OCEAN CITY- The 29th Annual Ocean City Shark Tournament gets underway next week, and with the action off the coast of the resort suddenly heating up, there should be no shortage of action at the docks.
Hundreds of offshore anglers will chug out to the canyons off the coast next week in search of sharks of all species and sizes. The start to the offshore season has been a little tepid thus far, but the fishing should be good for the annual Ocean City Shark Tournament, which is always one of the highlights of the offshore tournament season in the resort. Sharks were caught in great numbers during the Mako Mania tournament last weekend.
From modest beginnings back in 1981 when just 11 boats and 33 anglers competed in the inaugural event, the tournament has grown over the years to become one of the premiere shark tournaments on the east coast. Last year, 61 boats competed in the tournament with nearly $126,000 in prize money doled out to the winners in several categories.
Most of the sharks caught during the tournament are safely returned to the sea with just a small percentage actually weighed at the scales at the host Ocean City Fishing Center in West Ocean City. Last year for example, just 14 sharks were weighed during the tournament while 134 others were released.
Of the 14 sharks weighed at the scales, eight were makos. There were also four blue sharks weighed at the scales as well as one hammerhead and one thresher. The sharks that were brought into the scales resulted in thousands of dollars in prize money for several boats and anglers participating.
The Ocean City Fishing Center just across the Route 50 Bridge in West Ocean City is the host of the annual shark tournament and the marina will be 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 the entire facility is turned a celebration of fishing, food, music and fun with activities for children included.
While the primary goal of the tournament is to bring the largest shark in several categories into the scales for a just at the thousands of dollars in prize money at stake, no less important is the conservation of the fish.
Many 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.