For the second time in two weeks, the state record for Swordfish in Maryland has been broken.
The fish was also caught by another tournament angler, meaning… another big check.
Like a really, really, really big check.
The White Marlin Open in Ocean City, Maryland is one of the largest annual fishing tournaments in the world. This year was one of the most exciting renditions of the tournament in recent memory, with record breaking fish, sinking boats, and millions of dollars in cash prizes.
This was the 48th straight year the White Marlin Open has taken place, and it’s advertised as the largest and richest billfish tournament in the world. It brings in fishing teams from around the world and huge crowds of spectators at the weigh ins. The tournament is also used to raise money and awareness for marine conservation initiatives and sustainable fisheries management.
The tournament awards cash prizes for a variety of categories, and 2020 three different individual fish wound up being worth more than a million dollars.
The billfish category is the most prestigious and highest paying category in the tournament though. The term billfish refers to a broader group of fish characterized by what’s known as their “rostra,” or essentially the projectile features on the front of their face. 12 different species of marlins, sailfish, spearfish, and swordfish are all considered billfish. Almost all billfish are highly migratory and live and hunt in the open ocean, where they use their bills to slash, stun, and spear their prey fish.
According to Chesapeake Bay Magazine, This year was a record breaking year for the worlds largest billfish tournament, with a record number of boats (444) competing for a record prize pool ($9.2 million).
This year an 85-pound 5-ounce white marlin caught by Butch Wright and his crew took home a record pay out of $3.2 million for catching the largest white marlin of the tournament.
Ocean City, MD – (White Marlin Open) Sushi weighed an 85 lbs White Marlin to win the White Marlin Division pic.twitter.com/dxgMzya7cv
A crew of out Florida took home $1.2 million for a 137-pound tuna. The same boat also caught a 775-pound blue marlin that earned them another $1.1 million. It was the first time in the history of the tournament that a single boat won two divisions of the tournament.
Ocean City, MD – (White Marlin Open) Seven weighed a 775 lbs Blue Marlin to win the Blue Marlin Division. pic.twitter.com/KP9re3SA9v
That is not the only record that was broken during the 2021 White Marlin Open though.
Jake Bertonazzi from New Jersey hooked into a 318-pound 5-ounce swordfish about 60 miles offshore in a marine area known as Poor Man’s Canyon. He caught the fish on August 6th and it was confirmed as the new state record by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources on August 10th.
He was deep dropping cut up squid on a circle hook when he caught the record breaking fish. He hauled it in just minutes before the tournament ended too.
“We were having a slow week…not having anything. We had 15 minutes before the end of the tournament when the swordfish started taking the bait.”
The fish fought for more than 2-hours before it was finally pulled into the boat.
It is the second time in that the state record for swordfish has been broken in just two weeks time. Two weeks ago another fisherman caught a 301-pound swordfish that earned him and his crew more than $540,000 while participating in the annual Big Fish Classic.
While Bertonazzi has his name in the record books and bragging rights about the biggest swordfish in Maryland state history, unfortunately for him it looks like his check wasn’t as big as the other two record breakers.
The White Marlin Open apparently doesn’t award cash money for swordfish in particular. The tournament only awards cash prizes for white marlins, blue marlins, wahoo, dolphin fish (not actual dolphins), tuna, and sharks.
There is also a large pay out for largest fish, but the record breaking swordfish was substantially smaller than the largest blue marlin caught during the tournament. However, there is a cash prize for the largest fish caught in the small boat category, and for that Bertonazzi did with $118,800 for his fish. That’s a check anyone would be happy to cash for a day of fishing.
Another boat participating on the tournament made headlines on the very first day of the tournament as well, but not for the fish they caught. The boat sank and the 6 fisherman aboard had to be rescued.
The boat was named Knot Stressin’, but the crew found themselves in a very stressful situation when the 34-foot boat sank into 60 feet of water while 65 miles off shore. The crew was rescued by a lifeboat from a nearby fishing team that heard their distress call on the radio and sprung into action.