White marlin prize money restored by City CouncilAcknowledging tradition, town officials will again offer $5K for season’s first
(April 21, 2017) The angler who lands Ocean City’s first white marlin of the season will have extra cash in his or her pocket, as the sportsfishing community and the City Council will contribute $5,000 each as prize money.
During last Friday’s budget wrap-up meeting, Mayor Rick Meehan asked the council to appropriate funding for a 30-year-long tradition. In the budget process, councilmembers voted to use the $5,000 to promote fishing activities in other ways, such as fishing television show “Hooked on OC.”
The council voted unanimously, with Councilman Wayne Hartman absent, to restore funding through the Tourism Department’s budget. In doing so, the city will be working with Marlin Club President Franky Pettolina and Scott Lenox of “Hooked on OC” to promote the award.
“Sometimes you take action and it leads to something good,” Meehan said. “I wasn’t aware about a lot of the tradition. I think we need to promote this to make it something special.”
Ideas floated amongst the council and staff included live-streaming a formal check presentation by the city to the angler. That would revive an old tradition, as Sen. Jim Mathias presented the money at a formal ceremony with the Marlin Club in 1999, when he was mayor.
Lenox thanked the council for allocating the prize money during the public comment period during Monday’s session.
“While Hooked on OC was a possible beneficiary of the allocation, we believe the money would be best served as the prize for the first white marlin of the season,” he said. “We look forward to working with the city, the Marlin Club and media outlets to put ideas forward in the tourism commission.”
Earl Conley, spokesperson for the Fishermen United of Ocean City, also confirmed that the organization would provide the $5,000 it vowed to replace when the council eliminated the prize.
The money was quickly raised between Bank of Ocean City, where Conley is vice president, Coastal Fisherman, Sunset Marina, Bahia Marina, which hosts the Mako Mania and Poor Girls Open fishing tournaments, Ocean City Fishing Center and Atlantic Tackle.
“We pledged this money, and we’re going to follow through with it on this year,” Conley said. “When I heard the council agreed to this, I felt like they were walking back because of the backlash. But we’ll be there with a big check for the first white marlin.
“When the summer is over, Fishermen United will reconvene to see what the future holds,” he added. “We have nothing immediately planned, but this is not the last you’ll hear from us.”
If the fisherman is a member of the Ocean City Marlin Club, the $10,000 prize money grows even larger. The organization traditionally awards $5,000 for the first white marlin catch. That puts the total prize money available at $15,000 for this summer.
Pettolina said that he looks forward to developing a fishing event that will increase Ocean City’s recognition among offshore anglers.
“I thought the town was hasty, and I’m happy that they listened to those that called and emailed. I feel like Mayor Meehan pulled a 180 and now wants to work to make this a bigger event, but I look forward to meeting with Scott and tourism leaders soon.”