Time will tell, but it looks like the era of blood-and-guts shark tournaments could be coming to an end. In late July, the Montauk Marine Basin will host a tag-and-release tournament that promises to engage the public long after the fishing stops.
The recreational shark fishery pioneered by Capt. Frank Mundus starting in the late 1950s exploded after the release of the movie “Jaws” in 1975. Shark tournaments proliferated along the East Coast, many of them in cooperation with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Marine scientists studied the ever-increasing catch, performing juicy necropsies beneath the gibbets onto which sharks were ceremoniously hoisted, weighed, and left for a time to be ogled as much for their value as a side bet as for their magnificent nature. In recent years shark tournaments have become three parts medieval fair, one part science, and largely unjustifiable given the number of sharks killed worldwide in order to satisfy the Asian taste for shark-fin soup.
To highlight the plight of sharks, the Marine Basin will hold a no-kill tournament on July 27 and 28. Circle hooks that lodge in the fish’s jaw and are easily dislodged will be used exclusively. No sharks will be brought back to the dock. Instead, mako, thresher, and blue sharks will be fitted with satellite tracking tags that monitor their travels after release.
Tagged sharks will be named by the anglers who catch them. Each time the shark’s dorsal fin breaks the surface its position will be picked up via satellite, offering a shark’s-eye view, of sorts.
The public will be able to follow the sharks online via the Ocearch global shark tracker Web site. The tournament, called Shark’s Eye — a revolutionary tag-and-release tournament bringing recreational fishermen, conservationists, and scientists together — is supported by the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation, the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, the Fishermen’s Conservation Association, Montauk Boatmen, Inc., and the Concerned Citizens of Montauk group. The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation will provide $10,000 in prizes, and April Gornik of North Haven will donate a painting.
In the small jaws department, Mickey Russo of East Moriches stood on his electric-motor-powered sharpy Tuesday morning on Montauk’s Fort Pond proudly holding up a nice-size walleye he had just caught.
Russo shouted that Fort Pond was his favorite freshwater body. Walleye, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and perch live there, as well as some hefty carp. It does not hold chain pickerel, however, a feisty freshwater fish of the pike family. Chain pickerel, named for the chain-like pattern on its green sides, are found in Crooked Pond in Bridgehampton and other older kettle-hole ponds.
They put up a great fight for a fish that averages about two pounds, and like the walleye are tasty if one is willing to deal with the small bones. They are aggressive hunters that ambush their prey from cover in a rapid lurch, even taking flight after flying insects. Pickerel will charge at anything shiny, like snapper tins. A steel leader or tippet is a good idea given the pickerel’s sharp teeth.
Casters working the small jetty at Ditch Plain are taking “rat” striped bass, the small ones that usually begin feeding first. Paulie’s Tackle in Montauk recommends casting on an outgoing tide using small swimming lures or little bucktails. Bait fishermen are catching bass on sand worms.
In other news, Montauk’s Viking Fleet has announced that the new Viking Fivestar will arrive next Thursday at about 3 p.m.