OCEAN CITY- The 32nd Annual Ocean City Shark Tournament gets underway next week, and with the action off the coast of the resort off to a remarkable start, there should be no shortage of excitement 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. A decent number of big sharks were weighed during Mako Mania last weekend and quite a few more were released, setting the stage for what should be a strong Ocean City Shark Tournament again this year.
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. Most of sharks caught during the tournament are safely returned to the sea with just a small percentage actually weighed at the scales.
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.
Last year, in the Mako Division, the crew on the “Nontypical” and Captain Jim Hughes took first place with a 224-pounder worth a tournament-high $26,670. Second-place in the Mako Division went to angler Nick Kuba and the crew aboard the “Triple Threat” with a 174-pounder worth $1,806. Angler Chuck Duban and the crew on the “Stress Reel-Ief” took third place in the mako division with a 155-pounder worth $15,444, which was higher than the second-place award because of added entry levels.
In the Release Division, it was Captain Terry Layton and the “Nontypical” crew taking first place with 38 total points for five makos, four tiger sharks and one dusky worth $14,193. The crew aboard the “Cool Hand Luke” was second in the release division with 36 total points for six sandbar sharks, five hammerheads and two dusky sharks worth $3,306. The “Restless Lady” was third in the release division with 30 total points, while the “Fish Box” was fourth with 22 points.
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.
Much of the drama surrounding the event includes the weighing of large sharks at the scales at the host Ocean City Fishing Center, from the beginning the tournament has been rooted in a strong conservation effort. Last year, for example, just three sharks were brought to the scale, all makos, while 100 were released during the three days of fishing and the tournament boasts a 95-percent release rate in its three decades of existence.