Last week Andy Thomossan, fishing aboard the Citation captained by Eric Holmes, caught an 883-pound blue marlin, and his timing could not have been better, as he hooked the record-setting fish while competing in the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament that is based in Morehead City. The mammoth fish was 52 pounds heavier than any blue marlin ever landed in the tournament’s 52-year history, and more than double the weight of last year’s winner.
That is where Thomossan’s luck ran out.
The Big Rock is about big money, with a purse of $1.66 million, and that kind of money demands stringent rules — and that they be enforced.
Before the Citation crew could collect the prize, they had to sit down for a lie-detector test that is required for the top money winners, including the captain, first mate, angler and “others as deemed necessary.”
The lie-detector test suggested something fishy was going on, and soon enough this story was hurdling toward a sorry ending. It was discovered that one of Thomossan’s “for-hire” crew did not have a North Carolina recreational fishing license that is required by law for residents who are 16 years old or older. Evidence showed that the crew member got a license the same day the fish was caught, but did so after it was hooked, while on the way back to the dock to weigh it in.
The cost for a license that is good for a year? For a state resident, $15, and for an out-of-state resident, $30. A 10-day license can be purchased for $5 for a state resident, and $10 for an out-of-state resident.
The tournament’s board of directors met on Tuesday and made the decision to disqualify the crew of the Citation, denying Thomossan and his buddies a $912,825 first prize, and a $318,750 bonus for being the first boat to catch a fish weighing more than 500 pounds.
“No record. No money. No fish. No nothing," said Thomossan, a 63-year-old retired Army officer who lives in Richmond.
The beneficiary of all this was the crew of the Carnivore, captained by Ed Petrilli, out of Cape Carteret. The Carnivore’s John Parks caught the tournament’s second largest fish, a 528.3-pounder, and with it came a total prize of $999,453.
There is of course a lesson to be learned here, that all the preparation in the world can be undermined by a single and seemingly insignificant oversight. The Citation crew paid a heavy price for that lesson, while it’s free to the rest of us.