Column: Disappointing end to OC white marlin incentive
Capt. Mark Sampson was a little disappointed to hear the news last week that the Ocean City Council made the decision to quit contributing to the award money given each year to the angler who catches the Ocean City’s first white marlin of the season. Keith Demko video
I’ll have to admit that I was a little disappointed, although not totally shocked, to hear the news last week that the Ocean City Council made the decision to quit contributing to the award money given each year to the angler who catches the Ocean City’s first white marlin of the season.
For a long time, the town has put up $5,000 as incentive for anglers to get offshore, find the fish, and get the marlin season off and running for everyone. It’s “disappointing” to think that this long-standing tradition would come to such an abrupt end.
By the sound of it, while reviewing the town’s annual budget, the council concluded that the annual payment was an expenditure that might not be providing adequate return on investment and voted 5-0 to put an end to it.
Paying bounty to the angler who catches the first white marlin of the season was started many years ago to help promote local fishing by creating additional hoopla around the catch and to give fishermen the incentive to start the offshore hunt earlier in the season.
The idea seems to have been working quite well. Between the money paid by the city, the matching funds paid by the OC Marlin Club, and the recognition given to the boat, angler and crew, a lot of folks invest countless hours, money, and effort every spring to capture the first white marlin and all the fame and fortune that comes along with it.
News of Ocean City’s first white marlin being caught spreads like wildfire and prompts other anglers who have been waiting to know that the fish have arrived, to get their crews together and head out to the fishing grounds. The marlin have arrived – let the fun begin!
So again, I say that it’s “disappointing” that the town has elected to terminate this part of their support for our local fishery, but I was “not surprised.”
Out of necessity, our local fishing industry has pretty much funded and promoted itself with very little help from the city. Oh sure, local fishing gets a mention in the “things to do” sections of the various town websites and publications, and some funds are directed to enhance travel show and media promotions. But it’s all a drop in the bucket compared to the millions of promotional dollars spent by our local marinas, tackle stores, boat dealers, fishing piers, charter and headboats.
Whether it’s a guide with a 20-foot boat looking to take a couple people out in the bay to catch flounder, or a multi-million dollar marina servicing thousands of people and hundreds of boats a day, everyone in the fishing business knows that they need to do their own promotions, because even though the whole world is constantly reminded about Ocean City’s wonderful beaches, exciting boardwalk, amusements, nightlife, and by all means our “golf courses,” for the most part, promoting the extraordinary fishing opportunities that surround our fair city has always been left up to us.
And that’s been going on for so long that it’s just pretty much been accepted as the way it’s supposed to be.
Demonstrating how our fishing industry takes care of itself, soon after the news of the Ocean City’s decision hit the streets, six local businesses volunteered to contribute cash or gift certificates to make up for the deficit left by the city’s decision. The cash prize money payout alone is now equal to what the town used to donate, bringing it all back to status quo. Add the gift certificates into mix and this year’s lucky angler is liable to win more in cash and prizes than ever.
For almost half a century Ocean City has self-proclaimed itself to be “the white marlin capital of the world.” It seems ironic that our city leaders would elect to pull their support away from the only folks who are capable of lending credence to the title.