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BY EMERY P. DALESIO
RALEIGH, N.C.--A lower-court judge's summary decision agreeing to disqualify the $910,000 winner of one of the country's richest deep-sea fishing tournaments didn't smell right to the North Carolina Supreme Court, which is ordering a trial to air whether the prize is justifiably lost for lack of a $15 fishing license.
The case involved the huge payday the owners and crew of the fishing charter boat Citation were expecting after landing a monster blue marlin weighing 883 pounds and measuring 14 feet from tail to tip of its swordlike bill. But their day in the spotlight at the June 2010 Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament turned sour days later when contest officials in coastal Morehead City voided their win, saying the 22-year-old first mate from Virginia lacked the required North Carolina fishing license when the fish was hooked. His license was purchased while the Citation was still two hours out to sea and chugging toward a landing.
The Supreme Court, which heard arguments in the case less than three weeks ago, ruled Friday that facts needed to be aired at a trial and not disposed by a judge.
"Our clients will be happy to get their day in court," said Darren Jackson, an attorney for the Citation's owners. "That's all they've ever asked for."