The moon phase is a waning crescent along the Emerald Coast, but that didn’t stop Sea Wolff from doing a bit of howling. The 62-foot G&S, based in Destin, was the first to the scales Friday night in the 20th annual ECBC. Angler Troy Layton won the two-hour battle with a blue marlin that tipped the scales at 503.7 pounds. It measured 111.5 inches from the lower jaw to the fork of the tail.

Layton, from Huntsville, Alabama, recorded his first blue marlin in his first time competing in the ECBC. He was fishing with his father, Lynn Layton, a long-time Gulf contestant.

“We hooked the fish about 9 am this morning,” Layton said as the fish was carted down the Baytowne Marina docks to the scale. “We were trolling a Black Bart lure about 150 miles south of here. It was smooth, calm like glass, just hot.”

“It was beautiful out there,” added Capt. Jared Quick, Sea Wolff’s skipper. This is the first year he’s been running the boat, but he’s been aboard since he was young, mating for his father, Keith Quick. Keith was in the cockpit for the Gulf of Mexico blue marlin record, a 1,054.6-pounder, set in Biloxi in 2002.

“We were fishing around a lot of other people and bait,” Quick says. “But there was scattered grass and the porpoise were harassing the baits so we started trolling.” Sea Wolff was heading back out after the weigh-in, hoping to put more points on the board.

The bite has been steady for the rest of the fleet. Early unverified release standings has Quantified atop the leaderboard, with two blues, six white marlin and two sailfish on the ledger. A Work of Art and Sunrise are the other top release boats. A Work of Art has also boated a blue marlin but will wait to return to the scales Saturday. Blue marlin releases count 500 points each, whites 200 points and sailfish are worth 175. The actual release scores are verified with video footage of the identification and the leader reaching the rod. The ECBC uses CatchStat for its live scoring component.

“I started CatchStat in 2005 and did all the original software and programming,” says company president Dave Garcia. “It’s grown to where I’m now doing over 100 tournaments. CatchStat helps keep the teams, family members, friends and tournament fans informed so they know what’s going on. Teams will also use the data to adjust their spread or strategy to be more competitive.” CatchStat scoring can be viewed directly on this web site as the reports come in.

Fishing continues through Saturday afternoon. Typically there are good bites just before sundown and right at first light, so there’s plenty of time for more action and scoring. The 84 boats competing are vying for a share of the $1.987 million in prize money.

All boats must be under the Destin Pass Bridge by 6 pm Saturday evening. The weigh scales open at 4 pm and are free and open to the public.

So will A Work of Art bring in a bigger marlin Saturday? Or will more fish hit the ice bags? One thing is certain—It doesn’t take a full moon for the baying and yowling to start.