August 15, 2023
As summer winds down, only a short time remains until football and fall hunting begin. But for now, fishing continues to top the news in this week’s Game & Fish Digest.
Six Million Dollar Billfish Landed
The largest payoff ever awarded for a single billfish catch highlighted the recent 50th White Marlin Open, held annually out of Ocean City, Md., where a 640.5-pound blue marlin earned $6.2 million.
According to a news release, the marlin, caught aboard the "Floor Real" was brought to the scale by John Ols of Laytonsville, Md. It measured 118 inches.
Despite more than $7 million of the event’s total $10.5 million purse being reserved for billfish, no qualifying catches were logged until the final daythe only qualifying catch was Ols's coming on the final day. The catch earned most of the prize money given out for white and blue marlin catches in the five-day event. The $6.2 million payday set a new world record for prize money for a caught fish, White Marlin Open organizers said, breaking the mark of $4.45 million won in last year’s event by Jeremy Duffie, who brought a 77.5-pound white marlin to the scales.
Tournament officials say that unofficially there were 551 white marlin and 46 blue marlin caught during the event, but only three were brought in and only two were weighed.
Two other million-dollar catches were reported at the event, both in the tuna categories:
"Ro Sham Bo" out of Ocean City, Md., weighed a 215-pound bigeye tuna caught by Rusty Shriver of Leonardtown, Md., that won $1.7 million in the $50K winner-take-all level because no white marlin or blue marlin were caught in that division.
A 265-pound bigeye tuna, caught aboard the "Reel Tight," out of Ocean City, by Brian Stewart from Shady Side, Md., earned a cool $1 million.
Held annually since 1974, this year's record $10.3 million dollar payout brings the prize money total to more than $100 million over the past half-century.
Home to Historical Catch, Lahaina Destroyed in Maui Wildfire
There was tragedy and despair out in the Pacific when the beautiful town of Lahaina, Hawaii—home to one of the most celebrated billfish days in history—burned up in a deadly wildfire on the island of Maui. The deadly Aug. 8, 2023 blaze spread rapidly in high winds, forcing some of the town of 12,702 residents to flee into the ocean where the U.S. Coast Guard rescued them. At least 2,207 buildings have been destroyed, including some that housed fishing charters and fishing-related businesses, and damage is estimated to be more than $6 billion dollars. The death toll stoof at 99 on Aug. 14, 2023, with hundreds still missing.
Lahaina is the location of one of saltwater angling’s biggest accomplishments. That happened during the 1997 Lahaina Jackpot Tournament when so-called "double grander" billfish were landed in the derby. According to the Lahaina News, nowhere in the world had there been a pair of 1,100-pound marlin weighed in on the same day.
During that event, the tournament winner was a 1,106.0-pound blue marlin caught by Rodney Kam, who was fishing aboard the Magic with Capt. Russell Tanaka. The second place marlin in that event just more than a quarter century ago was a 1,101.5--pound blue marlin caught by Andrew Mau as he fished aboard the Shirley-Y with Capt. Rahn Yamashita.
How to Help
If you’d like to help Lahaina wildfire victims, you can do so by visiting the Red Cross website, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS (800-733-2767), or texting the word HAWAII to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
You can also contribute to a GoFundMe effort spearheaded by several including Fox News personality Will Cain, a Sherman, Texas native and a part-time resident of Maui. Cain is on the ground in Maui reporting and trying to help recovery efforts and as of this writing, more than $1.09 million dollars had been raised through this fund for citizens of Lahaina and West Maui.
Another Walleye Cheating Scandal
Yet another walleye tournament cheating scandal has surfaced at Lake Erie, this one at the Bart's Cove Walleye Duel, according to USA Today.
In this instance, the national newspaper reports that Peter Smith, a 57-year-old competition at the Dunkirk, N.Y., event on Lake Erie was "disqualified after director Mark Mohr discovered that two of Smith's walleyes appeared to have been stuffed with smaller fish."
The incident, which is reported by a number of media sites in the region, is apparently under investigation. According to the Meadville Tribune, "State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) officers confiscated the fish, those at the tournament noted. An official in the public relations department of the DEC noted he would get return with more information on the incident in which more charges could be forthcoming."
Mohr told the newspaper in a phone interview that “the cheating is out of hand and it’s been like that for a long time." He also indicated that people who cheat and get caught are banned from the event for life and that he currently has a list of seven names of anglers who are banned.
The incident comes less than a year after the infamous "We've got weights in fish!" walleye cheating scandal near Cleveland, Ohio last fall. After being caught lead-handed, the two men involved eventually pleaded guilty last spring. As a result of those pleas, Jacob Runyan and Chase Cominsky were each sentenced in May to 10 days of local incarceration and 1 1/2 years of community control, and fined $2,500 by a Cuyahoga County judge.
Spotted Seatrout Record Confirmed in Florida
Last month, the International Game Fish Association confirmed that a new fly-fishing tippet class spotted sea trout world record had been landed on the eastern coast of Florida, when on March 23, 2023 Dr. Jay Wright landed a 10-pound, 10-ounce spotted seatrout while fishing in Ponte Verda, Fla. with guide Matt Chipperfield.
A prized inshore species known to many anglers as speckled trout or "gator trout" when they reach outsized proportions, the big trout struck Wright’s baitfish fly. After recording the weight on his IGFA-certified scale and documenting the catch and its record-class size, it was released.
After submitting the required information to the IGFA, the fish was recently confirmed as the new world record in the 20-pound tippet class, which had been vacant previously.
The overall IGFA fly-tackle world record spotted seatrout was caught by Bud Rowland out of Port Isabel, Texas, on May 23, 2002, a specimen that weighed 15 pounds, 6 ounces. The IGFA all-tackle world record for the species is a 17-pound, 7-ounce monster landed in Ft. Pierce, Fla. by Craig F. Carson on May 11, 1995.
Wright is no stranger to fly-rod-caught gator trout. He also holds the 2-pound tippet class record for spotted seatrout with a 9-pound catch in Florida's Mosquito Lagoon on March 24, 2018, as well as the 12-pound tippet class record with an 11-pound, 8-ounce. trout caught at Fort Pierce, Fla., on Feb. 17, 2007.
Black Bear Breaks Into Montana Home
The Associated Press reports that a Montana man recently shot and killed a black bear—in a T-shirt and his underwear, no less—after it had broken into his rural home near the Beartooth Mountains. The AP notes that Thomas Bolkcom and his fiancé Seeley Oblander were awakened in their Luther, Mont., home by barking dogs. When Bolkcom, a 27-year-old commercial painter and elk hunter, investigated, he encountered a black bear in the home's living room at a distance of only five feet. The bear was estimated at 10 years old and weighed approximately 250-300 pounds.
Bolkcom ran to get a handgun before returning to shoot the bear. Montana game wardens investigated and determined that the shooting was justified in self-defense after the bruin broke into the home through a screened window. "I never thought there would be a bear in our house, so that was quite the wake-up call at three in the morning," said Oblander in the AP report.
G&F Short Shots
A monster 500-pound gator was taken during the first week of Alabama's coastal alligator hunting season. According to WKRG News 5, Taylor Douglas and friends took the huge gator south of Interstate 10 near Mobile. How big is the swamp lizard? Marianne Gauldin with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division notes that the 12-foot, 9-inch gator tipped the scales at 524 pounds. … In a sure sign that fall hunting seasons are just around the corner, new Texas hunting, fishing and Super Combo licenses have gone on sale around the state on Tuesday, Aug. 15. The Lone Star State’s celebrated dove-hunting season opens in much of the state on Sept. 1. … Michigan Live reports that bowhunting inside the city limits of Whitehall has been approved by town leaders as a first step in helping curb the Muskegon County, Mich., community's deer population. Stipulations do apply, but the measure comes after discussion of more than a year.