldn’t have done it without everybody on board though, it was something else.
“We fished that same area a couple of days ago and there was a lot of life there. A lot of tuna and dolphin were being caught ... and there was bait on top. It was a good-looking spot, and we got lucky.”
Another lucky Monday crew was the Sea Creature team, who won the 2009 Big Rock. Sea Creature took a commanding lead in the winner-take-all dolphin division with a 52.4-pounder landed by John Manousaridis of Atlantic Beach.
As the tournament enters its third day, it’s hard to predict what Wednesday will bring. Conditions are not expected to change until Thursday and most competitors are expected to take a lay day and wait for winds to shift around to the South.
Teams are allowed to fish 4-of-6 days during the tournament and must notify Big Rock headquarters by 9 a.m. if they elect not to fish. The competition concludes Saturday with a presentation of prizes at the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City.