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Ocean City Shark Tourney under way; weigh-ins Fri., Sat.

(May 30, 2014) Today, Friday, is the second of three fishing days for anglers participating in the 34th annual Ocean City Shark Tournament.

Eighteen boats have entered into this year’s competition, so far. Because of poor conditions, no boats went out fishing Thursday.

Final registration for the 34th annual tournament was Wednesday. A one-day charter boat team registration is still available for $325 for up to six anglers.

Ocean City Shark Tournament directors have made several changes this year to simplify the event and make it more affordable for participants.

“We wanted to streamline the tournament and keep it basic,” Mark Sampson, one of the tournament’s directors, said last week.

One major alteration was the tournament dates. In the early years, the tournament was held in mid-July. It was then moved to the last week in June, and in the mid-90s the tournament was held in mid-June, Father’s Day weekend, and it had remained that time period until this year. The 2014 was moved to the weekend after Memorial Day, May 29-31.

“We’ve been kicking around the idea to move it…In recent years, (mako) action has been earlier in the season,” Sampson said. “Moving the tournament earlier, there is less distraction of other species. Tuna fishing has been strong mid-June and we lost participation (in past years) because people want to go tuna fishing.”

Tournament organizers met with some long-time participants to discuss the event and how it could be improved. Thus, some structural changes were implemented for the 34th annual Ocean City Shark Tournament.

The entry fee was reduced from $650 to $575. The main categories this year are mako, open (blue shark and thresher) and release. Prize money will be awarded to first- and second-place finishers in each category.

Size requirement for mako and blue sharks is 6 feet total length and 4.5 feet for threshers (fork length).

The bluefish category was removed as a main division.

There are added entry-level calcuttas for mako, open and release categories. Payout will be 60-40 in each division for first and second place. There is an optional bluefish added entry level. Winner takes all.

Makos, blues and some threshers are in the area and a number have been caught in the past few weeks.

Anglers will fish two of three days, Thursday through Saturday, May 29-31. Weigh-ins will take place at the Ocean City Fishing Center from 3:30-7 p.m. Most of the activity is typically between 4:30 and 7 p.m. Spectators are invited to watch the weigh-ins.

Sampson aims to make the weigh-ins educational, teaching those in attendance about the different shark species. Children are invited to sit front row to get an up-close look at the fish being weighed.

Each year, Ocean City Shark Tournament organizers strive to provide the best event possible, but not at the expense of sharks. A small number of sharks are brought to the scale annually and those that are weighed are most often “contender fish.”

Sampson stresses the importance of conservation and reminds participants of the leader board sizes each day of the tournaments.

In 2013, for the second consecutive year, weather and poor fishing conditions played a factor in a low turnout of participants for the Ocean City Shark Tournament. Fourteen boats registered to compete in the 2013 tournament.

The only fish that was weighed last year was a bluefish. Wayne Gast landed a 12.9-pounder while fishing on No Limits. The crew took home $1,540 for the catch.

A total of 27 sharks were released last year: six mako, nine sandbar or dusky, three spinner, four hammerhead, three tiger and two blue sharks.

The Intimidator crew released three hammerheads, five makos, one tiger and one sandbar shark. The team earned 38 points to win the release division. The group was awarded a total of $10,840.

The Double Eagle team finished in second place with 16 points for releasing six sandbar/dusky sharks and one mako. The crew received $1,920.

The anglers fishing on Still Searching cut one mako, one blue shark, one sandbar/dusky and two tiger sharks loose. The team racked up 15 points, good for third place and $4,790.

Fifteen-year-old Charles Dewitt released a spinner and mako aboard Restless Lady to take top honors in the junior angler division. He won $500.

Still Searching junior angler, 9-year-old Mason Howell, released a tiger shark and 10-year-old Noah Morris threw back a mako while fishing on Intimidator. Howell was presented with $250 and Morris earned a trophy.

For more information, visit www.ocsharktournament.com, email ocsharktournament@gmail.com or call 410-213-2442. Search “Ocean City Shark Tournament” on Facebook.

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