RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — About four hours after the fishing charter boat Citation left dock on the Outer Banks to compete in one of the country's richest deep-sea fishing tournaments, crewmembers were in the fight of their lives. Something huge was hooked, but it was invisible to human sight as it dove for the ocean bottom about 27 miles off the North Carolina coast.
Five hours later they hauled up a monster, an 883-pound, 14-foot-long blue marlin. They knew the silvery-blue torpedo of muscle bigger than a bear would mean a huge payday in the June 2010 Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament when they recorded their catch in coastal Morehead City.
"When we finally saw it we couldn't believe it," the Citation's captain, Eric Holmes of Buxton, said at the time. "To catch a fish this big ... it's something. It really is. We got lucky and it's good to be lucky."
But their luck soured. The boat's owners landed in a fight for the $910,000 in prize money that continued Tuesday with arguments to North Carolina's Supreme Court.
Tournament officials disqualified the Citation's crew because the 22-year-old first mate, Peter Wann of Alexandria, Va., did not have a $15 North Carolina fishing license when the fish was hooked. His license was purchased while the Citation was still two hours out to sea and chugging toward a landing.
Tournament rules state that a fishing license is required for everyone aboard a participating vessel, said E. Bradley Evans, a lawyer for the contest's organizers. That rule was also emphasized at a pre-tournament meeting that Holmes and Wann did not attend.
The non-profit group that runs the tournament has no gain in disqualifying the Citation, but did so to protect the contest's integrity, Evans said.