The weather was looking pretty grim last Thursday, as participants began to arrive for the 27th annual Star Island Yacht Club Shark Tournament in Montauk. But, as unfriendly as the wind and seas seemed, the atmosphere inside the Star Island Grill was warm and convivial.
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Bar and restaurant manager Patty Sales kept the giant Island Oasis uber-blender buzzing, making mudslides for thirsty boaters. Mudslides?
What, no Pink Ladies? An observer noted the popular blender drink hardly seemed a libation apt for manly men about to test their mettle at sea. "It coats the stomach for later," said Sales with the save.
According to General Manager Rich Janis, a high wind and high seas weather forecast trimmed the participation level down to 93 boats. The tournament was filmed by Red-Line productions for a three-tournament series to be aired by NBC sports in late July. Camera crews met with anglers aboard the Bella Donna, Fish-On, Tiger Shark, and Crack-Oar.
Day One, Friday, saw the starting time pushed back to 8 AM to give the seas and winds a chance to subside during the afternoon. Twenty-one boats broke the inlet that first morning with some boats headed to Montauk Point and others headed inshore to enter the Atlantic via Shinnecock Inlet.
The lone qualifying fish of the day, a 218lb Blue Shark was landed aboard Capt. Kenny Hajduek's My Joyce II by angler Kevin Adley. The crew earned a total of $90,400 in prize money for their efforts.
Anglers woke up to a gentle, 10-knot breeze with brilliant sunshine on Day Two. An additional $232,000 in unclaimed prize money was on the line. The committee boat, the Lil Marlena with a camera crew aboard headed out to the starting line to film the "shot gun" start. The full fleet headed out as the time was announced. No one was going to be left at the dock.
Early reports of makos aboard the Joy Sea and the Bella Donna had the tournament committee buzzing. Normally, early to mid-June tournaments bring a high number of Blue Sharks and low catches of Makos and Threshers, so this was great news.
The first fish of the day to reach the scales was a 203lb Blue Shark landed by Sam Bajarktarevic aboard the Knot-On-Call. The second fish of the day was that elusive Mako brought by Capt. Chuck Mallinson of the Joy Sea to the weigh station. The reports were dead on as angler Sean Kinney's 311lb Mako thrust the Joy Sea into the tournament lead. While the crowd waited anxiously for the arrival of Dave O'Halloran's Bella Donna and their reported Mako, a 30' Robalo, the Riverhead Toyota, captained by Matt Baxter entered the fairway to the weigh station.
To the thrill of the overflow spectator crowd a 344lb Thresher captured by angler Charlie Puglisi leapt to the head of the leader board. With an additional 12 sharks being weighed in, highlighted by angler Jenner Smith's 251lb Blue Shark aboard Capt. Eric Stegich's Miss O, time was running down to the 5 PM cut off.
At 4:48 Jason Blake's Blue Eyes cleared the inlet and announced that they had a fish to weigh. As the weigh station crew hoisted the Thresher out of the cockpit of the Blue Eyes there came a hush over the crowd as the scale settled out. Weigh master Kevin Gershowitz announced the weight of 446 pounds and the celebration was on.
The Blue Eyes captured the Thresher category, the Joy Sea the Mako category, and the Blue Shark category was taken aboard the Miss O. The total prize pool for the 27th Annual Star Island Shark tournament was $322,400 plus custom trophies and prizes donated by tournament sponsors Gershow Recycling, White Water Boats; Suffolk Marine, Macris Ind Underwater Lights, Penn Reels, Kellogg Marine, Daiwa Fishing Tackle, Tsunami Fishing Tackle, On The Water Magazine, Grunden's weather gear, Sperry Topsider, Seacoast Marine, Costa Del Mar Sunglasses, Big Game Fishing Journal, and the L.I. Fisherman