OCEAN CITY- The Ocean City Shark Tournament, one of the highlights of the summer-long tournament season in the resort got underway yesterday with the first of three official fishing days.
The 34th Annual Ocean City Shark Tournament is being held on the earliest dates ever this weekend weekend with yesterday, May 29, the first of three fishing days. The tournament’s other fishing days will today, Friday, May 30 and Saturday, May 31. Registration and a captain’s meeting were held on Wednesday, and the event will culminate with an awards banquet on Sunday, June 1.
When the tournament was first held over 30 years ago, it was always held during the second week of July, but over time, changes in the offshore fishery and the anglers’ preferences prompted organizers to move the event to the last week in June. In the mid-90s, it was moved forward again to mid-June, where it settled in on Father’s Day weekend and has been there ever since. This year, the tournament started in late May for the first time ever.
Shark Tournament organizers this year also announced a series of changes to the format and payout schedule for the annual event after consulting with boat captains and anglers about what they would like to see differently. For example, the entry fee has been reduced from $650 to $575.
The mako, open and release categories will now have first- and second-place payouts with enhanced values based on a minimum of 25 boats with paid entry. The mako and blue shark size requirements will be 72 inches in total length, while the thresher minimum has been set at 54 inches in fork length. In addition, the bluefish category has been removed. Overall, the format has been altered to simplify the payout and award system for the participants.
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. 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 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.