Beginner’s luck for Harwich boat at Monster Shark Tournament

Lisa Natanson, a research fisheries biologist for the APEX predator program, extracted organs from a 313-pound porbeagle shark caught Saturday. — Photo by Christy Aumer

Call it beginner’s luck, but three men who never competed together in the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament were in first place late Saturday afternoon, after bagging two sharks aboard their boat, named the Magellan.

Dan Lundy caught a 429-pound porbeagle shark on Friday and matched that feat by hauling in a 313-pound porbeagle on Saturday. At the dock he had a grin from ear to ear.

“It pulled hard. I had a lot of fun fighting it; it’s an incredible beast,” Mr. Lundy said as he wiped sweat from his forehead at the weigh station set up in the Our Market parking lot on Oak Buffs harbor.

Mr. Lundy said that Magellan, out of Harwich, has two captains — Len Greiner, who is also the boat owner, and Jason Pillsbury.

“We had been talking about going for years,” Mr. Pillsbury said. “We finally broke down and gave it a shot.”

The 27th annual tournament, sponsored by the Boston Big Game Fishing Club, awarded the top five finishers a variety of prizes and awards. Pounds are converted into points. However, fishermen are penalized for bringing in a shark below the 200-pound minimum.

Magellan was in first place Friday with 429 points. The Karen Jean 2nd, out of Marshfield, was in second place with a 361-pound porbeagle.

The air was lively Saturday when Karen Jean II arrived at the weigh station with a 312-pound porbeagle for a two-day total of 673 points, putting them in first place.

The Harwich boat arrived shortly after with a 313-pound porbeagle, giving them a grand total of 742 points.

Mr. Pillsbury described his win as fortunate, and lucky. “To get two fish in two days is just awesome,” he said. “Especially the right kind that you can actually weigh in, that’s a factor.”

Mr. Pillsbury added the weather wasn’t the best out on the water Saturday.

“The seas were kind of wild, just real foggy in the area that we fished, and it was hard to stand up,” Mr. Pillsbury said. “But we somehow managed to get in a bite and got back just in time.”

Tournament organizer bites back

Tournament organizer Steven James acknowledged that crowds may have been down compared to earlier years, but he didn’t believe it was because of the heat. Mr. James said there is a “disposition in town.”

At the annual town meeting in April, voters approved a non-binding resolution by a vote of 64-50 that would require all shark tournaments to be catch-and-release events. Voters approved the same measure but by a larger margin, 225-186, at the polls.

Mr. James said if the tournament becomes all-release, it will lose the spectator base. “The big draw will go away because there is nothing to see,” he said.

Mr. James said he held one of the first all-release tournaments in the country for about three years in Scituate in the mid-1990s, but said it was tough to score and fishermen were required to weigh and photograph sharks caught, and release them. “There was nothing to see for spectators,” he said.

Mr. James said Oak Bluffs officials tacked on an extra $225 for fishermen, and around $40 for vessels to use the harbor moorings, for extra police, ambulance, and public works services.

Police made many arrests last year, many of them alcohol-related. Town officials also heard a range of complaints from residents.

Mr. James said those were “bar level issues,” unrelated to the tournament participants.

Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake said there were a total of 23 arrests made Friday and Saturday. He said many of the calls were alcohol-related, including disorderly conduct.

“The policy of having the tournament pay for the services worked,” he said. “We were properly staffed and were able to proactively address issues.”

Chance to learn

In the past, the tournament has attracted protestors opposed to the tournament. None were in sight on Friday and Saturday.

Mr. James said the Monster Shark Tournament provides an opportunity for research.

Dr. Joanna Borucinska, a University of Hartford professor of biology and a veterinary surgeon and pathologist, examined every shark brought in to the weigh station Friday.

“We collect the liver, thyroid, and gonads to look at environmental degradation,” Mr. Borucinska said. “We see if the sharks are stressed by global warming, general pollution.”

She has come to the shark tournament almost every year since 1991.

Lisa Natanson, Research Fisheries Biologist for the APEX predator program, said if the tournament was catch-and-release, there would be no reason for her to come.

“No tournament is just for science,” Ms. Natanson said. “It’s for fishing.”

“There would be shark tournaments with or without us,” she added.