deadlock when parties meet to discuss Big Rock winner
The fight over winnings in last month’s 2010 Big Rock Blue Marlin
Tournament continues after attorneys and representatives of the
disqualified boat owners and the tournament locked horns and didn’t
budge during an informal meeting this week.
a statement issued Friday by the tournament, Brad Evans, attorney for
the Crystal Coast Tournament Inc., said that its board of directors
remains “firm in its decision to disqualify the marlin caught by the
Citation based on violation of tournament rules.”
Citation, which hails from Hatteras, was stripped of its claim to more
than $1 million for catching a record 883-pound marlin because a mate
lacked a valid fishing license at the time the big fish was hooked.
for the vessel contend that a license was not required then because the
vessel was in international waters, and they filed a lawsuit on July 1.
The tournament answered the claim in Dare County on July 19.
At the meeting in Morehead City on Tuesday, July 20, the
tournament statement said, an opportunity was given to the Citation to
present its case to the board. But the panel made no reversal of its
June 22 decision to disqualify the Hatteras boat and instead award the
winnings to the second place vessel, the Carnivore.
litigation essentially continues,” Evans said on Friday. “The board
made up its mind and has not changed its position.”
learning of the press release, Andy Gay, the Citation’s attorney, said
late Friday afternoon that the tournament is in breach of an agreement
reached at the meeting to not make statements about the case until all
the parties had been joined in the lawsuit and had a chance to review
the biggest amount of grandstanding I’ve ever seen in my life,” Gay
said. “I’ll see them in court.”
said that the hope was that the matter could be resolved quickly,
saving everyone legal fees and ill will.
But it appears that the case is destined to move forward with more
discovery and depositions. The owners of the Carnivore and the Wet N’
Wild, named the second place winner, will be joined in the lawsuit in
the coming days, Gay said. Both owners, he said, have requested
they are firm in their position, the only place to go is back to court
where we started,” he said, referring to the tournament. “May
best man win . . . and the biggest fish.”
(Catherine Kozak, a former reporter for The Virginian-Pilot in the Nags
Head office, is now a freelance writer for The Island Free Press and
July 20, 2010
No money to Big
Rock competitors until
legal dispute is resolved, judge rules
BY CATHERINE KOZAK
No money will be handed to any 2010 Big Rock Marlin Tournament
competitors until a legal dispute about the prizes is resolved.
A lawsuit was filed Monday in Dare County Superior Court by Big Rock
Foundation, Inc. in answer to a July 1 complaint filed by the owners of
the Hatteras-based Citation, the charter boat that was disqualified
from first place winnings of more than $1 million in the June contest
because a mate lacked a fishing license when the fish was caught.
In its amended complaint and counterclaim, Big Rock asserts that the
Citation crew was in violation of North Carolina fishing regulations as
well as tournament rules when an 883-pound marlin was landed by mate
Big Rock’s attorney Brad Evans, with the Greenville firm Ward and
Smith, said Tuesday that their earlier filing in Carteret County has
been dropped, and the case will now be heard in Dare County.
Evans said that it is too soon to speculate whether a settlement prior
to as-yet unscheduled court hearings may be able to resolve the legal
“I can’t say one way or another,” he said.
A consent order signed on July 14 by Superior Court Judge Jerry Tillett
stated that defendants Big Rock Foundation and Crystal Coast Tournament
shall not pay any of the $1,231,575 in contested prize money until
ordered to do so by the court.
The agreement also said that plaintiffs Michael Topp, Duncan Thomasson,
Martin Kooyman and Black Pearl Enterprises are not required to post a
When the tournament organizers learned that Wann, the mate, did not
possess a recreational saltwater fishing license until more than two
hours after the marlin was caught, the Citation was disqualified from
its winnings of $912,825 in the Blue Marlin Division and $318,750 in
the Fabulous Fisherman’s Level.
The disqualified 883-pound marlin would have set a tournament
record for the largest blue marlin brought to the dock.
Because of this disqualification, which was announced on June 22, The
Big Rock Board of Directors declared the second-place boat, Carnivore,
the tournament winner with its 528.3 pound blue marlin, caught by
angler John Parks. The board awarded a $999,543 first prize
But the vessel’s owners assert in their claim that the Citation had
“fulfilled all obligations to defendants in accordance with the
tournament entry form and rules and is entitled to receive the full
amount of both top prizes.”
The lawsuit, which claims that Big Rock’s refusal to award the prizes
constitutes breach of contract, does not specifically defend
Big Rock assertion that Wann was required to have the license before he
started fishing, except to state that the Citation “had complied with
all rules and regulations required by the tournament.”
Big Rock, on the other hand, claims there was no contract between the
Andy Gay, the attorney representing the Citation’s owners, said that
facts of the case are simple: The vessel was out of North Carolina’s
jurisdiction when the fish was caught, and by the time it re-entered
state waters, the mate had a valid saltwater recreational fishing
license that he acquired online.
State waters extend only three miles out, Gay said. And whatever rule
the tournament had about the license, he said, that didn’t apply
“It didn’t count on the way out, because the tournament didn’t start,”
he said. “It doesn’t start until 9 o’clock in the morning. My clients
are out in the Gulf Stream, waiting for the tournament to start in
Gay, with Zebulon firm Gay, Jackson & McNally, said that the
blanket license the Citation possessed had expired at the end of April.
Wann had assumed that the vessel’s license covered him until he
double-checked online after the marlin was hooked.
That is also when the mate discovered that his own fishing license had
“I looked at it, and I was like (expletive),” Wann was quoted on June
24 in The Washington Post.
But ultimately, Gay said, Wann had a valid license well before it was
required during the tournament, and that’s all that’s relevant to the
Citation qualifying for the prize money.
“From 9 o’clock until the end of that tournament, they violated no
rules,” he said.
Gay said that a meeting is scheduled on Friday with attorneys and
representatives from Big Rock and the Citation. He said he is
confident that the Big Rock folks have learned more about the
situation, and potentially could decide in Citation’s favor.
“Their minds are not made up,” he said. “We believe that we have a good
faith basis for them to reconsider.”
Kozak, a former reporter for The Virginian-Pilot in the Nags Head
office, is now a freelance writer for The Island Free Press and other
June 22, 2010
in Big Rock; local captains criticize decision
By IRENE NOLAN
The drama that has played out on fishing boards and social networking
sites across the country for the past three days ended this evening
when the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament Board of Directors
disqualified the Hatteras-based boat that brought a record 883-pound
fish to the dock on June 14, the tournament’s first day.
Citation lost about $1.2 million in prize money because the board
determined that a mate on the boat broke tournament rules because he
did not get a $15 North Carolina recreation fishing license until after
the marlin, the largest in the tournament’s 52-year history, was boated.
media release, the board said, “After interviewing members of the crew
of the fishing vessel Citation, review of the Big Rock Blue Marlin
Tournament rules, consulting the division of Marine Fisheries as well
as the North Carolina Attorney General’s office, it is apparent that
there has been a substantial violation of tournament rules.
Board of Directors has unanimously determined that they have no choice
but to disqualify the 883-pound blue marlin caught on June 14, 2010,”
the release said. “The rule violation did not involve ‘dishonesty’ or
‘cheating’ on the part of the owners or angler of the Citation.
Instead, the statement said that the violation involved the mate on
Citation not having a recreational fishing license.
“This license is required by North Carolina law,” the board said. “It
is required by the tournament as written in our rules. Participants and
crew were reminded of the license requirement at the captains’ meeting
prior to the tournament.”
According to the board, the mate, who has been identified in media
reports as Peter Martin Wann, 22, of Alexandria, Va., “engaged in
fishing activities without a valid license.”
According to the board, the record blue marlin was boated at 3:16 p.m.,
and the mate did not obtain a license until 5:51 p.m., while the boat
was heading to the weigh station in Morehead City, N.C.
“This is an unfortunate situation for the crew of Citation, as well as
the tournament itself,” the directors said. “For the integrity of the
tournament, Big Rock has no choice but to enforce the rules and
disqualify the fish.”
The mate was fined on Sunday by the state Division of Marine Fisheries
after a discrepancy in his fishing license was uncovered in lie
detector tests required of some people on the winning boat in the
tournament, which had a total purse of $1.6 million in prize money.
The fine was $35 plus $125 in court costs.
But the owners of the boat, the captain Eric Holmes, and the angler
Andy Thomasson have lost about $912,000 for the biggest blue marlin and
a bonus prize of about $319,000. The mate also usually shares
the prize money.
Because of this disqualification, The Big Rock Board of Directors
declared Carnivore the tournament winner with its 528.3 pound blue
marlin, caught by angler John Parks. The boat won
Second place then went to Wet-N-Wild with a 460-pound fish.
boat won $275,322.
Hatteras captains who fished the tournament and are involved with
writing and enforcing rules in other tournaments were unhappy with the
am in total disagreement,” said Rom Whitaker, captain of the Release,
which also fished the tournament and won a $7,000 prize for winning the
daily division in the marlin release category.
is just terrible,” said Whitaker, who sits on the rules committee of
Hatteras Village Offshore Open and conducts captains’ meetings for that
group. “It is absolutely ridiculous that they wrote that boy a ticket.”
observers say the fish was landed in federal waters, where Whitaker
said the state has no jurisdiction.
caught the fish legally,” he said.
noted that North Carolina requires that any fish landed in federal or
state waters be brought to the dock by an angler and boat with the
proper recreational fishing license.
the mate landed the fish at the dock, Whitaker said, he had a valid
license, no matter when it was acquired.
the Hatteras village tournament, he noted, the fish would not have been
disqualified “even if the mate had gotten his license two minutes
before he got to the dock.”
Kavanagh, captain of Bite Me who fished the Big Rock for the first time
this year, agrees with Whitaker.
Big Rock has always been about as few rules as possible,” Kavanagh
said. “It’s all about putting the biggest fish on the dock.”
said he has studied the Big Rock rules, and he says he thinks they are
“ambiguous” on the question of the state fishing license. But he
assumes that since the requirement for the state license was mentioned
at the captains’ committee, the directors felt obligated to enforce it.
helped write the rules and serves on the rules committee of the
Hatteras Grand Slam Tournament.
do not consider this a violation of the rules,” he said. He
the captain, the angler, the boat, and the mate “met the letter of the
law” and that the Big Rock rules are” poorly written.”
just made a bad decision,” he said.
the past three days on the Big Rock Facebook page, folks have weighed
in on both sides of the issue – from the rules are the rules to the
view that Kavanagh and Whitaker share that the mate had his license
when he reached the dock and that should be that.
has been feverish over the past few days with many who weighed in on
the boards saying the violation had to be about more than the lack of a
$15 fishing license.
out it was not.
more information on the Big Rock and other winners, go to www.thebigrock.com.
June 21, 2010
Big Rock still has no winner -- with almost $1 million in first-prize
money at stake
By IRENE NOLAN
still no official winner in last week’s Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.
Almost $1 million in prize money is riding on whether a mate on the
Hatteras-based Citation, the boat that caught a record-breaking blue
marlin that should have taken the top prize, had a North
recreational fishing license, which is required by both state and
About 5 p.m. this afternoon, the Big Rock Tournament board of directors
issued a terse statement that it was “still in the process of
investigating the alleged rule violation by the fishing vessel Citation
with regards to the 883-pound marlin weighed in on June 14, 2010.”
In the media release, the board said:
violation centers on
whether the mate on the Citation had been timely issued a Coastal
Recreational Fishing License as required by our Tournament as well as
the State of North Carolina. We have been in contact with the Division
of Marine Fisheries as well as the N.C. Attorney General's Office.
exercising due diligence in this investigation, so to protect our
participants, sponsors and charities.”
Andy Thomasson of Richmond, Va., landed the fish on the Citation, which
is privately owned and captained by Eric Holmes, after a three-hour
battle on the first day of the tournament, Monday, June 14.
– or would be if declared the winner -- the largest in the 52-year
history of the Big Rock.
the awards banquet on the last day, Saturday, June 19, was halted
before the winner in the largest blue marlin category was announced.
issued a statement Sunday morning saying that it was investigating
allegations of a violation of tournament rules.
Sunday, the board issued another statement calling on fans of the Big
Rock to refrain from commenting until a decision was made late today.
today came the decision that there was nothing decided yet.
Big Rock is one of the largest tournaments on the East Coast.
This year 156 boats entered, and the purse was worth a total of $1.6
to the Big Rock website, the Citation stood to take in prize money of
at least $912,000.
other newspapers, such as the Jacksonville Daily News and the Carteret
County News-Times, have reported that the angler who caught the fish
and another co-owner of the boat said that they have been told they
would not win.
Jacksonville newspaper reported online:
didn’t do anything wrong. But one of our people did. He failed to get a
fishing license, but we didn’t know it. He told us he had it. He
didn’t. So you take a man for his word, you know? I can’t do anything.
They made their decision,” Thomasson said, referring to the Big Rock
board of directors.
taking it away, everything. The fish is disqualified. We’re
disqualified. So that’s the end of it. Yeah, wow. That hurts. To have
done it like that…, to have somebody beat me because they caught (a
bigger) fish is not so bad, but…,” he said, his voice trailing off
without completing his thought.
North Carolina Coastal Recreational Fishing License costs $15 annually
for state residents 16 and older or $30 for nonresidents, according to
the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ website. A
10-day license can also be purchased for $5 for state residents 16 and
older or $10 for nonresidents.
an update today, the Jacksonville newspaper also quoted Michael Topp, a
co-owner of the boat who has a vacation cottage in Frisco:
lack of a license by a “for-hire mate” was discovered during a lie
detector test Saturday night, said Michael Topp, one of the boat’s
three owners. The tournament requires a lie detector test for the top
money winners, including the captain, mate and angler as well as
“others as deemed necessary.”
on that, it appears that they are going to withhold all the winnings
and disallow the catch of the fish,” Topp said. “It’s their tournament,
their rules, their judgment. We, of course, feel that the action of the
particular individual on an individual license should be dealt with on
an individual license basis.
the Big Rock’s Facebook page, folks have been arguing the fairness or
unfairness of it all for two days as they have followed the unfolding
say “the rules are the rules,” while others think the angler and the
boat should not have to pay for the mistake of a mate, who has not been
named in any published account. Some think the record should stand
what the Citation stands to lose, there are at least two boats that
stand to be big winners.
the Citation is eventually disqualified, the top prize money in the
biggest blue marlin category would go to the second-place boat,
Carnivore, which brought a 528-pound fish to the dock. The
was John Parks of Jacksonville, N.C., and the captain is Ed Petrilli of
third-place finisher also stands to move higher in the prize
money. That boat is Wet-N-Wild with angler Joseph Engleby and
captain Tony Ross.
involved in the controversy are two Hatteras-based boats that finished
in the money.
Sea Creature, captained by Steve Coulter, won for a 54.4-pound dolphin
that took the dolphin “winner take all” category for $96,900, the
weekly gamefish dolphin division for $6,077, and the daily gamefish
category for $1,013. Total earnings for Sea Creature was right at
In addition, Release, with Capt. Rom Whitaker, won first place in the
daily release division on Saturday with a release of one white and one
blue marlin for $7,732.80 in prize money.
To read the story in the Jacksonville Daily News, go to:
To read the story in the Carteret County News-Times, go to:
For more information on the Big Rock Tournament and the winners, go to http://www.thebigrock.com