Late last week, William Woody, and Ocean City local and member on the Blew Bayou boat, walked away from the White Marlin Open with over $1.4 million in prize money. He caught a 72-pound white marking during the well-known fishing tournament in its 39th year. Fishing tournaments occur quite frequently in the Ocean City area. Some are better known than others, some offer prizes and some offer a greater reward, some celebrate the lifestyle of watermen, others celebrate great women.

The Poor Girls Open is a women’s only fishing tournament, and the lady anglers are every bit as capable at bringing in the big fish as the men, but receive considerably less publicity for it.  The Poor Girls sits in the shadows of the White Marlin Open, a veritable giant of billfish tournaments.  While many of the ladies enjoy fishing, unlike the White Marlin Open, none of them do it professionally.  There is money to be won from entering the various Calcutta’s, but most of the participants enter the tournament in memory or in support of a relative or friend who has battled breast cancer—with the ultimate goal to raise as much money as possible for research.  Gaining publicity for the event is key —the more boats that enter—the more money earned.  This year’s tournament, the 19th annual, is projected to have more than 120 boats registered.
Aside from the fact that Poor Girls is a ladies only charity tournament, and the billfish—White and Blue Marlin–are catch and release as opposed to catch and keep, it functions just like every other major fishing tournament.  The lady anglers spend one out of three possible days at sea fishing, for on average, twelve hours.  The fishing spots are generally several hours offshore.  But for those who participate, the opportunity provides an unparalleled experience–witnessing turtles, sharks and flying-fish in their native habitat, and of course the opportunity to reel in a huge fish.
For many of these novice anglers, it’s a baptism by fire; they learn while doing. That’s where the First Mate comes in, providing a crash educational course on how to catch and reel in really big fish—which can weigh several hundred pounds.  One person ultimately must reel in each fish, but it’s the team spirit in camaraderie for a cause that sets this event apart.  The Captain and First Mate provide hands on support, and local businesses provide financial means by sponsoring the boats and paying entry fees, illustrating what a community-backed event this truly is.
The Poor Girls was started 18 years ago by Steve Harmon, who wanted to create a tournament that the local resort staff—bartenders, wait staff, hotel staff—could afford to participate in, hence the name Poor Girls Open.  Breast cancer was an obvious beneficiary of the proceeds—his wife battled the disease.  Nowadays the tournament is continued on by Sean Harmon, brother to Steve, and Nancy Dofflemyer, co-founder of the Pink Ribbon Classic at the Beach.  Over the years, the tournament has grown, and now it’s ready for a new level of success.
The Poor Girls Open is, at heart, a group of local women united in support of a noble cause.  For avid fisherman Shannon Ehinger, participating in the Poor Girls is about doing as much as she can personally to fight breast cancer.  In the past Ehinger has chaired two golf tournaments to raise funds for cancer patients—one of whom was an aunt diagnosed with breast cancer.  In addition to that aunt, Ehinger has had another aunt, a grandmother, great-grandmother, and friends all diagnosed with breast cancer, and knows all too well the prevalence of the disease.
“Breast Cancer used to be that you knew a friend of a friend that had it and now it’s your family and friends and neighbors and coworkers,” Ehinger stated.
Breast cancer though seemingly on the rise, and a devastating diagnosis to receive, is not the immediate death sentence it once was, proving that the funding for research provided by events like the Poor Girls is essential to keeping women alive.  Also paramount are local organizations like Ocean City’s Pink Ribbon Classic, or Women Supporting Women that provide encouragement to breast cancer sufferers and their families by continuing to spread awareness, and by providing encouragement to the patients themselves as they undergo treatment.  And sometimes, all it takes is one person who puts on a brave face while waging her own personal fight against breast cancer, to be that positive role model.
Events like the Poor Girls Open, held each year in support of, or in memory of countless women who battle breast cancer bravely, are essential to the cause.  Women who work, raise families, support their communities and press on bravely, hoping every day for a cure.

Support the Poor Girls Open as a spectator:

  • August 15th – 18th:  Weigh-ins each day from 4:00 – 7:30 pm at Bahia Marina.
  • Vendors, 50/50 raffles and a silent auction, food and beverages on-site—all proceeds benefit breast cancer research

Support the Poor Girls Open as a Competitor:

  • August 15th:
Registration at Bahia Marina from 4:00 pm – Midnight
Cocktail Reception next to docks from 7:00 – 9:00 pm.
Captains Meeting around 8:00 pm.
  • August 16th: 
First fishing day
Weigh-ins from 4:00 – 7:30 pm
Reception under text from 7:00 – 9:00 pm
  • August 17th:
Second fishing day
Weigh-ins from 4:00 – 7:30 pm
  • August 18th:
Third fishing day
Weigh-ins from 4:00 to 7:30 pm
  • August 19th:
Awards Ceremony
Ocean City Marlin Club in West Ocean City holds Awards Luncheon from noon ‘til 2:00 pm
Poor Girls Open Ocean City, MD

For more information, visit the Poor Girls Open website.

Photos provided by Shannon Ehinger.