Nearly three years ago, the crew of the Citation fought the battle of lifetime as they held onto an 883-pound marlin that would eventually become the largest fish recorded caught during the annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament. On June 14, 2010, the anglers on the Citation fought the large marlin for over three hours before being able to bring it on-board, at which point cheers rung out when the crew realized they could very well have snagged a combined prize purse of $915,825.
Celebration quickly turned to concern however, as it was discovered that one of the crew members did not have the necessary recreational fishing license for the state of North Carolina. Peter Wann, 22, had mistakenly believed that a blanket fishing license would be in effect for all crew members on the Citation. Tournament rules specifically required all participants to have their own valid fishing license, as well as a highly-migratory species fishing permit.
Wann hastily used the ship’s laptop to purchase the required licenses online, but by that time it was already too late. Tournament officials interviewed the crew of the Citation–reportedly with the aid of a polygraph test–and decided that because of the violation, the 883-pound marlin did not qualify for entry to the competition. Instead, the prize money was awarded to the crew of Carnivore with a previously second-place 528-pound marlin.
The Citation crew, which included Wann, Captain Eric Holmes, Michael Topp, Duncan Thomasson, and Martin Kooyman, later filed suit against the tournament for breach of contract. Lawyers representing the anglers argued that because the license was purchased before the ship re-entered North Carolina waters, the crew should not have been disqualified. The case initially went to the Superior Court in Beaufort in 2011, where the judge ruled in favor of the Big Rock Tournament. According to Star News, that decision was then appealed, and although the majority of appellate court judges determined the crew had not provided significant evidence to overturn the previous ruling, one judge in their favor was all that was needed to send the case to the state’s Supreme Court.
Appeals Court Judge Robert C. Hunter believed that the lack of a recreational fishing license did not provide the Citation with a competitive edge or was a significant violation of the tournament rules. Sure enough, the case was taken to the North Carolina’s highest court earlier this year. According to a report by the North Carolina Sportsman, the state Supreme Court agreed with Hunter, and sent the case back to the Superior Court under a different judge.
The crew of Carnivore and current runner-upper Wet-N-Wild however, were not pleased with the ongoing legal battles. Some of the prize money had been dispersed, but the lion’s share still awaited the final outcome of the case. The owners of both ships were also named in the suit to block them from receiving the prize money until a decision was reached.
Shortly before a trial date was to be proposed, the case was suddenly settled out-of-court.
“The parties involved in the Big Rock lawsuit have reached a mutually satisfactory resolution of all matters in dispute between them,” read a statement by the tournament’s attorneys. “Had the 883-pound fish caught by the vessel Citation not been disqualified, it would have been the largest fish weighed in the history of the Big Rock tournament. The parties are pleased that they were able to resolve their differences honorably and amicably. By agreement, the parties will have no further comment on the matter.”
Details of the settlement, including the final distribution of the prize money as well as the official winners of the 2010 tournament, have not been disclosed. Still, it must be a relief for all parties to have the matter settled, and begin looking forward to the high seas rather than a courtroom.
You can read OutdoorHub’s original coverage of the case here.
Image courtesy Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament