The words have been uttered for decades in everything from beer commercials to acceptance speeches and victory celebrations but without a doubt it best describes the current billfish bite in the canyons off the south Jersey coast! How can anyone argue with a simple phrase? “It doesn’t get any better than this!” And quite frankly, it can’t! In fact, the white marlin bite is so good right now, the blue flags with the white marlin silhouette billfish anglers fly from their ‘riggers signifying a catch of this spectacular fish have become hard to find. So hard, it’s been reported tackle shops in Cape May County and beyond have exhausted their supply as boats are stacking up in preparation!
The timing of this off the chart white marlin bite couldn’t better as we’re less than two weeks away from the kickoff of sportfishing’s “Main Event” for billfish anglers on the east coast – the 2012 Mid-Atlantic $500,000. With fuel prices holding steady and a massive body of billfish offshore, this year’s event may well be shaping up as one of the best yet. As a warm up, many of the tournament’s regular participants have been getting in their practice laps and lots of laundry has been flying from ‘riggers at both Canyon Club Resort Marina in Cape May and Sunset Marina in Ocean City, Maryland. Need proof? Check out the web site for Canyon Club (www.canyonclubmarina.com) or the tournament’s official satellite marina, Sunset Marina (www.ocsunsetmarina.com), to see the catch reports and photos firsthand or you can read all about the Record Setting White Marlin Bite that’s got the big game fishing fraternity buzzing. The numbers have been staggering as for the past two weeks double-digit release days have been recorded regularly by boats sailing from both marinas. Catches of more than a dozen are common with numerous boats releasing twice as many or more including one boat which released 35 out of 58 hook-ups recently!
Needless to say, crews will get busy and the best of ‘em will be here from August 19-24 for the 2012 Mid-Atlantic $500,000. The event kicks off with Registration followed by the traditional Captain’s Meeting on the afternoon of Sunday, August 19. Beginning Monday, August 20, they’ll comb the offshore canyons, picking three of the five fishing days provided, with hopes of catching a white marlin that could be worth upwards of $1 million! With a field of 125 boats, tournament proceeds of $500,000 are guaranteed. However, optional side bets will undoubtedly push that total to well over $1.5 million!
The tournaments prize structure has always been popular with its participants and spreads the wealth around among the winners catching the three heaviest white marlin, blue marlin and tuna as well as the single heaviest dolphin (mahi mahi) and wahoo. Minimum weights of 65 pounds for white marlin and 400 pounds for blue marlin and experienced crews with a keen eye when sizing up all billfish keeps the numbers of these billfish brought to the scales to only a handful of fish.
Always a family event that’s known as much for its dockside hospitality as it is for its prize structure and great fishing, numerous events are scheduled again this year while crews are ashore. Seakeeper will sponsor Monday night’s buffet dinner in Cape May while Liquid Flow will sponsor a Docktail party at Sunset Marina on Tuesday and Wednesday night’s dinner in Cape May. Canyon Gear Custom Lures is sponsoring Thursday night’s dinner in Cape May while the Garmin Grand Giveaway rewards $1000 to top anglers who use Garmin sonar during the tournament. For the ladies, on Tuesday afternoon, a private tour and tasting at the Cape May Winery has been arranged. Those interested are asked to meet at the Canyon Club Ships Store at 1 p.m. Tickets are $20.
Finally, the Gentilini Challenge offers two chances to win. The angler breaking the existing New Jersey white marlin weight record while fishing out of Cape May during this year’s tournament could drive home in a 2012 Chevy Silverado Rocky Ridge Altitude Edition 4X4 truck courtesy of Gentilini Motors in Woodbine, NJ. But wait, there’s another way to win this vehicle! Each night 20 participants will be chosen at random to “roll-the dice.” Each of the five dice cubes will have the Gentilini logo imprinted on one face. The person who rolls “five Gentilini’s” wins!
Image courtesy Mid-Atlantic 500,000