‘Ape Crazy’ - Big fish, brings big dollars in ECBC

The team aboard the CE brought in the only blue marlin in the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Baytowne Marina on Saturday. The marlin that tilted the scales at 613.4-pound was caught by Scott Cooper and earned the fishing team $283,800 in prize money.

Word spread Friday, via Twitter and Facebook, that a 117-inch blue marlin would be hitting the docks Saturday in the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic.

When the scales opened at 4 p.m. Saturday at Baytowne Marina in Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, a crowd had already gathered, but word soon came that the prized marlin wouldn’t be coming in until about 5:45 p.m.

However, it was a little after 7 p.m. before the CE, based out of Alabama, backed down at the marina with the massive 613.4-pound marlin that measured 120 inches long.

"It went ape crazy … it went nuts," said angler Scott Cooper of Point Clear, Ala.

Cooper hooked the marlin on Friday about 4 p.m. and fought it for almost two hours.

"It was very tiring," Cooper said.

"We had seen another one about 2 o'clock, a smaller one," said Capt. Russell Craft of the CE. "But we just stayed and stayed in that area."

Then about 4 p.m. it appeared — the big blue that would land the CE team $283,800 in prize money, according to the ECBC website.

It ate about a 15-pound yellowfin tuna on an 18-ought hook with 80-pound test line on the reel.

"It damn near jumped over the boat," Craft said. "It took out a lot of line … it was very acrobatic. It stayed in the air most of the time. It put on a good show. It was jumping and running.”

"I went from going 21 to 22 knots forward to 10 knots in reverse," Craft said of the boat maneuvering required to land the fish. "I had to back down on it big time."

The CE team was the only fishing team in the ECBC to weigh in the tournament’s namesake blue marlin.

However several marlin, blue and white, along with sailfish were released in the tournament and paid out big money.

The top team in the release division was Testing the Water, with two blue marlin. They took home $39,525 in prize money, according to the ECBC website. Breath Reel Deep came in second and won $106,515 and Committeed third for $114,570, based on points and jackpots.

The largest dolphin was 51.3-pounder pulled in aboard the Chasin' Tail. With all the jackpots added in, the team took home $141,838 in prize money, according to the ECBC website.

The biggest wahoo was a 55.5-pounder caught on the Restitution III, worth $26,773, and the top tuna, a 163.4-pounder caught on the Reel Fire, reeled in $96,073.

With 70 boats entered, the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic paid out a total of $1,438,400.