Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic gets underway Thursday, weigh ins Friday and Saturday

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

More than 80 boats will parade under the Marler Bridge in Destin Thursday around noon on their way to the Gulf of Mexico in hopes of hauling in a blue marlin and claiming a portion of the $2 million purse up for grabs in the 20th annual Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic held at Baytowne Marina in Sandestin. 

The weigh station at Baytowne Marina will be open 4-8 p.m. on Friday, June 24 and then again on Saturday, June 25 from 4-8:30 p.m. 

From 2021:Jeff Shoults named Gulf of Mexico Captain of the Year by sportfishing magazine

From 2020:Mollie wins its first Blue Marlin Classic

Targeted species for the tournament include blue marlin (110-inch minimum), white marlin, sailfish, spearfish (release only), yellowfin and bigeye tuna (20 pounds and 27 inch minimum), dolphin (20 pounds minimum), and wahoo (20 pounds minimum). 

The Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic is open to all sizes of boats, private and charter. Out of the 85 boats registered as of June 16, the boats range in size from a 92-foot Viking to a 36-foot SeaHunter. 

Fishing boats depart the East Pass in Destin at the start of the 19th Annual Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic. Last year 535 anglers spread across 88 boats fished the annual event held out of Baytowne Marina at Sandestin.

Capt. Tyler Brielmayer of the Destin charter boat Nothin’ Matters, a 44-foot Albemarle, is looking to get in on some of the big fish action.  

“I’m hoping to win it for the charter boats,” Brielmayer said. “I just pray it’s good weather.”

Capt. Travis Ream, who runs the charter boat Kitchen Pass in Destin, will be at the helm of the Knot on Call, a 60-foot Hatteras. 

From 2020:Blue Marlin Classic goes digital, still open to public

Ream captained the boat last year in the ECBC and they managed to get in the money with a small yellowfin. However, he said they missed out on the big money when a shark took a bite out of their big yellowfin. With the bite, the yellowfin weighed in at 153 pounds, but was disqualified due to the bite and they lost out on about $185,000 in prize money. 

Nevertheless, they hope to be back in the running this year. 

“I’m anticipating some big wahoo, marlin, tuna and dolphin. Why not? Somebody has got to win it,” Ream said. 

Wes Long's winning 660.4-pound blue marlin is pulled up the ramp at the scale on the second weigh in day of the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Baytown Marina in 2020. He was fishing aboard the Mollie with Capt. Jeff Shoults of Destin at the helm.

"Hopefully, we’ll keep it in town,” he said of the big winnings. 

Entry fee for the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic is $6,000 (base entry). However, if the team wants to go across the board in all the optional entries the cost goes up to $77,750. 

“We’re going to be trying our best,” Ream said. 

He said they will probably travel about 200 miles at their furthest point and fish around the oil rigs. 

From 2019:No marlin caught on final day of ECBC

More marlin news from 2019:Local captains make good showing in Orange Beach Billfish Classic

He said they can’t do much more than that without more fuel. Ream said the Knot on Call takes about 1,750 gallons, which can cost between $10,000 to $11,000 to fill up. 

People watch from the beach as fishing boats head out Destin's East Pass at the start of the 2021 Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic.

"It looks like the grass has cleared out some … so we’ve got high aspirations,” Ream said. 

The ECBC is a “modified-release” tournament with a minimum length for blue marlin, which are the only billfish weighed. Release points are awarded for blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish and spearfish.  

In 2020, Mollie Capt. Jeff Shoults of Destin poses with angler Wes Long and their winning 660.4-pound blue marlin on the second weigh-in day of the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Baytown Marina.

There are plenty of ways to get in on the money. The three heaviest weighed blue marlin, dolphin, tuna and wahoo are eligible for cash awards, as are the top three teams entered in the Release Division, and the top three crews entered in the Crew Division, according to their website. Awards are presented to the top overall, release, lady and junior anglers, and the top overall release team.

"I’m looking forward to it,” said Capt. John Holley of the Glassy Hooker, a 68-foot Buddy Davis out of Miramar Beach. 

From 2018:Destin boats place in every division

More from 2018:Wynsong wins big in Billfish Classic

Holley, who ran a charter boat out of Destin for more than two decades, said he’s glad to see how the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic has grown and is ready to fish the event. 

The first ECBC was held in 2003 with 45 teams and paid out $329,625 in cash awards. 

Last year, 88 teams fished the event with $1,976,399 paid out in cash awards. The highest purse paid was in 2018 to the tune of $2,040,200, plus it was the biggest field of boats with 91 participating. 

The winning blue marlin in 2021 weighed 681 pounds and was pulled in by the High Cotton. The Quick Time set a tournament record with a 231.1-pound yellowfin tuna. 

The Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic is part of the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship and also supports charities such as The Billfish Foundation, Sandestin Foundation for Kids and One Meal Mobile.