With less than 20 days remaining until the kick-off of the 15th annual Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, boat registrations for this world-class fishing event have already surpassed previous advance rates by over 25 percent. The final field could top the 100-team mark and if that does happen, a new $2 million-plus benchmark would be established.

The ECBC is hosted by the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and presented by Wind Creek Casino & Hotel in Atmore, Alabama.

“At the current pace of registrations, I’m confident we’ll reach that 100-boat mark,” said Tournament Director Adam Alfonso. “And when we do, we’re going to shatter last year’s overall record purse of $1.95 million. On top of that we’ve got another great slate of sponsors and plenty of new activities to make the week even more exciting.”

The 2017 ECBC will usher in a renewed commitment to marine conservation. In the Gulf, the ECBC has historically held the highest minimum length for weighed blue marlin at 103 inches (the federal minimum is 99 inches). This year, blue marlin must be at least 106 inches long to qualify in the weight division. That minimum is measured from the tip of the fish’s lower jaw to the fork of the tail. This increase in length will ensure the release of marginal marlin and result in only true trophies coming to the scales at Baytowne Marina.

“As one of the top big-game fishing tournaments in the world, we felt raising the minimum length was the right thing to do,” Alfonso said. “It’s the perfect opportunity to support conservation and ensure these magnificent fish are here for future generations. By raising the length, fewer fish will be sacrificed and those that are boated will truly reflect the caliber and skills of our contestants.”

A blue marlin measuring 106 inches will weigh 400 pounds, on average. Last year’s tournament winner was 127.5 inches and weighed 838.2 pounds.

The 2017 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic runs June 21-25 at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. 

In addition to the blue marlin weight division, smaller blues, white marlin, sailfish and spearfish that are successfully released earn points in the competitive release division. Yellowfin, bigeye and blackfin tuna, wahoo and dolphin are scored one point per pound. The ECBC attracts multi-million dollar sport-fishing boats from across the Gulf of Mexico as well as the southeastern United States. Fishing begins after Thursday’s noon blast-off from the Destin Pass and concludes Saturday afternoon. Eligible fish are weighed Friday and Saturday evenings. Viewing is free and open to the public.

Even though the night-time weigh-ins are spectacular, the festivities begin long before the boats leave the dock. Hancock Bank and Whitney Bank are partnering with the ECBC to present the inaugural ECBC Golf Scramble. The scramble is open to participants and sponsors. Tee-time is 9 a.m. at the Raven Golf Club on June 20.

A Taste of Wind Creek is returning this year with Chef Peter D’Andrea giving a live demonstration at Baytowne Marina. The demonstration is open to all and takes place at noon on June 23.

The ECBC is also hosting a kid’s fishing tournament on the morning of June 23 at Baytowne Marina. The format is catch and release; volunteers will weigh entries on digital scales before turning the fish loose. Details about all these events, and online registration forms, can be found at www.fishecbc.com.