Sunday morning, Big Rock tournament director Crystal Watters released a statement, saying, “The Big Rock Blue Marlin Board of Directors withheld presentation of blue marlin prize money until an alleged rules violation by the top team has been totally researched and a decision made regarding this alleged violation.”
When reached for comment Sunday afternoon after rumors of disqualification had surfaced, a member of the Big Rock Board of Directors, who preferred not being named, neither confirmed nor denied that the rumor associated with the Citation mate but did say there had been no decision by the board at that point to disqualify the fish.
The source added that information on the board’s decision whether or not to disqualify the fish would not come until Monday afternoon.
But, Citation angler Andy Thomasson of Richmond, Va., tells a different story.
“We met with Big Rock officials this morning,” he said from Hatteras when contacted by phone Sunday night, “and our mate misled that he had a license when he did not. They pointed to Rule 9 and disqualified our fish and told us there was no record and no award.”
According to Big Rock Tournament Rule No. 9, a license is required for captains, anglers and mates of boats fishing in the tournament.
“Someone is afoul,” added Thomasson when asked if tournament officials had already made a decision. “Our position was that our mate should be punished because he individually broke the rules, not the whole boat being punished. This was an individual error, and the mate never touched the rod or had anything to do with that part of catching the fish.”
Rule 9 of the official tournament rules states: “All boats must have one of the following valid permits – HMS (Highly Migratory Species) Angling (recreational), HMS Charter/Headboat or Atlantic Tunas General Category Permit (commercial). Permits will be valid from the date of issuance through Dec. 31, 2010. Permits must be on board the vessel when engaged in fishing.
“The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries will require a recreational fishing license for anyone participating in fishing aboard a vessel. This includes a license for the captain, the mate and the anglers. These individual licenses can be purchased on a 10-day, annual or lifetime basis.
“A participant is responsible for knowing all state and federal regulations or any recent changes that may occur.”
Annual recreation fishing licenses are sold to North Carolina residents at $15, while the cost for non-residents is $30. A 10-day license, which would cover the entirety of the six-day Big Rock event, cost residents $5 and non-residents $10.
If there is no disqualification at this point, the Citation fish is still in line to win $912,825 of the total $1,664,450 purse. Also, the Ed Petrilli-captained boat Carnivore out of Cape Carteret, with angler John Parks, would finish second with their 528.3-pound blue marlin weighed in on the third day of fishing. And the Beaufort-based boat Wet-n-Wild, helmed by Capt. Tony Ross would finish third after angler Joseph Engleby weighed in a 460-pound blue marlin on the fifth day Friday.
The tournament ended Saturday after six days of fishing. Citation sat atop the leader board from start to finish.
The Carnivore was set to receive $217,570 and the crew of Wet-n-Wild was ready to accept a check for $144,380 Saturday night. But all that could change if the Citation fish is disqualified, and the Carnivore would then be in line to receive a Big Rock record of its own — the first-ever payout of over $1 million.