Reel big: New Maryland record for biggest blue marlin catch

Angler Billy Gerlach and crew on Jon Duffie’s Billfisher at the 2021 MidAtlantic big game annual fishing tournament. (Courtesy MidAtlantic)

The 30th MidAtlantic big game fishing competition set a lot of records this year, including a $1.6 million prize for Maryland’s largest blue marlin catch.

It took angler Billy Gerlach, with the help of his crew, 3 1/2 hours to reel in the 1,135-pound blue marlin Friday, as well as a skiff to pull the fish from the boat to the scale.

Gerlach, 41, of Jupiter, Florida, broke the current state record of 1,062 pounds, caught by Robert Farris in 2009.

“It took eight men to heft the monster up onto the scale and it got very quiet as [Weighmaster Frank] Ingram noted the weight before yelling out ‘1,135 pounds!'” a MidAtlantic tournament news release said.

Angler Billy Gerlach, holding the fish’s dorsal fin, stands with his record-breaking blue marlin catch at the 2021 MidAtlantic big game fishing tournament. (Courtesy Maryland Department of Natural Resources)

Gerlach’s marlin at 136.5 inches was also 1.5 inches longer than a 958-pound marlin caught the day before.

After a few hours of trolling 70 miles offshore near Washington Canyon, Gerlach said he “was praying for a bite,” when he felt a hit. The battle to reel in the “grander” blue marlin took more than three hours, using a Joe Yee Super Plunger for a lure, a Maryland Department of Natural Resources news release said.

The catch on Jon Duffie’s Billfisher happened on the last day of the five-day tournament, which ran from Aug. 15 to Aug. 20 across two ports in Ocean City, Maryland, and Cape May, New Jersey.

“And as we all know, Day Five, known as ‘Moving Day’ at the MidAtlantic, always seems to have its drama and this year it couldn’t have been scripted any better,” The MidAtlantic wrote.

“Jon Duffie’s Billfisher, of Ocean City, Maryland, was at the scale at 5 p.m. when the evening’s weigh-in session got underway and the crowd had already gathered as the word had spread that he had a monster blue marlin aboard, however jaws dropped when they saw the size of the massive blue stretched out in the cockpit of Billfisher.

“As you would expect, Billfisher’s blue marlin took the top prize in the category and netted the crew $1,167,762!”

Two more records set for the 2021 big fish tournament included the number of fishermen entered, 203 over last year’s 183 — and the total purse of $5,929,050, compared to $4,074,430 in 2020.

Second and 3rd place winners in the blue marlin category were awarded $198,716 for a 958-pound catch on Thursday, and $412,237 for a 681-pound catch.

Each August, boat owners, captains and crews come together from all over the world to compete in the event.

“I’ve been waiting for that bite my whole life,” Gerlach said.

The blue marlin was donated to area food banks and parts of the fish were collected for scientific research.

Glynis Kazanjian

Glynis Kazanjian has been a freelance writer covering Maryland politics and government on the local, state and federal levels for the last 11 years. Her work is published in Maryland Matters, the Baltimore Post Examiner, Bethesda Beat and Md. Reporter. She has also worked as a true crime researcher.

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