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Captain's Focus

Though we never felt a drop of rain on what was supposed to be a rainy Friday, the east wind created tough conditions. Yet, I had a good striper trip with Chuck Many and his friends on Ty Man from Gateway Marina in Highlands -- which will be detailed in Saturday's blog. The Jamaica from Brielle reported a pick of 2-to-7-pound blues on jigs. They have room on the Sunday 10 p.m. tilefish trip. Call 732 528-5014. The Golden Eagle from Belmar reported jigging 2-to-8-pound blues and also some keeper stripers. Capt. Stan Zagleski reported good fluke fishing Thursday with his Elaine B II from Bahrs in Highlands, but it was tougher Friday in the gusty east wind. He sails early, at 6 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. South Jersey Marina in Cape May submitted the following report on last weekend's shark tournament: A 310 pound Mako, $307,763, 84 teams and a release rate ofalmost 90%; those were the salient numbers that defined the 37thannual South Jersey Shark Tournament held last week, June 7thto the 10th at the tournament's legacy home port, South JerseyMarina in Cape May, New Jersey. More than that, it was a weekof mostly perfect weather, great food, and camaraderie amongthe participants and their sponsors. In other words, if you are ashark angler, you were in Cape May last week or wish you were.The week got off to a slow start on the first fish day of thetournament. "Iffy" weather kept most boats in their slips. Not sothe crew from Nicara who sortied offshore and landed a beast ofa Mako. The excitement on board Nicara was palatable as theybacked down to the scales where weighmaster Chris Booth waswaiting patiently. They knew they had a big fish, certainly aqualifier but how big wasn't answered until Weighmaster Boothpeered into the scales and pronounced the number, "310 pounds!Nice fish, guys." A big fish indeed, but would their big fish ridethe Board all week? That was the question.Like all South Jersey Tournaments, the Shark Tournament is a"Big Fish" tournament in that the heaviest fish in any givencategory usually garners the largest purse. We say "Usually,"because much rides on how a team plays the "Calcuttas."Calcuttas are legal, taxable side-bets, not unlike fishing pools onboard "head" boats. The big money in fishing tournaments tendsto reside in the Calcuttas, and so it did last week in Cape May.South Jersey Tournaments encourage releases by awardingprizes based on those releases. Again, last week's SharkTournament was no exception with 89 of 107 fish released to becaught another day. Just as important to species conservation,the Shark Tournament dictates that any fish brought to the scalesmust weigh at least 200 pounds to qualify as a potential winner.Couple the high release rate and high weight requirement withSouth Jersey's promotion of circle hooks and the tournament'scommitment to species conservation becomes even moreevident.As of day-break on Day-2, Wednesday morning, Nicara's bigMako was the only fish on the board and certainly in the runningfor the big money, but by the end of weigh-ins it would havecompany in the form of a blue shark weighed in by the ShadyLady. The Shady Lady was a sponsor boat captained by locallegend Johnny Ball. Its owner has never been a SharkTournament winner, so this was a special day for this crew.Their blue made the minimum weight by just two pounds, but itwas enough, and Shady Lady joined Nicara "on the board." Butwould they stay there?Day-3 dawned bright and clear with almost windless conditions,a perfect day for sharking. Virtually the entire fleet sortied onthis the last day of the tournament, and five teams ended up withqualifiers. First was Naughty Girl with a 224 pound Mako,followed shortly by Post Game with a 228 pounder. Anothersponsor boat, Seakeeper showed up an hour later and weighedwhat would be the second heaviest shark of the tournament, a283 pound Mako. Feast Time IV weighed a 228 pound Makothat would end up in a tie with Post Games' earlier entry andthird heaviest of the tournament. The last fish boated andweighed was a 200-pound blue brought to the scales by BrownEyed Girl at 5:00 pm.Once the fishing was done, all that remained was to calculateeach team's share of the $307,763 purse. With the arithmeticcomplete, Tournament Director Aaron Hoffman climbed up onstage preceded by Rick Weber. After thanking those present fortheir loyal participation in South Jersey's longest runningtournament Weber took a moment to specifically thank thetournament sponsors for their continued support of tournamentfishing in general, and South Jersey Tournaments in particular.In his remarks, he noted that prior to the tournament, there hadbeen some social media push back, mostly from uninformed,non-fishing related entities. He went on to specifically thankthose sponsors who had been targeted and who had remainedsteadfast supporters of fishing. Weber then offered a method bywhich all present could take an active role in supporting thosesponsors and fishing in general.And then for the main event, Tournament Director Hoffmancommenced with handing out prizes and big checks to thewinning crews. First; in the prestigious points category, NoMercy took 3rd Most Points Mako, Castaway, 2nd Most PointsMako and the overall winner of the points category with MostPoints Mako was Post Game. Next came the cash prizes. In theblue shark category, the crew from Brown Eyed Girl went homewith $8,272 for their 2nd heaviest blue while the Heaviest Bluedelivered $20,458 to the crew of Shady Lady. As usual, theMako category with its ample Calcuttas garnered the biggestdollars. Post Game and Feast Time IV each took home $32,020for their tying 3rd Heaviest Mako's. Meanwhile, the Seakeeperboat was awarded the base purse of $4,500 for the 2nd HeaviestMako of the tournament. Finally, that 310 pound beast broughtto the scales by the crew of Nicara on Day-1 did indeed ride theboard all week, thereby allowing its crew to pocket a payout of$210,493. Thus concluded the 37th consecutive South JerseyShark Tournament: three days of fishing, memories and fun, andfor some, a very worthwhile payout. It was a successful eventfrom every point of view.

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