(July 6, 2018) Several new rules and added entry-level calcuttas were added for the 30th annual Ocean City Tuna Tournament last year, and they are all incorporated this year as well.
We’re keeping it the same as last year,” said Tuna Tournament Director Jennifer Blunt. “It went well. The response was pretty positive.”
Anglers were allowed to pass the rod while fighting a fish, with the exception of junior and lady anglers competing for awards in their divisions. That will be the rule again this year.
Paid captains and mates cannot be anglers. They can only hook a fish and hand the rod off to someone else.
Only one big eye can be weighed per boat each day. That fish can be added to a team’s stringer weight.
Weigh-in times were extended last year and will be the same for 2018. On Friday, July 13 and Saturday, July 14, weigh-ins will be from 4-8:30 p.m., and until 7 p.m. on Sunday, July 15.
Organizers also changed the boat size divisions last year. They are still – boats 35 feet and under, 36-51 feet, and 52 feet and larger.
“We wanted to get more smaller boats involved in the tournament,” Blunt said. “Sometimes they feel they can’t compete with the bigger boats. It gives them their own little tournament within the tournament.”
To increase the chance for more participants to win money last year, organizers added two new “On the Board Reward” levels, as well as a largest bluefin tuna calcutta. Those will be offered again this year.
Early registration for the tournament ends today, July 6, at 5 p.m. The cost is $900 to enter. Blunt said about a half-dozen teams had registered as of earlier this week.
Most will wait until final registration, which will take place Thursday, July 12, from 3-7 p.m. at the Ocean City Fishing Center in West Ocean City. A captains’ meeting will follow. For those who miss early registration, the cost is $1,000 per boat (maximum six anglers).
“Tuna fishing is slowing down, unfortunately, but we’re still seeing some bigeyes being caught. People are catching bigeyes now more than yellowfin, and we haven’t seen a bluefin in a while,” Blunt said on Monday. “With the water heating up, they’re going deeper down. They’re there, but it’s like they’re hiding and not falling for our fake bait.
“There’s also been a ton of boats out fishing – it’s been such a busy two weeks – the fish sometimes seem to scare,” she continued. “Hopefully they’ll pop back up for the tournament.”
Altogether, there are 17 added entry-level calcuttas for the 2018 competition. The cost to enter them ranges from $200 to $5,000. Teams may sign up for one or all of the added entry-level categories, which, if they place on the top of the leader board, could substantially increase the amount of prize money they receive.
Level A $250 Single Largest Tuna - Daily
Level B $250 Heaviest Stringer - Daily
Level C $500 - Winner Takes All
Level D $500 Boats 35’ & Under - Winner Takes All
Level E $750 Boats 36-51’ - Winner Takes All
Level F $1,000 Boats 52’ & Up - Winner Takes All
Level G $2,500 SQUIDNATION Heaviest Stringer Jackpot - Winner Takes All
Level H $5,000 YETI Pro Jackpot Single Largest Tuna - Winner Takes All
Level I $500 50/30/20 Split
Level J $1,000 50/30/20 Split
Level K $2,500 50/30/20 Split
Level L $300 Single Largest Dolphin
Level M $200 Single Largest Wahoo
Level N $500 Single Largest Bluefin Tuna
Level O $500 On the Board Reward “A”
Level P $1,500 On the Board Reward “B”
Level Q $200 Charity Donation - 50/50 Split. Fifty percent will go to the singles largest tuna and 50 percent to a selected charity. In 2017 the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company was the beneficiary. The organization received $3,330. It will be the recipient for 2018 as well.
Levels C, D, E, F, I, J and K are split between Single Largest and Heaviest Stringer.
Levels D, E, F, I, J and K - Can only win in one category, Single Largest or Heaviest Stringer, not both.
The cost to go across the board with the $1,000 entry fee for boats 52 feet and larger is $17,700; $17,450 for boats 36-51 feet; and $17,200 for boats 35 feet and smaller.
The Level H Pro Tuna Jackpot Winner Takes All costs $5,000 to enter, but it pays off for the angler with the heaviest single tuna as long as he or she signs up for the calcutta. In 2017, 38 of the tournament’s 88 boats entered the calcutta and the pot totaled $171,000.
Jamie Romero landed the largest tuna of the 2017 competition, a 115-pound bluefin. Romero and his Absolut Pleasure teammates were awarded $309,130 for first place in the Single Largest Tuna Division.
Last year with 88 boats, more than $785,000 was awarded to tournament winners. Blunt said she expects about the same amount of participation this year, but added, “We always hope for more.”
For 2018, tournament fishing is permitted Friday through Sunday, July 13-15. Anglers will fish two of the three days. Boats can leave either the Ocean City or Indian River inlets.
Catches will be weighed at the Ocean City Fishing Center from 4-8:30 p.m. next Friday and Saturday, and until 7 p.m. Sunday. There is no cost to watch the weigh-ins, which are open to the public.
“It was a good start to the tuna season, with the number of tuna we’ve seen brought in early on,” Blunt said. “It would be nice if they would show back up in those large numbers for the tournament.”
Prize money will be awarded to the first-, second- and third-heaviest single tuna and the largest total catch weight.
Each boat may weigh up to five fish per day to compete for a two-day total pound catch.
There is a 30-pound minimum weight requirement for all eligible tournament tuna (yellowfin, bluefin and big eye).
Prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place in the Park Place Jewelers Ladies Division. A $1,500 award will be presented to the female angler who catches the largest tuna. Prizes of $1,000 and $500 will be distributed to second and third place, respectively.
A Junior Angler division is available for those 16 and younger. The winner will receive $1,000. Cash prizes of $500 and $250 will be presented to junior anglers who land the second- and third-heaviest fish.
There will also be prize money of $2,500, $1,000 and $500 for the first-, second- and third-largest dolphin.
Since several wahoo have been caught during the tournament over the years, organizers added a division for the fish in 2016. The calcutta is also available this year.
There will be free parking during weigh-ins in the West Ocean City Park & Ride. Free shuttles to and from the Fishing Center and Park & Ride will be available during weigh-ins.
For more information about the Tuna Tournament, call 410-213-1121 or visit www.octunatournament.com.