Shark Tournament was a monster block party

Onlookers lined the Oak Bluffs harbor bulkhead Saturday afternoon to watch the sharks be weighed in.
Photo by Ralph Stewart

Onlookers lined the Oak Bluffs harbor bulkhead Saturday afternoon to watch the sharks be weighed in.

Oak Bluffs harbor was a lively place to be this weekend, unless you were a shark. The down-Island town played host to the 26th Annual Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament, hundreds of celebratory onlookers, and a small group of demonstrators opposed to the contest.

Harbormaster Todd Alexander said the tournament was well organized. While there were fewer competitors than in past years, more people came to watch the tournament and the harbor was as busy as it has ever been, he said.

“It was pretty crazy,” Mr. Alexander said. “We had our usual bit of debauchery — water balloons, drunken swimming.”

A total of 102 boats registered for the tournament, organizer Steven James, president of the Boston Big Game Fishing Club, told The Times. The big fishing machines tied up in Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven.

“It was outstanding,” Mr. James said. “The weather was good and the fishing was good.”

Mr. James said Oak Bluffs officials, including the police and harbormaster departments, did everything possible to assist organizers and help the event run smoothly.

Mr. James said it is obvious that businesses benefitted. He said one ice cream shop owner reported a 40 percent increase in business over the weekend.

Mr. James was unfazed by the protesters. “I talked to one lady and everything out of her mouth was wrong,” Mr. James said. Specifically, he said he was told that the tournament does not utilize the meat and it is all wasted, which he said was untrue. “Where they come up with some of these allegations is surprising,” he said.

Steve Maxner of West Tisbury, a tournament opponent, spent the afternoon floating in a kayak holding a sign that read, “Killing sharks for fun and prizes is a crime against nature. Shame on us.”

Mr. Maxner told The Times Monday he was the target of bottles, water balloons, and profanities. He said he was not surprised that his message was not well received. “It was the viciousness of the abuse and attacks that surprised me,” Mr. Maxner said.

Mr. Maxner said he did not report people throwing objects at him to police or harbor officials because he had no way to communicate with the shore.

In and of itself, the shark tournament was problem-free, Oak Bluffs police lieutenant Tim Williamson told The Times. But that was not the case in town.

Whether weekend revelers were in town to watch the tournament, join the Portuguese-American Club feast celebration, or just party on a summer weekend, Oak Bluffs was a busy, busy place. Police reported an unusually high number of arrests.

On the fishing side of the ledger, the tournament reported a total of nine fish brought to the dock that met the minimum weight limits. The winning boat, with captain David Dion, a Massachusetts native who works in Texas, at the helm, weighed in a 447-pound porbeagle to take the $20,000 tournament prize by one pound.

Matthew Tiano of Bedford, captain of the Island Rose, weighed in a 446-pound thresher to take second place.

He was followed by Sea Cog (Ed Coggeshall of Buzzards Bay) with a 440-pound porbeagle; Indian Princess (Robert Sylvester Jr.) with a 411-pound mako; and Ocean Runner (Rick Flannery of Green Harbor) with a 403-pound thresher.

The tournament held its awards dinner at the Island House. Smoke and Bones provided the dinner. “They did a great job,” Mr. James said.