Big fish, big money

Big fish, big money

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winter fishing
Harbor East Marina offers easy access to Baltimore’s many waterfront attractions.Photo credit: Christopher Knauss

Winter fishing in the Chesapeake is a big deal. 

But a bigger deal is the legal drama over who will receive $2.8 million of winnings from this year’s White Marlin Open in Ocean City, Maryland. In August, Phil Heasley, aboard Kallianassa of Naples, Florida, caught a 76.5-pound white marlin to win an estimated $2.8 million, which was reported as the largest individual cash prize in sportfishing history. Tournament rules state that anglers cannot fish until after 8:30AM, but adherence to the tournament’s rules is in question and the prize money is now in escrow.

Heasley, president and chief executive officer at ACI Worldwide, caught the only “qualifying” white marlin in the tournament, fishing along with Capt. David Morris and mates Kyle Bohannon and Joseph Hagen. According to a court document filed by White Marlin Open Inc. (WMO), Heasley, Morris, Bohannon, and Hagen were on Defendant Heasley’s vessel when he caught the white marlin. None of them passed multiple polygraph tests administered by two examiners.

Heasley contends that he and his crew did not violate tournament rules. In September, Heasley and his attorneys filed a notice of removal to have the civil case removed from Worcester County Circuit Court and transferred to a federal court. That’s where it stands now. Richard Kosztyu, who caught the winning tuna in the tournament, would gain the most if a judge rules against Heasley. Kosztyu has received $767,091 and would receive an additional $2.3 million. The circuit court document is available on the WMO website. whitemarlinopen.com

Time for stripers
Striped bass fishing is a fine winter fishing activity at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Action typically picks up in the Virginia Beach area in October and runs through April. With their annual migration, tens of thousands of stripers move through the area in search of schooling bait fish. Located in the middle of two food-rich currents—the Florida Current coming up from the south and the North Atlantic Current coming down from the north—and two great bodies of water for winter fishing, the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, Virginia Beach is an ideal feeding place. Add the 17-mile-long Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel to the mix and you’ve got plenty of structure for anglers to target hiding fish. Anglers can also try to cash in on their catch this season by participating in the Mid-Atlantic Rockfish Shootout. This year’s benefit tournament runs December 8-10 with weigh stations at Rudee Inlet and King’s Creek Marina on Cape Charles. midatlanticrockfishshootout.com

Good clean fun at Harbor East
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has certified Harbor East Marina in Baltimore as a Maryland Clean Marina. The facility earned the recognition after adopting best management practices from the Maryland Clean Marina Guidebook, meeting all environmental and regulatory requirements and passing a site inspection. Harbor East is a 200-slip marina that can accommodate vessels up to 125 feet. Transients are welcome. The marina offers easy access to many of Baltimore’s best attractions including the National Aquarium, Harborplace (shopping and dining), sports venues, the convention center, and others. Harbor East also plans to participate in the Great Baltimore Oyster Partnership, a collaborative effort to restore the state’s oyster population. As part of the program, oyster gardens will be installed at the marina, where baby oysters will be planted and protected. harboreastmarina.com   

By Christopher Knauss, Southern Boating Magazine December 2016