Ocean City Today

Bank of OC continues first marlin prize money tradition

By Katie Tabeling | Dec 28, 2017
Source: File Photo Fishermen United Ocean City awarded Dave Taylor, center, with a $6,000 check for catching the first white marlin of the Ocean City fishing season in front of the marlin fountain on North Division Street on July 3. Fishermen United representatives, from left, are Earl Conley, Brian Tinkler, Mary Jock, Shawn Harman and Rolfe Gudelsky.

(Dec. 29, 2017) The Ocean City Council landed a boat load of grief this year, when it agreed to abandon its tradition of awarding $5,000 to the angler who reeled in the first white marlin of the season.

During budget sessions on April 5, a council majority voted to eliminate the prize money as some members suggested that it had run its course. For the past 30 years, the Marlin Club and the city had awarded the angler who boated the first white marlin of the year $5,000 apiece.

In the following days, Bank of Ocean City Vice President Earl Conley announced that the bank, along with other businesses would continue the tradition.

Other businesses that contributed to the prize were Coastal Fisherman, Sunset Marina, Bahia Marina, Ocean City Fishing Center and Atlantic Tackle.

“It doesn’t surprise me how the community came up to bat. We easily come together in a time of need,” Conley said in April. “I thought once again the town was turning its back in the recreational fishing industry. Ocean City is the self-designated ‘White Marlin Capital of The World,’ and yet they won’t spend money on this.”

When the council reconvened to wrap up budget decisions, Mayor Rick Meehan pushed to restore the prize money through the Tourism Department’s budget.

“Sometimes you take action and it leads to something good,” Meehan said on April 14. “I wasn’t aware about a lot of the tradition. I think we need to promote this to make it something special.”

Conley said that his compatriots would still offer the $5,000, which would double the award. If the fisherman is a member of the Ocean City Marlin Club, the prize money grows even larger. Members are also awarded $5,000 for the first white marlin catch, which puts the total prize money at $16,000.

In May, Scott Lenox of Fishin’ OC coordinated with the Ocean City Marlin Club to launch a social media campaign to draw more attention to the informal competition.

The resort’s tourism social media pages used the hashtag “#firstwhitemarlinoc” on every post about the white marlin catch, like the Marlin Club and “Hooked on OC” websites. The winning angler would also be interviewed in a video, and formally be presented the check during a council meeting.

However, the prize money was divided because a Marlin Club-registered boat fishing out of Indian River Marina reeled one in on June 9. The angler was identified as Ian Schwing.

The Marlin Club’s contest allows members to fish from more than one inlet, as long as it is within 100 miles of the Ocean City buoy. Schwing was awarded $5,000.

Five days later, Dave Taylor of Baltimore, fishing out of Ocean City, reeled in a white marlin and won the remaining $11,000.

Two ceremonies were held for Taylor on July 3, signaling a further divide between the sportsfishing community and the city. The coalition of businesses, Fishermen United of Ocean City, awarded Taylor a $6,000 check in front of the marlin fountain on North Division Street that afternoon.

Schwing received his check at a large ceremony in October.

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