A group of local fishermen rescued seven people off the coast of Maryland last weekend and still took first place in the white marlin category of their fishing competition.

Avalon resident Joe Miller led a team of five fishermen entered in Saturday’s competition, sponsored by Moran’s Dockside in Avalon. The team took Miller’s boat, The Dream Catcher, about 20 miles off the Baltimore Canyon in the Atlantic Ocean near the Virginia-Maryland border for the tuna and white marlin competition.

About 10:30 a.m., Craig Tomlin, of Cape May Court House, heard a distress call. Tomlin and the team traveled a few miles toward it and found a charter boat named #1 Hooker. One of its two engines was not operating, and the vessel was taking on water.

The boat was a 34-foot Luhrs sportfishing boat that berthed in the Indian River Marina near Rehoboth, Del., said owner Bobby Poston, 73.

Poston said the captain, Berry Nadson, told him the boat was hit by several waves as they reeled in a fish.

“We don’t know what happened,” Poston said. “Other than the waves hit them and that’s it.”

After The Dream Catcher arrived, the crew lent an electric pump and a hand pump to the boat in distress. Soon, he said, the other engine died, and without electricity to power the pumps, the back of the #1 Hooker started to sink while the crew of the other vessel shouted for them to jump.

“It just went right down, poom.” Miller said. “From the time that bow went up to the time the boat went down, it was 15 seconds.”

Miller said seven of the nine people on board swam to his boat and two others swam to another nearby boat. The people stayed there for about 10 minutes until a U.S. Coast Guard craft arrived.

He said the people they rescued were from the Virginia area and none was seriously injured.

The rescue meant about an hour delay, but it didn’t affect the competition. The crew of The Dream Catcher was still the first team of about 20 to catch a white marlin.

“For a while we caught seven people but no fish,” Miller joked. “(The rescue) was great. You don’t realize how dramatic it was until you look back on it.”

The Ocean City station of the U.S. Coast Guard in Maryland, which responded to the scene, declined to comment, citing an active investigation.

Staff Writer Derek Harper contributed to this report.

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