The owners of the fishing boat Sensation have filed an official protest after their 619.4-pound blue marlin was disqualified in the 65th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament. Per WITN Morehead City, the protest puts the official finishes and prize money on temporary hold until the conflict is resolved.
Sensation hauled in the largest marlin in the week-long tournament on Saturday, as well as the only marlin to exceed 500 pounds, which would have made it eligible for the additional Level V Fabulous Fisherman’s prize of approximately $739,500, (which is awarded to catches over 500 lbs.)
However, Big Rock Blue Marin Tournament officials stated on Sunday morning that the marlin had apparent shark bites that occurred before the fish was caught, which was against tournament rules.
“After careful deliberation and discussions between the Big Rock Rules Committee and Board of Directors with biologists from both N.C. State CMAST and N.C. Marine Fisheries biologists as well as an IGFA official, it was determined that SENSATION’S 619.4 lb. Blue Marlin is disqualified due to mutilation caused by a shark or other marine animal,” said Big Rock organizers in an official statement. “It was deemed that the fish was mutilated before it was landed or boated, and therefore it was disqualified.
“The Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament follows IGFA rules regarding mutilated fish as outlined in Rule #23 in the Big Rock Official Rules. IGFA rules state that the following situation will disqualify a fish: ‘Mutilation to the fish, prior to landing or boating the catch, caused by sharks, other fish, mammals, or propellers that remove or penetrate the flesh.’ This decision is consistent with prior decisions made by the tournament in similar circumstances over the last 65 years.”
Representatives of Sensation stated in their protest and in interviews that the Big Rock Blue Marlin tournament is not an International Game Fish Association (IGFA) tournament, and is therefore not subject to IGFA rules, and that these rules have been arbitrarily applied in the past.
In several interviews, Sensation representatives pointed to the 2019 tournament’s winner Top Dog, which landed a 914-pound fish that showed heavy damage. (Tournament officials stated that the 2019 fish was damaged by the boat while the fish was in the process of being caught, but in interviews, Sensation representatives said they saw bite marks on that fish as well.)
In addition to formally protesting the results, the Sensation has also retained legal representation to take the dispute to the courts if need be.
The disqualification meant that the 484.5 lb. marlin that was caught by Nags Head-based Sushi, which occurred on Friday evening, was the heaviest blue marlin and subsequently the winner of the tournament.
The vessel Chasin’ A of the Cayman Islands claimed second place with its 479.8 lb. blue marlin, and the 470.2 lb. blue marlin captured by C-Student of Southside Place, Texas, landed in third place.
The Hatteras-based Predator, with Captain Chris Barnett, landed on the 2023 leaderboard, with a 459.0 lb. blue marlin caught on Wednesday afternoon.
The Big Rock Blue Marlin tournament is one of the largest sport fishing tournaments in the United States, with 271 boats participating in the 2023 edition.
The top five results for the heaviest marlin are listed below, (not including Sensation), and the top three vessels receive a portion of the overall prize money.
|2.||Chasin’ A||479.8 pounds|
|4.||Sea Toy||463.7 pounds|
Although the event is based in the Morehead City area of the Crystal Coast, Hatteras village also serves as a launching and docking spot during the tournament, which targets blue marlins over roughly a week of offshore fishing.