30th Ocean City Shark Tourney Underway

OCEAN
CITY- With sharks of all shapes and sizes suddenly in abundance off the coast
of the resort, the 30th Annual Ocean City Shark Tournament got
underway in earnest yesterday morning with the first of three official fishing
days.

The
tournament officially opened with a captain’s meeting on Wednesday, but the
real action started yesterday morning as scores of boats and hundreds of
anglers chugged offshore in search of a potential winner in one of many
categories. The Ocean City Fishing Center just across the Route 50 bridge in
West Ocean City is hosting the annual tournament again this year, just as it
has since its inception three decades ago.

The
marina is turned into headquarters for the event with weigh-ins each day from
3:30-7:00 p.m. Crowds of fishing enthusiasts and curiosity seekers will cram
into the marina each day for the chance to see a big shark weighed at the
scales, and based on the early successes of the offshore season, they won’t
likely be disappointed. Sharks of all species and sizes have been caught, and
many more released, in the last few weeks leading up to the annual tournament
and there should be no shortage of action at the Ocean City Fishing Center.

While
the action off the coast is obviously the centerpiece of the annual tournament,
no less exciting is the activity around the host Ocean City Fishing Center. The
entire facility is turned into a celebration of fishing, good food, music and
fun with plenty of activities for children included.

“It’s
become somewhat of a festival of sharks,” said Captain Mark Sampson, one of the
directors of the annual event. “The competition itself attracts anglers from
all along the coast who compete for the many thousands of dollars in purse
money. Last year, we gave away over $119,000, so there is a pretty good
incentive for anglers to plan and fish a winning strategy.”

From
modest beginnings back in 1981, when just 11 boats and 33 anglers competed in
the inaugural event, the tournament has grown by leaps and bounds over the
years to become one of the premiere shark tournaments on the east coast. While
several big sharks will be weighed at the Ocean City Fishing Center all
weekend, most of the sharks caught during the tournament are safely returned to
the sea with just a small percentage brought to the scales.

While
the primary goal of the tournament is to bring the largest shark in several
categories into the scales for a shot at the thousands of dollars in prize
money at stake, most of the sharks caught during the annual event are tagged
and released so their movements can be studied and a greater understanding of
the magnificent creatures can be ascertained. Marine biologists often set up
shop at the marina during the event to take samples and further study the small
percentage of sharks that actually make it to the scales.

“During
our tournament, we have a unique opportunity, and I think a responsibility, to
help educate the public about the valuable role sharks play in our ocean’s
ecosystems and the critical need for proper use and conservation of this
incredible resource that swims off our coast,” said Sampson. “Sharks have
always been surrounded by myths and media hype, so we seize whatever
opportunities we can to show the public sharks for what they really are.”

Last
year’s event was highlighted by a new state record 876-pound mako caught by Jim
Hughes and the crew aboard the “Nontypical,” which was in the midst of a
remarkable summer fishing season that also included winning the Mako Mania
tournament a week earlier and catching the first white marlin of the season off
the coast of Ocean City.

The
new state record 876-pound mako stunned the big crowd at the Fishing Center to
take the tournament’s top prize. The previous state record mako, a 766-pounder
caught way back in 1984, had stood the test of time for 25 years before the
“Nontypical” crew shattered the record during last year’s Ocean City Shark
Tournament.

Of
course, while big sharks weighed at the scale, including the new state record
876-pounder, create the most buzz around the event, the annual shark tournament
is as much or more about conservation and education and far more sharks were
released than brought into the marina. Just 14 sharks were weighed in,
including eight makos, while 136 were released during the three-day event.

Each
year, Ocean City Sharker of the Year is awarded to the captain and crew with
the most points combined from the Mako Mania Tournament and the Ocean City
Shark Tournament. Last year’s award went to Captain Gary Stamm of the “Pumpin
Hard” with 483 total points from the two events.

 

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