The start of the second half of the 52nd annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament invigorated many of the competing teams Thursday, as fisherman tallied 19 billfish releases to double the total of any previous day.

Marlin Gull, captained by Richard Howell of Kitty Hawk, racked up three billfish releases, including two white marlins and one sailfish. This gives the Marlin Gull team 375 points and puts them within striking distance of the billfish release leaders with one day left to fish.

Although no blue marlins were brought to the scales Thursday, the upswing in billfish activity is a positive sign for competitors as the tournament enters its final two days. Anglers on 106-of-156 boats in the field are eligible to fish both Friday and Saturday while 49 teams can fish one more day. Only one boat is fished out.

The tournament continues to be led by an 883-pound blue marlin caught on Monday by Hatteras-based Citation.