This year's White Marlin Open includes a festival where fans can spread out and watch the action. Photo: Hooked on OC

White Marlin Open Announces New Festival for Spectators

Fans of the world’s largest billfish tournament can watch the weigh-ins from their own outdoor festival this year.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers of the 2020 White Marlin Open (WMO) to limit fans on the docks in Ocean City, organizers created a satellite location to watch the evening weigh-ins. Like many pandemic-related innovations, the idea caught on. Now for 2021, the WMO is throwing Marlin Fest, a new outdoor viewing experience to coincide with the 48th annual fishing tournament.

Marlin Fest, held Aug. 2–6 at the 3rd Street Bayside Ballpark, will feature “a festival-like atmosphere as well as real-time, unobstructed views of the live stream of the tournament weigh-ins via large LED screens.”

In pre-pandemic years, Harbour Island drew an estimated 5,000 people per evening to watch the boats weigh in. Last year’s socially-distant satellite viewing location at the 3rd Street Bayside Ballpark, known as Marlin Village, offered a safer way to engage fans. This year’s Marlin Fest builds on that concept.

The event, sponsored by Huk Gear, will include live music, food and drinks and WMO gear for sale, and big-screen views of the anglers bringing their catches into nearby Harbour Island. The event is free, with no ticket or registration required.

“Families will have ample room to spread out, relax, and cheer on the boats as they head to Harbour Island,” says Sasha Motsko, Tournament Director. 

The annual White Marlin Open offshore fishing tournament awards prize money for catches of white marlin, blue marlin, tuna, wahoo, dolphin, and shark. It holds the world record from prize money payouts for any fishing tournament.

Last year’s WMO drew an unprecedented 433 boats, which entered to fish for a world record purse of $6.7 million, despite challenges brought on by COVID-19 and delays brought on by Hurricane Isaias.

-Meg Walburn Viviano