Fishermen’s incredible $2.8 million catch that got away

Fishermen’s incredible $2.8 million catch that got away

Outdoors

Fishermen’s incredible $2.8 million catch that got away

In the 2016 White Marlin Open, touted as the world’s largest billfish tournament, angler Phil Heasley and his team aboard the Kallianassa out of Naples, Fla., boated the only qualifying white marlin and netted a tournament-record $2.8 million.

Or thought they did. This week they learned otherwise.

The catch of a 76.5-pound white marlin was subsequently called into question when Heasley and his teammates were deemed deceptive during polygraph examinations, which are required of teams winning $50,00 or more.

At issue was the time in which the team aboard Kallianassa dropped lines into the water, according to the Maryland Coast Dispatch. Fishermen in the lucrative tournament based out of Ocean City, Md., are restricted from dropping lines before 8:30 a.m.

Consequently, the prize money was withheld because of a rules infraction. Heasley then sued, denying they broke any rules or were deceptive, claiming the polygraph exams were flawed.

But last June, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Bennett ruled Heasley and his crew should be disqualified over a rules violation and failed polygraph exams.

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The fishing team claimed to have boated the white marlin at 8:58 a.m.; the court believed the evidence was clear the anglers couldn’t have put lines in the water, hooked the fish and landed it all in 28 minutes.

After this ruling, the fishermen appealed to a higher court and lost again: On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Special Appeals ruled in favor of the White Marlin Open, finally bringing a close to a long legal battle. There was no comment from Heasley or his team reported.

The withheld $2.8 million was to be distributed among the winners of various other categories. The Dispatch reported, for instance, that Richard Kosztyu and his team aboard the Hubris stands to see their winning prize for a first-place tuna go from $767,000 to $2.8 million.

“We’re excited to put the 2016 tournament behind us and are looking forward to our 45th annual tournament this year which will be held Aug. 6th through Aug. 10th,” the White Marlin Open said in a statement. “This year’s event will be one for the record books, as we’re expecting our biggest payout to date of more than $5 million to this year’s winners.”

Photo courtesy of White Marlin Open’s Facebook page.

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