(July 13, 2018) After a bit of an absence last week, tuna have returned to the area just in time for the 31st annual Ocean City Tuna Tournament.
“We saw a lot of yellowfins on Tuesday. Pretty much everybody that left the [Ocean City] Fishing Center came back with yellowfin tuna, and dolphin,” Jennifer Blunt, director of the Ocean City Tuna Tournament, said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s looking good for the tournament. We’re excited.”
Fishing Center charter boat operators also reported good numbers of yellowfin on Wednesday. Most are catching tuna in the Poor Man’s and Washington canyons offshore.
The cost to enter the tournament was $1,000 ($900 for early registration by July 6). Seventeen teams pre-registered, the most ever for the event, Blunt said. Several new participants have entered this year, she added.
Most crews wait until the final registration day, which was Thursday, July 12, to keep an eye on the forecast.
Weigh-in times were extended last year and will be the same for 2018. On Friday and Saturday weigh-ins will be from 4-8:30 p.m., and until 7 p.m. on Sunday at the Ocean City Fishing Center in West Ocean City.
There is no cost to watch the weigh-ins, which are open to the public.
Organizers also changed the boat size divisions last year. They are again: boats 35 feet and under, 36-51 feet, and 52 feet and larger.
Altogether, there are 17 added entry-level calcuttas for the 2018 competition. The cost to enter them ranges from $200 to $5,000. Teams had the opportunity to 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.
The cost to go across the board with the $1,000 entry fee for boats 52 feet and larger was $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 cost $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 entered, more than $785,000 was awarded to tournament winners.
For 2018, tournament fishing is permitted Friday through Sunday. Anglers will fish two of the three days. Boats can leave either the Ocean City or Indian River inlets.
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 was 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.
For more information about the Tuna Tournament, call 410-213-1121 or visit www.octunatournament.com.