Fishing Saltwater Fishing

Marlin Catch Disqualified from Tourney Due to Shark “Mutilation.” Costs Anglers $3.5 Million in Winnings

A shark took a pricey bite out of a 600-pound marlin and cost the anglers a huge payday at the 65th Annual Big Rock Blue Marlin tournament
Bob McNally Avatar
blue marlin tournament
The Sensation crew with their disqualified 600-pound blue marlin. Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament

Anglers aboard the offshore boat “Sensation” got the disappointment of their fishing lives when they weighed what would have been a tournament winning blue marlin during the prestigious 65th Annual Big Rock Blue Marlin tournament out of Morehead City, North Carolina on June 17.

Their 619.4-pound blue marlin was big enough to unseat the current leader of the event that weighed 484.5 pounds. That fish was brought in earlier by the boat “Sushi.” The tournament’s prize for biggest blue marlin was worth $3.5 million.

But the boisterous crowd that welcomed the “Sensation” anglers at the weigh-in site soon became quiet when an announcer on a live speaker said, “It would appear that this fish has been bitten by a shark.”

Tourney personnel spotted what appeared to be multiple bites to the fish, according to the local Jacksonville Daily News. Such a mutilation of the catch would disqualify the marlin in the tournament, according to tourney rules that adhere to IGFA procedures for sport angling.

Tournament officials waited until Sunday morning to declare a winner in the event, with 271 boats competing for $5.85 million in total prize money.

On June 18 tournament officials made their decision and posted it on the tournament’s Facebook page:

“After careful deliberation and discussions between the Big Rock Rules Committee and Board of Directors with biologists from both NC State Center for Marine Sciences and Technology and NC Marine Fisheries biologists as well as an IGFA official, it was determined that Sensation’s 619.4-pound blue marlin is disqualified due to mutilation caused by a shark or other marine animal. It was deemed that the fish was mutilated before it was landed or boated and therefore it was disqualified,” the statement read.

“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.’”

Officials declared the “Sushi” crew the winner of the tournament for its 484.5-pound blue marlin catch.

In saltwater angling parlance, gamefish that are mutilated by sharks or other toothy predators are said to be a payment to the “tax man.” Unfortunately for anglers aboard the “Sensation,” the tax man’s bite meant a horrific hit to their tournament winnings.

Capt. Greg McCoy of the “Sensation” told the Washington Post he was shocked about the mutilation rule, and believed that after a long and tough fight to boat the fish they were winners of the tournament.

“It’s the final hour, the final day and we fought with him [marlin] for six hours,” McCoy told the newspaper. “It’s a tough pill to swallow.”