York County man lands tuna that earns more than $1.4 million in tournament prize money

North Codorus Township's Travis Ort, left, is pictured after a tuna he caught in the White Marlin Open won more than $1.4 million in prize money. At center is mate Bryan Hazard and at right is Matt Russ, from Wrightsville.
  • Travis Ort landed a 114.5-pound bluefin tuna at the White Marlin Open.
  • The fish earned more than $1.4 million in prize money.
  • The White Marlin Open is held in the waters near Ocean City, Maryland.

For Travis Ort, the wait may have been the hardest part.

The 34-year-old North Codorus Township man reeled in a 114.5-pound bluefin tuna on Monday, Aug. 3, during the 47th annual White Marlin Open in the waters near Ocean City, Maryland. Ort knew it was a big fish, probably the largest he's ever landed in his 20 years of deep-sea fishing.

The event, however, didn't end until Sunday, Aug. 9. 

That meant that Ort had to wait nearly a full week to find out what his fish might win in a an event that is billed as the world's largest and richest billfish tournament. The 2020 White Marlin Open finished with 433 registered boats, which hauled in fish that were collectively worth $6.8 million. According to the tournament website, it represents the most tournament money ever awarded in fishing.

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So there was some significant cash at stake.

Eventually, the wait proved worth it. Ort's fish earned more than $1.4 million in prize money — $1,414,000 to be exact. It was one of three fish in the event to earn more than $1 million in prize money.

North Codorus Township's Travis Ort holds his 114.5-pound tuna at the White Marlin Open.

Not bad for a guy entered in the tournament for the first time ever.

Money will be split: Ort, however, will not receive all of that money, even though he was the person who actually reeled in the fish. The money will be split 11 ways among the folks who were on the Restless Lady 2 boat. That included seven other fishermen, as well as the captain and two mates. Two of the other fishermen on the Restless Lady 2 were also from York County — Matt Russ and Brad Ream, who are both from Wrightsville.

Ort, a York Tech graduate, declined to reveal the amount of his split, but he did say it was "absolutely" the highlight of his fishing career. 

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"It was a constant 3½-hour battle," Ort said. "To add to the battle, I caught the fish on Monday, which was the day before the tropical storm hit Ocean City, so there were rough 8-12-foot seas. It was rockin' and rollin'. A 114-pound tuna is strong, tough fish to land in any conditions, but the waves didn’t help either."

The prize money: Ort's fish finished second in the tuna division, behind a 121-pounder caught on Thursday, Aug. 6. Ort's tuna, however, actually earned more money than the first-place tuna, which won $99,000. That's because of the way the boats were registered. Before the tournament, fishermen had the option of entering their boat in added skill levels with more prize money.

Additionally, no qualifying blue marlins were caught in the contest. That meant that some of the prize money in that division defaulted into the tuna division, adding $417,000 to the prize money for Ort's tuna.

Dealing with stress: With that kind of cash on the line, the wait to find out how his fish would fare was a bit nerve-wracking.

"I was exhausted, physically (after reeling in the fish), but it was a very stressful week mentally. I landed the fish on Monday and the event lasted until Sunday. We were on the leaderboard the whole week. But it was a fantastic feeling (when he learned how much the fish would win)."

After such a successful first year in the tournament, Ort said he's already made one decision.

"We're going back next year for the 48th annual event," he said.

Top winners: The top prize in the event of $1.85 million went to the “Canyon Blues” out of Ocean City, Maryland, for a 97-pound white marlin caught by Brandon Golueke from Chester, Maryland. That fish stands as the third-largest white marlin weighed in the 47-year White Marlin Open history.

The “Drillin & Billin” out of Hatteras, North Carolina landed a 77-pound white marlin caught by Taylor Fields from Baltimore, Maryland. That fish was good for second and $1.76 million in prize money.

Reach Steve Heiser at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.