Blue Marlin Classic goes digital, still open to public

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log
The Destin Log

After a great couple of days on the Gulf of Mexico last weekend in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Tournament in Biloxi, Mississippi, this weekend should be a good one for the 18th annual Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.

“Last week was the best weekend of marlin fishing anybody’s ever seen in the northern Gulf,” said Capt. Allen Staples of the Wynsong, a 66-foot Viking, that will be participating in the ECBC this weekend. “Probably sore-lipped them all for this weekend.”

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However, he said he thinks it’s going to take a 600-plus pounder to win it all this year.

Last weekend, four blue marlin were brought to the scales in Biloxi with It Just Takes Time winning it with a 570.2 pounder. A total 49 fish, including tuna, marlin and dolphin were weighed-in during the tournament.

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“This past weekend was the best blue marlin fishing I’ve ever heard in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Capt. Jason Hallmark of the Sea Fix, who will also be in the hunt this weekend. Hallmark said one boat went 10 for 14 on marlin.

Hallmark is no stranger to the ECBC. He won it in 2016 with an 838.2 pounder.

Although the fishing part of the ECBC is looking to be better than good, things at the scales will be a bit different due to COVID-19.

“We will be fully digital this year, so the tournament will be available to watch on Facebook Live, and will be broadcast on TV’s at the Marina Bar and Grill Sandestin, along with various restaurants within The Village at Baytowne Wharf,” said Sarah Salesses, social media and digital communications manager in an email to The Log. “We want to give our community members the opportunity to watch the action, while making the social distancing choices that are best for them and their family.

“It’s been a challenge this year with the coronavirus complications, but we’re excited to once again welcome all the teams,” said Activities Director Jason Draughn. “We’re making the necessary adjustments to keep everyone safe and we’re sure there will be some quality entries brought to the Baytowne Marina weigh scales, which will be open to the public.”

As of Monday, 68 fishing teams were registered to compete in the tournament. Fishing begins at 12 p.m. Thursday and goes through 6 p.m. on Saturday. The scales will be open from 4-9 p.m. on Friday and then from 4-10 p.m. on Saturday at Baytowne Marina.

Participants will be competing for awards and more than $1 million in cash prizes with blue marlin the main focus. Eligible fish must be at least 110 inches long to qualify. That minimum is measured from the tip of the fish’s lower jaw to the fork of the tail. Qualifiers typically average 500 pounds or heavier.

In addition to the blue marlin weight category, smaller blues, white marlin, sailfish and spearfish that are successfully released earn points in the competitive release division. Releases are verified by video footage. Yellowfin, bigeye and blackfin tuna, wahoo and dolphin are scored one point per pound. The ECBC attracts multi-million dollar sport-fishing yachts from across the Gulf of Mexico as well as the southeastern United States.