Monster Shark Tournament may live again in Oak Bluffs

Monster Shark Tournament may live again in Oak Bluffs

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The 2012 Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The death of Steven James in a duck hunting accident earlier this month may not spell the end of the fishing tournament he ran from the Oak Bluffs harbor front for the past 27 years. Mr. James organized the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament, defended it, and modified the contest over the years in the face of growing opposition from Islanders and others.

Matthew Kriedel of Edgartown and Newington, Connecticut, has submitted an application to the Oak Bluffs Harbor Management Advisory Committee to organize the event, and to keep it in Oak Bluffs.

Mr. Kriedel said he intends to make significant changes in the overall tone and operation of the tournament, which had generated opposition in recent years from those opposed to shark fishing and the carnival atmosphere associated with the daily weigh-ins of dead sharks.

“Being a participant in this tournament for over 10 years, I was aware of what wasn’t being done right,” he said, in a telephone interview with the Times. “I knew Steve [James] personally. I tried to tell him to be more Island friendly and his attitude was always, ‘I bring too much business to the town, they know not to mess with me.’ When Steve passed away, I saw the opportunity to make this a more Island friendly and family tournament.”

Mr. Kriedel, owner of a car dealership in Connecticut, is an experienced tournament fisherman and he has consulted on prestigious tournaments that include the White Marlin Open and the Mid-Atlantic 500,000. He’s also worked on a committee boat in the Monster Shark Tournament for the past several years. Unlike Mr. James, a Marshfied resident, Mr. Kriedel also has long-standing ties to the Island. “I have a house in Edgartown. My family is from Edgartown, I grew up spending summers here,” he said. “It’s important to me that we give back.”

More Island friendly

The tournament Mr. James began in 1986 attracted hundreds of spectators and fishermen to Oak Bluffs harbor every July. In 2004, the tournament attracted a record 245 participating entrants willing to pay the entry fee of more than $1,000 per boat.

Compared with years past, the 27th Monster Shark Tournament failed to produce either monster sharks or crowds. The heaviest shark weighed in was a 429-pound porbeagle, one of only 12 brought to the dock. Eighty-five boats registered for the tournament, down 17 from the year before.

In response to unruly behavior in 2012, prior to the July 2013 contest, Oak Bluffs selectmen required Mr. James to pay $17,296 for extra police, ambulance, and public works services. The cost was covered by a surcharge on shark tournament fishermen and fees for spectator vessels that used harbor moorings.

Last fall, unhappy with being asked to pay for the cost of added public safety services, Mr. James hinted that he planned to move the shark tournament to Newport, Rhode Island.

Mr. Kriedel said he wants to mend relationships with town officials, which in recent years had dissolved into an ongoing battle with Mr. James. “I’d like to get the town more involved instead of the adversarial relationship Steve had with the town,” he said.

“We’re going to donate 10 per cent of the net tournament proceeds to Island charities, which hasn’t been done in the past,” said Mr. Kriedel. He added that fishermen will be encouraged to donate the shark meat, which will go to the Island Food Pantry and to Island senior centers.

There will also be additional cash prizes for Island boats that weigh in a shark, and additional prize money if they win or place in any of the categories.

More family friendly

“We want to run the tournament in a more professional, family-friendly way, especially so the weigh-in doesn’t become a circus,” Mr. Kriedel said. “Steve left the sharks hanging there for an inordinate amount of time. We’re going to quickly get the weight and let the biologists do their work.”

As part of his family-friendly approach, Mr. Kriedel said he also wants to set up an education tent during the tournament. “I’m a fisherman, I want to promote respect for the species,” he said. “I want to set up a place where people of all ages can learn about all the different species of sharks.” Mr. Kriedel said he has had preliminary discussions about the education center with experts from the Mystic Aquarium and with Greg Skomal, senior fisheries biologist with Massachusetts Marine Fisheries, and a leading shark expert.

More fish friendly

In response to a non-binding resolution that was passed at Oak Bluffs town meeting last year, Mr. Kriedel said he will add a catch-and-release division this year. Fishermen can decide which category they want to compete in, or they can choose both.

Mako, thresher, and porbeagle sharks, all of which are edible, are the only sharks that can be weighed in. All other species must be released, according to Mr. Kriedel.

Addressing the objections of people who think the tournament is a spectacle of bloodlust and carnage, Mr. Kriedel said, “I think everyone has a right to their opinion. All I would ask is that they don’t interfere with people who have other views. Displays of shark heads on boats will not be tolerated. We’re going to be very strict about conduct. You get one warning, then you’re out.”

Mr. Kriedel said that because of size restrictions and species restrictions instituted this year, the number of sharks caught in the Monster Shark tournament is a minute fraction of the number of sharks taken on any given weekend by recreational anglers.

“I want to make sure that the Island appreciates us being there, not just the economic benefit,” said Mr. Kriedel, who estimated the tournament brings in between $3.5 million and $4 million dollars. “I want them to be able to say, “this was done right.”

Mr. Kriedel is scheduled to meet with the committee on February 6. He will speak to Oak Bluffs selectmen at their meeting on February 11.


  1. This is one event that dont effect me, being from Edgartown. I can just avoid OB during this event as I have in years past. NP

    1. Thanks for sharing your helpful comment. I’m sure you feel better getting that off your chest. We can all breathe easier now.

      1. YW, cant wait to fish off your new dock. One of OBs better ideas. thanks

  2. As a long time boat owner and captain of the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament and a friend of Mr Steve James I find it classless and insulting as a fellow fisherman and human someone would bash and speak of Steve like that. Steve has brought a lot to the community of Oak Bluffs. Some may have not liked the way he went about things or what the MST was all about but he was a dedicated fish advocate for all the fishing world.

    So the plan would be to bring the MST back. Great all for it. But to say your doing something different is completely false. Weigh only mako, thresher, porbeagle. We have been doing that for a few years. Give back to the town and community of Oak Bluffs? I guess the 4.5 million dollars the tournament activates brings to the town isn’t enough? Less of the fishing being on display for weigh in. Of all the years I have done it I have only seen some pictures taken and then off to the biologists. Cut down on the rowdiness and supposed police issues? Good luck its not the fisherman that’s the problem to start with. Donate to charity we all would be more then happy to donate to charity of course. And that’s the only good idea. But the town also has to show some respect for what the tournament brings to the table as well. Don’t kid yourself that the tournament is all about the participants and not the town cause I am sure over the 20+ years they have benefited plenty.

    To go on record and bad mouth someone who tragically had a accident and then try and jump off there coat tails is classless and useless in my mind. And as a long time captain this tournament if this event has a chance which I highly doubt it does taking place I for one wont be joining this circus of classless characters who will for no good reason speak badly of a true advocate of the fishing community. I wish you well with this cause and think it could have been thought about in a completely different manner and may have been made into something good.

    Aj Johnson

    Team FastLine

    1. AJ .thank you , it is TOTALLY classless what was written be someone trying to make a buck off Steve’s unfortunate death .I to was a friend of Steve’s and a tournament participant for 10+ years . I want to tell everyone we did donate the meat until the powers that be stated we needed a permit to do so..yes thank you PETA ..they did the same in Montauk were the meat was given to catholic charities ( letter on display @ star island marine) Steve was a sportsman for ALL and a well known advocate for fisherman’s rights and laws that prevent over fishing. we had the strictest length and weight minimum’s of any tournament in the northeast and if you didn’t follow them Steve had no problem put a negative next to your boats name on the board for all to see!
      Steve was no wall flower but he was fare and I’m proud to call him a friend
      Dean B Luther
      Capt Team Aliance

  3. This is not the only tournament being proposed to the Town for a replacement. In fact, the other was in development before Steve’s unfortunate passing. Also, it is well known in the fishing community that Steve had already made the arrangements to move the Monster Shark to Newport. He told me himself it was a done deal. As a fellow tournament angler, I can say without a doubt that Oak Bluffs is the favorite tournament venue of most offshore New England tournament fisherman. While Steve’s death is indeed a horrible tragedy, it would also be a shame for the town to not host another great fishing tournament. FYI, this other tournament is NOT another monster shark tournament. Stay tuned…

  4. I participated in the monster shark tournament for 9 years and saw everything that went on there with the town and steve james. while I agree Steve did make a great impact on the town with the huge revenues his tourney brought in and Steve himself was very passionate about the event, He really didn’t interact well or make an effort to work with the town officials and residents to make the tournament more accepted and in tune with what the town felt it should be. I think if steve had made even a slight effort to reach out to the town He would have had far more success in the last few years especially, I Like Mr Kriedels approach to the town to work with them and not against them. Many tournaments in the south are not only welcoming of tournaments but embrace them. I think Mr Kriedels vision of the tournament may lead to that very same type of event. Keep the Town a part of it and not a spectator!

  5. any possibility of removing “monster” from the title? seeing as it’ll be such a family event.

    1. mlaursen01,
      There will be no “Monster” in the name of this Tournament. Thank you for you comment.

      Matthew Kriedel
      Martha”s Vineyard fish and Game Club.

  6. You are not going to perfume the pig so to speak and make the shark tournament any more palatable as long as you continue catching sharks and displaying them. Being friendly to Oak Bluffs is not the issue. The issue is that many people don’t like fishing for sharks and want to preserve animals at any cost whether they are endangered or not. Also don’t quote a dead man in order to curry favor with the town.

  7. I agree totally with Aj. As an event organizer on the island (Vineyard Triathlon), I would hate to think my untimely death would be followed by a classless racer trashing all that I have created. It takes countless hours of dedication to the community to even bring an event like this to completion, let alone for so many years. I did not know Steve personally but respect his ability to deal with the demanding officials of Oak Bluffs (not that I’m complaining), the demanding nature of competitors, and all the governing bodies that get involved along the way. The new organizer needs to learn a lot more about respect before anyone can take him or his organizational skills seriously.


  9. While I applaud Mr. Kriedel’s willingness to improve the MST, publicly showing such disrespect to a person who tragically died is tasteless and insulting to say the least. Show some respect for his family and publicly apologize here. You may find yourself in a similar place one day.

    1. Mr. Guitless,
      I knew Steve personally, and have the utmost respect for him. I have a different opinion on issues than he did. I am not showing any disrespect to him or his family by wanting to do this event differently. The fact is that he didnt want to work with the town and that he had an adverserial realationship with them, not even showing up for thier meeting when they asked him to. The facts are the facts. I am making the effort to try to do something positive here. If you want to see what I am proposing come to the meetings. I’ll be there.

      1. I completely empathize and applaud your efforts to shed any negative vibe that may have developed over the years with Steve & the town officials–I sincerely do. However, the only press/print that came from the story has a very sour, almost mean spirit behind it. Maybe it was the writer, maybe not. Saying anything negative about a recently deceased person, especially one who had such a long (somewhat bumpy) road with a highly popular event, is not a good way to warm the lines of communication with many. If I was Steve’s son and had read the story and your comments, I would have been quite hurt by your words. Regardless if the intent behind them was not to be hurtful. After 40+ years on & off the island, I have become a huge fan of the MST…I wish you tremendous success in your quest and think your changes will be well received, but please try and avoid placing Steve “down” and focus more on the “up” changes you wish to introduce. I would welcome seeing your introduction. -James

        1. James,
          Thanks for input. There was never any intent to portray Steve in a negative light. He was an avid sportsman who fought hard to protect to rights of fishermen and hunters, as well as an advocate for responsible fisheries management.. I want to be able to show the Island, and the town that the Tournament can be a positive force for the community. if you or others have any further ideas that are helpful please let me know. Thanks again, Matthew

          1. I do thank you as well for coming forward and the press alot of times may not be able to accuartly speak for u! But u can clarify a few things! Obviously we all wont be able to make the meeting! But how is weighing mako, thresher and porbeagle any different from years past? And the donation of the fish is a great idea but wasnt it the town that atoped that due to not being a food proccesor?

          2. Aj,
            The weigh in of those particular species will follow in line with what has been done in the past, particularly because all of those species are a very sustainable fishery. However the weigh in will not be the spectacle it was. I plan to to it in a quick and timely fashion without sensationalizing it, while still allowing the researchers all the time they need to gather what they require. In speaking with Dr. Greg Skomal, on the donation issue, he did say that the towns heath office made an issue of the donation, and I am looking into if there is a way to be able to provide a plan that will satisfy their requirements to be able to donate the meat. I think there was a typo putting James as my first name. I appreciate all the feedback, and welcome any ideas that the fishermen, or public have that would be productive in making this a Tournament that is beneficial to the Island.
            Matthew Kriedel
            Martha”s Vineyard fish and Game Club.

  10. Sounds like this guy was just all about hunting and killing for the sport of it. I guess nature ultimately got the last laugh.

  11. Adding a ‘catch and release division’ is not good enough. If the Tournament is not made totally catch and release only, then it will be just as unacceptable as it ever was. There are plenty of other methods of teaching people about sharks and their vital place in the marine ecosystem other than killing them in commercial tournaments like this. The research spoken about undertaken by the marine biologists attached to the Tournament in previous years was simply a by-product – a sop – to marine conservationists; it has produced nothing robust enough to be useful. At the end of the day, if Mr Kriedel’s plans go ahead, he will be met by exactly the same opposition as Mr James was.

  12. this event should be BANNED. Why don’t you go to Japan and join the merciless dolphin killers in Taiji? If you believe in this event….you are a tool….and a loser!! I’m sure it makes you feel better to go out and kill innocent creatures. karma will come your way.

  13. Correct me if I am wrong but First off, the Media doesn’t usually get it right. That being said, Wasn’t Steve (Who I had the pleasure of knowing) moving the tournament to Newport? That being said, Mr Kriedel isn’t being disrespectful, he is keeping it real. He just wants to carry on the tradition of Marthas Vineyard Shark Tournament fishing… After all, it Is the “World Series” of our sport.

    1. I will not get into what I think of this article but want all who read this to know the following. I am a very close friend of Steve and a MST participant for many years. I am personally close friends with all the Staff Members. Steve sent out multiple emails to all MST participants that Newport was a done deal. Myself, the Staff and others that care for Steve will continue his Legacy of his tireless dedication of fighting for fisherman’s rights with a charity tournament. We plan to donate all the proceeds to the causes that Steve fought so hard for yet still keep the high Calcutta’s etc. Steve profited from this event as he should of, we will not. We cannot stand idle and let others line their pockets with Steve’s hard work. We are meeting with the James family soon to discuss the future of this event. I hope to talk to Matthew Kriedel soon about his intensions.

      1. This is excellent news a steve james memorial tournament would be fantastic! Please let us know if there is anything myself or team fastline can do!

        1. WHAT A RELIEF, ABSOLUTELY SHOCKING. A mature dialogue of contrasting ideas with mutual respect and a hope for a common ground. Few if any articles here generate this level of staying on point and such a concerted level of we are all here to do the right thing. BRAVO!

        1. You may not use “as nausea” in a sentence as you did in a comment under the latest Stop & Shop article. If you don’t know how to use or spell Latin words don’t use them. Please don’t correct others’ word usages when your own is so poor.

          1. Mine is a typo and yours is grammar. Big difference. You need correction. Someone has to do it or you will continue.

          2. You’re wrong. Your initial mistake shows ignorance, not a typo, and you still don’t get it. I wrote what you wtote, “ad nausea” but my computer auto-corrected it to “AS nausea”. Either way is incorrect since the NAUSEA is what ignorant people say instead of the correct word, “nauseam”. Someone must correct you or you will continue. Ignorance of proper grammar and word usage is one thing. Insisting your ignorant usage is correct is quite another.

          3. It’s “ad nauseam”. You need correction. Someone has to do it or you will continue.

  14. No Kill,…it really is becoming the norm in tournaments these days. I’m not going to lie, I know the amount of sharks killed is a fraction of a drop in the bucket. But if getting rid of the frat party element is a real goal (and it should be) catch and release with an tournament observer on each boat would get rid of the weigh in scene. It works in Montauk, and Padre Island Texas

  15. As a good friend of Steve James, and a member of his MST Staff for many years, I find this article to be utterly disgusting. I also find the intentions of Mr Kriedel, attempting to swoop in, and looking to profit from the untimely death of my friend, loathsome at best. Efforts are underway to continue Steve’s Legacy, but it will not be by the likes of pocketlining vultures. The fact that Mr Kriedel is staking claim, talking about continuing, and looking to profit from a brand he doesn’t even own (or has never worked for) is ridiculous, if not illegal. In the future please refraining from insulting Steve’s memory with your disingenuous intentions, your bottom feeding agenda, and your unbridled desire to cash in on his success. As I said before, the legacy of Steve James will endure, as his friends, and staff, carry on the fight for fisherman’s rights, and as WE continue with his tradition of hosting the annual shark tournament. Thank you for reading this, and thanks for your continued support of the MST.

  16. I really get tired of the cult of no bloodshed. These are usually the same people that support pro-choice, the slaughter of the unborn human child. Unbelievable.

    1. Crime is down because we dont have unwanted babies being born in this country. How many kids would you be willing to adopt? This is far off topic here.

      1. Crime is down because of abortion? Seems mildly racist although I hardly ever use that card. Blacks are the most aborted proportionately–is that what you are implying. Not off topic at all. people who worship the creation rather than the creator are ususally pro abortion on demand and its an interesting irony. N Dorothea is correct and no one ever defends the hypocrisy. RedSox, there are many unwanted on the earth. Unwanted grandmothers–should we get rid of them? Yes people stand in line wanting to adopt and the only reason they go overseas is because our laws on ”return of the mother” are dumb. Finally, they are fish for petes sake.

        1. Yeah but how do you feel about the shark tournament, just trying to “reel it back in”

        2. Thats your opinon and your welcome to it. Someone was qouting the Bible too and I consider that an opinon also. The fact you agree or disagree is your option. I dont agree with N Dorothea or you on this matter.

          1. Just wondering RSPCBFan, how would you feel about it if it were held in Edgartown? You stated earlier it didn’t affect you being from Edg.

          2. Our harbor is too small. Maybe move the steamship authority to Edgartown and build a big dock and terminal that we could operate 4 months out of the year and we might have something.

          3. Edgartown Harbor is bigger than O.B. But really, how would you feel if both of these tournaments got shot down by O.B. and they approached Edgartown? I’m not sure what you were trying to say about the SSA.

          4. What I was saying is the steamship authority maintains OB harbor. through the fares and embarkation fees. We cant possibly maintain our harbor as well as OB. So no shark tournament.

          5. I am fine with opinions, but when you say we should abort because there are too many people who don’t behave I have to worry about you. Behavior is about parenting and not about being born. wise up

          6. Maybe you should read up on the depression. Kids put into institutions because their parents couldnt afford them. I think you need to wise up.

    2. What are you talking about and how does i relate to the thoughtful conversation going on here