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$1.7 million worth of marlin caught during tournament, NC officials say

A huge fish worth $1.7 million was caught off the coast of North Carolina on the first day of the 66th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, event officials announced Monday, June 10.

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A huge fish worth $1.7 million was caught off the coast of North Carolina on the first day of the 66th annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, event officials announced Monday, June 10.

Fisherman Kirk Pugh of Wilmington and Capt. Rom Whitaker of Hatteras claimed the $1,729,750 “Fabulous Fisherman” prize for bringing in the “first fish over 500 pounds,” officials said. The six-day event takes place in Morehead City, about a 150-mile drive southeast of Raleigh.

The marlin reached whopper status at 4 pounds and weighed 504, the tournament said.

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“The crowd went wild when they heard ‘504 pounds’. On the spot, the crew became millionaires,” tournament officials wrote.

“After decades of participating in the tournament, this was the first time Rom had ever brought a blue marlin to the Big Rock scales.”

Pugh, who owns a real estate company, said he has been participating in the tournament for 22 years. He credited the win to Whitaker and his crew at Release Sportfishing.

It took Pugh an hour and seven minutes to wear out the fish.

‘I couldn’t have gotten it in myself. … I just sat in the chair and turned the crank,” Pugh said in a video posted by the tournament.

“I think we looked at it longer than it took for me to absorb it. … We measured him eleven ways from Sunday and I almost jumped into the water to hold him on a scale to see if he was long enough.

The blue marlin can grow to 15 feet tall and weigh 2,000 pounds, so it wasn’t long before an even larger marlin captured the tournament’s largest marlin.

Fisherman Clay Nalley and Capt. Ben Brownlee’s boat Game Time later in the day Monday brought in a 516-pound marlin that could be worth $1.8 million if it remains the largest in the tournament, officials said.

Fishing will continue until Saturday, June 15.

Mark Price is a national reporter for McClatchy News. He joined The Charlotte Observer newspaper network in 1991, where he covered schools, crime, immigration, LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits, among other topics. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.

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