Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament’s Big Blue Disqualification

Mutilation voids a last-minute catch in North Carolina
A sport-fishing team stands at the awards ceremony of the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.
The team fishing aboard Sushi won more than $2.7 million for their blue marlin. Courtesy Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament

Elation turned to heartbreak for one team in particular during the final hours of this year’s Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament in Morehead City, North Carolina. In a tale reminiscent of Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, where Santiago’s trophy marlin is attacked by sharks at the boat, the crew of the Morehead City-based charter boat Sensation fought the largest marlin of the week-long tournament for more than six hours, only to have it bitten near the tail just prior to boating the fish. According to tournament rules, the mutilation was sufficient to disqualify the catch, which would have been worth $2.7 million, plus an additional bonus of $739,500 for the first blue marlin weighing more than 500 pounds caught during the tournament. 

Sensation’s captain, Greg McCoy, was understandably disappointed. “It’s the final hour, the final day and we fought with him for six hours,” McCoy said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow.” The team hooked the fish on the last day at 2:15 p.m., eventually boating the marlin at 8:22 p.m. according to the tournament’s official catch log. Videos of the weigh-in clearly show the shark bite near the base of the fish’s tail. The unofficial weight was 619.4 pounds. 

Additional Info: Learn more about the history of the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament here.

A sport-fishing team standing at the weigh station for a large marlin.
Sushi’s fish weighed 484.5 pounds. Courtesy Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament

The tournament issued the following statement regarding the situation:

After careful deliberation and discussions between the Big Rock Rules Committee and Board of Directors with biologists from both NC State CMAST 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 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 situations 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. 

This decision is consistent with prior decisions made by the tournament in similar circumstances over the last 65 years.”

The tournament declared Sushi the winner of this year’s tournament with their 484.5-pound blue marlin. Chasin A was second with a 479.8-pound blue, followed by C- Student with a 470.2-pound blue. A fleet of 271 boats participated in this year’s tournament. 

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