It’s that magical time of year once again when anglers from near and far herd to Montauk to take on one of nature’s most celebrated deep sea fishes. While Mr. Spielberg’s first big hit is only loosely based on life in Montauk, The Star Island Yacht Club Shark Tournament is the real deal, and it’s coming at you this weekend.
Blood lusting fishers are bringing out the big boats for the event, where the entry fee is $1,000 and the official grand prize is $30,000. All told, the tournament will give away $60,000, with daily prizes for heaviest makos, blues and “other species.” But the elaborate side bets known as calcuttas can considerably up the ante—last year’s winners, Capt. Ed Poller and the crew of the “Pea Pod,” walked off with a hefty purse weighing in at close to $300,000 for roping in a 152 pound mako.
The strange combination of hunting, gambling and merrymaking produces an almost palpable euphoria—you can almost taste the testosterone in the air. The Yacht Club will be a veritable pleasure island this weekend with festivities spilling from boats along the docks and into the Star Island Grill, where the infamous Ms. Patti Sales will be manning the blender. The fun starts off with a captain’s meeting on Thursday evening, followed by two solid days of fishing and an epic award dinner on Saturday night.
On Friday and Saturday, anglers will head offshore and start chumming—or spreading a “slick” of bloody, ground-up fish parts for miles around their boats. Unlike our hero in Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, these dudes are trying to attract sharks. Ideally, they’ll have sharks swarming their boat—big, big sharks—and with a bit of luck, one of them will get hooked. (Hopefully the biggest.)
Each boat is only allowed one shark per day, and the fish must meet stringent weight requirements. Sharks that aren’t kept are tagged and released to aid in oceanographic research. Shark meat harvested during the tournament, while not considered a delicacy, is nobly donated to the Long Island Council of Churches’ food pantry.
Spectators can swing by the club—where a pool area and fantastic casual restaurant and bar await—to catch a glimpse of some of the action. As the boats come in, the sharks are weighed on a giant hook while revelers young and old exercise their fascination with giant fish. Typically the entire crew is paparazzied in an endless stream of photo-taking, at least until someone else brings in a bigger shark.
Aside from the blood, guts and gore, one of the neatest things about the shark tourney weekend is the absurd awesomeness of some of the boats. We’re talking about big boats here. Boats that cost more money than your house. Boats that are much nicer than your house. And they’re burning up as many as 500 gallons of fuel per day, making this quite the expensive weekend. (In the interests of sporting, it should be duly noted that this is an excellent weekend for gold digging.)
A full list of tournament details and regulations—along with some righteous fish pictures—are listed at the Yacht Club’s website, www.starislandyc.com. For those who aren’t blessed with a big boat but have the cash to spend, there are a number of charters available to fish the tournament. The fishing goes on from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, and sharks must be weighed by 5 p.m. on Saturday. Sorry, Hannibal, but “use of mammal blood or flesh is strictly prohibited” in the interests of fair chumming. Keeping your toes out of the water is also recommended.
STAR ISLAND YACHT CLUB SHARK TOURNAMENT 6/14, 6 a.m.–6/16, 6 p.m. The 26th annual shark tournament will take place at Star Island. For more info call 631-668-5052.