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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

$1-million prize is the one that got away




If a person gets caught fishing without a license, in most cases, it results in a fine of perhaps a few hundred dollars.

For those aboard Citation, however, the infraction represents a setback of nearly $1 million.

The vessel's anglers had been participating in the 52nd annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, June 11-19 off North Carolina. Andy Thomossan landed what was by far the biggest fish: an 883-pound marlin, a tournament record.

The team on Saturday was declared winner of the prestigious competition, and there was plenty of celebration.

However, there also was a post-event lie-detector test, after which it was revealed that one of the hired crew did not possess a valid fishing license, available in North Carolina for only $15, or $30 for non-residents.

That was a violation of tournament rules and after lengthy deliberation, according to Evans Kistler of the Carteret County News-Times, tournament officials late Tuesday disqualified the catch and and denied the Citation team the winning purse.

End of celebration.

"No record. No money. No fish. No nothing. Yep, it's a nice ending to the story isn't it?" Thomossan told the Jacksonville Daily News. "He failed to get a fishing license, but we didn't know it. He told us he had it. He didn't. So you take a man at his word, you know?"

That man is Peter Wann. According to the state's fisheries division, he went out and bought a license after the catch of the monster marlin, bringing more shame to his team. He'll be fined $35 and ordered to pay court costs totaling $125.

The new winners are those who fished aboard the vessel Carnivore and caught the second-largest marlin, weighing 528.3 pounds. They net a grand total of $999,453.

Michael Topp, one of Citation's owners, figured the tournament board would not rule in Citation's favor.

"I think the Big Rock committee is doing what they have to do," he said. "I understand that. I'm a retired colonel. I know about rules."

-- Photo: Angler Andy Thomossan (left) and Capt. Eric Holmes stand alongside 883-pound blue marlin caught during the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament off North Carolina. Credit: Evans Kistler / Carteret County News-Times

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