For 58 years, the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament has drawn droves of spectators and media to the Morehead City waterfront. Visitors and residents visit shops and restaurants downtown while waiting for an angler to catch the top prize, a blue marlin. While prizes are still awarded for game fish such as mahi mahi, tuna and wahoo, the blue marlin weigh-ins are what draws the crowds to the bleachers and the streets to see who is at the top of the leader board and in the running for the purse, which annually tops $1 million.
Prior to 1957, the blue marlin was an elusive catch that most believed could only be caught in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. One had never been caught in the waters off Morehead City, though sailors often told stories of the blue marlin seen not too far offshore. Most were convinced these stories were just tall tales, but Morehead City’s Fabulous Fishermen Club decided to see if the stories were true.
The original members of the club were able to convince local business leaders to put a small cash prize together for the person to catch the first blue marlin. While boats began to venture further out, the first blue marlin wasn’t caught until Sept. 14, 1957. The angler was welcomed at the dock by an impromptu parade and a children’s red wagon full of the prize money.
This year’s tournament is scheduled for June 10-18, drawing anglers from up and down the coast. Blue marlin are brought to the scales as soon as they are caught, while gamefish weigh-ins occur Monday through Friday from 4-7pm and on Saturday from 3-6pm.
The tournament kicks off with the Lady Angler Event from 6-8pm on Friday, June 10 at the Crystal Coast Civic Center. The Big Rock Lady Angler Tournament runs from 8am-1pm on Saturday, June 11, followed by the Captain’s Party at the Civic Center from 7-11pm. Tickets can be purchased at tournament headquarters or at the door.
Be sure to be in downtown Morehead City on Friday, June 17, for a live performance by country music artist James Wesley, supported by the Castaways. The festivities will begin at 5pm at the Jaycee Park with the Soul Psychedelique band hosted by Alive at Five. Afterwards, head to the Big Rock Landing, 710 Evans St., for the Castaways and James Wesley.
Can’t make it downtown? Keep tabs on all the action with the tournament’s live feed on thebigrock.com.